2017 Chevrolet Malibu 2.0T Premier First Test

by Heather Platt | Posted on Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

Although the midsize Chevrolet Malibu was completely reinvented for the 2016 model year, the automaker didn’t rest on its laurels, instead adding a significant update for the second year of the model’s ninth generation. The new GM/Ford jointly developed 9T50E nine-speed automatic transmission replaces the previous year’s Aisin Warner F8F35 eight-speed automatic behind the available 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4. (Other 2017 changes are limited to exterior color choices, a new Sport package, and revised trim features.)

2017 Chevrolet Malibu 2.0T

We tested a top-spec 2017 Chevrolet Malibu Premier with the 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 and new nine-speed auto to see how it compared to its 2016 counterpart with the eight-speed auto. Horsepower remains at 250, but torque increases by 2 to 260 lb-ft. Not only does the 2017 Malibu feels much quicker than the 2016 model on the street, but our track testing also proves that the new transmission makes a significant difference.

At the track, the 2017 Chevrolet Malibu with the 2.0-liter turbo hit 60 mph in just 5.7 seconds and finished the quarter mile in 14.3 seconds at 99.4 mph. That’s a full 0.5 second quicker to 60 mph and 0.4 quicker and 3.4 mph faster in the quarter mile than a comparable 2016 model. The 2017 model stopped from 60 mph in 117 feet, or 1 foot longer than before.

Despite its surprisingly good handling, the large midsize Malibu doesn’t have the same confidence behind the wheel as the small midsize 2016 Honda Civic Touring sedan that I normally drive. The Civic combines a smooth ride with button-downed handling, but the Malibu is a bit softer sprung and floats more with a few more vertical movements than desired. That’s still impressive for its size. After all, the Civic and Malibu are not direct competitors.

Inside, the Malibu is roomy enough for a family of four—there’s even enough space for older teenagers without having to invade each other’s space. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, an OnStar 4G LTE with wi-fi hot spot, wireless phone charging, dual rear-seat USB ports, and a 120-volt power outlet keep the kids entertained. Front seat passengers also enjoy heated and ventilated seats. The large 15.8-cubic-foot trunk can swallow enough luggage for a family road trip.

Standard safety features include Teen Driver, which allows parents to track the activity of their kids behind the wheel, a rearview camera, a tire pressure monitoring system, StabiliTrak stability control with traction control, and a tire inflator with sealant (in place of a spare tire). The infotainment system includes Chevrolet MyLink with navigation and an 8.0-inch touchscreen, a nine-speaker Bose audio system with steering wheel controls, Bluetooth phone and audio, XM radio, and the aforementioned connectivity features.

In 2016, Chevrolet made the Malibu more competitive by increasing its overall size and adding more available technology. Although the 2.0-liter turbo and eight-speed combo featured competitive fuel economy, the new nine-speed automatic makes it one of the fastest and more fuel efficient top-spec front-wheel drivetrains in the segment.

Complaints were few. Besides the poor headlight performance, the biggest notable flaw is GM’s obsession with chrome interior trim, which can blind the driver during daylight hours. Those gripes aside, the 2017 Chevrolet Malibu with the 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 and nine-speed automatic combo should be on every midsize family sedan’s to-drive list.

2017 Chevrolet Malibu 2.0T Premier
BASE PRICE $31,850
PRICE AS TESTED $33,045
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
ENGINE 2.0L/250-hp/260-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSION 9-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3,280 lb (62/38%)
WHEELBASE 111.4 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 193.8 x 73.0 x 57.6 in
0-60 MPH 5.7 sec
QUARTER MILE 14.3 sec @ 99.4 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 117 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.88 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 26.3 sec @ 0.70 g (avg)
REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB 23.1/37.2/27.8 mpg
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 22/33/26 mpg
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 153/102 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.75 lb/mile
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