One of the longest-running nameplates in the Chevrolet lineup, the Malibu has been a mainstay in the midsize sedan segment for decades. Since its inception, the Malibu has evolved from a rear-drive car that's available in multiple flavors to a front-drive model offered only one body style. Chevrolet even offered a hybrid Malibu for a short time to lure eco-minded consumers to the brand. With only a short time left before it's discontinued, the Malibu lineup has been streamlined. A number of cosmetic packages are also offered.
The Chevrolet Malibu remains a midsize sedan living in the shadow of the competition. That's mainly due to the fact that the car falls short in a number of areas. When pushed hard, the base 1.5-liter turbo-four struggles to move the Malibu around. Credit the CVT for doing all the heavy lifting to eke the most out of the little engine. The 2.0-liter turbo-four offers effortless acceleration thanks to the snappy nine-speed automatic. Good handling makes the Malibu pleasant to drive; no, it's not a sport sedan, but it won't embarrass itself when the road starts twisting and won't rattle your bones over every road imperfection.
Unfortunately, the cheap interior ruins an otherwise acceptable midsize sedan. Between that and the underpowered base engine, it's hard to justify the Malibu. The car's overall value proposition is hurt by the fact that active safety features are optional at price points where the competition offers them standard.
Two turbocharged four-cylinder engines are available on the 2021 Malibu. The L, LS, RS, and LT grades utilize a 1.5-liter unit with 163 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. Premier models get a 2.0-liter unit rated at 250 hp and 260 lb-ft. With the standard CVT automatic, the 1.5-liter is EPA-rated at 29/36 mpg city/highway. Premier models, which come exclusively with a nine-speed automatic, are good for 22/33 mpg.
NHTSA: 4 stars (out of a possible five stars)
IIHS: The Malibu received a Good score on all crashworthiness tests except the passenger's side front small overlap impact, where it got a Marginal rating (Good is the highest score). In the front crash prevention test, the Malibu got a Superior rating in the vehicle-to-vehicle test with the Enhanced Driver Confidence package or Advanced with the Drive Confidence package (Superior is the highest rating). In the vehicle-to-pedestrian test, the Malibu only got a Basic rating.
To get any active safety tech, upgrade to the LS trim (or higher) and get the Driver Confidence I and II package, which contains forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, front automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, following distance indicator, and automatic high-beams. The Enhanced Driver Confidence package expands on the Driver Confidence I and II package with adaptive cruise control and an enhanced front automatic emergency braking system.
All 2021 Chevrolet Malibu sedans get an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility and a six-speaker audio system. Built-in navigation, wireless charging, a nine-speaker Bose audio system, and an 8/0-inch instrument cluster display are only available on the Premier.