2016-chevrolet-malibu

By Greg Williams, Driving.ca - Malibu is a hallowed nameplate in the General Motors' garage.  First introduced in 1964, some classic Malibus can make the heart of an avid car collector beat a little big faster.  But so can the automaker's all-new for 2016 Malibu.

Reader Reviewer Greg Mundy didn't require medical attention for a raised pulse rate during his week-long test drive, but he certainly approved of GM's latest design for the Malibu.

"It's a great-looking car," Mundy said.  "The body lines are really attractive, and this generation of the Malibu has a much more premium aura about it.  It looked better than I'd expected.

"When my wife first saw the car, she said, 'This is a Chevy Malibu?' with a big question mark at the end."

The current Malibu is now in its ninth generation, having morphed from a somewhat muscular rear-wheel-drive vehicle of the 1960s to a rather staid front-wheel drive mid-size sedan in the late 1990s.  There was, however, a break in Malibu production between 1983 and 1997.

General Motors describes the 2016 iteration of the Malibu as a brand new from the ground up.  Although riding on a wheelbase 101 millimetres longer than the previous Malibu, the car is lighter by 136 kilograms.  There's increased passenger room, and fuel economy has improved.

Available in four trims, from base L to increased-content LS, LT and top-of-the-line Premier, the first three Malibus are powered by an Ecotec 1.5-litre turbo-charged four-cylinder engine paired with a six-speed automatic transmission.  There's a hybrid version of the car available, and the Premier features a larger 2.0-L turbo-charged four cylinder that produces 90 more horsepower than the 1.5-L engine.

In a first for a GM front-wheel-drive car, the Premier model comes equipped with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

"I had a 2012 Malibu as a company car," Mundy said, "and I wouldn't say it was my favourite vehicle."

However, the new $38,145 Premier version (including $1,650 destination charge and $4,450 in options) Mundy drove was a different story.

"It's night and day, the difference between the 2012 Malibu and this new one," he said.

A self-professed nerd, Mundy appreciates and embraces new technologies.  He wholeheartedly enjoyed many of the features his Malibu Premier featured as part of the $1,450 Driver Confidence and $1,350 Driver Confidence II packages.

"The lane-keeping assist, the self-parking and the adaptive cruise control features really tickled me to see, and they worked great," Mundy said.

The car also came equipped with the $1,550 power slide and tilt sunroof that has an additional skylight in the rear section.

A family man with a five-year old son, Mundy maintains a 2015 Subaru Outback as a daily driver and a 2015 GMC Sierra HD Denali with Duramax diesel to haul a fifth-wheel trailer.

He loaded up the Malibu to head down the highway to the Nanton Bomber Command Museum of Canada.  The first problem he had was finding the LATCH locations to secure his son's car seat.

"That wasn't intuitive, and what should have taken me about eight minutes took an hour," Mundy said.  "It's not well documented in the manual, and I had to walk away for a bit in frustration.  I did finally find them behind a leather panel with open sides, but they weren't where I would have expected them."

On the highway, the new 2.0-L turbocharged engine impressed him, and he said there was more than enough "oomph" to merge and quickly come up to road speed.  The eight-speed transmission seamlessly settled down into top gear and allowed the engine to loaf along with a low tickover speed.

But, Mundy added, "My complaint about the turbo and the transmission would be in city stop and go traffic, it felt a bit choppy."

The brakes were powerful and the steering was firm, and both offered good feedback.  The ride was also rated as firm, but not quite sports-car like.

Mundy found the leather driver's seat comfortable and supportive, and said the memory function is a useful feature.  The instruments and controls all made sense, and the overall layout was declared "nice and clean".

"The infotainment screen itself was one of the nicest, brightest and crispest I've seen," Mundy added.  "But the centre console is very minimalist, and the driver has to reach around the shifter to reach a beverage in the cupholder."

Mundy said the Malibu is an ideal family car, and he wouldn't hesitate to recommend one to a family of three or four; it could be used with ease, given the wide-opening doors and huge trunk.

He did mention that he'd like to see the car available with all-wheel drive, although.

"It's a car I could drive everyday for sure," Mundy concluded.  "It sure got a lot of attention, and I was sad to see it go."

