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  • William Maley
    William Maley

    Quick Drive: 2017 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid

    A big surprise in the midsize hybrid sedan class

    Chevrolet’s previous attempts at building a hybrid version of the Malibu are less than stellar. Their first attempt in the late-2000s was not well received due to mediocre performance and fuel economy figures that fell way behind the pack. The second attempt was the last-generation Malibu Eco. Chevrolet hoped to draw people in with a lower price and slightly better fuel economy figures due to the mild-hybrid system. But once again, it would prove to be a flop as the performance was meh and fuel wasn’t that noticeably better from the regular four-cylinder model.

    Chevrolet isn’t one to give up though. When the next-generation Malibu was revealed a couple of years ago, they announced a hybrid variant would be available. But this one was going to be different as the model would feature ideas and tech from the Volt. We spent over a week in a 2017 Malibu Hybrid to find out if Chevrolet has repeated the same mistakes as before or if they have learned from them.

    • The Malibu Hybrid powertrain is made up of a 1.8L DOHC four-cylinder paired up to the Volt’s electric drive unit - comprised of two electric motors. Power for the electric motors comes from an 80-cell, 1.5 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Total output is rated at 182 horsepower.
    • This powertrain is quite surprising. The Malibu Hybrid leaves a stop effortlessly and quickly thanks to the instantaneous power available from the electric motors. If you keep a light throttle, you can get up to 55 mph on just electric power alone. If you need to make a pass or get up to speed somewhat quickly, the gas engine kicks on and delivers the extra shove. It needs to be noted that the gas engine will make a fair amount of noise when you have your foot to the floor. Otherwise, the engine is muted for the daily grind.
    • Transitions between electric and hybrid power is mostly smooth thanks to the gear-free transmission and a number of clutches from the Volt. There were a few times during our testing that we felt the gas engine kick on, but this mostly happened at times where we needed the extra power.
    • Fuel economy is rated at 49 City/43 Highway/46 Combined by the EPA. We saw an average of 45 MPG on a 50/50 mix of city and highway driving.
    • Brakes are the key weak point on most hybrid vehicles as they tend to feel very grabby due to the regenerative system. The Malibu Hybrid may have the best brakes we have ever driven on a hybrid vehicle. They feel linear and have the bite of a normal braking system. Thank the Volt for lending its braking system.
    • Despite being a few hundred pounds heavier than the last Malibu we drove, the Hybrid retains the balanced ride and handling characteristics we liked so much. The suspension keeps the vehicle composed over some of the roughest roads on offer in Detroit. On a winding road, the Malibu feels agile and stable. Some will be disappointed by the lack of feel offered by the steering, but most buyers won’t notice this.
    • Unlike most hybrid midsize sedans, the Malibu Hybrid doesn’t scream about it. Looking at it from all angles, you would find it to look like the standard Malibu. Only the ‘H’ badge on the trunk reveals its true identity.
    • One of the issues we had on the last Malibu was material choices. For the price, the fabric covering for the dash and a large amount of hard plastics felt like a huge misstep and put the Malibu way behind the pack. The Hybrid does show some improvements if you order the Leather package that replaces the fabric covering for leather on the dash. It not only makes the Malibu look more premium, it also feels much nicer. Now Chevrolet needs to work on adding more soft-touch materials around the dash, door panels, and center console to make the Malibu truly stand out.
    • Trunk space is slightly smaller in the Hybrid - 11.6 cubic feet vs. 15.8 - due to the battery pack. There is a trunk pass-through, albeit a small slot. It's better than nothing.
    • The Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid carries the most expensive base price of any midsize hybrid sedan of $27,875. But you do get a decent amount of equipment such as dual-zone climate control, push-button start, keyless entry, backup camera, automatic headlights, power driver’s seat, and a 7-inch touchscreen. Our tester came fully loaded with three packages - Leather, Driver Confidence, and Convenience & Technology - to bring the as-tested price to $32,730 with destination. For the money, it is quite the value.

