2018 Chevrolet Malibu

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MSRP: $21,680 - 31,020

2018 Chevrolet Malibu Review

The 2018 Chevrolet Malibu shines in the areas of safety, passenger room, and value. Still, its small standard features list and merely average predicted reliability rating keep it from ranking higher in the competitive midsize car class.

Pros & Cons

 

  • Intuitive infotainment system
  • Spacious back seat with lots of legroom
  • Fuel-sipping base engine 

 

 

  • Few standard features in base model
  • Some low-rent interior materials
  • Less convenient trunk space than some rivals

 

Is the Chevrolet Malibu a Good Car?

If you're in the market for a midsize car, the Chevrolet Malibu is a great choice. It has the lowest starting price in the class and a remarkable list of available safety features, including a Teen Driver system that lets parents set limits for novice drivers. It also has superb crash test ratings, and passengers will appreciate its spacious, comfortable back seat. With some of the highest fuel economy estimates in its class, commuters will love the Malibu as well. The Malibu Hybrid provides these same benefits, as well as increased fuel efficiency. We named the Malibu a Best New Car for Teens. It was also a finalist for our 2018 Best Midsize Car for the Money award for its overall quality and value. We also deemed it a finalist for our 2018 Best Midsize Car for Families award thanks to the vehicle's ample space, great safety ratings, and family-friendly tech. 

Should I Buy the Chevrolet Malibu?

Shoppers looking for a roomy and comfortable midsize car with great safety ratings will be pleased with the Malibu. It also delivers excellent fuel economy estimates at a low starting price. However, it doesn't come with as many standard features as its competitors. This car is a great option, but you might want to disregard the base model.

Once you spend an extra $1,500 to upgrade to the LS trim, you'll get many more features. They include a rearview camera, a Wi-Fi hot spot, and a well-loved infotainment system with smartphone integration (via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto).

If you're looking for a swankier cabin, check out the Honda Accord. It has a stylish interior and a plethora of first-rate materials. The Ford Fusion is a good fit for those who want something more exciting to look at and drive. Its handling is agile, and the Fusion Sport has a twin-turbocharged V6 that will invigorate your drive. 

Compare the Malibu, Fusion, and Accord »

Should I Buy a New or Used Chevrolet Malibu?

There haven't been many major changes to the Malibu since its redesign for the 2016 model year. The 2017 model received a new nine-speed automatic transmission, though fuel economy didn't appreciably change, and the 2018 model gets a surround-view camera. With those being the big highlights for the newer model years, Malibu shoppers could save potentially thousands of dollars by shopping for a used 2016 or 2017 model, which would be nearly identical to the new model.

If you're interested in a used model, be sure to visit our overviews of the 2016 and 2017 Malibu. Also, check out our Used Car Deals page to learn about savings and discounts on used vehicles. 

Compare the 2016, 2017, and 2018 Malibu »

We Did the Research for You: 26 Reviews Analyzed

To create our comprehensive 2018 Chevrolet Malibu review, we analyzed 26 professional evaluations. Our team of experts then added in vital data – including reliability ratings, available safety features, and crash test results – to help you find all the information you need in one location.

This Chevy Malibu review includes applicable research from all model years in the current generation, which spans the 2016 through 2018 model years.

Why You Can Trust Us

U.S. News & World Report reviews cars, trucks, and SUVs for our Best Cars rankings and awards. Our team of writers, editors, and analysts have more than 75 years of combined automotive knowledge. To keep our reviews unbiased, we refuse expensive gifts and trips from automakers, and an outside team handles the advertising on our site.

How Much Does the Chevrolet Malibu Cost?

At $21,680, the starting price of a new 2018 Malibu is among the lowest for midsize cars. That said, it's worth noting that the price gap is minimal for the bulk of this segment. For example, you'll pay just under $23,500 for a Toyota Camry, which is on the high end of the spectrum.

Beyond the base L trim, the Malibu is also available as the LS ($23,225) and LT ($25,125). The sticker price for the top-of-the-line Premier starts at $30,975. 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 Chevy deals page.

Chevrolet Malibu Versus the Competition

Which Is Better: Chevrolet Malibu or Toyota Camry?

The Toyota Camry was redesigned for 2018, marking the beginning of a new generation. The interior and exterior of this sedan have a brand new look, multiple engine options (including a fuel-efficient base engine), and more standard features. Compared to the Malibu, the Camry is the better vehicle. While you'll have to choose higher trims and additional packages to get a good amount of active safety features in the Malibu, every Camry has Toyota Safety Sense, a group of advanced driver assistance features. With it, you get pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control. Additionally, the Camry has sprightlier performance and a nicer interior. It also earns a much better predicted reliability score than the Malibu. If you're willing to pay a little bit more, the Camry is definitely worth the investment.

Which Is Better: Chevrolet Malibu or Honda Accord?

