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Chevrolet Malibu Refresh Spied

It looks like Chevrolet is planning a significant mid-cycle update for the Chevrolet Malibu midsize sedan if these spy photos are any indication. Our photographer caught a prototype of the new Malibu testing on public roads, and through the camouflage we can see that the upcoming sedan's shape appears to be significantly changed from the current car.

We suspect that Chevrolet is planning a significant mid-cycle update of this car for the 2016 or 2017 model year, following in the footsteps of Toyota, which recently unveiled the 2015 Camry with more significant changes than a typical refresh. Given the Malibu's slumping sales since its 2013 redesign, it's no surprise that Chevrolet is giving their family sedan a makeover earlier rather than later. Chevrolet already performed an emergency refresh of the car for 2014 to correct early criticisms of the 2013 car, but it was a minor update that has yet to kickstart sales of the Malibu in 2014. The car's year-to-date sales through June 2014 lag behind the Toyota Camry, the Honda Accord, the Nissan Altima, the Ford Fusion, and the Hyundai Sonata.

The most significant change shown in these photos is to the Malibu's greenhouse, which now slopes dramatically towards the rear end with its fastback-like look reminiscent of the shape pioneered by the Audi A7 and more recently adopted by midsize sedans like the Chrysler 200 and Ford Fusion. This updated Chevrolet Malibu also displays a curved trunklid that tapers neatly into the sharply sloped rear windshield. We can't see much up front because of the heavy camouflage, but the hood appears to take a smoother shape than the current Malibu, possibly hinting at a sleeker, more aerodynamic front end.

Presumably the refreshed Chevrolet Malibu will also feature some mechanical changes, most likely to the powertrains in pursuit of higher fuel economy numbers. The current Chevrolet Malibu, despite the addition of start-stop technology for 2015, is starting to fall behind with its 25/36 mpg (city/highway) ratings, and we wonder if Chevrolet might be planning to replace the standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with a smaller, turbocharged powertrain that would achieve higher efficiency. The smaller Sonic and Cruze models both offer a 1.4-liter turbo engines, and GM also recently announced an extensive new family of turbocharged, small-displacement Ecotec engines.

Stay tuned for more news to come about the refreshed Chevrolet Malibu as we learn more about Chevrolet's plans for its midsize sedan competitor.