2016 Chevy Malibu Hybrid: Ready to Run with the Prius

Written By: EightySix

2016 Chevy Malibu and Its appealing new design

Since 1997, the Toyota Prius has been the top hybrid on the planet. Global sales of the Prius hit 7 million in October of 2014. The new Chevy Malibu Hybrid, released at this year's  New York International Auto Show, may be the Prius' best competition yet.

Chevy estimates the Malibu will deliver an EPA 48 city/45 highway MPG. That's quite close to the 51/48 of the standard Prius hatchback. It borrows the Voltec technology from its brother the Volt, yet with a larger 1.8 liter engine and a smaller 1.5 kWh battery. It cannot charge off a plug, but it can cruise for a mile up to 55 MPH on electric power alone. The new Malibu uses the same regenerative braking system as the Volt. The shared technology means that Chevy reinvented little in building this model, leading to savings for the consumer.

The new Malibu will be Chevy's first vehicle to use Exhaust-Gas Heat Recovery to warm the cabin and engine, leading to quicker heating and more consistent fuel economy.

Is it a Chevy 'Prius'?

Although the Malibu will compete with the Prius, it is hardly a clone. The 2015 version is fifteen inches longer than the Prius Hatchback and over eight inches longer than the Prius V. The 2016 version has been stretched a couple inches while losing 300 pounds. Its size compares better with the Camry Hybrid, which gets only 40/38 MPG. Plus, it's a notably sharper looking sedan next to the dome-like weirdmobile looks of the Prius. To the numerous car-buyers who are turned off by the uniqueness of the Toyota, the Malibu is a comfortable and familiar shape.

Comparing the performance? There is no comparison. While the 2015 Prius brings 98 horsepower, the 2016 Malibu provides 182. Zero-to-sixty is 7.8 seconds as opposed to 10. The Malibu is tuned for sport while the Volt and the Prius are dialed for economy. In Formula One hybrid racing style, the hybrid Malibu uses two electric motors with the gas engine to be faster than the base model gas version.

The 2015 Prius has a solid lineup of entertainment and safety features, including pre-collision warning, dynamic cruise control, smart stopping and lane keeping assist. The new Malibu will improve upon that with camera-enabled pedestrian alert and blind-spot monitoring. Plus, Chevy offers 4G LTE in-car WiFi.

Another intriguing touch is the Teen Driver system, which allows parents to set acceptable speed. It will alert parents when the parameters are exceeded and pester kids for not wearing their seat belts.

How Will Toyota Respond?

Toyota will react to Tesla's growth, the Nissan Leaf's success, and Chevy's Volt/Bolt/Malibu Hybrid projects with a redesigned 2016 Prius. Although photos have not been released, the exterior may be more stylish and less pragmatic. All-wheel drive may be an option. Economy could increase by another 10%, making the Malibu's 47 MPG seem wasteful. Toyota will offer both the old nickel-metal hydride batteries and more efficient lithium-ion ones. Hopefully, the upcoming new plug-in version improves upon the original's 11 mile range.

Toyota has not released the newest Prius yet, but hopes to sell it by the fall of 2015. The 2016 Malibu will not be sold until the spring of 2016. Toyota's counter-punch may actually land first. It's good to see strikes being thrown and Toyota's dominance of the hybrid market being challenged. Competition is always good for innovation.

Do you think Chevy has put enough wow in the new Malibu to pull Prius fans?