Featured Review: 2016 Chevy Malibu and Android Auto

General Motors has been around for quite some time, and at times have struggled with staying ahead of the technology curve. That's not the case in the 2016 Chevy Malibu. As it's one of the first cars from Chevy and GM to feature Android Auto as well as Apple CarPlay. But that's not all that's new in the 2016 Chevy Malibu, which was manufactured at Chevrolet's Fairfax, Kansas factory. The 2016 Chevy Malibu got a pretty big redesign this year, after many called last year's model the "rental car special". Not only is the design of the new Malibu striking, but it's a bit sporty as well. We got a chance to check out the 2016 Chevy Malibu for a few days and take it for a spin. So let's talk about it.

Price

The model that Chevrolet supplied us with was the 2016 Chevy Malibu 2LT. As a total package, this would cost you $29,495. It includes all of the standard features including OnStar 4G LTE service which is provided by AT&T, and you get a trial period of around three months to test it out. With all of their cars offering the 7-inch or 8-inch MyLink Infotainment system, there is no extra cost for Android Auto.

Chevy offers the Malibu in a few different trims. We have the L, LS, 1LT, 2LT, and Premier. With the L obviously being the cheaper trim, also coming with a less powerful engine (a 1.5-liter instead of a 2.0-liter that we have in the 2LT here). There is also a hybrid model with a 1.8-liter engine that Chevy quotes as getting you around 47MPG, that's up from the 22/33MPG in the 2LT.

Exterior

With the older model of the Chevy Malibu, many felt that it was made to look like a "rental car", as it had that fleet look and feel. For the 2016 model year, Chevy decided to do a pretty big redesign on the Malibu and make it a much nicer looking car, both on the inside and outside. Chevy made it to look a bit more like a luxury car, but without the luxury price. Each panel on the exterior of the 2016 Malibu has some distinct contours that make it look a bit sporty, but of course it's not as sporty as their Camaro.

The front of the Malibu has flanking headlamps that look really nice in the daytime, but also provide some great light at night when you need it most. Speaking of the headlights, Chevy does have automatic headlamps here so that you don't ever have to worry about forgetting to turn them off. This isn't something that's unique to the Malibu, as most newer cars have automatic headlamps these days. Another feature that's not unique to the Malibu either is the keyless entry. Not only can you unlock the car using the keyfob remote, but with the remote in your pocket, you can just press the button on the door to lock or unlock the doors. If the car can't sense the keyfob remote nearby, it won't let you into the car. Same goes for attempting to start the car without the keyfob. It's a nice feature to have for those times when you just want to get in the car, and not go in your pocket to get the keyfob out and unlock the doors.

Like the 2017 Audi Q7, 2016 Volkswagen Golf-R and 2015 Hyundai Sonata we've already reviewed, the 2016 Malibu does also have a rear-view camera. Allowing for you to pull in and out of parking spaces a lot easier. Now the Malibu did not have cameras in the front for parking assisting like the Audi Q7 did, but it does have the pedestrian and traffic alerts. So if you are pulling out a parking space and there's a car coming, it'll alert you and also slightly jolt the brakes in the car to prevent any crashes. It's a nice feature to have, and it actually works really well at night. Perhaps the best out of the cars we've test driven as of late.

There's a few rather subtle changes on the back. One of them being the trunk, it actually is a bit more flush with the back window of the car, instead of just being flat like in the 2015 model. The other subtle difference are the dual exhaust pipes. On the 2015 model they were round and a bit less noticeable, however in the 2016 model they are now square and also more noticeable. They actually make for a rather nice look on the backside of this car.

Interior

The interior of the Malibu is where all the magic happens. Chevy offers the interior in about 6 different leather colors and two cloth colors. Our model here was the "Jet Black" leather color, and it actually looked really sharp with the chrome highlights throughout the cabin. The cabin is nice and spacious, even in the back seat where there typically isn't a ton of room, I was able to sit back there with plenty of room to spare. Now this will depend on how big or tall the people traveling in the car are, but there shouldn't be any problems.

One of the few complaints I had with the Malibu was the steering wheel. As with most cars, it was adjustable, but I don't think there was enough adjustability to it. I couldn't get it at the right angle to drive it properly. Now this might just be an issue for me, but it is still worth pointing for those that might want to buy this car. On the steering wheel, you have controls for the MyLink infotainment system as well as Android Auto - which we'll touch on more in depth a bit later - and some buttons for cruise control. Behind the steering wheel, there are buttons to adjust the volume and change songs. The placement of these buttons I think is genius. As they are right where your hands are already, on the steering wheel. Meaning it won't take much movement to adjust the volume or skip that song or go back to the previous one. And the most important part here is that you're keeping your eyes on the road. Always important when driving.

