$12,832 - $19,561

2018 Chevrolet Malibu Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2018 Chevrolet Malibu was new.


Performance: 8.0

The 2018 Chevrolet Malibu is a comfortable cruiser. Instead of offering the bland handling that frequently plagues four-door cars, its handling is agile and polished. Its available 2.0-liter turbocharged engine provides a satisfying amount of power. Still, this is still a family sedan at its heart. Expect a smooth ride, but not heart-thumping acceleration or cornering.

  • "We also like how it drives. The high-class Premier trim is surprisingly sporty, with excellent handling and a peppy turbocharged engine." -- Edmunds (2017)
  • "All models of the new Malibu are extremely quiet, with continued use of dual-pane glass to keep things hushed and relaxed. That attitude extends to the handling – it's neither a barge nor a sports car, instead hitting an everyman sweet spot that should appeal to most buyers, which is to say not enthusiasts." -- Autoblog (2016)
  • "On the street, the new Malibu 1.5T is a pleasant surprise. Based on my experiences with the base engine in the last Malibu, I expected this one to be a dog. I'm quite happy to report that's no longer the case. Although the last Malibu had lots of trouble dealing with freeway travel, whether it was merging, staying in one gear, or just not being a noisy box of bees, the new one has plenty of power to quickly and quietly merge on to the freeway or pass traffic, and it doesn't have trouble picking and choosing a gear." -- Motor Trend (2016)

Acceleration and Power

The majority of Malibu trims come with a turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission. This 160-horsepower combination has enough power for most daily driving needs and can get the car up to speed relatively quickly. It has one of the highest fuel economy ratings in the class: 27 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway.

The base engine isn't overly powerful, but there is an antidote. With the Malibu Premier’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and nine-speed automatic transmission, horsepower increases to 250. This powertrain is much more capable for quickly getting up a mountain pass or overtaking slower traffic. Gas mileage dips to 22 mpg in the city and 32 on the highway.

  • "Standard on 2018 Malibu models from L through LT1 is the 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder with 6-speed automatic. This frugal drivetrain has little problem moving the Malibu, and returns up to 36 mpg on the highway. Premier models get the 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which gets the new Malibu moving without hesitation." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "If there's one kink in the Malibu's otherwise excellent design, it's the rather weak 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. … This motor offers less power than any competitor's and even falls behind the engines in some compact cars such as the VW GTI and Mazda3." -- Autotrader (2016)
  • "The 1.5-liter turbo engine … is about as meager as it gets in this segment, so don't expect a stirring experience when you mat the gas pedal. On the other hand, the ample turbocharged torque hits early and often, so when you're climbing a hill or simply keeping up with traffic, this engine can feel virtually effortless. Overall, we'd say it's just fine for most purposes, but if you're underwhelmed on your test drive, be sure to check out the energetic 2.0-liter turbo, which makes the Malibu a much quicker car." -- Edmunds (2016)

Handling and Braking

The front-wheel-drive Malibu achieves the challenging task of being both relaxing to ride in and enjoyable to drive. Its suspension system expertly smooths out jolts, and the cabin is quiet. At the same time, this doesn't translate to a snooze-worthy driving experience; the suspension's athletic tinge makes for an agile, poised sedan.

  • "The Malibu's steering is nicely weighted and direct, delivering good feedback. Our Malibu's big 19-inch wheel/tire setup should have made for a jarring ride, but happily this was not the case. We credit the well-sorted suspension that absorbs bumps and road distortions as easily as it tackles tight corners and rapid lane changes. While the Malibu's driving dynamics are not quite up to the standards set by the Mazda6, it certainly feels livelier than the Nissan Altima, Honda Accord or Hyundai Sonata." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "On the road, the 2017 Malibu offers a lot of impressive characteristics. While it isn't the most engaging midsize sedan – that honor goes to the Mazda6, with the Ford Fusion a close runner-up – we vastly prefer the new Malibu's driving experience to that of the model that came before it. It's light on its feet, sporty, and yet composed in corners. It also offers high levels of comfort and a cabin that's well-insulated from road and engine noise." -- Autotrader (2017)
  • "Whichever powertrain you select, the Malibu possesses a newfound nimbleness that makes it at least mildly entertaining to drive. Even the Hybrid is surprisingly light on its feet. Ride quality also remains a Malibu strength, with most bumps and ruts getting expertly filtered out before they reach the cabin." -- Edmunds (2017)

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