After the sad death of the Chevrolet Volt, the future doesn’t look cheerful for the 2019 Chevrolet Malibu and its fellow sedans. This doesn’t stop the Malibu from putting on a brave face. It’s not the most exciting car, but a thrifty hybrid, pleasant styling, and strong infotainment make the Malibu a decent value among family sedans.

Best Value

The cheapest Malibu starts at just $22,965 (including destination fees). For an economy sedan, it’s not bad value, especially in the tech department, where it features an excellent eight-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

But the base trims remain spartan in most respects and lack the safety tech that’s becoming increasingly standard across the industry. Instead, it’s worth hopping up to the LT trim, which features LED headlights, heated front seats, heated power-adjustable mirrors, and dual-zone automatic climate control. The LT also opens up two active safety packages, which we would add.

Our Malibu LT would look like this:

  • Model:2019 Chevrolet Malibu LT
  • Engine: 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
  • Output:160 hp / 184 lb-ft
  • Transmission:Continuously variable automatic
  • Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
  • Fuel Economy: 29 City / 36 Hwy
  • Options:Driver Confidence Package ($545, rear parking assist, rear cross-traffic alert, lane change alert, blind-spot monitoring), Driver Confidence Package II (low-speed automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, following distance indicator, automatic high beams)
  • Base Price:$27,340 (including the $875 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price:$28,435

Performance

Chevrolet Maliu

The Malibu’s exterior may look sporty (especially in blacked-out RS trim), but it’s more about comfort than thrills. The torque in the base engine is enough to get by, and the continuously variable transmission does an admirable job simulating gear shifts for a natural feel. The 2.0-liter engine in the Malibu Premiere is even better, sending a feisty 250 horsepower through a nine-speed transmission. Even the hybrid drives well, clocking in a hair faster than the base engine. The handling isn’t sporty, but it’s confident and accurate, and the ride absorbs bumps well. Mileage has improved from last year thanks to the new transmission, and even non-hybrid models aren’t too thirsty at the pump.

While the Malibu is eminently sensible, it doesn’t have much personality. It’s neither quick nor engaging. The hybrid mode isn’t as versatile as competitors, either: the Honda Accord Hybrid and Toyota Camry Hybrid both have drive modes that allow drivers to go gas-free when they please.

Style

The Malibu’s exterior looks better than ever. Up front, twin grilles are separated by a thin chrome strip and flanked by sharp headlights. A long roofline leaves room for triple side windows, and the tail echoes more upscale designs. The interior is intuitive and roomy, with comfy front seats and excellent visibility. The infotainment system is worth mentioning in its own right – it’s capable and user-friendly, and it remains one of our favorite interfaces.

Although it’s spacious enough, the interior does little else to inspire. Malibus with cloth-trimmed seats (which is most models) have an awkward mesh fabric covering the dash. Opting for leather seats means an improved vinyl dash, but leather is only an option on LT trims and above. Cargo space isn’t exceptional at 15.8 cubic feet, and it’s even worse on the hybrid, where battery packs reduce capacity to 11.6 cubes. Perhaps worst of all, widely used active safety tech isn’t available on trims below the Malibu LT. The best safety features, like full-speed automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control, are only available in a third (!) extra-cost package that only appears on the Malibu Premiere.

The Best and Worst Things

The Malibu is stylish and comfortable enough, but Chevy needs to get with the times on its available safety tech.

Right For? Wrong For?

Chevrolet Malibu

The Malibu is right for value-minded families who prefer comfort to excitement. The Malibu isn’t exciting to drive (and most interiors are equally dull), but it’s spacious and stylish on the outside. The infotainment system ought to keep the family happy, and the hybrid is a good option for saving at the gas station.

Buyers expecting refinement and personality will be disappointed. Competitors like the Accord feel more upscale, and the Malibu isn’t a dynamic drive. Other brands like Toyota, Honda, and Mazda have a more modern outlook on standard safety tech, too.

The Bottom Line

The 2019 Chevy Malibu has its strengths, but it requires a few compromises. The interior is drab in most forms, and the safety packages are too restricted. A spiffy exterior comes to the rescue, along with a selection of capable powertrains and a winning infotainment system. If you’re willing to live with the flaws, the Malibu is still a solid bet among mid-size sedans.