Exterior styling is better than the interior. The 2021 Chevrolet Malibu is back as part of the same generation that was introduced in 2019. The current Malibu is a sharp improvement over the previous models. For decades, the Malibu’s plain design was common in the rental and fleet vehicle circuits, and not especially appealing beyond that.

The current form is a nice step up with its wide grille, pleasing brightwork trim, hood bulges, and curvy lines. We like the look of the available larger wheels, but the rearview remains anonymous.

Inside, the cabin is roomy and bright, with ample room for four, or five in a pinch. All knobs, switches, and the touchscreen are placed high and easy to access. The cabin is quiet, but the instrument panel is about as plain as you’ll find in this segment. Yet, the current iteration is simply better than what we’ve seen from Chevy in many years.

Safety is a mixed bag. Chevy equips the Malibu with 10 airbags, including knee airbags for the driver and front passenger. That’s a laudable number for a midsize sedan, underscoring the brand's attention to passenger safety.

But the news isn’t all good, as the Malibu hasn’t scored quite as well in crash testing conducted by the NHTSA. The NHTSA gave the Malibu a four-star overall safety rating and for its side crash protection for rear-seat passengers.

Chevy doesn’t match the Toyota Camry or Nissan Altima in standard driver assist safety technologies either. While most competitors offer standard automatic emergency braking, you’re forced to pay $1,100 to $2,100 it in a bundle on the Malibu. We recommend the upgrade, as the Chevy remains a decent value despite the extra cost.

Chevy Malibu

Two engine choices. Most Malibu models have a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that's good for 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. A same-sized engine in the Honda Accord produces 192 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque – and both models work with a continuously variable transmission.

Fuel efficiency is a strong suit for the Malibu’s standard engine, which earns an EPA-estimated 29 miles per gallon city, 36 mpg highway, and 32 combined. On the other hand, the Accord's delivers 33 mpg combined.

Select the Malibu Premier and the engine choice is a 2.0-liter turbo-four with 250 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. This one sends power to the front wheels utilizing a nine-speed automatic transmission.

While we won’t call the Malibu a performance sedan when equipped with the larger engine, it’s a fitting substitute for a V6. As equipped, this model earns a combined 26 mpg.

Excellent infotainment system. While we don’t recommend the base L trim for its relatively spartan feature roster, one area where Chevy doesn’t skimp is in all things infotainment.

Every trim features an 8-inch touchscreen display powered by the MyLink infotainment system. It’s one of the best out there, with clear, crisp, and tablet-like functionality.

Chevy bundles MyLink with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone compatibility. Alongside wi-fi hot spot capability, Bluetooth, USB connectivity, and six audio speakers, the Malibu’s standard tech roster is commendable.

Package options start with the LS, the second of five Malibu trims. Move up to the LT and satellite radio becomes standard. The Premier pulls out all the stops, adding a 9-speaker Bose audio system, navigation, additional USB ports, and a 120-volt power outlet.

Final thoughts. While it’s easy to spend $36,000 on a 2021 Chevy Malibu Premier model, the LT trim with the Driver Confidence Packages (which add several safety features) costs $28,690. That’s before the usual discounting that prices this vehicle thousands of dollars below what some competitors charge.

Check prices for the 2021 Chevy Malibu »