2020 Chevrolet Malibu Review
  • Car Review

2020 Chevrolet Malibu Review

By Autolist Editorial | October 7, 2020

Quick Facts:

Pros:

  • Impressive fuel efficiency.
  • Quiet and comfortable cabin.
  • Sleek exterior.
  • User-friendly infotainment system.

Cons:

  • Subpar interior design.
  • Lackluster safety tech.
  • So-so crash test ratings.
  • No all-wheel-drive option.

Vehicle Type: Five-seat midsize sedan.

Price Range: $22,140 to $33,370 before options.

Powertrain: 160-horsepower, 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with front-wheel drive and continuously variable automatic transmission as standard.

More Photos

See more 2020 Chevrolet Malibu photos here.


Overview:

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The newest installment in Chevrolet's line of midsize sedans, the 2020 Chevy Malibu sits on the GM E2 platform and comes standard with a 1.5-liter turbo four-cylinder engine mated to a continuously variable transmission.

Sporting sharp looks, tight handling, impressive fuel efficiency, and a quiet cabin, this five-seater is ideal for families looking for a comfortable, affordable hauler.

Available in five trim levels and a hybrid option, the 2020 Malibu competes with the Toyota Camry, Ford Fusion, Kia Optima, and many other sedans. Emblazoning the dashboard is the eight-inch Infotainment 3 touchscreen system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Although most of the new Malibu's features are unchanged from last year, the Premier trim now has 19-inch aluminum wheels and a power sunroof.

Overall Score: 6.1/10


Safety Features: 4/10

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The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the new Chevy Malibu a maximum 'Good' rating in almost every crash test, including the side, roof strength, moderate overlap front, small overlap front crash tests.

Only the small overlap front passenger-side test received an imperfect rating of Marginal. However, the vehicle's LATCH seat anchors also received a Marginal rating. The IIHS gave the 2020 Malibu a Superior crash avoidance and mitigation rating, but only if optional equipment is installed.

Meanwhile, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) rated the 2020 Chevy Malibu four out of five for safety, with four stars for the rollover category and three stars each for the side crash rear seat and side crash rear passenger categories.

Although this midsize sedan comes with ten airbags, which is more than most rivals, it has few extra safety features. Anti-lock brakes, stability control, and seatbelt pretensioners come standard, as does an ignition disable device to prevent theft.

When it comes to driver assistance, only cruise control and a rearview camera are standard. On higher trims, you can get automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist with lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, an electric parking brake, and automatic high beams. Front pedestrian braking, forward collision warning, a following distance indicator, adaptive cruise control, automatic parking assist, lane change alert with blind-spot monitoring, and teen driver settings are available for higher trims.


Value: 6/10

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Chevy Malibu reviewers are pretty divided about how the 2020 midsize sedan compares with rivals such as the Volkswagen Passat, Toyota Camry, Kia Optima, Chevy Impala, Ford Fusion, and Honda Accord.

The Passat has worse fuel efficiency, for example, but its handling, power, and rear-seat room are better. The Camry has more safety features, an optional V6 engine, and three trim levels for its hybrid version. The Optima has more rear-seat room but worse fuel economy. Meanwhile, the Impala is almost $10,000 more expensive than the Malibu and features worse handling and a bulkier build, though its 3.6-liter V6 engine is more powerful.

The Fusion is also more expensive but boasts sharper handling and superior tech, including a better infotainment system. Finally, the Accord beats the Malibu on almost every front, including technology, fuel economy, and driving performance.

Generally, it's Malibu's lack of standard safety tech that hurts its overall value proposition, especially when compared to its rivals.


Tech Features: 6/10

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Each trim level of the Malibu comes with the eight-inch Chevy Infotainment 3 color touchscreen system. Although some have criticized the system for having a "rental fleet" feel, most have praised it as responsive and user-friendly, with sharp graphics and intuitive menus.

The touchscreen comes standard with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, and smartphone integration. The base trim has AM/FM radio, manual air conditioning, and a six-speaker sound system, but you can pay extra for satellite radio, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a Bose nine-speaker premium audio system.