     

    Disclaimer: Chevrolet Provided the Malibu Hybrid, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

    Year: 2017
    Make: Chevrolet
    Model: Malibu
    Trim: Hybrid
    Engine: 1.8L DOHC VVT Four-Cylinder with Direct Injection, Two Electric Motors
    Driveline: Two-Motor Drive, Front-Wheel Drive
    Horsepower @ RPM: 122 @ 5,000 (Gas), 182 Total
    Torque @ RPM: 130 @ 4,750 (Gas), 277 @ 0 (Electric)
    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 49/43/46
    Curb Weight: 3,366 lbs
    Location of Manufacture: Kansas City, Kansas
    Base Price: $27,875
    As Tested Price: $32,730 (Includes $875.00 Destination Charge and $745.00 Leather Package Discount)

    Options:
    Leather Package - $2,140.00
    Driver Confidence Package - $1,195.00
    Convenience & Technology Package - $895.00
    8-Inch MyLink System with Navigation - $495.00

    Edited by William Maley


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    1 hour ago, William Maley said:

    But once again, it would prove to be a flop as the performance was meh and fuel wasn’t that noticeably better from the regular four-cylinder model.

    To be honest about it, really only the top 8 of the field of 35 EVs / PHEVs AREN'T "flops"... but the 20th century mindset that Chevrolet must build each model in the 100 thousands or it's a 'flop' obviously is dying hard.

    I struggle to recall the same judgement leveled against the BMW 330e or the hyundai sonata PHV or the Kia Optima PHV or the 2 dozen other hybrid 'flops' out there... but maybe I just missed those opinions...

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    20 minutes ago, balthazar said:

    To be honest about it, really only the top 8 of the field of 35 EVs / PHEVs AREN'T "flops"... but the 20th century mindset that Chevrolet must build each model in the 100 thousands or it's a 'flop' obviously is dying hard.

    I struggle to recall the same judgement leveled against the BMW 330e or the hyundai sonata PHV or the Kia Optima PHV or the 2 dozen other hybrid 'flops' out there... but maybe I just missed those opinions...

    I think he was referring to its crap performance as a hybrid, not its sales figures. 

    I cannot get into a hybrid that butchers the trunk so much the pass through is crap.

    2017-chevrolet-malibu-hybrid_trunk_14918

     

    When Hyundai figured out how to do this..

    2016-Hyundai-Sonata-Hybrid-Limited-JP-19

     

     

    http://www.autos.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/2016-Hyundai-Sonata-Hybrid-Limited-JP-19.jpg

    Edited by frogger

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    3 hours ago, FAPTurbo said:

    so this larger vehicle with a decently loaded base model gets 49 City/43 Highway... and the cruze diesel exists, why?

    ... to give the $5K cheaper, smaller Cruze buyers better mileage...?

    [I'm missing the trick in this question...]

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    10 minutes ago, Cubical-aka-Moltar said:

    Surprised they don't offer a Cruze Hybrid with this powertrain..

    Don't think they could get the price premium...besides...Volt...

    1 hour ago, balthazar said:

    ... to give the $5K cheaper, smaller Cruze buyers better mileage...?

    [I'm missing the trick in this question...]

    Except that Cruze diesel sells for a premium price.

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    I've had a hybrid twice as a loaner while mine was getting fixed.  The gas mileage is as advertised.  45 city is not a chore for mpg in this rig.

    He's right about the cloth interior.  It really feels downmarket.

    I disagree a bit about the handling.  The hybrid is like 400 pounds more than my 1.5 and it feels to me, different.  I feel like you feel the extra weight.  Maybe only by comparison.  I didn't think the ride was anything special on the hybrid.  So even though the powertrain was fairly smooth, the car didn't feel cushy.  to me anyways.

    It is faster noticeably than the 1.5 but the engine sound is a bit coarse when the gas is on.  And even though you have battery surge its not the same as turbo surge either.

    Trunk reduction didn't seem to be a huge deal but already some of the competition is able to almost eliminate the battery penalty so GM needs to repack this.

