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2021 Chevrolet Malibu vs. 2021 Subaru Legacy: Which Is Better?

Even though the model count is down in family sedans, there’s plenty left to choose from including the 2021 Chevrolet Malibu and the 2021 Subaru Legacy. Let’s see which is better.

Quick Facts

  • The Malibu has paired back its powertrains, dropping the hybrid.
  • Subaru’s appeal lies in making all-wheel drive standard on virtually all models

2021 Chevrolet Malibu

2021 Chevrolet Malibu

Base Price: $23,065 / Read our 2021 Chevrolet Malibu Review

What we like: Handsome exterior styling, wireless Apply CarPlay/Android Auto, large infotainment screen, comfortable ride

What we would change: Retain the hybrid option, offer AWD

Overview: With the demise of the full-size Impala, the Malibu is the largest 4-door sedan Chevrolet offers. It’s good looking, comes with a choice of an economical 1.5-liter 4-cylinder that delivers 32 mpg through a CVT or a more powerful 2.0-liter turbo I4 backed by a smooth-shifting 9-speed automatic transmission. Chevrolet has dropped a hybrid option and doesn’t offer AWD like the Toyota, but there’s still plenty of trim levels to choose from, especially at the higher end when it comes to wanting a more sporty RS, Sport or Redline package or the luxury-oriented Premier.

What’s new for 2021: Wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and Buckle to Drive that requires the driver’s seatbelt to be buckled to shift the vehicle out of park.

Features and technology: Chevy’s Malibu comes in five trim levels, L, LS, RS, LT, and Premier. Standard fare includes cruise control, wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, an 8-in touchscreen, keyless ignition, air conditioning, keyless ignition, and Chevrolet’s user-friendly Infotainment 3 interface.

Higher trim models feature 18-inch wheels on the RS, which sports a blacked-out grille and other trim features, and 19-inch wheels on the range-topping Premier which also comes with leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, and wireless device charging.

What does the future hold: Given the soft market for traditional sedans, the Malibu’s future is uncertain. While Chevrolet has dropped the Impala, it might just stick with Malibu as the number of vehicles in the segment shrinks. See 2021 Chevrolet Malibu models for sale near you

2021 Subaru Legacy

2021 Subaru Legacy

Base Price: $23,730 / Read our 2021 Subaru Legacy Review

What we like: Standard AWD, EyeSight suite of driver and safety assists, affordable price

What we would change: Add a manual transmission option, improve the CVT response, sharpen the styling

Overview: Last year’s redesign of the Legacy brought a new level of refinement to the interior. This midsize sedan also benefits from a stiffer structure, more responsive chassis, and better sound insulation. The flat-4 normally aspirated 2.5-liter 4-cylinder provides adequate power, but its responsiveness is hampered by the continuously variable transmission. We prefer the 250-horsepower turbo engine.  Also on the plus side is standard AWD. The look of the Legacy is a bit understated in comparison to the sleek exterior of the Malibu.

What’s new for 2021: There are few changes this year following last year’s redesign. Among them are front headlights that track with the steering and a rear seatbelt reminder.

Features and technology: The 2021 Subaru Legacy comes in a choice of six trims: base, Premium, Sport, Limited, Limited XT, and Touring XT trim levels.

Base models come with the EyeSight Assist Monitor with advanced adaptive cruise control, lane centering, pre-collision braking, lane-departure warning and sway warning. Also included are Starlink with dual 7-in screens, engine start/stop, hill-hold assist, automatic climate control, LED headlights with steering response, automatic high-beam assist, power fuel-door lock, full power accessories, 17-in steel wheels, 60/40 split/folding rear seat. Legacy offers active torque vectoring, remote keyless entry, a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel and Bluetooth connectivity. The only available factory option is 17-in alloy wheels.

High trim models offer amenities including leather upholstery, 18-inch wheels, navigation, a larger 11.6-inch touchscreen, surround view camera, wireless charger, and a premium Rockford Fosgate audio system.

What does the future hold: Subaru will likely make few changes to the 2022 model, while a mid-cycle refresh will probably occur the following year. See 2021 Subaru Legacy models for sale near you

Malibu vs. Legacy: Strengths comparison

Chevrolet Malibu Benefits: Lower pricing, sleeker styling, comfortable ride

Subaru Legacy Benefits: Standard AWD, reliability, good resale value

Malibu vs. Legacy: Which is better?

The Chevrolet Malibu offers plenty of value in its lower entry-level price and efficient base engine. But the Subaru Legacy is better on the basis of its standard AWD, EyeSight Safety and superior base engine output all for about the same price.

Find a Chevrolet Malibu for sale or Find a Subaru Legacy for sale

2021 Chevrolet Malibu 2021 Subaru Legacy
Popular Powertrains
Engine 1.5-liter turbo I4 2.4-liter Flat-4
Horsepower 163 hp @ 5,700 rpm 182 hp @ 5,800 rpm
Torque 184 @ 2,500-3,000 rpm 176 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm
Transmission CVT CVT
Fuel Economy 32 mpg (29 city/36 hwy) 30 mpg (27 city/35 hwy)
Also Available 2.0-liter turbo I4; 9-spd automatic 2.4-liter turbo Flat-4
Warranty 3 years/36,000 miles 3 years/36,000 miles
NHTSA Overall Safety Rating 4 stars 5 star
Max Seating Capacity 5 5
Wheelbase 111.4 inches 108.3 inches
Overall Length 194.2 inches 190.6 inches
Width 73.0 inches 72.4 inches
Height 57.3 inches 62.2 inches
Turning Diameter 37.0 feet 36.1 feet
Headroom, Front 39.1 inches 39.4 inches
Headroom, Rear 37.5 inches 37.3 inches
Legroom, Front 41.5 inches 42.8 inches
Legroom, Rear 38.1 inches 39.5 inches
Shoulder Room, Front 58.5 inches 58.1 inches
Shoulder Room, Rear 57.1 inches 57.4 inches
EPA Passenger Volume 102.9 cu. Ft. 105.5 cu. ft.
EPA Cargo Volume 15.7 cu. ft. 15.1 cu. ft.

Matt DeLorenzo
Matt DeLorenzo
Matt DeLorenzo is an author who specializes in writing news, advice, and car reviews. A member of the North American Car of the Year jury, he has spent more than four decades covering the auto industry and has held key posts at industry and consumer publications including Automotive News, AutoWeek, and Road & Track. He is also an author of automotive books including Modern Chrysler Concept... Read More about Matt DeLorenzo

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