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2021 Chevrolet Malibu Review

The Chevrolet Malibu sits near the bottom of our midsize car rankings. A gentle ride isn’t enough to offset the Malibu’s low-rent cabin materials, unsupportive seats, and lack of standard safety features. Lots of rival cars have stronger base engines and sportier handling as well.

Pros & Cons

  • Smooth ride
  • Good gas mileage
  • Affordable starting price
  • Low-rent cabin materials
  • Seats lack support
  • Few standard safety features
  • So-so base engine

New for 2021

  • Wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay debut
  • Buckle to Drive safety system now available

Rankings & Research

The 2021 Chevrolet Malibu's #9 ranking is based on its score within the Midsize Cars category. Currently the Chevrolet Malibu has a score of 7.2 out of 10, which is based on our evaluation of 31 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.




Critics' Rating: 6.7
Performance: 7.0
Interior: 6.7
This rating isn’t available yet for the current model year. In the meantime, last year’s rating of 8.9 for safety is being used to calculate this vehicle’s overall score.
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

Thinking of leasing a Chevrolet Malibu?

The U.S. News Best Price Program saves users an average of $3,206 off the MSRP, and a lower price equals lower monthly lease payments. That means you could see a savings of $90 a month on a 36-month lease.

Is the Chevrolet Malibu a Good Car?

The Chevy Malibu is a good car, but it’s not a great one. Its ride is comfortable, handling is well-balanced, and fuel economy estimates are impressive. An affordable starting price also boosts its attractiveness. However, this sedan’s drab and dated cabin design, as well as the lack of back and thigh support from its seats, hamper its appeal. In fact, it has the lowest overall interior rating in the midsize car class. Plenty of rivals have more modern interiors and more standard safety features than the Malibu, and many are more fun to drive.

Why You Can Trust Us: 31 Reviews Analyzed

Our goal is to make shopping for your next car as easy as possible. You'll find everything you need to know about this sedan in our comprehensive review. It combines concrete data like mpg estimates, horsepower specs, and cargo space dimensions with 31 professional reviews.

This 2021 Malibu review incorporates applicable research for all models in this generation, which launched for 2016.

U.S. News Best Cars has been ranking and reviewing vehicles since 2007, and our staff has more than 75 years of combined experience in the auto industry. To ensure our objectivity, we never accept expensive gifts from carmakers, and an outside firm manages the ads on our site.

Should I Buy the Chevrolet Malibu?

If you want a midsize car, the Malibu is a decent choice, especially if you’re shopping on a budget. However, if you can spend a bit more, you may want to consider some of its rivals. The Honda Accord is more fun to drive than the Malibu, and the all-new Kia K5 has a ritzier cabin.

Compare the Malibu, Accord, and K5 »

2020 vs. 2021 Chevrolet Malibu: What's the Difference?

Chevrolet made wireless smartphone integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard in the 2021 Malibu. This sedan also gains available Buckle to Drive, which requires you to be wearing your seat belt before you shift the car into Drive.

Compare the 2020 and 2021 Malibu »

Here are the Chevy Malibu’s key changes since this car was redesigned for the 2016 model year:

  • 2017: 2LT trim discontinued; nine-speed automatic transmission made available
  • 2018: no notable changes
  • 2019: base engine paired with continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT); RS trim debuted; revamped infotainment system; refreshed exterior styling
  • 2020: no notable changes
  • 2021: standard wireless smartphone integration debuts

If you're considering an older model, be sure to read our 2018 Malibu, 2019 Malibu, and 2020 Malibu reviews to help make your decision. Also, check out our Best New Car Deals and Best New Car Lease Deals pages to learn about savings and discounts you can find on new vehicles.

How Much Does the Chevrolet Malibu Cost?

The Malibu L has a starting MSRP of $22,140, which is among the lowest in the class. Prices rise throughout the trim levels, with the high-end Premier starting at $33,370.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Chevrolet dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Chevrolet deals page.

Chevrolet Malibu Versus the Competition

Chevrolet Malibu vs. Toyota Camry

The Toyota Camry is a fantastic midsize car. It’ll likely be more expensive than the Malibu, but the Camry is worth the money. The Camry has more standard driver assistance features and stronger engines than the Malibu. Add to that its sharper handling and higher-end cabin with more soft-touch surfaces, and it’s not hard to see the Camry’s appeal.