The front seats do have some decent adjustments that can be made, the drivers seat more than the passenger front seat. So you can get it in the perfect position to drive comfortably. In the front there are two USB outlets, which are actually used for Android Auto and/or Apple CarPlay, with a typical car outlet on the right of those two. These are located under the center console. Which puts them out of the way slightly, but still accessible.

The dashboard doesn't have as many bells and whistles as what Audi put in the Q7, however there are some pretty neat features here. You have your usual gauges and dials, with a somewhat small screen in the middle. This smaller screen is here to give you all sorts of details about the car. From the speed you're currently going, to your trip mileage (you can have two trip mileages going at the same time, which is quite standard these days), how much coolant is in the car, how many miles are left until you need gas, and even the tire pressure in all four tires. It's definitely helpful, and nice to have there, especially alongside the gauges that you are already paying attention to while you're driving.

As we mentioned already, the back seat does have plenty of room for most people to sit back there and not have any issues with space. The back seats do fold down. This is great for getting a bit more cargo room when needed. The 2016 Malibu already does have a pretty deep trunk, so you can plenty of stuff back there. We filled it with a few suitcases - the ones that don't count as a carry-on - and they fit with room to spare. However, it is worth pointing out that in the Hybrid model, you do lost about a quarter of your cargo space, and this is for the lithium-ion battery pack that is back there and works to keep the car going - hence the "hybrid" name.

The Chevy Malibu also is very, very quiet inside the cabin. Typically when you're driving, especially around 50MPH or faster, you'll hear a lot of wind noise, but the car was very quiet with almost no wind noise whatsoever. It was pretty impressive, and something that you probably won't notice after driving the Malibu for a few days (by the end of our loan, we didn't even notice the lack of wind noise). We should see this in upcoming models from Chevy, and perhaps other manufacturers as well.

Chevy MyLink

Chevy's MyLink does work with OnStar, but it is basically a separate system. With MyLink, you have access to the radio, GPS/navigation, making phone calls using the Bluetooth in the car, as well as playing Pandora. Of course, you also have smartphone projection which is used for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Beneath the display, there are a few physical buttons, including  Home button, forward and back as well as an actual back button for the UI (not for the media). In the center is your power button and dial for changing the volume. As you can probably see in the pictures throughout this review, the display for MyLink does collect quite a bit of dust. A bit unfortunate, but it will happen with just about any touchscreen in any car (also happens with the Pioneer AVH-4100NEX in my own car).

Audio works as you'd expect, you can choose between AM and FM stations as well as having Sirius XM Satellite Radio, of course if you have a subscription. You can also use the steering wheel to change stations without touching the MyLink display. In the audio section you also have the ability to control the music you are streaming from your smartphone over Bluetooth. This isn't Android Auto, but think of just connecting your phone to your car using Bluetooth and then streaming music using Pandora, Google Play Music, Spotify or another service like that.

Chevy does have GPS built-in to the MyLink service, however the one gripe I have about this is that you can't use it without putting in a destination. On other cars you can drive with the maps up on the display. Showing you the traffic on these streets as well as just showing you where you actually are. It was really helpful, especially if you're in an area that you aren't too familiar with. However with the GPS in MyLink, it will only show you what direction you are heading in (North, West, South, East, etc.), unless you call OnStar for directions. Of course, you can still drive with Google Maps on, if you use Android Auto. But it would have been nice to have that option within MyLink.

MyLink isn't going anywhere, even with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay inside the Malibu - and the rest of Chevy's lineup for 2016. Car manufacturers see both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as compliments to their existing infotainment system, instead of replacing it. Which is why it's not front-and-center on every car maker's vehicles. Although it is with Chevy. GM sees it as an alternative, because not everyone likes the car makers OS, and that's not a big surprise. We'll likely see MyLink get more Android and iOS integration in the next few refreshes, so that you may not need to plug in your phone for Android Auto each time.