Other optional features for this sedan include two rear USB ports, a navigation system, keyless entry, a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a household-style power outlet, a wireless device charging system, and a dual-pane sunroof.


Practicality: 6/10

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The 2020 Chevy Malibu has about 15.8 cubic feet of trunk space, which is unremarkable for its class. The rival Honda Accord, for example, has 16.7 cubic feet of trunk space. Fortunately, the rear bench seat has 60/40 split-folding capability for extra space, and the door side pockets are spacious, with slots for bottles.

Other storage amenities in the Malibu include a storage bin for holding small items, a center armrest storage pocket, a roomy glove box, and pair of center console cupholders. Passengers in the back seats enjoy spacious bottle holders in the doors, a pair of armrest cupholders, and seatback map pockets. The rear outboard seats have two full sets of LATCH car-seat connectors for peace of mind, while the middle seat has an upper tether anchor. Some critics feel the outboard anchors are placed too deep to reach without straining.


Styling & Design: 6/10

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The Malibu offers a sleek exterior though the interior has less impressive aesthetics. Outside, this sedan has a sloping roofline, sporty front, tapering tail, and wide grille for a more coupe-like feel than previous model years.

The vehicle is 194.2 inches long, 57.9 inches high, and 73 inches wide, and it weighs 3,126 to 3,223 pounds depending on its features. It has a wheelbase of 111.4 inches.

Although 16-inch aluminum wheels are standard, replacing the steel wheels of earlier Malibu models, 17- to 19-inch alloy wheels are optional on higher trims. The Malibu RS package adds to the car's flair with a black grille, wheels, and badges as well as a body-color rear spoiler. You have eight colors to choose from, including Cajun Red Metallic and Northsky Blue Metallic. According to Malibu reviews, the car looks good in just about any paint job.

Sadly, the Malibu's interior falls short, with cheap materials such as hard plastics or low-grade cloth and a mediocre dashboard with textured cloth panels, outdated knobs, and flimsy steering wheel stalks. The Mazda 6 and Honda Accord look much sharper inside.

On the other hand, the interior is comfortable thanks to ergonomic seats and ample space to stretch out. The front seats have a generous 39.1 inches of headroom and 41.5 inches of headroom, while the back seats have 37.5 inches of headroom and 38.1 inches of legroom. Although cloth upholstery and a cloth dashboard applique are standard, higher trims can have leather upholstery and a seat-matching vinyl applique. The base trim has a six-way manually adjustable driver's seat, and the back can fit three adults.


Driving Experience: 7/10

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The Malibu's standard 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder base engine is mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Only front-wheel-drive is available. With 160 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque at its disposal, the Malibu hits 60 mph in just eight seconds while keeping acceleration smooth. That's faster than many midsize sedans, including one second faster than the Ford Fusion but about the same as the Mazda 6.

Malibu's with the 2.0-liter turbo-four engine will hit 60 mph in 5.8 seconds, just three tenths shy of the Honda Accord.

On top of being quick to accelerate, this new car is easy to brake, beating out the Ford Fusion and Kia Optima, though not the Accord. The brakes feel firm, and they're painless to modulate.

Although the car's steering could have more feedback, this Malibu also has some of the best handling on the market.

Thanks to a sharp suspension, the car glides over bumpy, broken roads with little noise, and it can turn corners without much leaning. It also enjoys tight maneuverability and light steering. Unfortunately, the front air dam is quite low, leading to potential scrapes when leaving sloped driveways.


Fuel Efficiency: 8/10

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The base Malibu is rated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at 29 mpg city and 36 mpg on highways for a combined 32 mpg.

The 2.0-liter turbo engine gets 22 city and 32 highway for a combined 26 mpg.

Meanwhile, the Malibu hybrid model, with its 1.8-liter four-cylinder electric motor, gets 49 mpg city and 43 mpg highway for a combined 46 mpg.

Those figures put it near the head of the in terms of its rivals. The Ford Fusion gets 19 mpg city and 31 mpg highway, while the Honda Accord gets 30 mpg city, 38 mpg highway, and 33 mpg combined.


What’s it Going to Cost Me?