DRIVER'S JOURNAL

Day 1: Striking appearance.  Chevrolet has done a nice job of designing this car.  Interior surfaces are mostly soft touch, giving the car an upmarket look and feel.  Took my wife for a drive, she was very impressed; surprised that this was a Chevrolet.  She really liked the looks of the car.

Day 2:  Family road trip to test the highway capabilities.  This necessitated me installing my son's car seat.  Chevrolet needs to better document where the LATCH connectors are behind the seat; it is not intuitive.  The 2.0-L turbo engine provides plenty of power, both in the city and on the highway.  I found myself getting up to local street speeds very fast, and on the highway I had plenty of power to spare for acceleration and passing.  The Malibu is a real treat to drive on the highway; the suspension is soft enough to be comfortable, but not so soft that there is no feedback.  Steering is unlike anything I have experienced in a Chevrolet, plenty of feedback and just the right amount of power assist.

Day 3:  Played with the electronic goodies.  This car has plenty.  The infotainment system is very fast and responsive.  My son loved the Wi-Fi, and that he could watch Netflix while road tripping.  The car has both Apply CarPlay and Android Auto; I have both types and tried them both.  Apple CarPlay is very intuitive; once you connected the USB cable, the phone and car initiate the setup process.  I had to install the Android Auto app on my phone to use it.  Once set up, it is as simple as connecting the USB cable for both devices.  Both are intuitive, although I would give the edge to Apple CarPlay, as it works just like the phone on the screen in the car.

Day 4:  Driving to work, I played with some of the safety features of the car.  The lane-keep assist is very nice; it will steer your car back into the lane if you drift out, although the lane lines had to be very clear for this feature to work consistently.  The car also has "self parking," which I tried in the garage of my office.  You press the button on the lower console, the screen in the dash then tells you what to do - drive slowly until it finds a spot, put the car in reverse and let go of the steering wheel.  It works very well.  I showed this to a co-worker, and to quote him, "That is bad ass."

Day 5:  My only complaint about driving the car is in stop-and-go traffic.  The combination of the 2.0-L turbo and the eight-speed transmission cause it to be a little jerky in traffic.  The turbo spins up, and the transmission shifts quickly and then I step on the brake to stop.  I am not sure if this would improve as the computer learned my driving style.

Days 6 and 7:  Time to return the car.  It started to rain pretty heavily on the drive and the car rides well on wet roads.

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malibu-17
The 2016 Chevrolet Malibu is a big improvement on the outgoing model
with a hint of the Audi A7 in the rear three-quarter

By Graeme Fletcher, Driving.ca - With only a brief hiatus, the Malibu has been a Chevrolet staple since it was introduced at around the same time the Beatles first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Over the years, the good, the bad and the plain ugly have worn the nameplate.  The ugly badge is pinned to the tail of the so-called Iraqi Malibu.

In 1981, GM produced a special version of its popular sedan for the Iraqi government.  It had a V6 engine, a three-speed manual transmission and precious little else.  The order was abruptly cancelled, so GM sold the majority of these oddball orphans in Canada, and at a fire-sale price.

Fast-forward to today and the all new, ninth-generation Malibu is as far removed from that abomination as is possible.  For example, the designed-by-committee interior has been shelved.

This is not your father's Malibu anymore.  Gone is the fuddy-duddy finish in favour of a more upscale look and feel that's dominated by the iPad-like screen and Chevy's MyLink infotainment system.  It now looks like it was designed to be there, not like it was an afterthought.

The system is readily mastered.  It supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and also delivers a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hot spot.  CarPlay proved to be remarkably easy to use once the phone was paired, which was itself a simple task.  Hold the talk button for two seconds and the on-board "Molly of the maps" is overridden by Siri.  Ask "where am I?" and Siri gives you the exact address and then puts the location on the map in the screen.  Having Siri read or respond to texts is also easy, as is placing a call or finding a song.  Even more impressive is the quality and clarity of the screen.  The high-definition colours are vivid and the clarity better than many similar setups.

As for the driver's lot in life, the seat is comfortable and offers lots of adjustments, so taller folk will find ample legroom.  And it's more of the same in the back - lots of toe-leg- and headroom.  A 6-foot-2 passenger will find a comfortable, un-scrunched seating position.  With split/folding seats and 447 litres of space, the trunk accommodates a family of five's luggage with ease.

