The end of an era. The decline of sedans and liftbacks has been evident for decades, as buyers switch to SUVs. Chevrolet’s Malibu will be the last of its breed, and it’s hard to escape the sense that it’s going out with a whimper. This isn’t an especially good car – the Honda Accord and Hyundai Sonata knock spots off it in terms of style, safety, and specifications. It’s certainly not memorable to look at, though this might appeal to drivers who are keen to maintain a low profile.

So what have we got? A three-box Kansas-built sedan with a single engine and transmission configuration, four trims – and nothing to set it apart from a horde of foreign competitors. In many respects, those competitors show how far behind the times the Malibu has fallen…

Alarming safety, absent specifications. It’s alarming when the IIHS awards a new car a ‘Moderate’ rating, and doubly so when the NHTSA feels a model range is only a four-star offering. It’s disappointing to see adaptive cruise control missing, though it’s an optional extra on 2LT models. At least automatic emergency braking debuts across the 2023 model year, while the cabin contains ten airbags.

The lack of headline safety tech is emblematic of equipment levels more generally. The base LS comes with an eight-inch touchscreen with smartphone mirroring and keyless entry, but the mid-range RS offers little extra besides larger wheels and a rear spoiler. You’ll need to spend $27,500 on LT to enjoy heated front seats or dual-zone climate, while range-topping 2LT (replacing last year’s Premier) brings a Bose audio system and leather seats which are --ventilated up front. It’ll cost you just over $30,000, whereas a cheaper Kia K5 EX offers all this plus adaptive cruise and many other standard creature comforts.

2023 Chevrolet Malibu Interior

The little engine that could do with more power. Having dropped all its other powerplants this year, the Malibu wades into battle with damp powder courtesy of a 160 hp 1.5-liter turbocharged engine. It doesn’t pull strongly, but it’s smooth enough, and an excellent CVT transmission remains unobtrusive at all times. The ride deserves praise, especially on smaller wheels. The Malibu sits nicely on the highway without wandering or suffering from crosswinds, and electric power steering provides decent feedback along the way.

One advantage of a sedan over an SUV is fuel economy, with the Malibu’s Coke-bottle shape contributing to 32 mpg combined. The absence of hybrid power is disappointing, especially since Toyota and Honda both offer it, and there’s no AWD even as an option.

Good interior space. Despite the coupe-like roof slope, the Malibu’s well-proportioned cabin can accommodate four adults in relative comfort. Those in the back enjoy 38 inches of legroom, while behind them, a 15.7 cu ft trunk beats many sedan competitors for load space. The front seats are comfortable on long drives, but it’s disappointing (that word again) that only LT and 2LT have power adjustment for the driver’s seat. Somehow, moving seats back and forth manually feels like a relic of a bygone age.

Final thoughts. We finished the last paragraph with the phrase “relic of a bygone age,” which rather sums up Chevy’s sedan swansong. There’s nothing in the Malibu to make you lament the passing of the three-box sedan, especially in a reduced range that offers little choice beyond modest trim improvements. Where’s the big-engine performance version, the fuel-efficient hybrid or the chrome-and-quilting luxury model? Even the available options packs are dreary.

The Malibu offers generous interior space, a refined driving experience (with particularly good ride quality), a painless ownership proposition and decent fuel economy. Unfortunately, its rivals offer all this as well, while bringing many additional attributes to the table. We simply can’t recommend the Malibu over the swathes of Japanese and Korean sedans fighting over this dwindling market.

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