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2021 Chevrolet Malibu Performance

#9 out of 9 in Midsize Cars

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2021 Chevrolet Malibu Performance Review


Performance: 7.0/10

The 2021 Chevrolet Malibu is a capable and fuel-efficient city car, but its base engine struggles at higher speeds. The available engine feels more capable. Ride quality is fine, but there’s little to make it stand out.

  • "Its ride, handling, and power delivery are unremarkable – few demerits and certainly no plaudits." -- Autoblog (2019)
  • "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 (2019)
  • "So while that shiny new RS badge may hint at something more, the … Malibu is still a soft, smooth-riding family car, just like last year. The new CVT fits its character perfectly." -- Car and Driver (2019)

Engine Options, Horsepower, and Acceleration

  • Base engine: turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder with 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque
  • Available engine: turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 250 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque (Premier)
  • Drivetrain: front-wheel drive
  • Transmission: standard continuously variable automatic (CVT); standard nine-speed automatic in Premier trim

The base inline-four engine is fine. It’s not brimming with power, and many rivals have stronger ones, but it’s good enough for getting around town. The CVT that comes with it does a good job simulating the shifts of a regular automatic transmission. For additional pep and quicker acceleration, look to the Premier’s more powerful engine.

  • "For the most part, the Malibu holds up well … even though its turbocharged 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, with 160 horsepower, is satisfactory at best." -- Autotrader
  • "Like its competitors, the Malibu can be equipped with different powertrains. There are two turbocharged four-cylinder engine options: a base 1.5-liter and a 2.0-liter engine. An additional hybrid option is also available for maximizing efficiency. We like the hybrid as well as the zesty 2.0-liter engine, but the base 1.5-liter engine – the one most commonly found at dealer lots – is sluggish." -- Edmunds (2020)
  • "While the horsepower figure may seem a bit light for a midsize sedan, the torque has enough pull to get the Malibu off the line smartly. The combination of seamless acceleration and the availability of the stepped ratios lessens the traditional drivability issues of CVTs." -- Kelley Blue Book (2019)

MPG Estimates

With its base engine, the Malibu returns excellent ratings of 29 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. Getting the stronger engine drops those estimates to 22 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway.

Handling and Braking

The Malibu rides smoothly on most types of pavement. Its poised handling helps it remain planted around turns, and while the steering can be a bit light, it does boost this car’s maneuverability.

  • "On the road, the 2021 Malibu impresses. While it isn’t the most engaging midsize sedan – that honor goes to the Mazda6 – the Malibu feels light on its feet, sporty and totally comfortable yet composed in corners." -- Autotrader
  • "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 (2019)
  • "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 (2019)
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2021 Chevrolet Malibu

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