The Honda Accord is one of the most popular sedans in the midsize car class, and it’s a better choice than the Malibu. It has a smooth ride, a premium cabin, a much better predicted reliability rating, and top-notch technology. There aren't many complaints when it comes to the Accord. It has superior fuel economy ratings, and it comes with standard driver assistance features like a Honda Sensing system. The latter includes active safety features like forward collision warning, lane departure warning, and traffic sign recognition.

Which Is Better: Chevrolet Malibu or Ford Fusion?

If you're looking for athletic performance, you will most likely prefer the Ford Fusion to the Malibu. More specifically, the Ford Fusion Sport, which comes with a powerful 325-horsepower twin-turbocharged V6 engine. The Fusion also has a higher predicted reliability score. If you prefer a comfortable car with high fuel economy ratings, stick with the Chevy Malibu.

Compare the Malibu, Camry, and Accord »

Malibu Interior

How Many People Does the Malibu Seat?

You can seat five people inside the Chevy Malibu, and with its generous cabin space, your roster can include up to four adults. Its liberal rear-seat legroom lets you stretch out more than you could in the back of a Hyundai Sonata or Nissan Altima. Adjusting the driver's seat for a comfortable position and great view of the road is easy, especially if you upgrade to the power-adjustable driver's seat. Headroom is about average for the class.

Malibu and Car Seats

You can fit two car seats in the back of a new Malibu, with a full set of LATCH anchors at each outboard seat and a third tether anchor for the middle seat. All that extra legroom in the back means tykes have more space to swing their feet without kicking the seat in front of them. Finding and using the LATCH anchors is pretty easy for most caregivers, though some say it takes a little extra effort to clip seats into the lower anchors. 

Malibu Interior Quality

The cabin design and materials are similar to what you'll find in many other midsize cars. Though the Malibu is a bit unexceptional in this regard, there's nothing really wrong here that might make you think twice before buying. Entry-level models have lots of soft touch points (with some hard plastics), and uplevel trims get premium treatments such as upscale leather upholstery, chrome trim with a satin finish, and two-tone color schemes.

Malibu Cargo Space

Looking at numbers alone, you should be able to fit enough carry-on-sized suitcases for a family of five in the Malibu. Its trunk measures 15.8 cubic feet, which is typical for a vehicle this size. In practice, though, the trunk is on the shallow side, and the available real estate is somewhat limited by the trunk lid hinges. Chevrolet adds back in a little convenience for hauling oversized items by placing the release handles for the split-folding rear seats in the trunk.

Malibu Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

Whether you enjoy using a responsive touch screen or like the feel of regular buttons and knobs, you'll find the infotainment settings easy to operate. The entry-level L model comes with a basic stereo, but all other trims feature the Chevrolet MyLink interface and a 7- or 8-inch touch screen. The menus are intuitive to use, and therefore easy to learn. Under the screen are more audio and climate controls, all clearly marked and well within reach. Additional perks of the MyLink interface are smartphone integration (with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay), a Wi-Fi hot spot, and a rearview camera. 

For more information, read What Is Apple CarPlay? and What Is Android Auto? Then, see the Best Cars With Apple CarPlay and Best Cars With Android Auto.

Read more about interior »

Malibu Performance

Malibu Engine: 2 Turbocharged Engines to Pick From

If most of your driving keeps you within urban areas or on flat land, Malibu's base engine will serve you well. This turbocharged 1.5-liter engine – which powers all but the Premier trim levels – has enough pull to pleasantly get around town and keep up with traffic. It won't blow your socks off, but if you want your sedan to pack a little more punch, there's also a turbo 2.0-liter engine with more horsepower available. It's livelier off the line and better suited for brisk hill climbs and overtaking slower vehicles. Chevrolet pairs this engine with a nine-speed automatic transmission, upgraded from the standard six-speed automatic.

Malibu Gas Mileage: Base Engine Is Outstanding

With the base 1.5-liter engine, you’ll get one of the best fuel economy ratings for a vehicle this size. It's rated at a very commuter-friendly 27 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. Swap to the more powerful 2.0-liter engine, and your gas mileage will take a hit. This powertrain's rating of 22 mpg in the city and 32 on the highway (plus its requirement for premium gasoline) adds on about $500 to your yearly fuel costs.

Malibu Ride and Handling: Smooth and Mildly Sporty

The front-wheel-drive Malibu is a comfortable commuter. It pulls off a relaxing ride while still maintaining a bit of a sporty feel. Though it isn't as athletic as a Mazda6 or Ford Fusion, drivers will still appreciate the Malibu's nimble, composed handling. Passengers will be happy to know that the trade-off isn't a harsh ride; even with the larger available wheels, the ride is smooth.

Read more about performance »

Malibu Reliability

Is the Chevrolet Malibu Reliable?

The 2018 Chevy Malibu has a predicted reliability rating of three out of five from J.D. Power. That's an average rating in general but a little below average for the midsize car class.

