Malibu Hybrid Lives Up To Ad Promises

After writing a column a few weeks back about consumer disconnect when it comes to hybrid cars, I realized that, sadly, I’m not too far from the norm.

Sure, I know the numbers and the facts, and I definitely know the marketing, but I’ve never actually driven a hybrid. The folks at Chevrolet offered to help remedy the situation with the loan from their press fleet of a 2016 Malibu Hybrid. 

You've probably seen the clever ad campaign that drives home the car’s amazing gas mileage with concrete examples of how cheap the vehicle is to drive. The spot shows how Chevy created a rideshare service that charges by the amount of gas consumed, not the distance. Because the Chevy Malibu Hybrid gets 46 combined city/highway mileage and 47 mpg city, the overall price per short ride ends up being 20 to 30 cents. 

The ads are accurate. The first night I had the car, I had no particular place to go, but I took it for a spin around the block (which in Detroit is 15 miles) and my trip fuel economy was 40.5 mpg. The current average price of gas in Detroit is $2.704. Being among the journalists whose math isn’t their strong suit, I found this handy fuel cost calculator which tells me my “road trip” cost about $1.00 in fuel, based on fuel efficiency of 40.5 mpg and a total fuel volume of 0.37 gallons. My fuel cost per mile was about $0.07.

One thing that should be noted about driving a hybrid is how eerily quiet it is. There is no traditional ignition-key slot. You simply get in, place your foot on the brake and push a start button. The car turns on, but you can barely tell. The first couple of times I did it, I put the car in reverse and really didn’t expect it to move, but it did. 

It was really easy to sync my phone with the car and then use voice commands to send and receive text messages. Hearing the computer read your incoming text messages is kind of a hoot. I really like having the map and directions displayed on the car’s screen. In my personal car, I use the Mapquest app on my phone, and while the verbal instructions come through my car speakers, the visual directions appear only on my tiny iPhone screen. 

The Malibu is all about safety. If you are the parent of a child who has yet to learn how to drive, you will be interested in the teen driving package. Teen drivers use a special key when they are operating the vehicle and parents are provided with their teen’s driving behavior, including how often they had to make a panic stop or exceeded the speed limit, etc. The program also encourages seat belt use in that the music system won’t work unless the driver and passengers are wearing their seat belts — in effect, making it almost compulsory.

There’s safety for non-teen drivers, too. The available Driver Confidence Package (which my test vehicle included) offers automatic braking if you get too close to the car in front of you, front pedestrian braking, side blind zone alert with lane change alert, front and rear park assist, following distance indicator, forward collision alert and rear cross-traffic alert.  

The coolest safety feature is one I hadn’t experienced before, only written about. It is lane-keep assist. Basically, it keeps you from drifting and it also encourages turn-signal use because if you try to change lanes without using the turn signal, the steering wheel will resist. You can really feel it and it’s pretty amazing.  

The safety features in the 2016 Malibu Hybrid make me excited for the future and self-driving cars. I’ll be happy to test drive one of those whenever they are ready.

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