The latest Malibu is offered in three very different flavours.  The tester arrived with GM's Ecotec 1.5-L turbocharged four-cylinder married to a six-speed automatic transmission.  The 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque it puts out is enough for most eventualities.  Yes, it takes almost nine seconds to trot to 100 kilometres an hour, but the plus proved to be the fuel economy - a test best of 5.7 litres per 100 kilometres.  The average for the entire test was 10.8 L/100 km, and this included the acceleration testing.

That said, the better choice is the 2.0-L turbocharged four-cylinder that's married to an advanced eight-speed automatic transmission.  It brings a rabble-rousing 250 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque and is much quicker, running to 100 km/h in 6.7 seconds.  The vigour arrives at the cost of fuel efficiency, but it transforms the Malibu into a smile inducer.  The final alternative, if you're really into fuel economy, is the Hybrid.

The six-speed transmission worked well with the base engine, especially on the highway, where it kept the revs low and the cabin eerily quiet.  The anomaly proved to be the controls on the back side of the steering wheel; they control the audio, not the shifting.  The latter is done through a toggle switch atop the shifter, and then only after selecting low.  Given this 1.5-L engine does not tempt the driver to play cowboy, this setup was passable, but it will likely be awkward with the sportier 2.0-L engine and the performance it puts at the driver's right boot.

On-road comportment is where the Malibu comes into its own.  The new car is significantly lighter, which makes it feel much more agile on its P225/55R17 tires.  This new-found nimbleness makes the Malibu an entertaining drive; nobody could ever accuse previous generations of the car of being fun!  The amount of body roll is minimal and the response to driver input is crisp.  Ditto for the steering and brakes; both have a much sharper feel than before.

It is the quality and quietness of the ride, however, that will be the Malibu's defining quality and strength.  The rigours of a rough road simply disappear.  In the end, the Malibu does a very credible job of mimicking a luxury car.

The latest Malibu represents a vast improvement over the outgoing model.  It has style (some will see shades of the Audi A7 in the rear three-quarter, which is not a bad thing), a broader model mix, a swanky new interior as well as the aforementioned ride quality and cabin quietness.  The combination means it now has the wherewithal to cater to a much wider array of potential customers.  Heck, even younger buyers looking to start a family will find it appealing.

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04-28-16

cruze-3FOR 2016, THE CHEVROLET'S TOP-SELLER, THE CRUZE GETS A COMPLETE MAKEOVER

By Costa Mouzouris, Driving.ca - The Chevrolet Cruze is GM's best-selling car in Canada, despite stiff competition in the compact segment.  In fact, the Cruze is good enough to entice many owners of other brands to switch teams; GM claims that more than half of Cruze owners are new to the brand.

This is Chevy's bread-winning car, available in more than 75 countries worldwide.  It has sold more than four million units around the world since its introduction in 2008, and more than 170,000 units in Canada since arriving here in 2010, though those numbers pale in comparison to the Honda Civic, which sells twice as many units.

Chevrolet has given this next-generation Cruze a complete makeover for 2016, and it features much more than just a more aggressive new look.  The windshield and back glass are at shallower angles for a more streamlined, Euro coupe-like roofline, and the car now has an almost fastback silhouette.

Built at GM's Lordstown, Ohio plant, the Cruze has gained 1.5 centimetres of wheelbase (now at 270 cm), is 6.8 cm longer, and the roof is 2.5 cm lower.  The extra length contributes to additional interior space, especially for rear passengers.  Taller passengers will find headroom a bit cramped, a drawback of the lowered roof.

An all-new 1.4-litre, direct-injection turbocharged four-cylinder is the only available engine, replacing the outgoing model's 1.4-L turbocharged and the 1.8-L naturally aspirated engines.  As before, it is mated to either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.

This new, lighter engine produces 153 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque, up from the former turbo's 138 horses and 148 lb-ft.  The new engine's claimed combined fuel consumption is 6.8 L/100 km when coupled to the automatic transmission with the standard start/stop function, and a best of 5.6 L/100 km on the highway.  That's about a litre better than the former 1.4-L engine.  After an 80-mile ride in an automatic LT, the trip computer displayed an average consumption of 41 mpg U.S., or 5.7 L/100 km.

