The Chevrolet Malibu has been named 2016 Fleet Car of the Year. The last time the mid-size car was honored with the annual Automotive Fleet and Business Fleet award was when it won in 2009.
The Malibu received the most votes by fleet managers in an online ballot, beating out 28 cars to earn the honor.
“Our team works hard to put the cus-tomer at the center of everything that we do at GM. So when we win awards, it means we’ve done something right for the customers,” said Ed Peper, U.S. vice president of General Motors Fleet & Commercial Operations.
New for the Malibu
The ninth-generation Malibu, which was unveiled in early 2015, features a lighter and longer frame over the previous generation model, improved fuel efficiency, and more interior space.
One of the standout features of the Malibu from this transition was the introduction of the standard LFV Ecotec 1.5L turbo four-cylinder DOHC engine, and the 2.0L four-cylinder DOHC turbocharged engine.
The 1.5L turbo engine features 160 hp while offering 184 lb.-ft. of torque, and is mated with a 6-speed transmission. It employs stop/start technology that was originally introduced on the 2014 Malibu, which enhances efficiency in stop-and-go driving, contributing to a GM-estimated 27 mpg in city driving — an 8% increase over the 2015 model, according to the automaker.
Models equipped with 1.5L turbo also feature active grille shutters that reduce aerodynamic drag to optimize efficiency. Meanwhile, the 2.0L four-cylinder DOHC engine has a 250 hp offering that features 260 lb.-ft. of torque and is mated with an 9-speed automatic transmission.
Both engines have also been made available on the MY-17 Malibu.
“For us, when you look at it, the Malibu has tremendous fuel economy. And fleets are obviously interested in a great total cost of ownership and fuel economy is a big part of the total cost of ownership equation,” said Peper.
The EPA mileage for the 1.5L standard turbo engine is 30 mpg combined, while the 2.0L four-cylinder DOHC turbocharged engine is offered at an EPA combined 30 mpg.
Other new additions that are highlights to the latest generation include an expanded wheelbase, which is almost four inches longer than the previous model. This, along with the 1.3 inches of extra legroom over the previous model, help contribute to the Malibu’s improved space.
The curb weight of the all-new Malibu is almost 300 pounds lighter, due to the increased use of high-strength steel, aluminum, and the changed vehicle architecture.
Peper said that insurance fleets, including Nationwide, are some of the primary users of the Malibu. Peper also said pharmaceutical companies, including Merck, have incorporated the vehicle into their fleets.
It is available in four trim levels: L, LS, LT, and Premier.
Moving to Hybrid
A hybrid model featuring a 1.8L hybrid four-cylinder DOHC engine is also available and features 182 hp and 227 lb.-ft. of torque. EPA mileage for this model is 46 mpg combined.
For the Hybrid, an 80-cell, 1.5 kWh lithium-ion battery pack provides electric power to its system. It can power the Malibu Hybrid up to 55 miles per hour strictly using electricity. The gasoline-powered engine automatically comes on at higher speeds and high loads to provide additional power, according to the company.
“The hybrid version takes the fuel economy to the next level,” said Peper.
The hybrid engine also features Chevrolet’s Exhaust Gas Heat Recovery technology, which uses exhaust heat to warm the engine and cabin to ensure consistent fuel economy performance in cold weather
Equipping New Technologies
With the introduction of the MY-16 came 11 active safety features, including Front Pedestrian Alert, New Lane Keep Assist, Side Blind Zone Alert, Forward Collision Alert, and Front and Rear Park Assist.
It is available with an air bag sensing system that will activate in crashes from every direction, and comes standard with 10 airbags. The 2016 model was named an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick + Award, when equipped with City-Speed Front Automatic Braking safety feature.
“We have more available safety features for a fleet to choose for their drivers than any other brand in this category,” said Peper. “You combine that with the fact that it’s a reliable vehicle, with the great fuel economy, and it looks good.”
The 2016 Malibu was the first mid-size car with 4G LTE WiFi, which can connect up to seven devices, according to the automaker. Along with 4G LTE, it offers Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and OnStar with available automatic crash response that will contact emergency services in the event of an accident.
“The Malibu’s in-vehicle connectivity sets the car apart from its competition, and it is one of the primary reasons American Greetings purchased Malibus for the first time. It helps their drivers stay connected and productive while on the road,” said Peper.
The Malibu, which was originally introduced in 1964, is currently built from globally sourced parts at GM’s Fairfax Assembly Plant, in Kansas City, Mo.