2016 Chevrolet Volt vs 2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid
by James Riswick, New & Used Car Editor on July 12, 2016
I recently had the chance to drive the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid and walked away declaring it my automotive surprise of the year. To put it simply, it's shockingly good to drive, with composed handling and consistent, well-tuned controls. It's especially shocking since it's a hybrid — the gasoline-electric versions of midsize sedans are generally compromised in ways significant enough to make you constantly say, "well, at least it gets 40 mpg."
Aside from its smaller trunk, the Malibu Hybrid just isn't as compromised. Take the brake pedal, for instance, which feels normal and free from the weird, numb, two-stage pedal feel indicative of most other hybrids' regenerative braking. As such, I think the Hybrid is actually the Malibu to get. Not just because it's less compromised than other hybrid sedans, but because its powertrain is so good. The reason for that: it's basically a 2016 Chevrolet Volt without the plug.
Slightly more accurately, it is indicative of Volt depleted of its battery capacity achieved by plugging it in. In that instance, there is still battery power left, but that is replenished by the regenerative brakes and the engine. In that way, it's similar to the Prius and other hybrids. However, unlike most hybrids, power still primarily flows through the electric motor, providing a more EV-like feel when pressing on the throttle pedal. That equates to smooth, quiet, torque-rich acceleration most of the time. When the Malibu's engine does come on, I found it to be quieter than in the Volt, and although there's certainly some noise and vibration present, it's really only overt when gunning the throttle or when on a prolonged grade. In general, it's a far more refined hybrid system than those of its competitors.
Which brings me to the comparison with the Volt itself. Frankly, the Malibu Hybrid is a much better car. It's more comfortable, better equipped (power driver seat!), substantially roomier, sharper to drive and I'd argue it's better looking. If you have a long commute or don't have ready access to an electric outlet, I think it's a much better choice than its Volt sibling. If there was a Malibu Plug-In Hybrid, it would be a slam dunk.
James Riswick, New & Used Car Editor