The latest-generation Chevrolet Malibu went on sale in 2015, for the model year 2016. Boasting new technologies, a new high-strength structure, improved ride comfort and noise levels, and a high-efficiency range of powerplants, Chevrolet’s family sedan represented a modern and compelling choice in the affordable sedan segment.
Owners note the latest-generation Malibu’s new cabin, new feature content, and enlarged sizing as key reasons that make it a worthy upgrade from older-generation models. The latest-generation car had a longer wheelbase, and overall, clocked in at some four inches longer than its predecessor – to the benefit of interior space, and rear-seat legroom. Despite the increase in size, the new high-strength body structure helped realize a weight savings of some 300 pounds, too.
Feature content included climate-controlled leather seats, outward-looking safety systems, automatic climate control, a sunroof, premium audio provisions, Wi-Fi hotspot, and an available hands-free parking system. Malibu’s Teen Driver feature allowed parents to set and monitor various driving parameters to enhance peace of mind when a young driver uses the car.
All units were four-door sedans, and front-wheel drive. Malibu counted the Nissan Altima, Honda Accord, Ford Fusion, Mazda6, Kia Optima, and others amongst its key competitors.
Standard power came from an all-new Ecotec 1.5L turbo engine with 160 horsepower and mileage pegged at 6.4 L/100 km highway. Eliminating the V6 engine option from earlier Malibu models, the up-level 2.0-litre direct-injected four-cylinder produced 250 horsepower. An advanced hybrid powerplant was also available.
What Owners Like
Malibu is rated highly for a premium feel to its ride and handling, solid ride comfort, a quiet cabin, easy-to-use technology, and many useful touches that owners enjoy on the daily. The up-level stereo system and peaceful highway ride are commonly praised attributes of this machine.
What Owners Dislike
Some owners wish for a more upscale feel to certain parts of the interior, as well as a more precise and direct feel to the steering and brakes.
Pro Tip: Software Updates
Reduce your likelihood of experiencing annoying issues with a new-to-you Malibu before your purchase by making arrangements with a local dealer to have any outstanding software updates applied to the model you’re considering. Sometimes, an automaker releases revised software to correct or improve the operation of various vehicle systems. Software updates can make the climate control system work better, prevent surprise dead batteries, improve transmission shift quality, prevent issues with safety and infotainment systems, and more. Running a vehicle with all software updates applied is a great way to reduce possible headaches. Contact your dealer for more information.
Pro Tip: Hybrid Diagnostics
If you’re considering a Malibu Hybrid, be sure to follow the test drive diagnostic tests below, while also budgeting to have the vehicle treated to a comprehensive pre-purchase inspection (PPI) by a hybrid-certified technician in a Chevrolet dealer setting. Though sales volumes of the hybrid-powered Malibu are too low to glean much useful reliability information from, a full hybrid system inspection and diagnostic scan are highly advisable to avoid possible issues.
The Test Drive
Check the Electronics
Start your test drive by triple-checking the operation of anything and everything within the Malibu you’re considering that runs on electricity. Confirm proper operation from the sunroof, windows, locks, remote start and remote keyfobs, climate control system, motorized seat adjustments, all lighting, and the like. Next, confirm that the in-car Wi-Fi system is operational (if the seller has an active Wi-Fi subscription), and that audio quality via connected Bluetooth devices is good – both for phone calls and streaming audio. Note that some owners have reported non-functional USB ports, which may be tricky to repair or diagnose. Confirm proper operation before you buy.
Check for Hesitation
Several dozen owners in one owner forum have reported sluggish and non-responsive acceleration from models with the 1.5-litre turbo engine. In most cases, the issue is characterized by extremely sluggish acceleration, until the engine revs to about 4,000 or higher. On your test drive of a Malibu equipped with this engine, be sure to accelerate from a low speed at light, moderate, and full throttle (where appropriate) to check for this sensation. If detected, the likely cause is a software anomaly, which can be remedied with a software update to the engine computer. A modified or revised wiring harness may also be required. Here’s some more reading. And some more.
Thump in the Trunk
Some owners have reported an unwelcome thumping sound from the rear of the Malibu, typically when travelling over substantial bumps at low speeds (for instance, parking-lot speed bumps or low-speed railway crossings). Many owners say the observed sound resembles ‘loose lumber’ banging around in the trunk. Spend some portion of your test drive operating the vehicle at a low speed, on a bumpy surface, to coax this sound out of the Malibu’s rear end. If detected, have a dealer assess the vehicle before you buy – asking the attending technician to check the symptoms against Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) #18-NA-136. In many reported cases, the fix involves adding an additional rubber isolator to the rear suspension.
Some owners have reported a rare but noteworthy problem with the Malibu’s air conditioner system. On your test drive, run the air conditioner for an extended period, and confirm that cold air is continually and consistently pumped into the cabin. Then, spend some time with the engine running, but the vehicle parked and stationary, with the air conditioner activated, to continue your test. If, at any point, the flow of cold air weakens or ceases, have the A/C system assessed professionally before you buy. According to this discussion, the cause of non-functional or sporadic air conditioning might be a problem with a cooling fan, or associated relay, which is relatively easy to replace. In this situation, the air conditioner itself is fine, but may deactivate automatically if one or more system cooling fans fails to activate.
On the road, be on the lookout for a shake or vibration from the Malibu’s front end, a tendency to pull to one side or another, or a steering wheel that rests off-centre while the vehicle is travelling straight. These warning signs, if detected, are your cue to have the Malibu’s alignment checked professionally. Note that out-of-alignment vehicles suffer reduced handing and fuel economy, accelerated tire wear, and other concerns.
Check Engine Light
We’ll finish with a friendly reminder about the all-important Check Engine Light (CEL). Remember: if you see a CEL, there is exactly one thing to do. That thing is to have the vehicle treated to a diagnostic scan, which is sometimes called an OBD or OBD2 scan. This involves connecting a diagnostic tool to the vehicle’s computer brain, which reveals the cause (or causes) of the CEL. Note that a CEL can illuminate for hundreds of different reasons, and that the use of a diagnostic scanner is required to determine the details. Finally, note that disconnecting and reconnecting the vehicle’s battery will not fix the issue that triggered the CEL, and is not an advisable practice on modern cars with advanced electronics.
Here’s a list of recalls. You can check if any of them apply to the vehicle you’re considering by looking up its VIN on the Chevrolet website.
The latest-generation Chevrolet Malibu, by and large, looks to be a solid used-car buy. Most owner-reported issues thus far seem to be of the “rare and minor” variety, and the more concerning issues noted by owners should prove easy to address – especially if the vehicle is still covered by remaining warranty. For maximum peace of mind, have the vehicle to a GM dealership before you buy – for a Pre-Purchase Inspection (PPI), and any available software updates.
Crash Test Results
IIHS: Top Safety Pick + (2016)
NHTSA: 5/5 Stars (2016)