At the heart of the Chevrolet Malibu are a pair of efficient, turbocharged engines. The base engine is a 1.5L turbocharged 4-cylinder unit that produces 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. With this engine, power is routed through a 6-speed automatic to the front wheels. The optional drivetrain for the Malibu is a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder making a healthy 250 horsepower connected to a 9-speed automatic, again powering the front wheels. Acceleration with either engine feels plenty fast, thanks in large part to the weight loss the model went through with its redesign.
An intriguing option on the 2018 Malibu is a hybrid drivetrain, which boasts mileage numbers of 45 mpg highway and 48 mpg in the city. The hybrid drivetrain combines a 1.8L 4-cylinder engine with two electric motors, for a total of 182 horsepower and the ability to drive on electricity alone at speeds up to 55 mph.
The Malibu is available in four trim levels: L, LS, LT and Premier. The base L model is far from a bare-bones sedan, featuring most of the amenities one would expect from a mid-sized car. Standard features across the entire Malibu line include remote keyless entry, power, programmable door locks, a 6-speaker sound system, Bluetooth connectivity for phones, steering wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls, OnStar navigation with a 6-month subscription, an anti-theft system, keyless start and a hill-start assist system.
LS models add 16-inch aluminum wheels, a rearview camera, Chevrolet's MyLink infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and 7-inch touchscreen, 4G LTE connectivity with WiFi capability, Bluetooth audio streaming and a USB port for the stereo.
The LT equipment package improves on the LS by adding a bevy of standard features, including LED daytime running lights, heated power adjustable outside mirrors with integrated turn signals, 17-inch aluminum wheels, SiriusXM Satellite radio, improved interior lighting, an 8-way power adjustable driver's seat and express up/down control for the driver's window.
The top-of-the-line Premier is powered by the 2.0L turbocharged engine and adds some extra bling to the exterior, with chrome door handles, LED tail lights, 19-inch aluminum wheels and bright sill plates. The premium feel carries over to the interior with drivers being greeted by leather seating surfaces, a heated, leather wrapped steering wheel, power adjustable, heated and cooled front seats, an 8-inch color touchscreen display controlling a 9-speaker Bose sound system, dual-zone, automatic climate control, a wireless charger for phones and a rear seat USB port.
The Malibu Hybrid is equipped largely like the LT and adds an electronic parking brake and dual-zone automatic climate control.
A Sport Package adds 18-inch alloys and all-season low-profile tires, with a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter inside. The Premier Sun and Wheel Package includes a power sunroof and Universal Home Remote.
There's nothing about the 2019 Chevrolet Malibu that makes it radically different than its predecessor. The midsize sedan's midcycle refresh focuses largely on powertrain and technology improvements, with a few styling tweaks to round out the updated package. The end result is a Malibu that's as spacious and easy to drive as it's always been. But a number of inherent shortcomings will continue to prevent the Malibu from being more than, at best, a midpack pick.
The big news for 2019 is the addition of the RS trim you see here, with unique 18-inch wheels, a rear spoiler, dual exhaust outlets, black badges and a black gloss grille. It's a styling package -- think Toyota Camry SE -- intended to offer a bit more visual flair at the lower end of the Malibu's price range. Of course, you'll have to like the way the refreshed Malibu looks to begin with, and quite frankly, I don't. That huge grille doesn't do the car any favors, nor do the overstyled plastic trim pieces in the lower turn signal housings.
Like most Malibu models, the RS is powered by a 1.5-liter turbocharged I4 engine, with 163 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. A continuously variable transmission replaces the previous six-speed automatic, which ought to result in improved efficiency. The EPA hasn't released official fuel economy for the 2019 Malibu with the 1.5-liter engine, but the 2018 model was rated at a respectable 27 miles per gallon city, 36 mpg highway and 30 mpg combined.
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