MO­TOR­ING

The 2017 Chevro­let Mal­ibu Turbo has an at­trac­tive ex­te­rior and a well-ap­pointed and com­fort­able cabin, but this turbo vari­ant also proves sur­pris­ingly fun to drive, says wheels’ Sony Thomas

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Chevy’s Mal­ibu Turbo ticks many boxes, but it is its power un­der the hood that’ll catch you by sur­prise.

You have got to be ex­tra spe­cial to stand out in a seg­ment that is over­flow­ing with mod­els such as the Camry, Ac­cord and Al­tima, as buy­ers blindly flock to them. They may not have ex­actly gar­nered a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing thrilling to drive but they serve a very spe­cific pur­pose, and that is to get you from A to B with min­i­mal fuss. They do this a lit­tle too well; there is a pos­si­bil­ity that you may not re­mem­ber the jour­ney at all be­cause when it comes to per­for­mance and driv­ing dy­nam­ics, they are cer­tainly not the go-to mod­els. You’d never go any­where near the up­per reaches of the tachome­ter be­cause, well, why would you? The four-pots are not in­tended for spir­ited driv­ing and some would ar­gue this ren­ders them a tad for­get­table.

But the Mal­ibu, which sits in the same class, bucked that trend a while ago and is eas­ily one of the more mem­o­rable cars in the mid-size seg­ment – and that’s be­cause Chevro­let had the wild idea of bolt­ing on a turbo to the four-banger back in 2013. It made a world of dif­fer­ence to its char­ac­ter, and hav­ing spent the week­end in the 2017 model with an all-new 2.0-litre turbo, I came away rather im­pressed. It boasts more at­trac­tive aes­thet­ics than its ri­vals and it has a well-ap­pointed cabin, which is also ever-so roomy, but there’s an­other per­ti­nent rea­son why this sa­loon would be my pick of the bunch, and it’s be­cause of its zest for life. At the wheel of the others, there may be a ten­dency to just switch off un­til you reach your des­ti­na­tion as there’s not much to keep you gen­uinely in­ter­ested in what’s go­ing on, but the blown Mal­ibu – the first Chevy in our re­gion to of­fer a turbo en­gine op­tion – proves to be far more en­gag­ing.

The strik­ing sa­loon fea­tures a bold front, a smooth pro­file with a ris­ing belt­line, and rides on at­trac­tive 10-spoke 18in al­loys (it looks sim­i­lar to the full-size Im­pala) but it is the dual trape­zoidal ex­haust chrome tips that help iden­tify it as the pep­pier vari­ant – the ‘Turbo 2.0’ badge was deleted from our tester (it was also decked out with a boot lip spoiler and had an up­graded front grille with an in­te­grated li­cence plate holder) and aside from the ex­haust and a slightly re­vised rear bumper, the Mal­ibu Turbo is iden­ti­cal to the nat­u­rally as­pi­rated vari­ants. The usual gold-coloured Bowties have been blacked out but with 250bhp and 350Nm of torque at

your dis­posal, you could say this one is a bit of a sleeper.

It sure caught me by sur­prise when I pressed it into ac­tion. The very first time I floored the throt­tle I was scratch­ing my head; the re­sponse was in­stan­ta­neous – no lag what­so­ever. Was the twin-scroll turbo miss­ing? I

The STRIK­ING sa­loon, Mal­ibu Turbo fea­tures a BOLD front, a smooth pro­file with a ris­ing belt­line and rides on at­trac­tive 10-spoke 18in al­loys

had to pop the bon­net to make sure, be­cause it’s such a good unit and doesn’t re­quire a sec­ond or two once it’s pushed ex­tra air into the cylin­ders to de­liver a hefty punch when you call on all of those horses. It is mated to a six-speed au­to­matic (which sends the grunt to the front) and it goes through the cogs at a quick and smooth pace. Floor the throt­tle from a dead stop with trac­tion con­trol switched off and the front tyres plead for life. It’s not quite a smoky burnout; the Mal­ibu takes off in such de­ter­mined fash­ion that I would imag­ine Chevro­let will eas­ily over­come any re­main­ing traces of bland­ness that are as­so­ci­ated with the name­plate thanks to this lat­est ef­fort.

The in­te­rior is just as pleas­ing as the ex­te­rior – the driveror­i­ented cock­pit fea­tures in­tu­itive con­trols that are in easy reach, and the leather seats aren’t just com­fort­able, they also hold you in place when you drive en­thu­si­as­ti­cally. There’s an 8.0in in­fo­tain­ment touch­screen, sat­nav, and lots of safety kit in­clud­ing front pedes­trian alert, lane keep as­sist with lane de­par­ture warn­ing, side blind zone alert with lane change alert and a for­ward col­li­sion alert with fol­low­ing dis­tance in­di­ca­tor. They all work just fine but my only gripe with the Mal­ibu is with the rear-view camera; it doesn’t of­fer the sharpest of im­ages. Other than that, there’s re­ally not much else to com­plain about here.

It de­buted in the Six­ties, was ditched in the Eight­ies, re­turned in the Nineties (but wasn’t taken se­ri­ously; see the fifth and sixth gens for de­tails…) and now its ap­peal has grown again. Given the choice I would opt for the 1964 sub se­ries of the mid-sized Chev­elle, but for those of you who are not still liv­ing in the past and who want a hand­some sa­loon that can ac­com­mo­date a large fam­ily, han­dle the school and gro­cery runs and also be fun to drive, you need to give this ninth-gen­er­a­tion Mal­ibu Turbo a se­ri­ous look.

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The ninth gen Mal­ibu Turbo’s en­gine has turbo power – enough to beat its Ja­panese op­po­nents

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