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.

Best Value

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

Performance

Chevy Malibu

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.

Right For...

Chevy Malibu

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.

Wrong For...

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.