The 2016 Chrysler 200 and the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu are sleek, affordable, and full of features--but which one is better for you?
By our numeric rankings, the Chrysler 200 slightly outscores the Chevy Malibu, but that result comes with a couple of caveats. First, it's largely due to the Chrysler's excellent safety scores and the absence of data with the new Malibu. The Chevy simply hasn't yet been tested by either the NHTSA or IIHS, so its score could rise if it performs well.
And while we found few flaws in the Malibu, the 200 has a pair of issues that affect family-car shoppers in particular. Its rear seat simply isn't large enough for two adults to ride comfortably--the same problem the previous Malibu had--and its nine-speed automatic transmission can be inconsistent, balky, and often unpredictable.
Both of these four-doors are targeted at the heart of the mid-size sedan market. The 200, now in its second model year, replaced an unloved previous generation that dated back to the Chrysler Sebring a decade ago. The Malibu, new this year, also replaces a less-than-successful model that lasted only three years.
The Chrysler 200 has a smoothly rounded shape led by a refined grille and front end. The roofline is long, and tapers down to the tail and a short, flush decklid. It's a new and elegant appearance for Chrysler that looks more expensive than it is. The 2016 Malibu echoes the handsome Impala in smaller, more svelte proportions. The long new body and rich-looking interior on premium models dispense completely with any historic Chevy references, and it works.
Inside, the Chrysler 200 is superbly detailed, with a waterfall-style dash containing features like sliding cupholders and plenty of cubbies, while the dash itself is covered with top-notch materials, fits, and finishes. A number of design touches are both functional and distinctive—like the rotary shift controller and the pass-through storage area in the center console.
The new Malibu has a more conventional dashboard shape that's both unified and appealing. The center stack makes space for bigger MyLink infotainment screens, while materials include interesting trim choices—fabric-wrapped panels on less expensive trim levels, metallic-look on others, a leather-looking synthetic wrap on dash and console trim on top models.
While the Chrysler 200 feels roomy in the front seats (if a bit low), it's less useful in back. The door openings make the rear seat difficult to get into, and the swooping roofline exacts a penalty on riders 6 feet or taller. The Malibu, on the other hand, feels far roomier than its predecessor, due to design decisions that maximize the feeling of interior space. The dash has been lowered and pushed out at the corners; new seats offer better support all around; and there’s much more rear legroom than before. Four larger adults can ride comfortably in the Malibu, not in the 200.
The Chrysler offers two powertrains, a 184-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder or a 295-hp 3.6-liter V-6, both with nine-speed automatic transmissions. All-wheel drive is available with the V-6 only. We've found the nine-speed automatic can shift abruptly—especially with the four-cylinder. You'll find the V-6 has a bit of torque steer unless you opt for all-wheel drive. The 200's fuel efficiency is lower than many mid-size sedans with larger interiors, and there's no hybrid or diesel model. The four-cylinder gets 28 mpg combined; switch up to the V-6 and that falls to 23 mpg combined. Add all-wheel drive, and you drop to 22 mpg combined--no better than some mid-size SUVs.
Most Malibu will be powered by a 160-hp 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, driving the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. It's quiet, composed, and hard to catch flat-footed. High-end models step up to a 250-hp 2.0-liter turbo four, paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission that gives precise, defined gear changes. This top turbo Malibu now feels as quick as predecessors with V-6s, and offers some of the best drivability and refinement in its class. There's no AWD option, though.
Finally, there's a Malibu Hybrid, which pairs a 1.8-liter (non-turbo) four-cylinder with a 1.5-kwh battery pack and twin electric motors that effectively operate as a continuously variable transmission. This model makes 182 hp combined and can operate in electric-only mode up to 55 mph. Gasoline Malibus with the 1.5-liter turbo get 31 mpg--a start-stop system is standard--while those with the 2.0-liter turbo come in at 26 mpg combined. The Malibu Hybrid is rated at 47 mpg combined--better than any other hybrid mid-size sedan this year.
The Chrysler 200 gets excellent crash-test ratings from both U.S. agencies. And it offers an available lane-departure warning system, blind-spot monitors, and forward-collision warnings with automatic braking, plus adaptive cruise control and rain-sensing wipers.
We'd expect the Malibu to earn some top-level scores from both the NHTSA and IIHS when test results are released. It too has a long list of available active-safety items--pretty much everything on the 200 plus some newer systems as well, although most are the exclusive domain of the top LT and Premier models.
In the end, the Chrysler 200 edges the Chevy Malibu on styling and an excellent interior, though it's a very close finish. Pending test results for the Malibu, the 200 also gets the safety crown. The Malibu is far more fuel-efficient in both gasoline versions, not to mention the Hybrid--but those scores don't factor into our overall rating. Either one is stylish, fresh, well-equipped, and will provide comfortable transport. If you need to put adults in the rear, though, you'll want the Malibu.
|from $21,995||from $21,625|
|from $21,894||from $21,516|
|Fuel Economy - Combined City and Highway|
|Front Leg Room (in)|
|Second Leg Room (in)|
|Read Full Specs||Read Full Specs|