2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid review: Plainclothesman

2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid

2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid

You wouldn’t know, really, that the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid was in fact a hybrid, at least not in the way you would like the 2016 Toyota Prius. The Prius is dramatically—some have said outrageously—styled, and doesn’t go unnoticed.

The Malibu Hybrid, on the other hand, could be just another Chevy. Not that there’s anything wrong with 2016 Chevy Malibu. To the contrary, in fact, as we noted in our review of a 2016 Chevrolet Malibu LT. But the Malibu Hybrid just doesn’t show off.

2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid engine

The powertrain of the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid was adapted from the Chevrolet Volt, but instead tuned for efficient operation on gas rather than biased towards plug-in electric power. (click to enlarge)

A small green square emblazoned with an “H” is the only clue it’s the Hybrid. Other than that, the grille is the same, the wheels are the same as our test Malibu LT. With its own “noticeable” hybrid—or “extended-range electric”—Volt in the lineup, Chevy didn’t feel the need to have their hybrid family sedan call attention to itself. (Note to Chevrolet: And how are people to know—other than those reading this review—that there’s a hybrid Malibu?)

And the interior doesn’t show a lot of difference either. Other than the instrument panel and a couple of screens that can be pulled up on multi-information display, it looks like any other similarly equipped Malibu. Or more specifically, match it up against the Malibu 1LT. The standard equipment is the same—including satellite radio, Wi-Fi for up to seven devices, eight way power driver’s seat, and the obligatory LED front running lights—but going with the conventional gas engine powertrain means a starting price of $25,895. And there’s a Malibu 2LT in there with a $29,495 ticket. (The base 2016 Malibu L is priced at $21,625. You won’t find one and you don’t want it).

2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid interior

The 2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid interior is indistinguishable from non-hybrid Malibus, except for a hybrid’s instrument panel. (click to enlarge)

Our test 2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid, which listed at $27,770, had the Leather Package, which of course has leather upholstery but also includes a power passenger seat, both heated, and Bose audio, priced at $2,140. The option list also included the Driver Confidence Package, with automatic high beams, front and rear park assist, a sensor indicating following distance, forward collision alert with low-speed front automatic braking, rear cross traffic alert, automatic lane keeping, lane change alert with blind zone alert, and front pedestrian alert, priced at $1,195. We’d pick it.

The Convenience and Technology Package is a deal, too. At $895, it includes remote vehicle start, leather on the steering wheel and shift knob, eight-inch display with “teen driver”, wireless charging (if you have the right phone and case, which we didn’t), USB charging ports, and color driver info screen. And finally, $495 for navigation (and again, teen driver).

2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid fuel use display

The 2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid is not only discretely hybrid on the outside, it compiles less data for the hybrid owner. (click to enlarge)

Adding destination but subtracting (on our vehicle but maybe not yours) $745 for “Leather Package Savings,” for a final bottom line price of $32,625.

The price is important because it compares to the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu Premier. The Premier is top of the line for Malibu and has a $31,795 price tag, and like most top trim levels, most of the options from lower levels is standard,  and only the Premier has a Confidence Package II, a $1,295 bundle that includes semi-automatic park assist, front automatic braking, adaptive cruise control and an electronic parking brake.

The Malibu is all new for 2016 and has a standard 1.5-liter turbocharged four as standard equipment and a 2.0-liter turbo as a step up. But it’s the hybrid system we’re here to see, and the Malibu Hybrid, which joined the rest of the Malibu line with a late arrival in Spring 2016, is in good company. The hybrid system is adapted from the Chevrolet Volt, all-new direct-injection 1.8L 4-cylinder engine mated to a two-motor drive. Altogether, the engine and motors produce a net maximum of 182 horsepower.

2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid

If you look closely, you can see the discrete “hybrid” badge on the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid. (click to enlarge)

The Malibu Hybrid has an 80-cell 1.5 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. It’s an add-on rather than a built-in, and it takes a bite out of the trunk. The regular Malibu’s trunk measures 15.8 cubic feet. The Malibu Hybrid shrunk the trunk to 11.6 cubic feet.

Still, the battery in the Malibu is a lot smaller than the Volts, and rather than running mostly on battery, like the Volt, the Malibu Hybrid keeps its battery charged with its engine most of the time. And there’s no way to plug it in. And there’s no “EV mode” for sneaking around on just battery juice.

Chevrolet says the Malibu Hybrid can operate on electricity alone at up to 55 mph. That’s not accelerate. Even during modest acceleration, the gasoline engine would kick in about 25 mph. Cruising, however, the engine would shut down as long as there was sufficient charge. The transfer wasn’t noticeable, at least not without the power flow display selected on the tablet-style multi-information display on the dash. Not only does the display show where the electrons are going, the display also lights up the engine graphic when the engine is running.