Chevrolet’s sedan lineup may be the strongest we’ve ever seen, thanks in part to the mid-size front-wheel drive 2018 Malibu. The current-generation Chevy Malibu debuted in 2016, coming in larger and better-optioned than before, positioning the sedan to better compete in a tough segment. A Malibu Hybrid model is sold separately.
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2018 Chevrolet Malibu Overview
What's New for 2018
The most significant change for 2018 is the introduction of an all-new Malibu Redline Edition exclusive to the LT trim. The Redline Edition Package includes a blacked-out grille, black nameplate badge with a red outline, black front and back bowties, blackwall tires, 19-inch black-painted wheels with red hash marks, your choice of four exterior colors, and a jet black interior.
Choosing Your Chevrolet Malibu
Move past the base model — typically chosen by fleets and rental car companies — and the Malibu offers three trims worth perusing. Customers have a choice of two turbo engines, but the larger engine is available only on the top-level Premier trim.
The Malibu L, LS, and LT trim levels come with a 1.5-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. This engine works alongside a six-speed automatic transmission and delivers an EPA-estimated 27 miles per gallon in the city and 36 mpg on the highway.
Choose the Malibu Premier and you’ll find a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Paired with a nine-speed automatic, this model makes a respectable 22 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway.
Toss out the base level and you’ll find three trims worthy of your consideration. The LT offers a good place to start with its many package options, including the all-new Redline Edition. If you insist on driver-assist features like adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking, the Premier offers a $2,190 Driver Confidence Package, bringing your final cost to $33,540.
2018 Chevrolet Malibu Review
Two years into its eighth generation, the 2018 Chevrolet Malibu remains a solid contender in the mid-size sedan class. But its sleek design, smooth ride, and fuel-efficient drivetrain are offset by a pricey top trim, and advanced safety systems that are unavailable on the most affordable models, and only part of expensive option packages when they are offered.
The 2018 Chevrolet Malibu models range in price from $22,555 (including the $875 destination charge) for the base L trim and run on up to $31,850 for a Premier model. But the biggest difference between the two is under the hood – the Premier is equipped with a 250-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a nine-speed automatic. The rest of the lineup receives a 163-hp, 1.5-liter turbo four-cylinder matched with a six-speed automatic.
But that 2.0-liter isn't so powerful that we'd pony up the money for the range-topping model. Instead, we'd live with the 1.5-liter turbo and grab the volume-spec LT, since its $26,000 starting price won't break most banks and allows access to a number of option groups ranging from entertainment, safety, and technology features to exterior and interior appearance packages.
- Model: 2018 Chevrolet Malibu LT
- Engine: 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
- Output: 163 hp / 184 lb-ft
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic
- Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
- MPG: 27 City / 36 Hwy
- Options: Driver Confidence Package ($1,195, low-speed automatic emergency braking with front pedestrian braking, automatic high beams, front and rear parking sensors, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and forward collision warning), Convenience and Technology Package ($895 and required with Driver Confidence Package, remote start, auto-dimming inside rearview mirror, 120-volt power outlet, 4.2-inch instrument cluster display, eight-inch touchscreen, wireless charging, dual rear USB ports, and leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob).
- Base Price: $26,000
- Best Value Price: $28,090
A relaxed cruiser with a serene ride, power from the 1.5-liter turbo might be below average for the class, but the Malibu's lighter weight and standard six-speed automatic make the most of its 160 horsepower. Moving up to the 2.0-liter provides a significant boost in performance, as expected, but it's the way the nine-speed automatic works that really impresses. This is a smooth, competent transmission that easily blends into the background during day-to-day driving.
But like so many mid-size sedans, the Malibu's steering lacks feedback, while the soggy suspension hampers the driving experience. There's too much body roll and the suspension is far too soft in bends to give the driver any real sense feedback. That said, the overall ride is comfortable enough that we're willing to ignore this particular shortcoming.
Interior and Exterior
Two years after its introduction, the Malibu still looks fresh – with elegantly styled sheetmetal wrapped around a thoughtfully designed interior equipped with a very intuitive infotainment system. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration are bonuses, while we dig the hidden cubby behind the infotainment screen. The Malibu's touch points are well-padded and there's plenty of room for four adults and even five without too many complaints.
But you'll want to upgrade to the LT or even the Premier to experience the cabin's best. In these trims, pleasant leather upholstery envelops comfortable and supportive seats that provide excellent sight lines for the driver.
Our big complaint comes in the option packaging. While not as problematic as certain GM models, the Malibu squirrels away its best active safety equipment on the highest trim levels, and even in the case of the volume LT, requires a pricey optional package.
The Best and Worst Things
The Malibu's combination of ride comfort and fuel efficiency make it competitive in the mid-size class, but expensive active safety technology – on models where it's available – could prove to be a turn-off for many buyers.
Even as many families are migrating away from mid-size sedans, the Malibu's blend of style, comfort, and fuel efficiency represents a real alternative for crossover-averse customers.
Safety-conscious buyers probably won't be excited that a rear view camera is the only standard advanced safety feature. Meanwhile, the active safety gear on our LT added $1,195 to the price tag (and came with a prerequisite package that drove the price up to $2,090), while buyers have to choose the Premier trim and fork over an additional $995 to gain adaptive cruise control and all-speed automatic emergency braking.
The Bottom Line
Despite expensive active safety technology, its sleek styling, smooth ride, and good fuel economy make the 2018 Chevrolet Malibu a solid choice in the mid-size sedan class.
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