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- Highs Handsomeness personified, all the latest tech, impressive ride and handling for a family sedan.
- Lows Can't turn off auto stop/start function, constricted rear visibility, lower trims lose out on the good options.
- Verdict A contemporary mid-size sedan that fulfills all the needs of a modern family.
Despite being classified as a family sedan, the Chevrolet Malibu is both beautiful and athletic. It offers two refined four-cylinder engines as well as a hybrid powertrain with impressive fuel economy, and its ride and handling are better than many rivals. The Malibu offers an excellent infotainment system, plentiful convenience features, and lots of driver-assistance technologies, but lower trims are less blessed. The 2019 Chevrolet Malibu offers everything most consumers want, but it doesn't feel as upscale or as fun to drive as either the Honda Accord or the Mazda 6, which we consider the two best family sedans available today.
What's New for 2019?
Chevy's family sedan receives a light refresh for 2019; its restyled front and rear bumpers, new grille, and tweaked head- and taillights are the most obvious changes. Inside, a new 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with updated software is nestled into the dashboard and a new color display in the gauge cluster can be reconfigured to display different information. Top-spec Premier models now come with heated rear seats, and a new mid-range RS model joins the lineup. Mechanically, the Malibu is mostly the same as last year's model except the turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder now comes bolted to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).
Pricing and Which One to Buy
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The Malibu has one of the lowest starting prices in its class, but the base model has limited standard features and available options. The next level up–the LS–has more infotainment features and aluminum wheels, but that's about it. We think the LT is the best value. While its standard 1.5-liter four-cylinder powertrain is slower than the 2.0-liter version and less efficient than the hybrid one, it represents a good balance of value. The LT has standout standard features such as a power-adjustable driver's seat, heated cloth seats, and dual-zone automatic climate control.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Likes: Quiet 1.5-liter engine, seamless hybrid operation, nimble handling.
Dislikes: Can't switch off auto stop/start function, awkward push buttons for manual shifting, less involving than its sportiest rivals.
Like many mid-size family sedans, the Malibu offers several powertrains. Most Malibu models are propelled by a dutiful 163-hp turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that drives the front wheels through a CVT. We haven't tested the car with the new CVT, but we did test a Malibu in 2018 when it came with a normal six-speed automatic. This combination was slower than similar rivals in our acceleration tests, but it delivered a smooth, even pull. A turbocharged 2.0-liter four—which is exclusive to the top-tier Premier trim—makes 250 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. The last Malibu 2.0T we tested—a 2016—ran well enough, but neither its real-world fuel economy nor its performance bested those of its competitors, many of which made do with V-6 engines rather than turbochargers.
The well-behaved hybrid version pairs a gasoline-powered four-cylinder with two electric motors, one of which helps power the front wheels, and the other charges a 1.5-kWh battery pack. Like the turbocharged 1.5-liter gasoline engine, its combined 182 horsepower is transmitted through a CVT. This hybrid system can propel the Malibu up to 55 mph on electricity alone, but the battery's electric-only driving range is less than five miles. The last hybrid we tested smoothly transitioned between hybrid modes and was quicker than the Malibu we tested with the base 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
In terms of EPA fuel-mileage estimates, the Malibu's smallest engine underperforms the equivalent base powertrains in the Accord and the Toyota Camry. The Malibu's 2.0-liter turbo engine, however, has thoroughly competitive government ratings compared with the optional powerplants in the Honda and Toyota, but we haven't tested its real-world fuel economy. The 1.5-liter turbocharged engine managed a respectable 34 mpg over the course of our 200-mile highway fuel-economy test route. The hybrid delivered an impressive 44 mpg, tying the Camry hybrid.
Interior, Infotainment, and Cargo
Likes: Fashionable and functional design, plentiful soft-touch surfaces, large trunk on nonhybrid models.
Dislikes: Louder interior sound levels than rivals, poor rear visibility, hybrid's battery limits trunk space.
While the Malibu's interior is not the fanciest or the quietest, it is very comfortable and ergonomically friendly. The cabin has competitive passenger space and options, but most alternatives have better outward visibility. The Malibu's symmetrical dashboard and the large opening beneath the center stack make the cockpit feel spacious. The front seats have a wide base and supportive side bolsters, but their back cushions are too narrow for some occupants. The back seat has less legroom than the Honda Accord's back seat, but it still fit our adult frames.
Chevy fits every Malibu with its excellent infotainment system that includes many of today's most desirable options—Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot. While the touchscreen interface is easy to interpret, the system is losing ground versus the competition, as it lacks a convenient rotary control knob as a secondary way to interact with the interface.
Not every Malibu is created equal when it comes to cargo space. While gas-powered versions boast a big trunk with ample carry-on capacity, the hybrid's battery pack partially blocks the trunk's pass-through access and also prevented us from fitting the maximum number of carry-ons that the nonhybrid version held. Still, the Malibu has plenty of interior storage space even though it doesn't lead the class.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
Overall Safety Rating (NHTSA)
The Malibu earned the government's highest crash-test score, but it failed to capture a Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Although the Chevy sedan can be had with all the high-tech assists that help protect modern families, these options are unavailable on some models. Key safety features include:
- Available automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection
- Available lane-keeping assist
- Available adaptive cruise control
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
The Malibu has competitive limited and powertrain warranties, but its corrosion protection and roadside assistance are longer than most rivals in this matchup. Likewise, the Chevy offers just one complimentary scheduled maintenance visit while the Camry is covered for two years or 25,000 miles.
- Limited warranty covers 3 years or 36,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers 5 years or 60,000 miles
- Complimentary maintenance is covered for the first visit