Which Is the Better 2016 Chevy Hybrid: Volt or Malibu?

November 23rd, 2015 by

The 2016 Chevrolet Volt. Photo: Mariordo, licensed under CC-BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.

In keeping with its goal of further hybrid development, Chevrolet has so far offered two distinctly impressive 2016 hybrid models: the 2016 Chevy Malibu Hybrid and the 2016 Chevy Volt.

So which is the better hybrid?

As it turns out, the two models are actually quite similar. Both were developed together, each with the goal of using the combined gas-efficiency prowess of the Malibu and the hybrid electric capabilities of the Volt to produce two distinct, but comparably eco-efficient hybrid models.

Chevy released the 2016 Volt in January to a lot of oohs and aahs. The new model features a second-generation Voltec electric drive system, and what makes this powertrain so effective is its ability to combine both its electric and gasoline engines to power the car, combining power as need be to meet demand and maximize efficiency. Both motors can also act as generators, another improvement over the 2015 Volt.

Now 100 pounds lighter and operating 5 to 12 percent more efficiently, the 2016 Volt seemed to address all of the main shortcomings of the previous year’s model. Able to travel an estimated 41 miles to the gallon, the Volt made an impressive entrance into the hybrid industry upon its release.

This was the first major shift toward a hybrid Chevy since 2013’s Malibu Eco, which combined a direct-injected 2.4-liter four-cylinder gas engine and a 15-hp electric motor to reach 37 miles per gallon highway. This was an impressive step and set the tone for hybrid development at Chevy that would eventually lead through six generations of Volt and the 2007 Camry hybrid- but no further hybrid Malibus.

Until, that is, this past spring, when Chevy introduced the 2016 Malibu Hybrid. With a powertrain basically taken straight from the 2016 Volt, Chevy opted for a 1.5 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack for the 2016 Malibu, as opposed to the Volt’s 18.4 kWh. That, plus a 1.8L direct-injection engine over the Volt’s 1.5L standard engine gives the Malibu the power to put out 182 horsepower as opposed to the Volt’s 149.

The 2016 Chevy Malibu

Perhaps more impressive is Chevy’s decision to drop the charging plug from the Malibu Hybrid, having the battery rely instead on the same regenerative-braking system used to some degree in the Volt. Unlike the Volt, however, the Malibu is able to fully recharge its electric battery during the course of normal driving rather than relying on a plug.

The new Malibu Hybrid is actually four inches longer than the 2015 standard model, and 300 pounds lighter. This, plus the improvements made to its powertrain, gives the 2016 Malibu Hybrid an impressive fuel efficiency – 48 mpg city, 45 mpg highway, and 47 mpg combined. This makes the 2016 Malibu Hybrid the most fuel-efficient model in its segment and outstrips the Volt’s 41 mpg.

Using a two-motor drive unit paired with an Ecotec 1.5L engine, the Malibu Hybrid is also equipped standard with fuel-saving stop/start technology. Together, these systems give the model a total system capability of 182 horsepower.

The Malibu Hybrid also features Exhaust Gas Heat Recovery technology, which uses heat from the exhaust to warm the engine and cabin, and Exhaust Gas Recirculation, which helps improve fuel economy. With an electric engine that can travel up to 55 miles per hour alone, the driver may not even need to use the gas engine – which comes on automatically at high speeds and high loads to provide extra power.

So between the two, it seems as though the new 2016 Chevy Malibu Hybrid is the better hybrid model – at least in terms of fuel-efficiency combined with total system power. And, at an estimated $23,440 to start (compared to the 2016 Volt’s $33,995 MSRP), the 2016 Chevy Malibu Hybrid might just be the better buy for the hybrid driver who doesn’t want to drive like a typical hybrid driver.