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Ranging in price from $22,140 to $33,370, the 2020 Chevrolet Malibu comes in five trims: the base L, LS, RS, LT, and the high-end Premier.

Starting with an MSRP of $22,140, the L trim sports a 1.5-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission. Equipped with front-wheel drive, the Malibu L has manual air conditioning, six-way manual front seats, and cloth upholstery. Other standard features include keyless entry with push-button start, 16-inch alloy wheels with hubcaps, a Bose six-speaker stereo system, and cruise control. In addition, a rear backup camera, on-and-off halogen lights, power doors and windows, a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, and power accessories come standard. The 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system sports AM/FM radio, Bluetooth, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay.

Optional amenities include 4G LTE Wi-Fi for a monthly fee.

The LS trim starts at $24,115 and includes all the features available for the base trim plus several more, including acoustic laminated glass for a quieter interior and an outside temperature display. Also included are front-visor vanity mirrors, a Wi-Fi hotspot, and Chevy's Teen Driver system, which lets you restrict settings for new drivers.

Starting at $25,095, the Chevy Malibu RS trim comes with all the features available at lower trims along with a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a central armrest for back-seat passengers, 18-inch alloy wheels, and an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat with lumbar control. This trim also boasts a rear spoiler, black emblem and grille, body-color power outside mirrors, and dual exhaust with polished tips.

The LT trim, which has a starting MSRP of $27,495, comes with a wealth of amenities. These include heated front seats, remote start, rear climate-control vents, LED running lights, dual-zone automatic climate control, and SiriusXM satellite radio. In addition, this model sports LED taillights, heated and power-adjustable outside mirrors, and a power driver's seat. At just 17 inches, the LT's wheels are smaller than the RS's.

For $1,095, two packages of extra safety features are available for the Malibu LT: Driver Confidence I and Driver Confidence II. The first package includes rear cross-traffic alert, rear parking sensors, and blind-spot monitoring. The second package boasts automatic high beam headlights, pedestrian detection, a following-distance indicator, forward automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane-keep assist, and forward-collision warning.

For $1,590, the Leather Package is also available, offering leather upholstery, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and a heated steering wheel.

Starting at $34,195, the Premier trim has a 2.0-liter turbo inline four-cylinder engine mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission. It also boasts 19-inch wheels, LED headlights, a six-way power passenger seat with lumbar control, a dual-pane power sunroof, two rear USB ports, heated and powered outside mirrors with turn signals, and a heated leather steering wheel and rear outboard seats. In addition, the Malibu Premier has a navigation system, a nine-speaker Bose sound system, cooled and ventilated front seats, a wireless smartphone charger, and a household-style power outlet.

For an extra $2,095, you can buy the Enhanced Driver Confidence Package for the Malibu Premier. It comes with all the features available in the Driver Confidence I and II Packages as well as an electronic parking brake, advanced adaptive cruise control, enhanced automatic emergency braking, and automatic parking assist.

Rounding out your options is the Malibu Hybrid, which starts at $31,135 and only has one trim level. Standard features for the Hybrid include a power driver's seat, keyless entry and start, dual-zone automatic climate control, the Infotainment 3 touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, SiriusXM satellite radio, a backup camera, a six-speaker audio system, and Bluetooth. Automatic headlights, OnStar with a Wi-Fi hotspot, steering wheel audio controls, 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, and heated mirrors are also standard for the Hybrid.

The Malibu Hybrid has a rich assortment of optional amenities, including a navigation system, lane keep assist, heated steering wheel, nine-speaker Bose sound system, a wireless charger, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, and forward-collision warning. Other optional features include heated leather front seats, front and rear park assist, adaptive cruise control, low-speed automatic braking with pedestrian detection, and a power sunroof. You can also opt for a power passenger's seat and automatic high beams.

Which trim should you get? In terms of features, the LT offers the most bang for your buck, especially with one of the Driver Convenience Packages installed. If you can afford the Premier, however, you should pick it instead, as it offers a great mix of sportiness and luxury. The Malibu Hybrid is also a strong choice if your priority is fuel efficiency.


More Photos

See more 2020 Chevrolet Malibu photos here.