The Malibu nameplate has long caused us to cringe, because many of the previous generations have been bland and uninspired, seemingly engineered expressly to end up in rental and corporate lease fleets. Chevrolet must have woken from some kind of slumber, because the all-new 2016 Malibu has arrived with some real swagger in its step. And it is a refreshing change.

It all starts with a sleek, sculpted exterior. No longer the plainest car in the segment: the new Malibu looks long and low and I found that it has some serious stance bringing some much-needed presence to the road. Its front fascia is expressive, without deviating too far from the current corporate snout, and the LED daytime running lights make a nice impression as it comes down the street toward you.

I really liked the newfound confidence in the Malibu styling and the whole thing comes off as quite a bold statement to be honest. Particularly when compared to former Malibus. And those 18-inch rims shod with meaty 245/45’s look fantastic!

The changes don’t end on the outside. I took a load off in the handsome leather seats – which are heated, power-adjustable and very comfortable – and let the refined cockpit soak in. The materials feel nice and the three-tone scheme – a couple of earthy tones which contrast nicely with the stitched brown leather panels on the dash and door panels – is luxurious. On top of that, the fit and finish appear to be outstanding.

I loved the fantastic steering wheel – grippy and surprisingly compact, it felt great in hand. Chevy adds an excellent driver information screen between the gauges but the real winner is the seven-inch MyLink touchscreen. It’s sharp, responsive and sports a clean interface. Its job is to handle your phone and vehicle settings, the navigation and the sweet-sounding nine-speaker Bose system. It has all the newest tricks too, including Apple CarPlay (which I tested, and it’s outstanding) and Android Auto. Something that caught me off guard in a seemingly well-equipped car was the manual climate control system – you have to step up to the hybrid or the Premier trim to get an automatic climate control, which I find a bit weird.

There are plenty of high-end touches though, like the huge sunroof overhead with a power sunshade, the 4G LTE wi-fi hotspot (that can handle up to seven devices), a back-up camera with dynamic trajectory lines and the universal garage door opener.

The Malibu has a few thoughtful places to put your stuff. The centre console has a smallish rubberized tray at the front, where you’ll also find a couple of USB plugs, the auxiliary input and a 12V plug. I liked the handy vertical smartphone slot (my iPhone 6 fit perfectly) at the back of the console with its wireless charging capability, as well as the carpeted bin under the armrest lid.

The “inside” story: 2016 Chevrolet Malibu and High-Strength Steel

In the past, the Malibu’s rear seat has been too small to be competitive in this category. But now even the back seats are a nice place to be. First of all, the rear doors open wide to make getting in and out easy and once I got in, I was impressed with a spacious seating area. I found ample leg and head room, although both of those are slightly limited in the narrower, raised middle seating position – with that said, it still works for a third adult passenger. A major improvement!

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