The refreshed 2019 Chevrolet Malibu plays the middle position between the larger Impala and the smaller Cruze. Sales of the segment are declining, and with recent major updates to the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, the Malibu faces an uphill battle for market share.
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2019 Chevrolet Malibu Overview
What's New for 2019
The 2019 Malibu gains a new RS trim that fills the gap left by last year’s sport-appearance Redline Package. Across the lineup, the front fascia receives a minor update while interior features are shuffled.
Choosing Your Chevrolet Malibu
Having debuted in 2016, the Malibu’s current design is older than key competition. Still, the Malibu’s unique styling, spacious interior, and capable infotainment system are reason enough for a second look.
Powering most trim levels is a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. A continuously variable transmission delivers the power to the front wheels only; all-wheel drive isn't offered. This powertrain achieves an EPA-estimated 29 miles per gallon city, 36 mpg highway, and 32 combined.
The top Premier trim is exclusively equipped with a 2.0-liter turbo-four which generates 250 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. The larger engine is solely mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission and earns an EPA-estimated 22/32/26 mpg (city/highway/combined).
The Malibu comes in five trim levels:
It’s disappointing that the lower 2019 Chevy Malibu trims are blocked from the active safety equipment, which guides our recommendation toward the LT trim which also includes several notable creature comforts.
2019 Chevrolet Malibu Review
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
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