The rise in popularity of the crossover utility vehicle during these past few years has made a substantial dent in sales within the mid-sized saloon segment. However, for potential customers of reasonably priced ‘consumer type’ mid-sized saloons, there’s probably never been a better time to buy one.
Manufacturers are vying for customers within this segment by offering better products, loading them with safety features and hooking up as much ‘connectivity’ gubbins as advancing technology will allow. There’s also the indisputable fact that they are more fuel efficient and practical, providing greater interior comfort, rear legroom and luggage-carrying capabilities than the equivalent crossover utility vehicle option, despite the common misconceptions to the contrary.
Chevrolet’s latest offering in this segment is the new Malibu, which, to put it mildly, is a quantum leap ahead of the old model it replaces. Crisp lines within an architecturally sculptured design have been utilised to present a more mature and modern appearance. There’s nothing dramatic or flamboyant about the design, but it is now a contemporary sharp suit that can be worn for all occasions.
Less convincing are the slightly superfluous chrome-effect name badges on the front doors, which General Motors seems to be terribly fond of. Possibly as a reminder to which car you are driving during ingress and egress? But that said, faux bling and plastic chrome overall has thankfully been kept to minimum.
The marked difference in the new Malibu however, is the interior. Based on General Motors new E2XX platform, this new generation is 60mm longer than the outgoing model with a 93mm longer wheelbase, which has resulted in an increase in cabin space. For driver and front-seat passenger, leg- and knee-room has been freed-up and rear passengers get an extra 33mm more legroom. Even with me (reasonably tall) in the driver’s seat, there’s still enough space for an adult in the seat directly behind.
Our test car was the mid-range Malibu LT, which featured a light and airy grey interior, adding to the feeling of increased cabin space. Nice quality, soft-touch plastics and material cladding cover most surfaces although stepping up to the more premium LTZ model will add leather and “wooden deco elements” to the mix if you are feeling a bit fancy and want to splash some extra cash.
Naturally, safety and connectivity features abound in the new Malibu, which are key selling points in this segment. Front Pedestrian Alert, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Blind Zone Alert, Forward Collision Alert and a whole list of other active safety features are available if you like speccing your Malibu with Alerts. Nice to see that the Malibu’s 7.0in display MyLink infotainment system with integrated Apple CarPlay is standard equipment but, again, fancy folk can upgrade to an 8.0in version if they so please.
A brief play with the ‘plus’ and ‘minus’ button on top of the drive selector is all that’s needed...
Currently, the new Malibu features GM’s 186 horsepower, 2.5-litre Ecotec engine with six-speed automatic transmission for all models in the region. A brief play with the ‘plus’ and ‘minus’ button on top of the drive selector is all that’s needed to not play with it again, it’s better just to let the auto ’box capably do its own thing in its own time. But weighing in at 130kg lighter than its predecessor, 186 horsepower is more than adequate for surprisingly refined and smooth sailing. For sportier types, a 2.0-litre turbo Ecotec with 250 horsepower will be available in the first quarter of next year.
With starting prices of Dh69,900 for the base ‘LS’ model, Dh76,900 for the ‘LT’ model and Dh95,000 for the premium ‘LTZ’ model, Chevrolet finally has a product suitably equipped and competitively priced to go up against the usual suspects in the mid-sized saloon segment. Our choice would definitely be the middle-of-the-range LT model, which offers a well-appointed interior and standard equipment making it the common sense option if you can live without expensive leather and an extra inch on your infotainment display.
The true deciding factor in the success of the new Malibu will be whether potential customers will chose it over the current leader board Nissan Altima, Hyundai Sonata or a Toyota Camry, and there is a strong argument to suggest that they might. On top of the new contemporary design, spacious interior, smooth engine, and standard safety and connectivity equipment, Chevrolet has also tackled probably the single most important concern in this segment, and that is the cost of ownership once you leave the showroom. With “Best in class for maintenance up to 100,000km” bragging rights, I guess we are going to see a lot of new Chevrolet Malibus on the road. It’s also probably worth having a look at if you’ve been considering a similarly priced crossover utility vehicle…