If you prefer forfeiting sparkplugs in the interest of even better fuel economy, you can wait until 2017 when GM will reintroduce the diesel version.

Four trim levels are available, from the $15,995US L model ($180 less than the 2015 model) to the $23,995US Premier.  The enticing entry price won't get you basic conveniences such as cruise control, a rear-view camera or air conditioning, but you do get Bluetooth connectivity with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and available LTE Wi-Fi.  You can add the RS package to the LT for $695US, which adds fog lamps, a sporty front fascia and rear spoiler, or to the Premier for a $995US premium, which also adds 18-inch wheels (16-, 16-, and 17-inch wheels are available on various trims).  Heated front seats are standard from the LT model upward.

A new chassis is 24 kilograms lighter and boasts a 27 per cent increase in rigidity.  The lighter engine and chassis, as well as other weight-saving measures, combine to drop about 113 kg from the curb weight.  From the driver's seat, this translates to a ride that feels taut, with bumps and road noise well isolated from the interior.

The L, LS and LT models feature a torsion-beam rear axle, while the Premier is equipped with a Watts Z-link.  Despite this relatively modest suspension design (front struts; rear torsion beam), GM engineers have tuned it to feel much more sophisticated.  At low speeds it feels firm, yet lacks any harshness, even over a series of moderately sized bumps.  If pushed through tight turns at higher speeds, though, it becomes evident that the suspension is tuned for comfort, returning modest body roll.

Steering effort is light and feedback is somewhat muted, in contrast to the 2016 Civic our hosts made available for comparison.  The Cruze, however, is smoother and quieter, especially from the engine compartment.  While not quite as serene as the Buick Verano, even the lower-end LS model is above par in its class.

The manual transmission has moderate lever travel and requires a light touch, but it's not best suited for the engine's powerband.  Pushing the gas pedal down results in a very lethargic climb of the tach needle until the revs pick up, after which the turbocharged four lights up considerably.

The automatic transmission downshifts more obediently than a lazy hand on the manual stick, therefore it feels much livelier.  This keeps the engine in the strong part of its powerband more effectively, while transferring less engine vibration and returning a smoother ride than the manual transmission.  Whether equipped with two or three pedals, the brake pedal seems unusually high.

The Cruze's interior has been refreshed with more soft-touch and textured materials, and it has a slightly upscale look and feel.  It might fall short when compared to luxury offerings in the segment, but it is finer than most cars in its price range.  A seven-inch colour touch screen is standard, and an eight-inch screen is optional.  The instrument cluster is similar to the outgoing model, though there's now a 4.2-inch high-definition screen between the gauges.  The shift lever has also moved to the left side of the centre console, closer to the driver.

Ten airbags are standard, and there are many driver aids available.  A rear-view camera is standard from the LS model up, and park assist and rear cross-traffic alert are available on the LT.  If you must have all the driver aids, including lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, collision alert and a following-distance warning, they're available only on the Premier model.

The 2016 Chevrolet Cruze is available now, and it appears to be popular with second-time buyers: about 58 per cent of Cruze buyers already own one.  Chevrolet aims to entice at least some drivers away from the Civic, so a five-door hatchback Cruze will be available later this year.  But even without the fifth door, this lighter, larger and more dynamic Cruze will probably attract many more converts.

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2016 SilveradoTHE SILVERADO'S BOXY STYLING IS SUBTLY UPDATED FOR 2016,
MAKING IT A HANDSOME BEAST.

By Lesley Wimbush, Driving.ca - When you live in the city, it's easy to dismiss pickup trucks as being over-compensating gas-guzzlers, hauling air while hogging most of the road.  To truly appreciate the beauty of a good truck, you've got to experience it in its own environment.  And there's nothing like 10 kilometres of unplowed cottage road to make a four-wheel-drive truck seem as attractive as any premium German sedan.

The unpaved road north of Apsley would've been completely impassable in any but the toughest of all-wheel-drive cars.  Heavy snow through the forest gave way to patches of yellow mud in the clearings, warmed by the sun and thick as gumbo.  Treacherously greasy, it sucked and pulled the wheels of the 2016 Chevrolet Silverado, skewing us sideways down the slick incline.

When we ground to a halt, bogged down to the running boards and flanks spackled with muck flung by the spinning rear wheels, it was time for intervention.  Switching to 4-LO engages the heavy duty locking differential, and with power driving all four wheels, we easily shook free of the mud and continued on our way.

