As the midsize sedan market gets fiercely competitive for an ever-shrinking customer base, features like value, styling and comfort become paramount attributes. Thankfully, the 2019 Chevrolet Malibu has them in spades, along with some of the best high-tech equipment in the industry. Placed up against the Ford Fusion, the Honda Accord and the Hyundai Sonata, the Malibu has some tough competition, and although it doesn’t hold its value as well as the Accord, nor does it offer the Sonata’s ridiculously long standard warranty, the Malibu still has a few tricks up its sleeve worthy of notice.
The 5-passenger Malibu offers one of the best infotainment systems we’ve tested, as well as a full complement of advanced driver-assist features. Fuel economy is also a Malibu strong point, especially on the hybrid model (reviewed separately). And, while some might lament the lack of a V6 engine option, the Malibu’s turbocharged 2.0-liter has enough power to prove even the most stubborn skeptics wrong. If you’re interested in a midsize sedan, it might surprise you to discover that this is absolutely one that deserves a spot on your shopping list.
What’s New for 2019?
The Malibu gets a mild exterior makeover, as well as a sporty new RS model. A new 8-in reconfigurable driver information display and a new 8-in touchscreen radio are standard, while a new navigation radio is offered. The L trim receives a standard rear backup camera and all models equipped with the 1.5-liter turbo engine are now paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). See the 2019 Chevrolet Malibu models for sale near you
What We Like
Handsome design; modern interior; comfortable ride; large infotainment screen
What We Don’t
Mediocre base engine; 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder only available on most expensive trim; no all-wheel-drive variants
The latest Malibu offers three engines: two traditional gas-powered engines and a hybrid power plant we’ve covered in a separate review. Most models use a 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that touts 160 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, mated to a standard CVT automatic transmission. This engine is the best choice for drivers who prioritize fuel efficiency, as it offers an Environmental Protection Agency-rated 29 miles per gallon in the city and 36 mpg on the highway.
Drivers who want more power can upgrade to the Premier’s 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which boasts a bulky 250 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. This engine is mated to a standard 9-speed automatic transmission and earns an estimated to 22 mpg city/32 mpg hwy.
Standard Features & Options
The 2019 Chevrolet Malibu comes in five trim levels: L, LS, RS, LT and Premier.
The Malibu L ($22,965) is pretty basic, as it comes standard with only 16-in steel wheels with hubcaps, Bluetooth, a 6-speaker stereo, power accessories, air conditioning, cruise control, rear backup camera, a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, an 8-in driver information display and keyless entry with push-button ignition. Chevrolet’s Infotainment 3 infotainment system is now accompanied by an 8-in touchscreen radio featuring Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, as well as Bluetooth streaming audio.
Next up is the LS ($24,095), which adds General Motor’s OnStar system with 4G LTE Wi-Fi, 16-in alloy wheels, compass and outside temp display and front visor vanity mirrors.
The RS ($25,095) brings a blacked out sport grille, 18-in alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, leather-wrapped steering wheel and an 8-way power driver’s seat.
From there, drivers can opt for the LT ($27,495), which adds 17-in alloy wheels, a power driver’s seat, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear climate-control vents, satellite radio, LED running lights and heated mirrors.
Topping the range is the high-end Premier ($32,695), which offers a luxury-carlike array of features that includes the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, 19-in wheels, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a power passenger seat, a wireless smartphone-charging system, heated rear seats, a navigation system and a 9-speaker Bose sound system.
The Malibu also offers a few options, most of which include features from higher trim levels. Also optional is a sunroof and two different Driver Confidence packages, which tout modern safety gadgets such as automatic high beams, forward-collision warning with automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and even a self-parking system.
In government crash tests, the Chevrolet Malibu earned an overall 5-star rating, with 5-star scores in the front- and side-impact tests and 4 stars in the rollover test. The nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the Malibu its highest rating of Good in every crash test except the passenger side small overlap front test, which earned a Marginal rating. The Malibu earned a Superior rating in the crash avoidance and mitigation category.
As for safety features, the Malibu has a lot to offer. All Malibu models offer standard antilock brakes, side-curtain airbags and GM’s Rear Seat Reminder, which helps remind the driver to check the rear seat for children or pets before exiting the vehicle. The latest Malibu also touts a wide range of safety options, from forward-collision warning with automatic braking to lane-departure warning, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert, a blind spot monitoring system and more.
Behind the Wheel
On the road, the 2019 Malibu offers a lot of impressive characteristics. While it isn’t the most engaging midsize sedan — that honor goes to the Mazda6, with the Ford Fusion a close runner-up — we vastly prefer the new Malibu’s driving experience to that of the model that came before it. It’s light on its feet, sporty and yet composed in corners. It also offers high levels of comfort and a cabin that’s well-insulated from road and engine noise.
If there’s one kink in the Malibu’s otherwise excellent design, it’s the rather weak 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. At 160 hp, this motor offers less power than any competitor, and even falls behind the engines in some compact cars such as the Volkswagen Golf GTI and the Mazda3. We almost wish Chevy had kept the previous generation’s 196-hp 4-cylinder — which was one of the most potent among midsize sedans, returning 25 mpg city/36 mpg hwy, figures nearly identical to the current model’s.
Other Cars to Consider
2019 Volkswagen Passat — The Passat offers more rear seat room, but slightly worse fuel economy. The Passat’s base engine is more powerful than the Malibu’s standard offering, and its driving characteristics are more athletic.
2019 Ford Fusion — The Fusion is an excellent contender in this popular segment, boasting handsome styling, forward-thinking technology and several available models, including a hybrid, a plug-in hybrid and an AWD variant.
2019 Honda Accord — The Honda Accord remains among the best midsize sedans thanks to notorious durability, a roomy interior, reasonable pricing and a lot of different variants.
Used Chevrolet Impala — If you like the Malibu’s general design and interior but need more space, consider Chevrolet’s larger Impala. Higher pricing means you may need to consider a used 2015-2017 model, however.
If you’re choosing a Malibu, it’s hard not to pick the upscale Premier model. In addition to touting high-end features such as a navigation system and ventilated seats, it also comes standard with some must-haves, including a more powerful 2.0-liter engine, dual-zone automatic climate control and a power passenger seat. Opt for one of Chevy’s Driver Confidence packages and you’re basically driving a luxury car. Find a Chevrolet Malibu for sale