First drive: 2017 Chevrolet Malibu in the UAE
The Chevrolet Malibu burst onto the local midsize sedan scene back in 2010 after being absent for almost a decade. I still remember it because we trundled around in one for a month and actually enjoyed it, as it drove like a car that was aiming higher than it needed to, with excellent handling, two-tone interiors, a huge wheelbase and luxury-grade ride quality. Unfortunately its lifespan was cut short as it was replaced by an inferior product with a shorter-wheelbase Opel chassis, longer overhangs and much less character, although we never actually drove it. Now the new generation is here, and just looking at the car, it’s clear they’ve upped their game again.
The 2017 Chevrolet Malibu gains its size back, growing a bit but also gaining a solid 93mm in the wheelbase while claiming to also be 130 kg lighter than before. It’s a great-looking car, although it’d look even better with even bigger wheels than the 17-inchers on our LT test car at the GCC launch event in Dubai.
The base LS model has a starting price matching that of the basic Honda Civic, while offering proper midsize sedan levels of cabin room, both front, back and in the massive boot.
The LT and LTZ benefit from stitched-leatherette inserts placed strategically everywhere you might touch, on the front parts of the dash, on the doors and parts of the window sills, and even along the centre-console near your knees. Unfortunately the rest of it is hard plastic, although it’s something only keen-eyed touchy people like us may notice. We did like the metallic-look trim along the dash as well, although the print-patterned plastic trim around the shifter may be a bit much. Otherwise, it’s a well-designed, ultra-modern cabin design, crowned with a colourful capacitive touchscreen that includes Apple Carplay and Bluetooth. The a/c is very good and includes rear vents, although the front driver-side vents are partially obscured by the steering wheel.
Available safety features include up to 6 airbags, Forward Collision Alert and Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Automatic Parking Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control with Front Automatic Braking, Side Blind Zone Alerts, and Front Pedestrian Alert with last-second braking, many of which were in our LT tester, with the rest coming standard for the top-spec LTZ. Our LT had parking sensors, but not a rear camera, although we’re told the showroom models will have it.
The GCC-spec Malibu comes with a 186 hp 2.5-litre naturally-aspirated 4-cylinder mated to a 6-speed automatic. It offers decent power around town, and never felt lacking compared to its midsize rivals. A 250 hp turbo 2.0-litre is coming in January next year for those who want more power.
The gearbox is a bit slushy in its shifts, clearly tuned for economy and smoothness, but manages to pick the right gears in most cases. There are some thumb buttons on top of the shift-knob to select gears manually rather than paddle-shifters. Pressing on the buttons behind the steering wheel will result in changing radio stations and volume.
The steering is pretty light and offers no real feedback, but it makes the car easy to drive casually around town. The brakes are very good too, as are the ride quality and cabin quietness, easily among the best in the segment. Even the handling is good in moderate-speed driving, with limited body roll and no floatiness.
The Chevrolet Malibu is a great effort in its segment. You get exactly what you pay for, without skimping on safety features like the Korean and Japanese brands do. GM claims to offer the lowest servicing costs in the segment as well.
For UAE prices and GCC specs, visit the Chevrolet buyer guide.
Photos by Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury and General Motors Middle East.