Chevrolet Cruze vs. Chevrolet Malibu

By

Automotive Editor

John Diether has been a professional writer, editor, and producer since 1997. His work can be found on TV, radio, web, and various publications throughout the world.  He is a graduate of Northwestern University and has a 1992 Cadillac Brougham d’Elegance in his garage. 


, Automotive Editor - March 14, 2017

The Chevrolet Cruze isn't just an efficient compact, it's also one the most spacious, thanks in part to a new hatchback model that delivers wagon-like versatility. But the midsize Malibu is no slouch in the efficiency department either, and offers even more passenger room.

Both models received a complete redesign last year that made them more competitive than ever. But which Chevy delivers more of what buyers really care about?

See a side-by-side comparison of the Cruze & Malibu »

What the Cruze Gets Right

The Cruze is a substantial compact with fluid exterior lines and a polished interior. At 14.8 cubic feet, the sedan's trunk matches many midsize cars. Cargo space really opens up with the hatchback, which offers up to 47.2 cubic feet with the rear seat folded.

The standard 1.4-liter four-cylinder turbo produces a healthy 153 horsepower. Buyers can choose a six-speed manual transmission or optional six-speed automatic. With the automatic, the Cruze is EPA-rated at 34 mpg in combined city and highway driving. Sedan models are eligible for a 1.6-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder that puts out 137 horsepower and achieves a terrific 37 mpg in combined driving.

What the Malibu Gets Right

The Malibu rides on a longer wheelbase that permits a family-size rear seat and a touch more trunk space. We're impressed by the level of infotainment technology on display. So long as buyers pass up the stingy L model (and most do), they get standard features like voice controls, smartphone integration, four USB ports, and GM's Teen Driver monitoring system.

Power comes from a turbocharged, 1.5-liter four-cylinder with 160 horsepower, matched to a six-speed automatic transmission. The EPA gives the Malibu a rating of 27 mpg in city driving and a very impressive 37 mpg on the highway.

In top Premiere trim, the Malibu gets a 250-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbo and a nine-speed automatic. The larger engine provides the performance of a V6 and still manages 33 mpg on the highway.

Does the Cruze Measure Up?

The Cruze comes about as close to midsize as it can get without compromising its efficiency. In fact, the smaller Chevy only trails the Malibu in one significant measure: rear seat room. That might not seem like a big deal, but buyers who want the full family sedan experience will be more at home with the Malibu.

Our Verdict: Chevrolet Cruze

The Cruze has enough strong points that a big backseat doesn't have to be one of them.

Take a closer look at the Chevrolet Cruze »

Take a closer look at the Chevrolet Malibu »

Side-by-side comparison of features, pricing, photos and more!

, Automotive Editor

John Diether has been a professional writer, editor, and producer since 1997. His work can be found on TV, radio, web, and various publications throughout the world.  He is a graduate of Northwestern University and has a 1992 Cadillac Brougham d’Elegance in his garage.