Compare the Malibu and Camry »

Chevrolet Malibu vs. Honda Accord

The Honda Accord is another appealing midsize sedan. Not only does it have more standard safety features than the Chevy Malibu, but it also has nimbler handling, better mpg estimates, nicer cabin materials, and a larger trunk. The Chevrolet has more standard tech features, but that’s not enough for us to recommend it over the Honda.

Compare the Malibu and Accord »

Compare the Malibu, Camry, and Accord »

Malibu Interior: OK at Best

Malibu Cargo Space

With a 15.7-cubic-foot trunk, this Chevy has enough room for a few suitcases or more than a few grocery bags. The split-folding rear seats can create even more room, but the uneven load floor makes it difficult to stow lengthy objects.

How Many People Does the Malibu Seat?

This sedan seats five people. Cloth upholstery is standard, and leather upholstery is available. Also available are heated and ventilated front seats, power-adjustable front seats, heated rear outboard seats, and a heated steering wheel.

Most adults will find both rows have enough head- and legroom, but there are roomier options in the class. While the seats start off comfortable, the lack of support becomes more noticeable on longer drives.

Malibu and Child Car Seats

This car has two complete sets of LATCH connectors for the rear outboard seats and a tether anchor for the rear middle seat. The lower anchors can be hard to use, since they require a lot of force to attach and are set deeply in the seats.

Malibu Interior Quality

Plastics fill the Malibu’s cabin. They look chunky, and some, such as the turn signal indicator, are said to feel coarse. The whole design looks outdated.

Malibu Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

It’s missing physical controls, such as a rotary knob, but otherwise the Chevrolet 3 infotainment system is easy to use. The touch screen has logically arrayed menus and responds quickly to input. However, the interface doesn’t look as sharp as what you’ll find in rival cars.

  • Standard infotainment features: an 8-inch touch screen, Bluetooth, a six-speaker stereo, a USB port, and smartphone integration via wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • Available infotainment features: a Wi-Fi hot spot, wireless device charging, navigation, an 8-inch digital driver display, a nine-speaker Bose stereo, satellite radio, and two more USB ports
  • Additional standard features: push-button start and proximity keyless entry
  • Other available features: remote start, a dual-pane sunroof, and dual-zone automatic climate control

For more information, read What Is Apple CarPlay? and What Is Android Auto?

Read more about interior »

Malibu Performance: Merely Average

Malibu Engine

You have a choice of two turbocharged four-cylinder engines in this sedan. Every trim except the Premier has a 160-horsepower 1.5-liter four-cylinder. Acceleration isn’t quick, but power delivery is smooth. The continuously variable transmission (CVT) it’s paired with convincingly simulates the shifts of a traditional automatic.

Featured in the range-topping Premier is a 250-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo-four. This engine provides more muscle, boosting acceleration and passing power. This engine is paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission.

Malibu Gas Mileage

Although the base engine may not be powerful, it does help the Chevy Malibu return a fantastic EPA-estimated 29 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. Models with the stronger turbocharged option drop to 22 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway.

Malibu Ride and Handling

This Chevy has a cushioned ride, even on pockmarked pavement. Its handling is similarly well-mannered, with capable brakes and composed cornering, but its light steering keeps this sedan from feeling sporty. Front-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel drive is unavailable.

Read more about performance »

Malibu Reliability

Is the Chevrolet Malibu Reliable?

The 2021 Chevy Malibu has a slightly above-average predicted reliability rating of 3.5 out of five.

Chevrolet Malibu Warranty

Chevrolet backs the Malibu with a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Read more about reliability »

Malibu Safety

Malibu Crash Test Results

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2021 Chevrolet Malibu an overall safety rating of four out of five stars, with five stars in the frontal crash test and four stars in the side crash and rollover tests.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not evaluated the 2021 Malibu sedan as of this writing.

