2021 Chevrolet Malibu

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Updated: January 13, 2021

2021 Chevrolet Malibu

The 2021 Chevrolet Malibu is a mid-size sedan that was last updated in 2019. For 2021 Chevy makes wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility standard equipment. There’s also a new Sport Edition with black trim.

The base engine in the Malibu is a 1.5-liter turbo-4 making 160 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque, mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and driving the front wheels. It offers adequate performance, and the CVT is good, as the simulated gears are barely noticeable.

The top Premier model gets a 250-hp 2.0-liter turbo-4 mated to a 9-speed automatic. All-wheel drive is not available with the Malibu.

Made in Kansas, the Malibu’s exterior styling is crisp and sporty, while the handling is comfortable and composed. The cabin is quiet and roomy, with upscale materials in the Premier trim.

The EPA rates the Malibu with the 1.5-liter engine at 29 mpg city, 36 highway, 32 combined. The 2.0-liter turbo-4 engine earns 22/33/26 mpg.

The NHTSA gives it four stars in crash-testing, and the IIHS rates it “Good” in all but the small front-overlap test, where it earns a “Moderate” score. Automatic emergency braking is offered but is not standard.

Model Lineup

There are five models of Malibu, the L, LS, RS, LT, and Premier.

The L model, for about $23,000, is quite basic, as it comes in just two colors. It has an 8.0-inch screen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, as well as a 4G LTE wi-fi hotspot. The LS and RS add features such as bigger wheels with wider tires.

The Malibu LT, at about $28,000, adds a power driver seat, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, and remote start. Automatic emergency braking is available in the $1,100 Driver Confidence Package.

The Malibu Premier tops $36,000 when the optional safety equipment is added.

Exterior

The stylish Malibu features a gently bulging hood that drops down to a broad grille with nice brightwork. From the side, its curvy lines and big wheel openings look best with the available bigger wheels. At the rear, the pinched taillights cap a shape that looks contemporary and handsome.

Interior

The Malibu instrument panel puts function over form, with switches, knobs, and the 8.0-inch touchscreen all up high where they’re easy to reach. The Premier has pleasant leather upholstery and nice-enough plastic trim, but in other models, the dashboard, doors, and console wear heavily-grained plastics that feel hollow to the touch.

The best thing about the interior of the Malibu is that it’s very roomy, including 38 inches of leg room in the rear. The front seats offer good adjustment, especially the power buckets in the Premium.

The trunk space is 16 cubic feet, about average for a mid-size sedan.

Driving Impressions

Most Malibus use a 1.5-liter turbo-4 making 160 hp, and sending power to the front wheels through a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that’s programmed to simulate real gear shifts.

The Malibu Premier uses a 2.0-liter turbo-4 that makes 250 hp and delivers good acceleration. It’s plenty powerful for scooting through traffic, and works well with its 9-speed automatic transmission.

The Malibu isn’t a sports sedan, but its steering has reasonable heft and its chassis is well-suited to scooting down a curvy road. Bigger wheels and wider tires on the RS bring slightly sharper handling.

Final Word

The 2021 Chevy Malibu offers stylish looks and a roomy cabin, with adequate performance and good gas mileage in the lower-priced models with the smaller engine. The Premier editio has more power, more features, and a more upscale look—but it’s as expensive as some of Chevy’s well-done SUVs.

 

—by Sam Moses with driving impressions by The Car Connection