Canadians bought more than 46,000 Chevrolet Silverados last year; it's one of the most important products in GM's portfolio.  For 2016, the Silverado receives a couple of important changes to help it stay competitive in a field that includes a fully revised Ford F150 and the Ram 1500, with its popular coil spring and air suspension.

The Silverado's boxy styling is subtly updated for 2016, with new trim-specific grilles and LED head and tail lamps, while upper trim levels get segment-first LED fog lights.  Divided by a strong, horizontal bar, the truck's new face appears wider, and a revised hood gives it a stronger, more muscular look.

Perhaps more important than the external changes is the increased use of GM's eight-speed transmission, which is now available with the 5.3-litre V-8 engine on LTZ and High Country models.  It's a big improvement on the six-speed, providing quicker torque delivery, faster acceleration and better fuel economy.

The Silverado is a handsome beast, particularly in my tester's LTZ trim, which eschews chrome bling for a more subtle look.  Running boards finish off the look nicely, and corner bumper steps provide easy access to the bed.  I particularly liked the "EZ Lift and Lower" tailgate, which can be locked remotely, keeping cargo safe beneath the tri-fold tonneau cover.

The cabin retains its blunt and chunky design, with most of the changes centred on technology.  The crew cab is an enormously roomy environment, and even the rear seats have enough legroom for a pro basketball player.  The flat and boxy centre console has plenty of cubby space, and a gigantic storage area beneath the armrest.

The eight-inch colour touch screen now features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and there's on-board 4G LTE Wi-Fi and wireless cellphone charging.

Safety systems include adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, driver's safety-alert seat, and a rear-view camera.  There's a heated steering wheel and front seats are heated and ventilated.  Surprisingly, given the amount of sophisticated technology, there's no push-button start, even in this upper-trim-level tester.

Although you never forget that you're driving a very large vehicle, the Silverado is well mannered and very quiet, with a minimum of road and wind noise.  While the lane-keeping assist initially feels rather intrusive, it doesn't take long to appreciate its ability to keep the big truck within the lines.  Combined with adaptive cruise control, it takes a lot of stress out of commuting in congested traffic.

The big V-8 features active cylinder management, which shuts down four cylinders during light load for better fuel efficiency.  It's smooth and seamless, with only the TFT display informing you that the truck is operating as a four-cylinder.

Steering is very good, with the right amount of heft for a vehicle this size, but having separate adjusters for tilting and telescoping the column is confusing.

Apple CarPlay is literally plug and play; tethering an iPhone instantly launches the application and it's ready for hands-free messaging.  But the Bluetooth system had the annoying habit of occasionally interrupting the audio system to make contact with my phone.

The Silverado Z71 is a formidable off-roader, with Rancho shocks, transfer case, locking differential and underbody shields.  Equipped with the Max Tow package, it's capable of towing up to 11,000 pounds (4,990 kilograms), which is less than the F-150's 12,200 lbs. (5,535 kg) but just over the Ram 1500's max rating of 10,800 lbs (4,900 kg).

Although the Silverado is up against some stiff competition with the Ram's cushy, self-leveling air suspension, and the F-150's slick new trailer backing-up technology, there's a lot to like about this smooth and capable pickup truck.

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2016-Chevrolet-Cruze-RS-109-876x535By Lesley Wimbush, Driving - Any way you look at it, the Cruze has been a success for Chevrolet and General Motors, with over 3.5 million sales, since its 2008 inception.  Sold in more than 115 countries around the world, the Cruze has been instrumental in bringing in customers, since 35 per cent of buyers are new to the brand.

"Cruze is the global face of Chevrolet," said Alan Batey, Senior Vice President Global Chevrolet, at the Detroit event.

Unveiled in Detroit today, the new 2016 Chevrolet Cruze is larger, yet more streamlined, shedding 250 pounds over the outgoing model.  Now 68 millimetres longer in length and 25 mm lower, the Cruze appears longer and leaner.  The extra length adds spaciousness to the interior and more rear legroom.

Inside, the Cruze now projects a more thoroughly modern, and sophisticated atmosphere featuring more soft touch surfaces, premium touches like available rear heated seats, wireless phone charging and a 4.2-inch high-res driver information display between the gauges.  There's a full suite of safety systems including Side Blind Zone Alert, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Keep Assist and Forward Collision alert.

