2017 Chevrolet MalibuEnlarge Photo
The 2017 Chrysler 200 and the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu are sleek, affordable, and full of features—but which one is better for you?
Both of these four-doors are targeted at the heart of the mid-size sedan market. The 200 was redesigned three years ago and 2017 may be its last model year as Chrysler has announced it will be dropped. The Malibu was new for 2016, replacing a less-than-successful model that lasted only three years.
By the numbers, the Malibu is a slight winner thanks to better interior comfort and fuel efficiency. The 200 isn't far behind, thanks to its good safety record. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Keep in mind, though, that Chrysler stopped building the 200 in the 2017 model year, and has no current plans to revive the model.
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 an elegant appearance that makes the car look more expensive than it is. The look hides the fact that the 200 is based on a compact car architecture. 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 sliding cupholders and pass-through storage area in the center console.
2016 Chrysler 200Enlarge Photo
The Malibu has a more conventional dashboard shape that's both unified and appealing. The center stack makes space for a large infotainment screen, while materials include interesting trim choices—fabric-wrapped panels on less expensive trim levels, metallic-look on others, a leather-looking synthetic wrap on the dash and console trim on top models.
While the Chrysler 200 feels roomy in the front seats, 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, due to design decisions that maximize the feeling of interior space. The dash has been lowered and pushed out at the corners; the seats offer plenty of support all around; and there’s a healthy amount of rear legroom. Four larger adults can ride comfortably in the Malibu, not in the 200.
The Chrysler offers two powertrains, a 184-horsepower 2.4-liter 4-cylinder or a 295-hp 3.6-liter V-6, both with 9-speed automatic transmissions. All-wheel drive is available with the V-6 only. We've found the automatic can shift abruptly—especially with the 4-cylinder and 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 4-cylinder gets 27 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 Malibus are powered by a 160-hp 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, driving the front wheels through a 6-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-4, paired with a 9-speed automatic transmission—new for 2017—that gives precise, defined gear changes. This top turbo Malibu 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) 4-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. Standard Malibus with the 1.5-liter turbo get 30 mpg combined—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 46 mpg combined, which is bested only by the Honda Accord Hybrid among mid-size sedans.
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. Be aware that several of these features, including forward collision warning, are only offered for the top model.
Similarly, the Malibu earns top crash test scores from both the NHTSA and IIHS and also has a long list of available active-safety items—pretty much everything on the 200 plus some newer systems as well. Again, most of the advanced safety systems are the exclusive domain of the top LT and Premier models.
In the end, the Chrysler 200 stands out for its interior and exterior style and its available all-wheel drive, but it has a small rear seat and the 9-speed automatic transmission can be problematic. The Chevy Malibu is far more fuel-efficient in both gasoline versions, not to mention the Hybrid. 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.