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.
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