There was a time when General Motors owned the American midsize saloon market. But a procession of poorly designed products handed the segment lead to the Japanese.

In recent years, GM’s Chevrolet division has regained momentum, however. The new Chevrolet Malibu could give its Asian competitors a serious run for the money in its home market. It will also be the first version of the saloon to be officially imported to Europe.

The Malibu ‘Eco’ hybrid is the headline addition to the revised range, which reaches market a half year ahead of its range-mates. It is still to be confirmed whether the hybrid will be sold in Europe, alongside more conventional 158bhp 2.0-litre diesel and 165bhp 2.4-litre petrol models. But on this evidence, GM Europe should seriously consider the possibility.

This is a surprisingly pleasant hybrid system that delivers more than acceptable acceleration – with a 0 to 62mph time rated at 8.7 seconds – and strong fuel economy: the equivalent of just over 28 imperial mpg on the US EPA’s city test cycle, and better than 42mpg on its highway cycle.

One of the other benefits of eAssist, which pairs a 180bhp 2.4-litre four-cylinder Ecotec petrol engine with a 15bhp electric motor, is that it reduces the tendency of the Malibu’s torque converter gearbox to ‘hunt’ for a different ratio on hilly roads, or when you need just a hint of acceleration.

The new Malibu is a handsome car, more distinctive than the four-door it replaces. But the interior really stands out, rivalling many models in the North American mid-sized luxury class with its fittings and finishes. There are some neat storage solutions too, among them a six-inch storage box behind the pop-up sat-nav display.

It will take time for Chevrolet to re-establish itself, never mind to gain ground in the 100 global markets that GM is targeting with this car – but this Malibu shows that brand is well and truly back in the game.

Paul Eisenstein

Chevrolet Malibu Eco

Price TBC; Engine 4cyls, 2384cc, petrol, plus 15bhp electric motor; Power 180bhp plus 15bhp electric assist; Torque 172lb ft plus 79lb ft electric assist; 0-62mph 8.7sec; Top speed 118mph; Kerb weight 1630kg; Economy 28/42mpg (urban/extra-urban); CO2 0g/km

Top 5 Family hatchbacks

  • Seventh generation Volkswagen Golf
    More than 29 million Golfs have been sold since 1974

    Volkswagen Golf

    1
  • The popular Ford Focus in 1.5 TDCi Zetec form
    The standout component of the Ford Focus has always been its handling

    Ford Focus

    2
  • Seat Leon
    Seat offers five engines for the Leon, ranging from a 104bhp 1.2 petrol to a 181bhp 2.0 diesel

    Seat Leon

    3
  • Mazda 3
    The SkyActiv platform used in the 3 features more high and ultra-high-strength steel, offering greater strength and less weight

    Mazda 3

    4
  • Peugeot 308
    The 308 marks the first time a carry-over name has been applied to an all-new Peugeot

    Peugeot 308

    5

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Chevrolet range

Driven this week

  • 2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron UK review
    First Drive
    29 September 2016
    First UK drive finds the facelifted A3 Sportback e-tron remains a first-rate plug-in hybrid that is packed with tech if a little short on driver appeal
  • Citroen C11.2 Puretech 82 Furio
    First Drive
    29 September 2016
    Citroën's city car gets a new sporty-looking trim level, adding visual adornments, but no premium for the 1.2-litre Puretech triple we're driving
  • Mercedes C350e Sport
    First Drive
    28 September 2016
    Petrol-electric C-Class is a surprisingly well-priced alternative to a diesel but not the greatest example of the new ‘PHEV’ breed
  • Car review
    23 September 2016
    Aston kicks off its ‘second century plan’ with an all-new turbo V12 grand tourer
  • Ford Ka+ 1.2 Ti-VCT 85
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    A rounded, refined and well-sorted bargain supermini – once you’re used to the confusing role redefinition imposed on the once-cheeky Ka