    GM's best bet here would be to basically upgrade this to a plug in and sell for the same price.  Then they would move these.  Even though plain hybrids make all the sense in the world, i think its a tough sell to the regular population unless the price comes down, and if they can continue to downsize the batteries.  I hear toyota is working on a capacitor to replace a battery.. If they get that to work then very well i could see them making hybrid a standard issue across all their cars.

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    11 hours ago, Cubical-aka-Moltar said:

    Surprised they don't offer a Cruze Hybrid with this powertrain..

    That is the question I have been asking since day one of the VOLT comin out, why is this power train not in all product lines as the actual Hybrid powertrain?

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    16 hours ago, balthazar said:

    ... to give the $5K cheaper, smaller Cruze buyers better mileage...?

    [I'm missing the trick in this question...]

    why bother with the higher cost diesel of a diesel engine, the higher cost of diesel fuel and, the associated stigma when this hybrid powertrain could be in the cruze?

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    On 7/31/2017 at 4:13 PM, FAPTurbo said:

    so this larger vehicle with a decently loaded base model gets 49 City/43 Highway... and the cruze diesel exists, why?

    Probably.. and I'm gonna go out on a limb on this.. because some people.. Vegas odds.. don't want a larger car and would rather have a smaller one with an alternative drivetrain.:rolleyes:

    Some vehicles are literally being produced these days STILL.. because of consumer preference.. even in small bits. Go figure.. GM of all companies building cars that people want:wub:

    Personally.. I see zero reason for an EV infrastructure to not be put into place and EVs take over the entire realm of automotive in the next 20 years.. OH WAIT!!! 

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    On 7/31/2017 at 8:53 PM, Cubical-aka-Moltar said:

    Surprised they don't offer a Cruze Hybrid with this powertrain..

    Quiet as it's kept... they do. I'm actually surprised they didn't call the Camaro SS, the Chevy 378ci or something b8sths.jpg IMO.. its a prime reason why some of their cars suffer in sales numbers. The Trax should have never been called the Trax.. when it is a taller version of the Sonic. A Sonic TRX would have been more appropriate.. and would offer a better sales marketing boast to the Sonic overall. Shit.. I would have called the Spark the Sonic Mini.. 

    cruzevolt.jpg?00cfb7

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    30 minutes ago, Cmicasa the Great said:

    Quiet as it's kept... they do. I'm actually surprised they didn't call the Camaro SS, the Chevy 378ci or something b8sths.jpg IMO.. its a prime reason why some of their cars suffer in sales numbers. The Trax should have never been called the Trax.. when it is a taller version of the Sonic. A Sonic TRX would have been more appropriate.. and would offer a better sales marketing boast to the Sonic overall. Shit.. I would have called the Spark the Sonic Mini.. 

    cruzevolt.jpg?00cfb7

    I see the diesel listed, but no Hybrid version..

     

    http://www.chevrolet.com/byo-vc/client/en/US/chevrolet/cruze/2017/cruze/features/trims/select/1?styleOne=383399

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    12 minutes ago, Cubical-aka-Moltar said:

    My point was that the CHEVY VOLT is a CHEVY CRUZE with a different name. There is zero reason to offer a CHEVY CRUZE HYBRID as long as there is a CHEVY VOLT.. which should have been just called a CHEVY CRUZE HYBRID in the first place and marketed as heavy as the Volt was back in 2010 onward

     

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    3 minutes ago, Cmicasa the Great said:

    My point was that the CHEVY VOLT is a CHEVY CRUZE with a different name. There is zero reason to offer a CHEVY CRUZE HYBRID as long as there is a CHEVY VOLT.. which should have been just called a CHEVY CRUZE HYBRID in the first place and marketed as heavy as the Volt was back in 2010 onward

    They should have also put the VOLT powertrain into multiple auto's including CUV's. With version 2.0, that is when the VOLT powertrain should have been spread across product family offerings.

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    1 hour ago, Cubical-aka-Moltar said:

    Ah, didn't realize those were two different cars in those pics..the blue one and the black one. 

    EXACTLY!!! U get it.. They are virtually the SAME car. I THINK most body parts are interchangeable. 

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