Chevy is also one of many car makers that has a deal with AT&T for 4G LTE in the car. It can connect up to 7 devices to the car at any one time. AT&T offers service for this in both the US and Canada, and you get about the same speeds as if you were on AT&T's network directly. Typically in this area we get around 5-10Mbps download on AT&T and we saw around 7-8Mbps when connected to the Malibu. To connect to the hotspot, you just need to press the OnStar button that is above the rear-view mirror or on the rear-view mirror depending on the car, and ask for "WiFi Settings". The voice prompt will get you through the service. Every owner gets a free trial of OnStar 4G LTE, which will give you three months or 3GB, whichever gets used up first. Plans start at $15/month for 1GB of data for OnStar subscribers ($20 for non-subscribers), then $30 for 3GB and $50 for 5GB of data.

Android Auto

Setting up Android Auto in the Chevy Malibu is actually quite simple. They've left things front-and-center for anyone that wants to use Android Auto without having to read a manual. This is something that couldn't be said for the Volkswagen Golf-R we reviewed in late 2015. With the Android Auto shortcut being hidden behind a set of menus. Under the center console, you have two USB outlets, both of which work with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay - all depending on the device you plug in. You will need to supply your own cable, unfortunately. Plug in your phone and you're pretty much ready to go.

As mentioned already, the Malibu can come standard with either a 7-inch or a 8-inch display. Our particular model here has a 8-inch display and it looks quite nice in the car, especially with Android Auto running. In the top row of icons on the home screen - which arguably looks like iOS - you'll see Android Auto appear. Just tap on that, and you'll now be in Android Auto. Inside Android Auto, everything is about how you'd expect it to be. On the far left, you have Google Maps, with the Phone next to it, then your overview screen, followed by media and then your shortcut to get back to Chevy's Mylink - or you can just select the Home button below the screen. Out of the cars that we have used Android Auto in - we're talking ones that have it built in, and not those that utilize a third-party head unit - the experience is very fluid. We haven't noticed any lag at all in the system, and the same can be said on the 2016 Malibu.

The 8-inch touch screen here not only looks great, but it's very responsive. I'd say it's one of the best touchscreens we've used, considering most others are resistive touch screens, and take a bit more force to register your touch. Compared to a capacitive touch screen which we see on our smartphones and tablets, and what Chevy has here on their MyLink display. Pinching to zoom in and out is quite nice, and there's no lag at all when doing that in Google Maps.

Chevy does have some steering wheel controls for Android Auto. Like in most other cars, the voice command button on the steering wheel is used for their MyLink system as well. Press it, and you'll get commands in MyLink. But if you press and hold it, you can give voice commands in Android Auto. For instance if you are driving and want to have the car navigate you to a destination, you can simply long-press the voice command button and say where you want to go. It'll get directions pretty quickly and send you on your way. All without moving your hands from the steering wheel or looking at the Android Auto display.

Behind the steering wheel are some more controls, including volume and back and forward buttons for media. It's something that many don't think about, but it's actually in a pretty genius position. Because they are actually right beneath your fingers when driving the car. Again, you'll be able to turn up or down the volume, as well as skip tracks or go back, without taking your hands off the steering wheel. This is always important because your eyes should always be on the road.

Driving the Car

As we stated earlier on in this review, the model we were driving was the 2LT and this features a 2.0-Liter Turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, and has an 8-speed automatic transmission. So this is the bigger of the two engines that Chevy offers with the Malibu, and also the more powerful one. Going from 0-60MPH in this didn't take too long, but the roar of the engine definitely sounded nice. This model takes premium gasoline, while the other engine will work with regular unleaded. As stated, this engine will get you about 22 miles per gallon in the city and about 33 on the highway. A full tank of gas will get you around 320-350 miles before needing to fill up again. That's a bit low compared to other cars, but considering the fuel economy rating on this car, it's not too surprising. The tank is just under 16 gallons. While it's rated at 22/33 miles per gallon, with mixed usage we were seeing right in the middle, around 27 to 28 miles per gallon during our short week with the car.

Driving the Chevy Malibu was nice and smooth, this was pretty surprising considering it's Spring in Michigan and the roads a mess thanks to the winter weather from the past few months. The Malibu feels a bit like a sports car, but not entirely - you'll agree if you've been behind the wheel of the Camaro lately. The eight-speed automatic transmission performed beautifully, although we'd definitely prefer a manual (however you can get the feel of a manual by putting the Malibu into the lower gears and changing them up on the top of the gear shift).

