It's rare that a carmaker entirely replaces a car after just three model years, but the all-new 2016 Chevrolet Malibu is remarkable in more ways than that.
Chevy will offer a full-hybrid model of the new 2016 Malibu that goes head to head with hybrid mid-size sedans from Toyota, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, and Kia.
And GM is using an adaptation of its updated Voltec plug-in hybrid system to do so.
DON'T MISS: Is The 2016 Chevy Volt GM's Future Hybrid System In Disguise? (Jan)
The 2016 Malibu Hybrid will be the third generation of cars to carry that name, but unlike the previous two, this is not a mild-hybrid system that just assists the engine.
[UPDATE: Photos of the 2016 Chevy Malibu were released last night by Chevrolet; we've added them to this story.]
[FURTHER UPDATE: At this morning's press event launching the 2016 Malibu, GM executives said the Malibu Hybrid would be rated at 47 mpg combined (48 mpg city, 45 mpg highway). That is higher than the hybrid versions of the Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, and Toyota Camry, and equal to the Honda Accord Hybrid.]
The new hybrid Malibu will be able to drive entirely on electric power for a mile or so--up to 55 miles per hour, Chevy says--just like the hybrid versions of the Camry, Fusion, Accord, Sonata, and Optima it competes with.
2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid - propulsion systemEnlarge Photo
And, Chevrolet says, it will return a combined EPA fuel-economy rating "exceeding 45 miles per gallon," which is higher than every one of those cars except the 47-mpg Honda Accord Hybrid.
The new hybrid's powertrain is largely lifted from the 2016 Chevrolet Volt, but with a lithium-ion battery pack of only 1.5 kilowatt-hours instead of the Volt's 18.4 kWh.
And, of course, there's no charging port owners can use to recharge the battery from grid electricity.
Rather than the Volt's 1.5-liter engine, the hybrid Malibu uses a 1.8-liter direct-injected version. Paired with the modified Voltec drive system, the combined total power output is 182 horsepower (136 kilowatts).
2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid - drive unit cutawayEnlarge Photo
In the interests of maximizing fuel efficiency, the 2016 Chevy Malibu Hybrid has a number of modifications from the gasoline-only version, including "upper and lower grille air shutters to improve airflow, and a reduced ride height."
The car also incorporates Chevrolet's first application of exhaust-gas heat recovery, or EGHR, which uses engine heat to help warm the cabin--for faster warmup, more consistent fuel economy in cold weather, and greater overall efficiency.
It shares both its power electronics and the blended brake-regeneration system with the Volt, giving General Motors greater economies of scale right off the bat.
Still, the hybrid version of the Malibu gives Chevy what it's been missing since the 2007 launch of the Camry Hybrid.
2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid - battery cutawayEnlarge Photo
That's a high-fuel-efficiency mid-size sedan that can go head-to-head with Toyota's renowned Hybrid Synergy Drive lineup.
The 2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid, which will be built at GM's Fairfax Assembly plant in Kansas City, Kansas, will arrive in Chevy showrooms in the spring of 2016.
And it's likely not going to be the sole hybrid derived from the Volt powertrain either.
The 2016 Cadillac CT6 full-size luxury sedan will offer a plug-in hybrid version, and other conventional and plug-in hybrid variants of additional GM models will most likely be added in later years.
2016 Cadillac CT6 in new spot ‘The Daring: No Regrets’Enlarge Photo
The 2016 Chevy Volt, meanwhile, will go into production at the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant in the second half of this year. It will appear in dealerships shortly thereafter.
The brand's third electrified vehicle, the all-electric 2017 Chevrolet Bolt subcompact hatchback, will go into production at Orion Township, Michigan, in October 2016.
As for the Malibu itself, the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu lineup will be officially unveiled next week at the New York Auto Show.