Replacing the current 1.8-litre base engine is a new 1.5-litre four-cylinder Ecotec with either a six-speed automatic or five-speed manual transmission.  An all-new 1.4-litre Ecotec turbo-four is also available.  Engineered with extensive use of aluminum and low-friction materials, the new engine is extremely lightweight and efficient and shares no common parts with the 1.4L found in the outgoing Cruze.

I's rated at 153 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque, and comes with either a six-speed automatic or manual transmission.  An automatic start/stop system is also standard.  GM predicts that this engine should have a fuel consumption rating of 5.9 L/100 km with the automatic transmission.

A 1.5L diesel engine, nick-named the "Flusterdiesel" (whisper) which is already in use in Europe will also be available.  Transmission choices will be the six-speed automatic or six-speed manual transmission.

The Cruze will be one of the first Chevrolets to feature Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (Corvette will be the first).  The connectivity features have been adapted to work within Chevrolet's MyLink infotainment system, not replace it.  "It's an 'and', not an 'instead' situation," said Phil Abram, GM Global Connected Consumer's chief infotainment officer.

The Cruze will be able to connect up to seven different devices when equipped with available 4G LTE Wi-Fi.

"The 2016 Cruze has as many features as the Mercedes-Benz C Class at half the price," said GM CEO Mary Barra.

The 2016 Cruze will be offered in more than 40 markets worldwide, beginning with North America.  It's scheduled to arrive during the first quarter of 2016, with the diesel models following later that year.

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Spark

By Justin Pritchard, The Globe and Mail

TECH SPECS

  • Base price: $9,995 ... as tested $9,995
  • Engine: 1.4-litre EcoTec four cylinder
  • Transmission/Drive: Five-speed manual or CVT with manual mode shifting
  • Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 7.6 city; 5.7 highway; 6.7 combined, regular fuel
  • Alternatives: Nissan Micra, Mitsubishi Mirage

 

In the push to purvey Canada's least-expensive car, Chevrolet and Nissan engaged in a charming pricing scrum.  When Chevrolet parked the MSRP of the 2016 Spark just three dollars below the Nissan Micra's then-cheapest Canadian price of $9,998, Nissan countered with a $10 price drop to $9,988.  Now, with the dust settled, Micra maintains the title of Canada's most affordable car, beating the $9,995 Spark at the base-price game by just $7.

A brand-new car below the magical $10,000 mark represents a compelling alternative to a used car, creates buzz and puts brands strongly on the radar of first-time buyers.  With the new Spark, Chevrolet has dropped another sub-$10,000 model into this rapidly growing segment, and it has more going for it than just that new car smell.

Millennials:  They share, they co-operate, they're connected and creative, and they're a conundrum to product planners and marketers, who discovered that, in general, millennials care little about cars, more about tech, and don't like compromise.  That's why for $7 dollar premium over the Micra, Chevrolet's latest might just offer about the most relevant feature set going for this demographic.

Integrated Bluetooth is standard kit on all Spark models - an instant advantage over Micra and others, who bundle it with an added-cost package.

OnStar is also standard, for push-button access to real-life help summoned via an integrated GPS and cellular connection.

OnStar advisers can send help automatically after a crash, summon a tow truck, beam navigation directions into the dashboard, and more.  OnStar can be a confidence-booster for students (and parents of said students), who may, for instance, be making a lengthy highway trek home for the weekend.

OnStar's cellular and data connections also let Spark owners check fuel and tire pressure levels, operate door locks, and even remote-start the engine (with proper equipment) via their smartphone.  Further, a built-in hotspot turns the Spark into a four-wheeled WiFi router, with fee-based high-speed mobile data.

And here's the big one: All Spark models ship with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which upscale the user's smartphone into the 7-inch colour touchscreen display, also standard.

Contact lists, maps, voice assistants, notification screens and the like are mirrored from the handset, complete with the same menu structures, gestures, look and feel.  Distracting functions are locked out, as is the handset itself, and Siri or OK Google functionality is accessible with a tap.

Apple CarPlay and Android are heavy hitters in the mobile infotainment game, and offering them standard at this price point is a big deal.

