Search Cars for Sale

2021 Mazda6 vs. 2021 Chevrolet Malibu: Which Is Better?

The 2021 Chevrolet Malibu and the 2021 Mazda6 are two competing mid-size sedans. Which is better?

Quick Facts

  • The Chevrolet Malibu offers a choice of 4-cylinder or 4-cylinder turbo engines.
  • The Mazda6 offers a choice of 4-cylinder or 4-cylinder turbo engines.

2021 Chevrolet Malibu

2021 Chevrolet Malibu Front Driver Side in Red

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

What we like: Comfortable interior; choice of two engines; wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto

What we would change: More power for the base engine; make active-safety features standard; offer the turbo engine on more trim levels

Overview: With the demise of the full-size Impala, the Malibu is the largest sedan Chevrolet offers. Its interior is spacious, and trunk space is good. The Malibu’s well-tuned chassis delivers a comfortable ride. All Malibus save for the top trim have a 1.5-liter turbo 4-cylinder that makes 160 horsepower and is paired with a CVT. Acceleration just adequate but fuel economy is good with an EPA combined estimate of 32 mpg. A much stronger 250-hp 2.0-liter turbo is exclusive to the Premier and returns 26 mpg. All Malibu models are front-wheel drive.

What’s new for 2021: Wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto is new and standard on all models. A new Buckle to Drive feature prevents the car from shifting into Drive unless the driver’s seatbelt is buckled. There’s also a new Sport appearance package.

Features and technology: The Malibu has five trim levels, L, LS, RS, LT, and Premier. All trims include a user-friendly 8-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. The sporty RS features 18-inch wheels, blacked-out exterior trim, and a rear spoiler. The Sport appearance package and Redline edition are based on the LT, which also includes a power driver’s seat, heated seats, and satellite radio. In addition to the more powerful engine, the Premier boasts leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a sunroof, and navigation. However, key driver-assist features such as forward-collision warning, lane-keeping assist, and blind-spot monitoring that are standard on most competitors cost extra on the Malibu.

What does the future hold: The market for sedans is shrinking, and the Malibu’s future is uncertain. Unconfirmed reports suggest that the current-generation Malibu could be the last. See 2021 Chevrolet Malibu models for sale near you

2021 Mazda6

2021 Mazda6 Front Driver Side Profile in Silver

Base Price: $24,455 / Read our 2021 Mazda6 Review

What we like: Gorgeous interior; stylish exterior; included active-safety features; sporty driving character

What we would change: Make the trunk bigger; add a high-mpg hybrid variant; offer AWD

Overview: The 2021 Mazda6 transcends its class with elegant exterior styling, a richly finished interior, and an engaging driving experience. At the same time, it delivers traditional mid-size sedan virtues. A 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that powers the two base trims makes a competitive 187 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque while delivering 29 mpg. Upper trims get a turbocharged 2.5-liter four good for 227 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque (250 hp and 320 lb-ft on premium fuel) and 26 mpg. Both engines are paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission, which is preferable to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), and drive the front wheels. The base engine is adequate but the turbo better complements the Mazda’s sharp-handling chassis. Interior space is good if not class-leading, but the design and materials of the top Signature trim rival near-luxury brands.

What’s new for 2021: The base version adds Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while the Grand Touring and higher trims graduate to wireless CarPlay. A new Carbon Edition slots in between the Grand Touring and Grand Touring Reserve and brings 19-inch black wheels, red leather seats, and black accents inside and out. The Signature gets a new driver-attention monitor and rear automatic braking.

Features and technology: The Mazda6 is offered as the Sport, Touring, Grand Touring, Carbon Edition, Grand Touring Reserve, and Signature. All come standard with an extensive list of driver assists: forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control with stop/go. Other standard features include an 8-inch touchscreen, automatic high-beams, rain-sensing wipers, LED headlights and taillights, and 17-inch alloy wheels. Stepping up to the Touring nets a sunroof, 19-inch wheels, a power driver’s seat, heated seats, keyless entry, and leatherette upholstery. Besides the turbo engine, the Grand Touring adds a Bose 11-speaker sound system with satellite radio, shift paddles, and wirelsss CarPlay. The Grand Touring Reserve includes adaptive front lighting, a power passenger’s seat, a head-up display, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, and leather. The Carbon Edition brings the aforementioned black elements and red leather seats. The Signature’s exclusive items include enhanced interior finishes and lighting, Nappa leather, navigation, a 360-degree-view monitor, and parking sensors.

What does the future hold: Mazda already has added all-wheel drive as an option to the smaller Mazda3, and we could see the company doing the same for the Mazda6. See 2021 Mazda6 models for sale near you

Malibu vs. Mazda6: Strengths comparison

Chevy Malibu Benefits: Good fuel economy, low base price, wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto

Mazda6 Benefits: Standard active-safety features, lively driving persona, high-style exterior, luxurious Signature trim

2021 Chevrolet Malibu vs. 2021 Mazda6: Which is better?

Roomy and comfortable, the Chevrolet Malibu also boasts user-friendly infotainment. It’s attractively priced but driver assists cost extra. The Mazda6 costs more but includes more standard features. It’s more engaging to drive and looks upscale inside and out. The Mazda6 gets the nod here. Find a 2021 Chevrolet Malibu for sale or Find a 2021 Mazda6 for sale

2021 Mazda6 2021 Chevrolet Malibu
Popular Powertrains
Engine 2.5-liter I4 1.5-liter turbo I4
Horsepower 187 hp @ 6,000 rpm 160 hp @ 5,700 rpm
Torque 186 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm 184 lb-ft @ 2,500-3,000 rpm
Transmission 6-spd automatic CVT
Fuel Economy 29 mpg (26 city/35 hwy) 32 mpg (29 city/36 hwy)
Also Available 2.5-liter turbo I4 2.0-liter turbo I4
Warranty 3 years/36,000 miles 3 years/36,000 miles
NHTSA Overall Safety 5 stars 4 stars
Max Seating Capacity 5 5
Wheelbase 111.4 inches 111.4 inches
Overall Length 191.5 inches 194.2 inches
Width 72.4 inches 73.0 inches
Height 57.1 inches 57.3 inches
Turning Diameter 36.8 feet 37.0 feet
Headroom, Front 38.4 inches 39.1 inches
Headroom, Rear 37.1 inches 37.5 inches
Legroom, Front 42.2 inches 41.5 inches
Legroom, Rear 38.7 inches 38.1 inches
Shoulder Room, Front 55.9 inches 58.5 inches
Shoulder Room, Rear 55.1 inches 57.1 inches
EPA Passenger Volume 99.8 cubic feet 102.9 cubic feet
EPA Cargo Volume 14.7 cubic feet 15.7 cubic feet

Joe Lorio
Joe Lorio
Joe Lorio is an author specializing in automobiles. He says, “I have been into cars ever since I started with Matchboxes, and have been sharing my opinions about them for almost as long. Granted, I was pretty young at the time, but my parents really should have listened to me when I told them not to buy an Austin Marina.”

Sign up for Autotrader newsletters

The best cars and best deals delivered to your inbox

Email Address 

Where You Can Buy

Loading dealers...

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles

2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid: First Look

The 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid jumps to the head of the hybrid class.

Best New Cars for 2022

Here is our list of the best new cars for 2022 (presented in alphabetical order by manufacturer).

Best Car Deals: February 2023

This month's best new car deals include several attractive offers for qualified shoppers.

Search By Style

More Articles Like This