2019 Chevrolet Malibu

Performance


#15 out of 19 in Midsize Cars

$22,090 MSRP
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2019 Chevrolet Malibu Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 7.8

The 2019 Chevrolet Malibu won't blow you away with its performance. Its base engine and handling are competent, and the available turbo-four is peppy, but many rivals are more athletic. The Malibu makes waves with its ride quality, which remains smooth over rough pavement and makes this sedan right at home as a family cruiser.

  • "Overall, we found the Malibu RS very pleasant and never once thought of rental cars. Ride and handling are good, quiet prevails inside the cabin, the steering is right on the money, and powertrain response is snappy enough to suit us." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "As for the 1.5, it's largely inoffensive and mostly quiet in operation, with enough power to get the Malibu up and moving, though certainly not in a hurry. The CVT tends to hang out between 2,500 and 3,500 rpm under normal acceleration, but dig deep into the throttle and the transmission will 'shift' at higher revs, mimicking the action of a conventional automatic." -- CNET
  • "So while that shiny new RS badge may hint at something more, the 2019 Malibu is still a soft, smooth-riding family car, just like last year. The new CVT fits its character perfectly." -- Car and Driver

Acceleration and Power

The Malibu comes standard with a turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 163 horsepower. It's paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which is a type of automatic. This engine moves the Malibu well enough, but it doesn't feel energetic or powerful. The CVT, which is new for 2019, complements the engine well.

A turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 250 horsepower is available. This engine is mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission. This powertrain provides a more engaging driving experience and delivers notably better acceleration.

EPA fuel economy estimates for the Malibu with its base engine and the new transmission are not yet available. The 2018 model is rated at 27 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. Few nonhybrid midsize cars can match those ratings. With its turbo-four engine, the 2019 Malibu gets an EPA-estimated 22 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway.

  • "Don't expect any contribution to the sportiness from the powertrain. The 1.5-liter engine and CVT are adequate — but neither rises beyond that descriptor. Frankly, the Malibu feels immense, but as we found out in 2016, it's not terribly heavy, so the 1.5 works just fine here. Its ride, handling, and power delivery are unremarkable — few demerits and certainly no plaudits." -- Autoblog
  • "In light of the low Body Mass Index, engineers slipped in a puny turbocharged DOHC 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 163 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. Throttle response isn't bad, and with peak torque available at 2,500 rpm, the real-world driving experience is zesty." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "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 (2018)

Handling and Braking

The Malibu fits the bill as an easy-to-drive family sedan. It handles reasonably well, though it doesn't live up to the standard set by rivals like the Honda Accord and Mazda6. The Malibu's ride quality stands out – this Chevy absorbs road imperfections large and small without much trouble. Front-wheel drive comes standard; all-wheel drive is not offered.

  • "While the RS has a more performance-oriented look, the car handles and drives like you'd expect from a midsize family hauler. The ride is smooth, well-controlled and supple. The steering is a bit on the light side, but overall, the Malibu RS goes where you point it with little in the way of muss and fuss." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "On the road, we were pleasantly surprised to be reminded that the Malibu is a competent handler. It corners with enough athleticism to challenge most of the midsize field. The steering is very light and a bit numb, which is fine for city duty but somewhat of a disappointment when you get out on a back road and realize the Malibu actually has a little hustle." -- Edmunds
  • "Even on upsized 18-inch wheels and P245/45-series all-season tires, the Malibu has a perfectly compliant ride. There's enough damping to easily smooth out smaller imperfections on the highway, and the car doesn't completely fall apart when pushed through more engaging corners. … With light steering and solid, progressive braking feel, the Malibu is effortless and pleasant to drive. It's not nearly as engaging as a Honda Accord or Mazda6, but offers a solid behind-the-wheel experience." -- CNET
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