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2021 Chevrolet Malibu Review

As the last sedan that Chevrolet makes, we wonder if it’s about to begin a resurgence of the segment or fade away. Here’s the 2021 Chevrolet Malibu.

What’s New for the 2021 Chevrolet Malibu

The American sedan is in a strange state of affairs. Ford has nixed the segment altogether. Dodge and Chevrolet each have a single sedan on offer for customers. While the Charger is selling incredibly well considering its underpinnings, the Chevrolet Malibu can’t seem to come anywhere near such numbers. That’s surprising considering how well it’s faired in the used market. After our extensive review, it’s not too hard to see where this classic nameplate is missing the mark. Let’s dig into the details of the 2021 Chevrolet Malibu.

Introduced in 2016, this generation of the Malibu is built to provide a safe, satisfactory ride with younger drivers in mind. To that end, Chevrolet has added wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for 2021. In addition, there’s a special “Sport Edition” package with black trim and special 19-inch wheels.

2021 Chevrolet Malibu - chevrolet.com

2021 Chevrolet Malibu – chevrolet.com |  Shop 2021 Chevrolet Malibu on Carsforsale.com

Body Style

Starting Price

MSRP $23,265

Drivetrain

Drivetrain

FWD

Drivetrain

Fuel Economy

29 City / 36 Hwy (MPG)

Number of Seats

Seating

Seats 5

The Breakdown

Buckle-to-Drive is sure to be a parent’s favorite

Premier infotainment system is great

36 mpg highway impresses

CVT is lackluster to say the least

Visibility is lacking compared to rivals

Bottom trim levels are really spartan

Chevrolet needs a Charger challenger

2021 Chevrolet Malibu Specs

Trims & Pricing

L - $23,265
LS - $24,395
RS - $25,395
LT - $27,795
Premier - $34,495

2021 Chevrolet Malibu Powertrain

2021 Chevrolet Malibu 1.5L I4 - carsforsale.com
2021 Chevrolet Malibu 1.5L I4 - carsforsale.com

Chevrolet is well known for innovating in the past decade, but the Malibu seems to be forgotten by the brand. While the Corvette, Sierra, and Bolt lead the way for Chevrolet, the 2021 Chevrolet Malibu uses a lackluster 1.5-liter 4-cylinder in every trim level aside from the range-topping Premier model. The CVT paired to it makes things even less enjoyable for what was originally born as an illustrious model many strived to own. Rated at just 160 horsepower, the engine struggles to feel like a modern car anytime that you need to merge on the highway or overtake.

The 2.0-liter mated to a 9-speed transmission is dramatically better. It’s still not how we would configure a modern Malibu, but it’s the only drivetrain that really keeps this car competitive with its rivals. Rated at 250 horsepower, it’s quick to respond to throttle input and the 9-speed automatic is excellent.

2021 Chevrolet Malibu 2.0L I4 - carsforsale.com
2021 Chevrolet Malibu 2.0L I4 - carsforsale.com

Beyond the engine the rest of the way a new 2021 Chevrolet Malibu drives is identical regardless of trim level. Body roll is pretty well reigned in, but both steering and braking feedback could be substantially improved. As a general rule throughout the lineup both controls are a bit more muted than we’d like, especially for the likely demographic of younger drivers that could benefit from more communicative brakes and steering.

2021 Chevrolet Malibu Fuel Economy & MPG

One area where the 2021 Chevrolet Malibu shines is fuel economy. At 26 mpg city and 36 mpg highway for a combined 32 mpg, it makes for a strong competitor. For those who want a sedan that can achieve such a high number, the Malibu could be an attractive choice. Sadly, once buyers bump up to the best engine in the range it’s no longer a leader, but still manages to be in the conversation with a combined rating of 26 mpg.

Interior, Comfort, & Cargo Space

Inside the 2021 Chevrolet Malibu, almost anyone will be capable of getting comfortable. It’s downright spacious and that’s a welcome reprieve from so many others in the segment that look similarly sized but are more snug inside. While the dash layout feels quite inexpensive, that’s likely tied more to the layout that’s very similar in cars like the Trax and Sonic.

Also disappointing is that the lower tiered models are lacking of some pretty obvious stuff like climate vents in the second-row. Slightly disappointing is the noise level inside the cabin. Regardless of the engine choice, both will make their presence known to passengers. In general, passengers will notice exterior noise from the road and external sources when the stereo system isn’t at work.

