Friday, September 2, 2016



I’ve never been a big fan of hybrids. the gas-electric powered cars that first came to the U.S. from Japan around the turn of this century.

Oh, it’s not like I don’t believe in saving gas, because I do, and it’s not like I’m against technological progress when it comes to automotive drivetrains, because I’m not.

It’s just that I think they have been overhyped and are really just a preliminary step on our way to fully electric vehicles while some Hollywood types seem to think they are the answer to all our fuel issues.

Overhyped because when it comes to fuel saving, newer conventional cars powered by either diesel or gasoline engines are getting mileage figures approaching those of the hybrids, and you have to drive a lot of miles to make up for the premium you have to pay in the hybrid’s higher MSRP. I figured it up several years ago that you would have to drive it at least for five years for it to pay you back.

Frankly, I don’t remember what the fuel prices were back then, but I’m assuming that time period probably has varied over the years and may have been a better deal a few years ago when fuel prices were so high. But now that prices are a bit more reasonable, at least by today’s standards, the savings in fuel costs probably are not as great.

But, someone once pointed out, I’m not buying a hybrid just to save money on gas. I also want to protect the environment because greenhouse gas emissions are much lower with a hybrid than with a conventional sedan.

Yes, but that advantage is somewhat mitigated by the pollution generated in the manufacturing process of hybrids compared to gasoline-powered vehicles. I say “somewhat” because a recent study (see shows that if you drive both a hybrid car and a conventional car for 160,000 miles, the conventional car requires more energy and emits more pollutants over its lifetime than the hybrid.

I’m sure you drive your car at least 160,000 miles, right?

I’m not sure how the disposal of the battery pack of the hybrid might figure into this equation, but I really didn’t intend to spend this much time making this point. What I really want to get into here is this:

One of the biggest reasons for my reluctance to jump on the hybrid bandwagon was how funky the first hybrid vehicles to hit the market, i.e. the Honda Insight and the Toyota Prius, looked. The Insight looked like something from an old Buck Rogers/Flash Gordon serial (check it out at Netflix). The Prius? Let’s just say that once I approached one from behind as I was walking up a slight rise (we don’t have hills in South Florida, unless you count Mt. Trashmores) and was struck by the similarity between the back end of a Prius and the rear of a Pontiac Aztec.

That is not a compliment.

But the good news is that manufacturers have expanded their hybrid portfolios to include real cars, and thus you can buy something like the Chevrolet Malibu with a hybrid drivetrain and not look like a dork behind the wheel.

The Malibu Hybrid was completely redesigned for 2016 and features the same powertrain and technology found on the electric Chevy Volt. No, you won’t drive 40 miles on electric power only, but you will get 47 miles per gallon of fuel in town, 46 on the highway and 46 combined, according to EPA ratings, which is among the leaders for hybrids.

The combination of the 1.8-liter four-cylinder gas engine and two electric motors for the Malibu produces 182 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque, so it’s not like you’re dealing with a slug when it comes to performance.

The website lists a clocking of 7.4 seconds for the 2016 Malibu Hybrid. That is actually a tad quicker than the Malibu LT1.5T, which is essentially the Malibu model the Hybrid is based on, and pretty quick for hybrid models in general. They caught the 2016 Prius in a pedestrian 9.6 seconds, which, TV ads to the contrary, I think detracts from its use as a getaway car from a bank robbery.

That alone would likely set the Malibu Hybrid apart from some if its hybrid rivals, but the Chevy has taken the Malibu Hybrid to new heights with its classy interior and sleek exterior profile. Chevy always did have a bold exterior, but the interiors always seemed to spartan.

Not any more.

The Malibu Hybrid’s cabin may fall a bit short of luxury class, but not by much. The new dash gives the impression it was designed with some thought with the 8-inch touchscreen included in the optional convenience and technology package integrated nicely into top of the center stack instead of sticking up in the middle of the dash like an afterthought.

Included in the base MSRP of $27,770 are such standard features as keyless start/stop, 17-inch alloy wheels, Chevrolet’s MyLink system for hands-free operation, rearview camera, dual zone A/C, steering wheel controls for audio, cruise control, and Bluetooth, Apple and Android capability, satellite radio (subscription service), OnStar, and 4G WiFi hotspot.

My test vehicle included several optional packages that added such features as the 8-inch touch screen over standard 7-inch, front and rear parking assist, forward collision alert, rear cross-traffic alert, lane change alert with blind spot warning, and wireless device charging, among many other features.

With $875 destination and delivery charge and $745 discount on the leather package, that ran the total MSRP to $32,625.

What I liked about the 2016 Chevy Malibu Hybrid: I was aware I wasn’t behind the wheel of a sports sedan, but never did I feel I was being cheated when it came to performance. The cabin is really nice, and the ride is smooth and quiet. The backseat is pretty roomy for a midsize sedan.

What I didn’t like about the 2016 Chevy Malibu: The trunk capacity is reduced to 11.6 cubic feet because of the battery pack for the hybrid setup. Storage capacity is 15.8 cubic feet for the other trims (L, LS, 1LT, and Premier 1LZ).

Would I buy this car?: If I were in the market for a hybrid, I would give it a long look. But I’m not, so I probably wouldn’t. If I were looking for a family car, I especially would have to think it over because of the reduced trunk size. Thinking of family vacations here with the kids and all their stuff.

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