Seat Time is a chance for us to share our impressions of vehicles being tested in the Autoline Garage and at media previews from around the globe.
Reviewer: John McElroy
Vehicle: 2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid
Price: Starting at $28,000
I almost wish that General Motors had gone bankrupt 30 years ago. Ever since emerging from bankruptcy in 2009 the company has been cranking out world-class cars and trucks. Thanks to jettisoning its legacy costs GM is now pouring money and technology into its products. And it shows. The new Malibu hybrid is a perfect example of what I’m talking about.
This is the first hybrid I’ve driven that doesn’t feel like a hybrid. There is a direct relationship to how much you press on the gas pedal and what the car does. You don’t get that uncertain sense of response as the power goes from electric motor to gasoline engine and back again that is so common in other hybrids.
The same goes for the brake pedal. It feels much more direct than other hybrid cars. You don’t get that vague feedback as it transitions from re-gen mode to friction braking.
And the Malibu hybrid has one of the best stop-start systems in the business. The restart is much smoother and quieter than you’ll find on even a lot of luxury cars.
In fact, this car is so seamless most drivers would not even know they’re driving a hybrid unless you told them. There’s not much to give it away.
GM is taking a very different approach in doing hybrids than other automakers, at least when it comes to styling. Everyone else tries to make their hybrid as distinctive as possible, with the theory that environmentally-conscious buyers want to show the world are doing their part to save the planet. But GM believes that this approach has limited the appeal of hybrids which still have less than 3% market share even though they’ve been in the market for over 17 years. So the Malibu hybrid looks like any other Malibu except for a little blue badge with an “H” on the trunk lid.
In a week’s worth of driving I averaged about 46 miles to the gallon, which is exactly what this car is rated at. In fact in one stint I got it up to 51 MPG’s. Guess what? The 2025 CAFE standard calls for cars to average 44 MPG’s, when you look at the adjusted number they have to hit (Yes, I know, the unadjusted number is 54.5 mpg).
So the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu hybrid already meets the 2025 standard. And you can buy this car today for about $28,000—though the loaded-up one that I drove was closer to $33,000.
This car is almost too good. It sure undermines the automotive industry’s argument that the 2025 CAFE standards might be too hard to meet. But now we’ll have to see if Chevrolet can convince enough Malibu buyers to check the box and put a hybrid in their driveway.