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2015 Chevrolet Impala vs. 2015 Chevrolet Malibu: What's the Difference?

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Doug DeMuro August 2015

If you're interested in a new Chevrolet sedan, you probably have your sights set on the brand's popular midsize model -- the 2015 Chevrolet Malibu -- and the full-size 2015 Chevrolet Impala. But other than their sizes, what makes them different? Are there any key reasons to choose one over the other? We've created a close comparison between both models in order to find out.

Exterior

On the outside, it isn't hard to tell apart the Chevrolet Impala and the Malibu. While the two sedans might look similar at a quick glance, there are some major differences, the biggest of which is the Impala's pronounced rear fender lines, which aren't shared by the Malibu. Other differences include a revised grille, a revised C-pillar that's kinked forward in the Impala and the overall size difference, which is easy to see if the two cars are parked near one another.

Interior

The two sedans also offer some serious differences on the inside. One is obvious: The Impala has more room basically any way you look at it, whether it's hip room, legroom, knee room or headroom. But there are other major differences, too. The Impala offers a dramatically different dashboard, featuring lines that start on the doors and extend all the way forward to the windshield. It also offers a different dashboard look, a different center control stack and a different steering wheel. The only obvious things that the two models share are a few buttons and switches here and there.

Mechanicals

Despite their size differences, the Impala and Malibu offer the same base engine: a 195-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder with about 190 lb-ft of torque. Owing to its larger size, the Impala returns 22 miles per gallon in the city and 31 mpg on the highway, compared to 25 mpg city/36 mpg hwy in the Malibu.

Both models also offer an optional engine. In the Impala, it's a 305-hp 3.6-liter V6 that returns up to 18 mpg city/28 mpg hwy. Meanwhile, the Malibu uses a 259-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that touts 21 mpg city/30 mpg hwy. Regardless of powertrain, both the Malibu and the Impala only offer front-wheel drive and 6-speed automatic transmissions.

Features & Technology

Despite sizing and pricing differences, there aren't any major feature and technology differences between the 2015 Chevrolet Impala and the 2015 Chevrolet Malibu. Indeed, the Malibu seems to offer just about everything you can get in the Impala and vice versa: Both cars offer forward-collision alert, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, a backup camera, keyless ignition and entry, and dual-zone automatic climate control. Perhaps the Impala's only real benefit over the Malibu is its available adaptive cruise control, which also gives it a forward-collision braking system -- something we'd love to see in a family sedan like the Malibu.

Driving Experience

On the road, both the Impala and the Malibu offer pleasant, smooth driving experiences without a lot of oomph. That's especially true of the Impala, which feels taxed by either engine under full acceleration. The Malibu is a little quicker with its base engine and noticeably fast with its turbocharged 4-cylinder, but numb handling and dull cornering ensure that neither of these sedans are anywhere near the most exciting members of their segments.

But that's not to say we don't enjoy driving them. Both the Malibu and Impala are smooth, comfortable and predictable; some would place them among the top conventional choices of the midsize and full-size sedan segments. The Impala is especially smooth for a nonluxury full-size sedan, and we wonder if its ride is so good that shoppers will eschew a Buick and get the larger Chevy instead. The two cars also keep wind noise, road noise and engine noise surprisingly hushed at just about any speed.

Safety

In crash testing carried out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, both the Impala and the Malibu earned perfect 5-star overall scores. The Malibu also earned an excellent Top Safety Pick rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) -- a designation the Impala has not yet been a candidate for, as it hasn't yet taken part in enough of the IIHS's tests.

As for safety features, both the Malibu and Impala offer relatively the same amount of stuff. Standard features in both models includes GM's OnStar system, side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes and traction control with stability control. Optional features range from a backup camera to forward-collision alert, lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert and a blind spot monitoring system. The only real difference is that the Impala offers adaptive cruise control while the Impala doesn't -- and that feature also includes an automatic forward-crash braking system.

Conclusions

If you're looking for an excellent sedan, both the Impala and the Malibu have a lot to offer, featuring a wide range of modern technology, efficient engines and top safety features. But when it comes to differences between the two cars, there are only a few: The Impala is bigger, smoother and, in V6 guise, a little more powerful. As a result, you'd be right to think of the Impala as a bigger, more expensive Malibu. If you're interested in both models, you should base your buying decision on whether you'll actually need the Impala's extra space or whether you'll appreciate its improved ride quality.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2015 Chevrolet Impala vs. 2015 Chevrolet Malibu: What's the Difference? - Autotrader