The 2019 Chevrolet Malibu is one of GM’s best-known and longest-running family sedans. It’s sensible and likable, and this year it’s been revamped.
For the 2019 model year, styling has been freshened, front and rear. Malibus with the 1.5-liter engine have a new continuously variable transmission (CVT). A new RS trim level includes blacked-out trim and 18-inch wheels. GM’s new infotainment system includes an 8.0-inch touchscreen with navigation available.
Five Malibu trim levels are offered: L, LS, LT, new RS, and top-end Premier.
Three powertrains are available. Most Malibus contain a turbocharged 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, rated at 163 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. The new continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) can effectively simulate conventional â€œgearedâ€ shifts. Only the Premier edition can get the optional 250-hp, 2.0-liter turbo-4.
Fuel-efficiency devotees can select the Malibu Hybrid, estimated at 46 mpg in Combined driving. In the Hybrid, a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder, rated at 122 horsepower, teams with an electric motor and 1.5-kwh lithium-ion battery. Combined output totals 182 horsepower.
Malibus have performed well in crash-testing. The NHTSA gave the Malibu a five-star rating overall. The Malibu with active-safety technology has been rated a Top Safety Pick by the IIHS.
Malibu buyers must select two extra-cost packages to get the latest safety equipment. Only LT and Premier trim levels can have the Driver Confidence Package, which adds blind-spot monitors and parking sensors. Active lane control, low-speed automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and automatic headlights are included in Driver Confidence Package II. Full-speed automatic emergency braking and adaptive controls are included in Driver Confidence Package III, optional only on range-topping Premier trim.
Prices do not include $875 destination charge.
Malibu L ($22,090) comes with the 1.5-liter engine, cloth upholstery, remote keyless entry, cruise control, 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, Bluetooth, cruise control, and 16-inch steel wheels with hubcaps.
LS ($23,220) adds acoustic glass, Teen Driver alert, 16-inch alloy wheels, and GM’s OnStar 4G LTE wi-fi hotspot.
RS ($24,220) gets blacked-out trim, 18-inch alloy wheels, a power driver’s seat, power lumbar support, and leather-wrapped steering wheel, and rear spoiler, but no suspension changes.
LT ($26,620) adds dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, heated power mirrors, 17-inch alloy wheels, and rear-seat climate vents.
Premier ($31,820) switches to the 2.0-liter engine with 9-speed transmission and adds Bose audio, a high-definition touchscreen with navigation, leather seat upholstery, cooled front seats, power passenger seat, heated outboard rear seats, heated steering wheel, LED headlights, and 18-inch wheels.
Hybrid ($28,220) is equipped like LT, with a gasoline/electric powertrain that includes a 1.8-liter gasoline engine and an electric motor. Standard features include a power driver’s seat, heated power mirrors, cloth upholstery, and 17-inch wheels.
Even before its styling touch-up for 2019, the Malibu had carefully-positioned curves and body lines. Freshening makes Malibu look better than ever.
Chrome lines emanate from the extra-wide grille, reaching into narrow headlights that appear to squint. A sloping roofline and large side windows, along with a cleanly tapered tail, make the sedan look almost like a hatchback. Three side windows below the long roofline add to the upscale aura. Bodysides are on the voluptuous side, but restrained.
Blacked-out trim and 18-inch alloy wheels give the new Malibu RS a sporty demeanor.
Roomy and comfortable, as well as pleasantly laid-out, the Malibu’s cabin handles passengers and their cargo well.
Front seats are supportive, as are the nicely-sculpted rear seats. Rear passengers get 38.1 inches of legroom and 37.5-inch head clearance. Three-abreast seating is feasible, thanks to 53.4-inch hip room. Most trim levels have an 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat.
Some interior trim may strike drivers as unusual, such as the mesh-like fabric that covers dashboards on models with cloth seats. Matched vinyl, as used on Malibus with leather seats, works better.
Outward vision is good. Most controls are grouped below an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity is standard. Unlike some rivals that favor transmission pushbuttons, Chevrolet has retained the traditional gearshift lever.
The Malibu’s sloping rear end reduces trunk space somewhat, to 15.8 cubic feet. The Hybrid’s trunk is smaller, at 11.6 cubic feet, due to positioning of its battery pack.
Malibus ride and handle well, while turbocharged engines deliver excellent performance. Healthy torque output from the 1.5-liter turbo means the engine doesn’t have to rev to achieve usable power. Chevrolet’s continuously variable transmission works nicely with that turbo-4. Simulated â€œgearsâ€ eliminate the rubber-band sensation that plagued older CVTs.
The optional 250-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbo-4 gives the sedan excellent acceleration. Working with a 9-speed automatic, it makes solid, confident highway passing possible.
The Malibu’s suspension smothers bumps readily, yielding a ride that’s tuned for comfort over sporty behavior. Benefiting from quick, accurate steering, each Malibu handles confidently, taking advantage of the nicely poised chassis. RS and Premier trim levels ride on 18-inch alloy wheels that provide a bit more grip than smaller rubber, but reflexes are no sharper.
Malibu Hybrids can travel as rapidly as 55 mph using electric power alone. Unlike rival hybrids, the Malibu Hybrid lacks an “EV” mode; it can’t be driven on battery power alone. Weighing 3,500 pounds, a Malibu Hybrid can accelerate to 60 mph in 7.8 seconds.
Hybrids, as expected, beat the pack in fuel economy. A Malibu with the 1,5-liter engine and new CVT is reasonably thrifty, EPA-rated at 29/36 mpg City/Highway, or 32 mpg Combined. Premier trim, with a 2.0-liter turbo-4 that needs premium gasoline, is EPA-rated at 22/32 mpg City/Highway, or 26 mpg Combined. The Malibu Hybrid earns an EPA estimate of 49/43/46 mpg.
The 2019 Chevy Malibu offers attractive styling, a quiet demeanor and a comfortable ride, as well as a well-executed hybrid edition. Of the non-hybrids, the best bet is probably the LT edition, though even the basic L sedan is a reasonably good value in a basic sedan.
Driving impressions by The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.