There are quite a few new safety features here in the 2016 Malibu, which includes ten standard airbags throughout the car. This includes knee airbags in the front for the driver and passenger. This is to protect all parts of you when you get in a crash, which we all hope never happens. In the LT, Hybrid and Premier trims, you get City-Speed Front Automatic Braking, Front Pedestrian Braking, IntelliBeam, Front and Rear Park Assist, Side Blind Zone Alert with Lane Change Alert, Lane Keep Assist, Following Distance Indicator, Forward Collision Alert and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert. These features are very important and keep everyone safe, the Lane Keep Assist I found to not be as aggressive as what Audi has. Luckily you can easily toggle the Lane Keep Assist feature on or off with the button on the steering wheel. Automatic braking features did work as advertised, although we didn't need to use them that often, thankfully. The side blind zone alert works really well, showing on your mirror if someone is in your blind spot. And if you look to change lanes, the Malibu will give you an audio alert that someone is in your blind spot and urge you not to change lanes.

GM is targeting the 2016 Chevy Malibu at Teenagers as their first car. In 2016, they debuted the "Chevrolet Teen Driver", and it's a set of features that are here to keep the teenager safe, but also report back to their parents about what they are doing when they are driving. Parents are able to set up the Teen Driver menu using a PIN - preferably one that their teenager doesn't know. You will then need to register the teen's key fob so that when the teen is driving the car, it knows that it needs to use the Teen Driver features, versus when others get in the car to drive. One of the more interesting features in this is the fact that audio won't play - whether that be radio, satellite radio, Bluetooth streaming music, etc., until the driver buckles their seat belt. Definitely a good idea to get these new drivers to wear their seat belt at all times.

Chevy also has a "Teen Driver Report Card" so the parent can see how far they have driven, the maximum speed that was reached, different stability control events, antilock brake events, Forward Collision Alerts, and Forward Collision Avoidance Braking events. This way parents are able to see how well or not so well their teenager is driving. There is also a max volume setting. So that teenagers can't turn up the music too loud, and a speed warning that can be set between 40 and 75mph. With most highways being at 70mph or lower (at least here in the midwest) this is a good idea to have in the car. So that teenagers are driving at a relatively safe speed.

Final Thoughts

There's a lot to like about the Malibu, and considering it's been around since 1964 (and has sold 10 million globally), it can be said that lots of people have liked the Malibu. It's gone through some big changes in its 52-year history, both good and bad. But the 2016 Chevy Malibu is definitely a looker. It's one of Chevy's most successful, if not the most successful model and it looks like it's not going away anytime soon. The 2016 Malibu has all kinds of new technology to keep up with its competition like the Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata and Toyota Corolla. Not only does it have Android Auto as well as Apple CarPlay, but all sorts of driver assist safety features including Front and Rear Park Assist, Lane Keep Assist and many others, which we've already outlined. These features may not be a "must have" for many, but once you have them, it'll be tough to drive without them.

With the 2016 Malibu, Chevy has been targeting this as a good car for teenagers to learn how to drive with. It is a good car to start, it's a mid-sized sedan, with all sorts of safety features. But perhaps the best feature, which is aimed at parents, is the Teen Driver Report Card. It means that parents can keep tabs on their teenager's driving habits without being on their back all of the time. That's something teenagers can appreciate.

As per usual with Chevy, there many different trims available for the Malibu. We would recommend that most stay away from the 1.5-liter engine, as it's a bit slow, especially if you do a lot of driving on the freeway. The 2.0-liter engine is a much better fit, so is the 1.8-liter used in the hybrid model. All versions of the 2016 Malibu come with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which is always a big deal. Considering Hyundai and Volkswagen are requiring an extra "tech package" for their vehicles to have Android Auto. As mentioned, Android Auto is available in all of Chevy's 2016 models. This includes the Cruze, Impala, Volt, Camaro, Camaro Convertible, Corvette, Corvette Convertible, Colorado, Silverado, Silverado HD, Tahoe and the Suburban which all feature a 8-inch display. These cars also have a 7-inch version available; Spark, Cruze, Camaro, Camaro Convertible, Silverado and Silverado HD, in addition to the 2016 Malibu.

The 2016 Chevy Malibu is available at your local dealer today and starts at around $21,625. For the price, you're getting quite a bit of car, as well as quit the technology, given that the car industry is historically slow when it comes to new technology.

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About the Author
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Alexander Maxham

Section Editor
Alex has written for Androidheadlines since 2012 as Editor of the site and traveled the World to many of the biggest Smartphone and Technology events. Alex has a background in Technology and IT and Deep Passion for Everything Android and Google. His specialties lay in Smartphones of all budgets, Accessories, Home Automation and more. Contact him at [email protected]
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