Chevrolet Malibu Warranty

The Malibu comes with a three-year/36,000-mile limited warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Read more about reliability »

Malibu Safety

Malibu Crash Test Results

The 2018 Malibu has a perfect five-star overall rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, earning five stars in frontal and side crash testing. It earned four stars in rollover testing. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named the Malibu a Top Safety Pick and gave it the top rating of Good in all five test categories. The IIHS also notes that Malibu models outfitted with the available front automatic braking system offer a Superior level – the highest ranking possible – of front crash prevention.

Malibu Safety Features

The Malibu does not come standard with a rearview camera, and it's one of the few in the class missing this feature. In comparison, you'll find this helpful system included in every Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, and Ford Fusion.

Chevrolet does offer a lot of active safety features for the Malibu, but most require the LT or Premier trim level, plus the additional Driver Confidence package. Available safety features include a rearview camera, a 360-degree camera system, Teen Driver, forward collision warning, front pedestrian braking, low-speed front automatic braking, automatic high beams, front and rear parking sensors, blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, a following distance indicator, and rear cross traffic alert.

Read more about safety »

Which Chevrolet Malibu Model Is Right for Me?

There are four Malibu trim levels to choose from (L, LS, LT, and Premier) and two powertrain options (a turbocharged 1.5-liter engine with a six-speed automatic transmission, and a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine with a nine-speed automatic transmission). The Malibu Hybrid is reviewed separately. The main differences between the L, LS, and LT trims relate to the technology that's included and the add-on packages that are available. The top-level Premier edition is the most luxurious in the lineup and is the only trim level to come with the 2.0-liter engine.

We cover each trim in more detail below. If you're searching for an excellent value, you'll want to take a closer look at the Malibu LS. It costs only $1,545 more than the base model, which seems like a small premium to pay for all of the convenient technology you gain. Among its treats are a user-friendly infotainment system with a 7-inch touch screen, smartphone integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a rearview camera.  

Chevrolet Malibu L

The base Malibu L comes with a six-speaker audio system, keyless entry, push-button start, cloth upholstery, and Chevy’s Rear Seat Reminder. MSRP starts at $21,680.

Chevrolet Malibu LS

Pricing starts at $23,225 for the LS trim, which comes with a much more advanced infotainment setup. The Chevrolet MyLink infotainment system features a 7-inch touch screen, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth, a USB port, a Wi-Fi hot spot, and a rearview camera. Teen Driver – a system that lets parents set speed and stereo volume limits for younger drivers – also comes standard.

Chevrolet Malibu LT

Only a few extras are added to the $25,125 LT trim, including a satellite radio, heated side mirrors, and an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat. The key advantage with this trim over the LS is that Chevrolet offers more add-ons, such as the Convenience and Technology package (which includes an 8-inch touch screen and wireless charging for smartphones) and the Driver Confidence package (Chevrolet's suite of advanced safety features).

Chevrolet Malibu Premier

Without adding any extras, you'll pay $30,975 for the top-drawer Premier trim. This is the sole version powered by the turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and a nine-speed automatic transmission. It's also the most opulent edition in the fleet, adding leather upholstery, a leather-wrapped heated steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, and heated and ventilated front seats. Its technology upgrades include an 8-inch touch screen, navigation, a nine-speaker Bose audio system, a color display for the driver information center, two rear-seat USB charging ports, a 120-volt power outlet, and wireless smartphone charging.

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 Chevy deals page.

See 2018 Chevrolet Malibu specs and trims »

The Final Call

The Chevrolet Malibu illustrates all the traits that make a great daily driver. Its seats are comfortable and have enough room to easily accommodate long-legged passengers in the back seat. The ride is smooth and quiet enough to keep the baby sleeping, but dynamic enough to rouse the driver. Additionally, this car's pedigree includes very good crash test results.

All but the base model come with an easy-to-use infotainment system that lets you connect your smartphone (and favorite apps) to the touch screen. Shoppers searching out the lowest-priced model will lament that this system and a few other features are missing from the base model. It’s worth it to step up at least one level above the entry model.

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

  • "Chevy's midsize 2018 Malibu sedan has every advantage it needs to take on rivals like the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Ford Fusion. A class-leading option roster that includes such must-haves as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, automatic parking assist and adaptive cruise control, matches the Malibu's first-class styling. The 2018 Chevrolet Malibu sedan's interior is also a thing of beauty, with a brightly colored infotainment display and a back seat built to accommodate two adult-sized occupants. … Best of all, even with all these features, the 2018 Malibu's price remains highly competitive." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The Malibu distinguishes itself in a number of ways, the most obvious being with its sleek styling, ample technology features and excellent fuel economy. But does the Malibu's bold look hide a mediocre car underneath? For the first time in years when talking about this Chevy, we can honestly say that we don't think so. The latest Malibu isn't just handsome and striking; it's also technologically advanced, fuel efficient and comfortable. … If you're interested in a midsize sedan, it might surprise you to discover that this is absolutely one that deserves a spot on your shopping list." -- Autotrader (2017)
  • "Though the Malibu isn't superior to any of these competitors in any objective way, we think it's a solid and stylish sedan that most midsize sedan shoppers should put on their consideration list." -- Edmunds (2017)
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