- 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
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
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|
|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|
|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|