A nearly new hybrid can save you money and gas, but which is the better bargain, the Toyota Avalon hybrid or the Chevrolet Malibu hybrid?
For the frugal among us, eking out one or two additional miles per gallon is indisputably worth the obsession. But rather than meticulously track your mpg and tack on aftermarket aero bits, you could just buy a lightly used hybrid like the Toyota Avalon hybrid or Chevy Malibu hybrid and make marginal savings as simple as possible.
Right at the national average price for used cars at $25,000, you’ll find the 2019 model year Chevy Malibu hybrid and the 2017 model year Toyota Avalon hybrid with between 20,000 and 40,000 miles on the odometer. Both cars come with plenty of modern conveniences and are impressively efficient while sacrificing little in terms of drivability.
The 2017 Toyota Avalon hybrid comes with a 2.5L four-cylinder engine paired with an electric motor to make 200 horsepower. The electric motor makes 199 lb.-ft. of torque between 0 and 1,500 rpm and from there the gas engine takes over, making a peak torque figure of 156 lb.-ft. at 4,500 rpm. A CVT is the sole transmission and the Avalon hybrid exclusively in front-wheel drive. Fuel economy comes in at 40 city and 39 highway mpg.
The 2019 Chevrolet Malibu hybrid runs a 1.8L four-cylinder that works in tandem with two electric motors for 182 horsepower and 277 lb.-ft. of torque. The Malibu also comes with a CVT and in front-wheel drive. Fuel economy is even more impressive at 49 city and 43 highway mpg.
The days of the sluggish hybrid are long gone. Toyota Avalon hybrid offers good pull off the line thanks to the electric torque and is well complimented by taught steering and impressive braking. The Avalon isn’t really emphasizing sportiness though. Rather its primary focus is delivering a smooth and unperturbed ride. Unlike some hybrids, the Avalon transitions between electric and gas power seamlessly, not a clunk felt nor heard.
The Chevy Malibu hybrid also offers a decently sporty drive. In spite of its size and extra weight, the Malibu hybrid still corners well, and acceleration is likewise impressive. It too makes good use of the electric motors’ added torque, hitting 55 mph before asking for gas powered assistance (the Avalon switches above 20 mph). And yet, the Malibu also chooses to emphasize a pleasant and compliant ride rather than trying to be a sports sedan. The additional torque and greater fuel economy put the Malibu ahead of the Avalon, and when efficiency is the primary reason to go hybrid, the latter counts for a lot.
Set the respective cabins of the Chevy Malibu hybrid and Toyota Avalon hybrid side-by-side and you quickly discover why the Toyota tends to command the higher price (hence the two-year difference in our comparison). The Toyota Avalon possesses a near luxury level design with high-quality materials throughout. The front seats are noteworthy for their long-distance comfort and just-right level of bolstering that holds without feeling tight. The Avalon rounds out this package with a serenely quiet ride and plentiful storage in the door bins and center console. The trunk measures 14 cu. ft.
The Chevy Malibu has a difficult time avoiding a rental car aura given its liberal use of hard plastics and less than inspired design. Though the front seat is decently spacious, rear seat headroom is constricted by the sloping “coupe-like” rake of the roofline. The seats are, however, decently comfortable. As livable as the Malibu is, the Avalon is clearly a step ahead when it comes to interior quality.
XLE Plus – 17-inch alloy wheels, a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system, eight-speaker stereo, satellite radio, eight-way power driver’s seat, leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, and a sunroof. Standard safety items include adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, and forward collision warning.
XLE Premium – Adds fog lights, navigation, memory driver’s seat settings, rear cross-traffic alerts, and blind spot monitoring.
Limited – Tri-zone climate control, 10-way power driver’s seat, heated rear seats, 11-speaker JBL stereo, ambient lighting, and automatic wipers.
The Chevrolet Malibu hybrid comes in five trim levels, with the base markedly more spartan than the Avalon.
L – Keyless entry, 8-inch touchscreen, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth, satellite radio, Wi-Fi hotspot. Standard safety items are limited to the Teen Driver system that allow owners to pre-set limits on speed and stereo volume and a rearview camera.
Additional safety options include blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, rear-parking sensors, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, and pedestrian detection.
LS – 4G LTE connection, 16-inch alloy wheels
RS – Remote start, 18-inch alloys, black exterior accenting, and leather-wrapped steering wheel.
LT – LED daytime running lights, remote start, 8-way power driver’s seat, dual-zone climate control, 17-inch alloys.
Premier – Navigation, Bose premium stereo, 18-inch wheels, ventilated front seats, wireless charging, and ambient lighting.
Though the two hybrids are fairly evenly matched when it comes to driving characteristics. The Malibu comes out decidedly ahead on fuel economy at a stunning 49 city mpg versus the Avalon’s 40 city mpg. On the other end of the scale is the Avalon’s superior interior space, which is roomier, more comfortable, and more stylish than that of the Malibu’s. The Avalon also gets points for the much more generous list of standard safety features.
For this comparison, you’ve really got to ask yourself: how much do those extra mpg numbers matter compared to the quality of the rest of the car? Because in the end the Toyota Avalon hybrid is the superior value by nearly every other metric. So for the frugal among us, the Avalon is the better buy at $25,000.