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Ride comfort is fine otherwise though with the Malibu providing a comfortable place to be over many miles of different road conditions. The Premier trim is by far the most pleasurable Malibu with excellent heated seats in four of five seats and ventilation for the front buckets. We also appreciate the heated steering wheel in the Premier model.

Entertainment & Technology

2021 Chevrolet Malibu - chevrolet.com
2021 Chevrolet Malibu - chevrolet.com

For the base model, it’s nice that Chevrolet includes stuff like the 8-inch touchscreen, keyless entry and ignition system, as well as wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Still though, much like the situation that exists with the powertrain, all trim levels aside from Premier suffer from the lack of the excellent infotainment system in that model. For those that can afford it though, it’s well worth the cost. The 9-speaker suite is clear and competent and perfectly highlights how good this car can be when Chevrolet gives it the bells and whistles.

Safety Features

First and foremost, it’s important to note that while the 2021 Chevrolet Malibu scored the highest possible score in frontal crash tests conducted by the NHTSA, it only rated 4-stars overall. Other concerns we have are due to the lack of active and passive safety equipment like adaptive cruise control, automated emergency braking, and blind-spot monitoring. None of these features are standard and can only be had by optioning specific packages on top of the base price of the Malibu.

2021 Chevrolet Malibu Trims & Pricing

2021 Chevrolet Malibu L - chevrolet.com
2021 Chevrolet Malibu L - chevrolet.com

L – $23,265

The L trim is very utilitarian with 16-inch wheels and 6 speakers. Buyers will also get keyless entry and ignition, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, as well as cruise control, and an 8-inch infotainment screen.

2021 Chevrolet Malibu LS - carsforsale.com
2021 Chevrolet Malibu LS - carsforsale.com

LS – $24,395

The LS models add a few niceties like vanity mirrors, a 4G LTE Wifi hotspot, and “Teen Driver” mode which provides maximum allowable settings for audio volume and speed.

2021 Chevrolet Malibu RS - chevrolet.com
2021 Chevrolet Malibu RS - chevrolet.com

RS – $25,395

At the RS level, the 2021 Chevrolet Malibu gets 18-inch wheels, a spoiler, dual exhaust, a leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, as well as black badging and body colored mirrors.

2021 Chevrolet Malibu LT - chevrolet.com
2021 Chevrolet Malibu LT - chevrolet.com

LT – $27,795

As perhaps the most livable Malibu under $30,000, the LT gets heated seats, rear passenger climate vents, dual zone climate control, a power driver’s seat, and satellite radio.

2021 Chevrolet Malibu Premier - chevrolet.com
2021 Chevrolet Malibu Premier - chevrolet.com

Premier – $34,495

At the top of the 2021 Chevrolet Malibu range is the $35,000 Premier trim that gets a much more potent 2.0-liter engine making 250 horsepower along with a 9-speaker audio system, ventilated front seats, a dual-pane sunroof, heated rear seats, 19-inch wheels, leather interior, and an upgraded infotainment system that’s more responsive and modern.

Warranties

Chevrolet offers what seems to be the standard warranty package across the industry which covers the entire vehicle for 3 years or 36,000 miles and the powertrain for 5 years or 60,000 miles. Unlike many other companies that offer some sort of complimentary maintenance after the initial purchase, Chevrolet offers only a single visit.

What we think

2021 Chevrolet Malibu - chevrolet.com

2021 Chevrolet Malibu – chevrolet.com |  Shop 2021 Chevrolet Malibu on Carsforsale.com

It’s tough to think of the person who would really buy a 2021 Chevrolet Malibu over its competitors. For those that want an American sedan, the Dodge Charger is better in every way aside from fuel economy. For those who don’t care too much where their car comes from, there are far more attractive options from Mazda, Kia, and Honda. Still, we hope to see the nameplate live on in this segment. Hopefully Chevrolet can bring some much needed interest to the vehicle in the near future.

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Stephen Rivers

Stephen is a car enthusiast who loves all things built with passion. In his free time, he’s usually at a hockey rink, walking his dogs, or on a road bike. His automotive tastes lean towards cars that oftentimes seem to take a pound of flesh for the ethereal pleasure they provide: things like the Lamborghini Diablo, TVR Cerbera, and a C4 Corvette turned into a street-legal go-kart. He drives his Bugeye Subaru WRX in Autocross, Rallycross, and track day competitions throughout the year and daily drives a twin-turbo BMW 535i.

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