Malibu Safety Features

Standard advanced safety features:

  • Rearview camera

Available advanced safety features

  • Rear parking sensors
  • Lane keep assist
  • Lane departure warning
  • Lane change alert
  • Forward collision warning
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Pedestrian detection
  • Following distance indicator
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Blind spot monitoring
  • Rear cross traffic alert
  • Parallel and perpendicular park assist
  • Teen Driver (lets you do things like set speed and audio volume limits for secondary drivers)

Read more about safety »

Malibu Dimensions and Weight

The Malibu is 16.2 feet long. Its curb weight ranges from 3,126 to 3,223 pounds.

Where Is the 2021 Chevrolet Malibu Built?

General Motors builds the 2021 Chevrolet Malibu in Kansas.

Which Chevrolet Malibu Model Is Right for Me?

Chevrolet makes the 2021 Malibu in five trim levels: L, LS, RS, LT, and Premier. To get the stronger turbocharged engine or the most driver assistance features, you’ll have to move all the way up to the Premier trim. If you can do without those, start with the LS, as that’s the first trim available with more driver aids.

Available in all but the base L and high-end Premier are the $545 Driver Confidence I Cloth package and the $1,095 Driver Confidence I and II package. The former comes with blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane change alert, and rear parking sensors. The latter outfits this sedan with all that, plus forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, a following distance indicator, and automatic high-beam headlights. The Premier trim bundles these advanced safety features and more into the $2,095 Enhanced Driver Confidence package.

Chevrolet Malibu L

The L has a starting MSRP of $22,140. Standard equipment includes an 8-inch touch screen, wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a six-speaker stereo, Bluetooth, a rearview camera, proximity keyless entry, and alloy wheels.

Chevrolet Malibu LS

Chevrolet Malibu LS models retail for $23,270. They gain a Wi-Fi hot spot and the Teen Driver safety system. The LS is also the first trim available with several packages and options, such as remote start for $300.

Chevrolet Malibu RS

The Malibu RS (MSRP: $24,270) adds an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, black exterior styling, a rear spoiler, and larger alloy wheels.

Chevrolet Malibu LT

With a starting price of $26,670, the LT picks up dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, satellite radio, and remote start. Note that the LT loses the leather-wrapped steering wheel and styling elements from the RS trim.

For $1,590, you can add the Leather package. It comes with leather-appointed seats and a leather-wrapped and heated steering wheel. There are also several packages that add unique styling elements, such as the Redline Edition, Sport Edition, and Midnight Edition. A dual-pane sunroof can be added for $1,050.

Chevrolet Malibu Premier

The top-of-the-line Premier has a base price of $33,370. It gains the sunroof, an 8-inch digital driver display, a navigation system, a nine-speaker Bose stereo, a 120-volt household-style power outlet, wireless device charging, two charge-only USB ports, a six-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and an HD rearview camera. The Leather package is standard in this trim.

The Premier is the only trim available with the $2,095 Enhanced Driver Confidence package, which includes adaptive cruise control, an electronic parking brake, parallel park assist, and the contents of the Driver Confidence I and II package.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Chevrolet dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Chevrolet deals page.

See 2021 Chevrolet Malibu specs and trims »

The Final Call

The 2021 Malibu is not a bad midsize car. With its base engine, this sedan is highly fuel-efficient, and it has an appealingly low starting price. However, most of this car’s good qualities, such as trunk space and ride quality, are merely average in its class, and it’s dragged down by its ho-hum acceleration and cheap cabin materials.

Don't just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • "Although this Chevrolet might not be first in mind when thinking of midsize sedans, the Malibu is good enough to deserve consideration." -- Autotrader
  • "While other automakers doing business in the family-sedan market have been busy improving and reimagining what a mid-size car can be, Chevrolet has left the 2021 Chevy Malibu to languish. … When compared to class leaders such as the Honda Accord and the Mazda 6, the Malibu evokes an unfortunate rental-class feel—unless the buyer … opts for the most-expensive Premier trim." -- Car and Driver
  • "The Malibu RS doesn't offer enough, with enough pizazz, to offer a serious challenge to similarly-priced and -positioned competitors. Some real talk here: If Chevy wants to keep selling Malibus a few years on, it's going to need more than a revised grille and some exhaust tips – or a shady plot in the graveyard of runner-up sedans, next to the Fusion, awaits." -- Autoblog (2019)
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