The current, eighth-generation Chevy Malibu is by all means a good car. But if we had one word to describe it, we’d use the term average. Luckily, an all-new model is on its way in the 2016 Malibu. And that model will need to cease being an average midsize sedan. Here are the five things we would like to see Chevy address with the 2016 model. Call it a wish list, if you will.
1. Head-Turning, Passionate Design
Though the eighth-generation Malibu has an attractive and tasteful design, we’ll admit that the competitors are doing a better job at this. Namely, the Kia Optima, Honda Accord, Ford Fusion, and even the new Chrysler 200 are decidedly more modern, more sporty, luxurious, or are simply more head-turning to the average car buyer. And though design is highly subjective, we think The Bowtie can do a better job here with the 2016 Chevy Malibu.
Luckily, several GM executives have already gone on record in saying that the all-new Malibu will have some great styling, with vice president of Global Design at General Motors, Ed Welburn, saying the following:
“Malibu’s gorgeous styling is the result of a masterful understanding of proportions. The roofline has been stretched rearward giving a more sleek profile, while the front wheels have moved forward and front and rear overhangs have been reduced. Along with the sculpted body side, these cues help Malibu appear more dynamic and sophisticated.”
To that end, we’d also like to see Chevy install some classy LEDs in the front lighting clusters and offer some appearance packages for its new midsizer. For instance, The Bowtie can allow customers to customize their Malibu with a “luxury” appearance package that has more traditional chrome elements, or an RS appearance package (like on the Cruze and Camaro) that brings a more aggressive body, bigger wheels and tires, and even details such color (red, blue, yellow, etc.) brake calipers. The Kia Optima as great at doing the latter.
2. Premium Features
Today’s Malibu has some of the best cabin materials in its class. But it has truly been outgunned by rivals. The Kia Optima, for instance, offers heated and ventilated front seats while the Malibu’s are only heated; the Hyundai Sonata offers heated rear seats and a panaromic sunroof. The Malibu offers neither.
Adding those features along with others such as rear air vents plus advanced active safety technology would make the Malibu significantly more competitive in the class.
From what we can tell, Chevy will at least offer more active safety tech. But will it match rival offerings and make Malibu a true midsize sedan that consumers will actually want to buy, rather than just be ok with? We certainly hope so.
3. More Interior Room
Probably the biggest complaint about the eighth-gen Malibu has been the tight interior dimensions, especially in the rear seat. Heck, the compact and less expensive Cruze has nearly the same amount of space in the second row. The ninth-gen 2016 Malibu will aim to fix this with larger interior dimensions all around.
We’d also like to see a more refined design of such areas as the center console and passenger-side dashboard. The egg-like shape of the former pales in comparison to the sexy designs offered by the (once again) Kia Optima, Chrysler 200, and Ford Fusion.
4. All-Wheel Drive
Not everyone who wants all-wheel drive wants or needs a crossover. So offering all-wheel drive in the 2016 Malibu is a no-brainer to us, especially seeing that the E2XX platform upon which the car will be based is capable of it. And if that’s not enough of a reason, let’s consider the fact that the new, well-received Ford Fusion offers AWD as an option as well.
5. 9-Speed Auto Or Dual-Clutch Transmission
If interior room is the biggest criticism of the eighth-generation Malibu, then fuel economy is the second. It’s not dismal, but it’s by no means class-leading.
Besides cutting the vehicle’s weight (which has already been confirmed for the 2016 ‘Bu), one of the best ways to boost fuel economy is to incorporate a transmission that makes the most of what we expect to be a new range of engines. We’d like to see the 2016 Malibu transmission be a new 9-speed unit or an advanced dual-clutch setup as will be used on the second-generation Cruze. Both would improve fuel consumption and make better use of whatever engine is propelling the vehicle.
The midsize sedan segment seems to be undergoing a transformation. If before, people bought a midsize car because it was the most practical, today they are buying cars in this class because they’re better and offer more than the compact offerings — more room, more features, more comfort, and more style, among other things.
In that light, Chevy can’t afford to screw this one up, or come out with a product that’s just “okay”. The 2016 Malibu needs to be the best car in its segment, without excuses or compromises. And improving these five things over the eighth-gen Malibu will make the 2016 Malibu class-leading in every sense of the word, and give Chevy the best chance to own the midsize sedan segment for the first time in nearly three decades.
Here’s to hoping they deliver when the 2016 Malibu premiers at the 2015 New York International Auto Show this April.