When Chevrolet launches a completely redesigned version of its midsize Malibu later this year, it will add a new hybrid option expected to be one of the segment’s most fuel-efficient models.
Initial estimates suggest the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid will come in at “better than” 45 miles per gallon, which would put it ahead of hybrid versions of the midsize Ford Fusion and Toyota Camry models, and within shot of the segment-leading Honda Accord Hybrid, which is rated at 47 mpg.
“We’re bringing a hybrid to the midsize segment to compete,” Jesse Ortega, the chief engineer on the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu project, said during a background briefing, adding his belief that Chevy is “very well-armed” to take on key domestic and import competitors.
General Motors’ largest brand recently confirmed it will unveil the ninth-generation Malibu at the New York International Auto Show next week. That’s a surprisingly fast turnaround considering the prior version of the midsize sedan only came to market in 2013. But it generated a number of complaints over both its styling and lack of interior space. GM raced a modest update to market for 2014 while setting to work completely redoing Malibu for 2016.
The new model, which was developed using a so-called “clean-slate” approach, is expected to be bigger yet lighter, roomier but more fuel-efficient, and introduce a number of new safety and infotainment technologies. The 2016 Chevrolet Malibu re-make also will be the first to get a hybrid drivetrain.
(Click Here for more on the new 2016 Chevy Malibu.)
According to Ortega, the system will borrow heavily from the hybrid system first shown with the debut of the second-generation 2016 Chevrolet Volt. That includes its 1.8-liter Inline-four engine. But there will be one key difference: the Malibu will be a conventional hybrid, rather than a plug-in, like the Volt.
That means a smaller, lighter lithium-ion battery. The 1.5 kilowatt-hour pack will use a chemical formulation designed to let it charge and discharge more quickly than the battery in the Volt which was formulated to store as much energy as possible to improve range.
(Click Here for more on the Gen-2 Chevy Volt.)
The Malibu will be able to operate on battery power alone at speeds up to 55 mph, though Chevrolet isn’t saying how far it will be able to operate in electric mode. Based on the size of the pack, that’s likely to be no more than two to three miles.
To further enhance mileage, especially in cold weather, the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid will adopt an Exhaust Gas Heat Recovery system. That will use heat normally lost out the tailpipe to both heat the cabin and warm the gas engine.
Together, the gas and electric drive system will produce a peak 182 horsepower.
Chevrolet hasn’t said whether it will continue to offer a more conventional Malibu Eco model. That non-hybrid package made up 10% of the sedan’s total sales volume last year.
Whether there will be that much demand for a hybrid remains to be seen. Gas-electric models, in general, have been losing momentum over the last year, falling victim to the steep plunge in fuel prices. But GM – like its competitors – is betting the slump is just temporary. The maker also knows it has to expand its use of electric drive technology as federal mileage standards jump sharply in 2016 and, again, in 2025.
The overall Malibu redesign will be critical for Chevrolet if it hopes to regain strength in a market segment it once dominated. The sedan’s sales fell by 6% last year, to 188,519, barely half the volume of segment leaders like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. The slump has continued this year, Malibu sales down 11.7%, to 25,849 through the end of February.
A more coupe-like shape will wrap around a more roomy interior. The new 2016 Malibu should see mileage increase across the board if, for no other reason, than the fact that it is expected to come in about 300 pounds lighter than the outgoing sedan.
It also will get updated infotainment and safety equipment, including 4G LTE WiFi capabilities.
To appeal to parents, Chevy also will introduce features allowing them to set restrictions and monitor how their teens are driving.
(Chevy planning to launch all-new Spark minicar at NY Auto Show. Click Here for more details.)