It takes a lot to stand out in the crowded midsize sedan market – but the 2016 Malibu Hybrid has all the makings of greatness. Over the past few years Chevrolet has faced stiff competition from the Ford Fusion, the Honda Accord, the Hyundai Sonata and the Toyota Camry, so they upped the ante and swung for the fences. Starting at $28,645, the 2016 Chevy Malibu manages to be both larger and 300 pounds lighter than its precursor, and the hybrid version gets an impressive 47 mpg combined, which places it at the top of its class.

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According to Chief Engineer Jesse Ortega, Chevrolet sought to address two main issues with the previous generation of the Malibu: styling and spaciousness. They succeeded on both fronts. The 2016 Malibu has a taught, aggressive form defined by windswept lines. It’s a luxurious-looking sedan, and to my eyes it’s a bit more elegant and streamlined than its competitors. Chevrolet also managed to shave 300 pounds off the car’s curb weight while adding 2.3 inches in length, 1.3 inches of rear leg room, and 4 inches to the car’s wheelbase.

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The new Malibu Hybrid borrows several key technologies from the 2016 Chevy Volt – but it prioritizes fuel efficiency instead of all-electric driving. The Malibu shares the Volt’s regenerative braking system, accessory power unit, and drive unit power electronics, however it features a smaller 1.5 kwh 80-cell lithium-ion battery pack and two rare earth magnet motors better suited for torque and electrical efficiency in hybrid vehicles.

Chevrolet paired this electric booster system with a 1.8-liter engine for a drivetrain that generates 182 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque while getting an estimated 48 mpg city / 45 mpg highway. The Malibu Hybrid also features LED headlights and new exhaust heat recovery technology that recycles heat to warm the car’s cabin and engine.

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Chevrolet tuned the 2016 Malibu Hybrid for torque, which is readily apparent off the line – it has great acceleration for a mid-size sedan and I was never left wanting for power or pickup. That said, the Malibu leads with its 1.8L engine, so there’s less of an “instant torque” feeling than the Chevy Volt. The car’s steering is tight and responsive, and handling is smooth without feeling floaty. The 2016 Malibu has a very quiet and comfortable interior with tons of room – it’s clear that Chevy worked hard to address criticism over the lack of seating space in the previous generation vehicle.

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The 2016 Malibu is packed with technology including 4g LTE, front pedestrian alert, collision avoidance braking, and lanekeep assist. It also features Chevy’s new Teen Driver system, which activates all safety features, reports trip information, and allows parents to restrict certain features (by default, Teen Driver mutes the radio until the driver’s safety belt is fastened). The 2016 Malibu Hybrid is set to launch next spring starting at $28,645.

+ Chevrolet Malibu