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2021 Chevy Malibu vs. 2021 Hyundai Sonata: Which Is Better?

Are you looking for a mainstream family sedan? Take a look at the 2021 Chevrolet Malibu and the 2021 Hyundai Sonata, and let’s see which is better. 

Quick Facts

  • The 2021 Chevrolet Malibu offers fewer powertrains, dropping the hybrid for this year.
  • The 2020 Hyundai Sonata is on its second year of a big update.

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. However, 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 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 Hyundai Sonata

2021 Hyundai Sonata

Base Price: $24,000| Read our Review

What we like: Available smartphone as a key; packed with safety tech on all trims, standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; fabulous warranty.

What we would change: An all-wheel-drive option would be great.

Overview: The 2021 Hyundai Sonata is mostly unchanged for this model year since it’s still so new, and it comes with complimentary regular maintenance for the first three years of ownership.

What’s new for 2021: Nineteen-inch wheels with Pirelli P Zero tires are available on the Hyundai Sonata SEL Plus. Additionally, the SEL, SEL Plus, and Limited models get Safe Exit Warning, and the SEL switches from a 4-way power-adjustable front passenger seat to one that’s adjustable in six ways. Other big news? The sporty Hyundai Sonata N Line makes its debut in September of 2020 as a 2021 model.

Features and Tech: The standard 2021 Hyundai Sonata is available in four grades: SE, SEL, SEL Plus, and Limited. If you want a Sonata Hybrid, it’s available as a Blue, an SEL, or a Premium. The performance-oriented N Line joins the Sonata lineup in September as a 2021 model.

At its base, the SE comes with cloth seating, 16-in alloy wheels, electronic parking brake, nine airbags, LED headlights, taillights and daytime running lights, auto headlight on/off, remote keyless entry, 6-way manually adjusted driver’s seat, 4-way manually adjusted passenger seat, a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, 60/40 split-folding rear seat, Bluetooth connectivity, 8-in touchscreen, 6-speaker audio system with USB port, HD radio, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. It also has the Hyundai Smartsense safety suite, which includes forward-collision avoidance, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high-beam headlights.

The SEL level gets you 17-in alloy wheels, Safe Exit Warning, a twin-tip muffler, heated outboard mirrors with integrated turn signals, a hands-free smart trunk, and an 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar. The SEL also has a new 6-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, rear center armrest, a blind-sport monitor (with rear cross-traffic alert), and the Blue Link connected-car system with three free years of service.

Above the SE model is the SEL and SEL Plus. Both of which add a few options packages, some upgraded instrument panels, Hyundai’s Digital Key (which lets you use your smartphone as a key), wireless charging, leather seating, and other accouterments. The SEL Plus gets you the 1.6-liter turbo engine, paddle shifters, 18-in alloy wheels, aluminum pedals, and leatherette seating with faux-suede inserts. An available Tech Package includes a panoramic sunroof and a 10.25-in touchscreen with a 12-speaker Bose audio system and Highway Drive Assist.

The fully loaded Sonata Limited has LED Matrix-type headlights, memory for driver’s seat and outboard mirrors, ventilated front seats, a color head-up display, rain-sensing wipers, front/rear parking sensors, 360-degree Around View Monitor, Remote Smart Parking Assist, blind-spot view monitor, and rear parking collision-avoidance system. There are no options available for Limited.

The 2021 Sonata Hybrid continues in three different trims: Blue, SEL, and Premium. The Sonata Hybrid SEL and Limited models are equipped with a Solar Roof as standard equipment. Solar panels are integrated into the roof, under glass, where they generate up to 205 watts of power. Hyundai says the Solar Roof increases the Sonata Hybrid’s range by about two miles per day, providing about 800 “free” miles over a year.

What does the future hold? The Hyundai Sonata should continue on mostly unchanged for 2022. See the 2020 Hyundai Sonata models for sale near you

Malibu vs. Sonata: Strengths comparison

Chevrolet Malibu Benefits: Giant trunk, excellent infotainment.

Hyundai Sonata Benefits: A great warranty and standard advanced safety features.

2021 Chevrolet Malibu vs. 2021 Hyundai Sonata: Which is better?

For our money, we’d go with the 2021 Hyundai Sonata. The warranty and three years of free maintenance alone is reason enough!  Find a 2021 Chevrolet Malibu for sale or Find a 2020 Hyundai Sonata for sale


Popular Powertrains 2021 Chevrolet Malibu 2021 Hyundai Sonata
Engine 1.5-liter turbo I4 2.5-liter inline-4
Horsepower 163 hp @ 5,700 rpm 191 @ 6,100 rpm
Torque 184 @ 2,500-3,000 rpm 181 @ 4000 rpm
Transmission CVT 8-speed automatic
Fuel Economy 32 mpg (29 city/36 hwy) 32 mpg ( 28 city, 38 hwy)
Also Available 2.0-liter turbo I4; 9-spd automatic 1.6 liter turbo 4, hybrid
Warranty 3 years/36,000 miles 5 years/60,000 miles
NHTSA Overall Safety Rating 4 stars NA
Max Seating Capacity 5 5
Wheelbase 111.4 inches 111.8 inches
Overall Length 194.2 inches 192.9 inches
Width 73.0 inches 73.2 inches
Height 57.3 inches 56.9 inches
Turning Diameter 37.0 feet 17.9 feet
Headroom, Front 39.1 inches 40.0 inches
Headroom, Rear 37.5 inches 37.8 inches
Legroom, Front 41.5 inches 46.1 inches
Legroom, Rear 38.1 inches 34.8 inches
Shoulder Room, Front 58.5 inches 57.9 inches
Shoulder Room, Rear 57.1 inches 56.1 inches
EPA Passenger Volume 102.9 cu. Ft. 104.4 cu. ft.
EPA Cargo Volume 15.7 cu. ft. 16.3 cu. ft.







Abigail Bassett
Abigail Bassett
Abigail Bassett is a freelance journalist based in L.A. and she's covered automotive topics for a variety of well-known outlets including Fortune, Forbes, CNN and Motor Trend. She's also a television and video host and regularly covers breaking news, social justice, technology, health and wellness, and science in addition to her car coverage. When she's not working on her next project she's... Read More about Abigail Bassett

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