Further, since the Spark's touch-screen happens to be a great place for a backup camera display, all models get one of those, too.

Spark's eggs aren't all in the connectivity and tech baskets, either - as most dynamic attributes and driving characteristics are right on the mark, too.  The 1.4 litre four-cylinder musters 98 horsepower and nearly as much torque.  With the Spark's small size, light weight and lack of power-sucking air conditioning on the tested entry-level model, that output goes a long way in scooting things along nicely in city traffic, and translates into pleasing responsiveness on the highway.  The Micra is slightly punchier, though Spark's engine operates with more refinement and less noise, even when worked.  Gears are browsed via a precise shifter that feels great in the hand, and a clutch that's forgiving in stop-and-go traffic, with just enough bite.

Around town, good outward sight lines and properly sized mirrors help drivers stay aware of their surroundings, a small turning circle enhances manoeuvrability, and even over the roughest roads available during an afternoon spent exploring downtown Toronto, the ride maintained a more solid, dense and robust feel than typically expected from a car this small.

Spark's highway manners are similarly refreshing.  Where Micra, Mirage and comparable compacts are largely at the mercy of the wind and weather, often shifting and squirming beneath the driver, Spark stays on course, remains absolutely planted and stable, and sticks to the driver's requested line like a bigger, heavier car.

The writer was a guest of the auto maker.  Content was not subject to approval.

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2016-chevrolet-malibu-005-1The Ottawa Sun - The Chevrolet Malibu has remained an enduring classic among its peers since it was introduced more than 50 years ago.  Now, the quintessential midsize sedan boldly steps into the future with an all-new 2016 model that is completely restyled and engineered to offer more efficiency, connectivity and advanced safety features than ever.  The 2016 Malibu reaches an exceptional level of fuel efficiency with an all-new hybrid powertrain that uses technology from the Chevrolet Volt.  The hybrid helps offer a GM-estimated 4.9 L/100km city, 5.2 L/100km highway - and 5.0 L/100km combined.  The Malibu's standard 1.5L turbo powertrain is projected to offer 6.4 L/100km highway.

Longer and lighter, the new Malibu also offers more interior space.

"Midsize car customers tell us they want great fuel economy and connected technologies, wrapped in a gorgeous exterior.  This is exactly what the 2016 Malibu was engineered to do," said Jesse Ortega, Malibu chief engineer.

With a wheelbase stretching 91 mm (3.6 inches) longer than the current Malibu, along with a 58 mm (2.3-inch) longer overall length and the same overall width, the 2016 Malibu strikes a sleeker looking proportion.  The added wheelbase helps provide better in-cabin comfort and functionality.

With styling influenced by the 2014 Impala, the all-new Malibu advances Chevrolet's global design language with features such as slim, sweeping headlamps and a progressive take on the brand's characteristic dual-port grille.  Three body-side creases also add drama to the design and help distinguish the Malibu as a contemporary Chevy.

Beneath the new Malibu's athletic-looking skin is a stronger, lighter body structure that contributes to its efficiency and driving dynamics.  Greater use of high-strength steels enables engineers to design the body structure with thinner components in some areas, delivering comparable crash performance with lower weight.  The all-new body structure accounts for more than one-third of the Malibu's nearly 300-pound weight reduction.

Android Auto and Apple Car-Play compatibility Malibu's 7-inch MyLink infotainment system gives owners a smart and simple way to access Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.  The eight-inch version of MyLink will be compatible only with Apple CarPlay at the beginning of the 2016 model year.  While development and testing are not yet complete, Android Auto compatibility may be available on the 8-inch version of MyLink later in the 2016 model year.

Each system builds off of the features smartphone users rely on most.  Android Auto is built around Google Maps, Google Now and the ability to talk to Google, as well as a growing audio and messaging app ecosystem that includes WhatsApp, Skype, Google Play Music, Spotify and podcast players.

Apple CarPlay takes the iPhone features customers want to access while driving and puts them on the vehicle's display in a smart, simple manner.  That allows drivers to make calls, send and receive messages and listen to music right from the touchscreen or by voice via Siri.  Apple CarPlay supported apps include Phone, Messages, Maps, Music and compatible third-party apps.

Many features can be controlled via voice commands through a button on the steering wheel, helping drivers spend more time with eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.

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