- Attractive looks
- Refined demeanor
- Good fuel efficiency
- Great infotainment
- Basic Malibu L
- Big engine relegated to high-spec model
- Active-safety tech is pricey
- No standard rearview camera (yet)
A solid effort, the 2018 Chevrolet Malibu offers plenty of compelling reasons to lure customers into showrooms.
The 2018 Chevrolet Malibu is a solid contender in the crowded mid-size sedan class.
It stands out for its attractive styling, refined demeanor, and efficient hybrid powertrain, but we wish that its high-tech safety equipment didn’t require ponying up quite so much cash for a loaded model. Overall, we’ve assigned it a 7.3 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Only mild changes apply to the 2018 Malibu. A Redline appearance package is offered, as is a new paint color. A bigger gas tank appears in all models: Malibu L, LS, and LT.
With the Malibu, Chevy offers tidy sheet metal with some lovely curves that cloak a large passenger cabin. Inside, it's roomy and clearly laid out. The cabin pairs a high-resolution 7.0-inch touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay on most models. Those features aren't found on the fleet-oriented Malibu L, a bargain model marketed to rental car firms and corporate users, not retail buyers.
Under most Malibu hoods sits a choice of 1.5-liter and 2.0-liter turbo-4 engines, both mated to automatic transmissions. Unlike a couple of rivals, the Malibu is front-wheel drive-only. At around 3,100 pounds, it’s among the lightest mid-size sedans, which helps it feel more nimble and sporty—although the Malibu is more about relaxed cruising than it is tearing up a race track.
The ace up the Malibu’s tailored sleeve is its optional hybrid powertrain. It pairs a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder to a 1.5-kwh lithium-ion battery pack that lets it run up to 55 mph on electricity alone and earns it an impressive 48 mpg combined.
A wide range of Malibus are on offer: L, LS, LT, and Premium variants that run the gamut from spartan to encroaching-on-Cadillac territory. All models perform well in crash testing and two versions of automatic emergency braking are available on LT and Premium models.
2018 Chevrolet Malibu
Attractive in and out, the Malibu stands out just enough.
The 2018 Chevrolet Malibu might boast a name that dates back generations, but its style is thoroughly up-to-date.
A clean exterior design with pleasant surface detailing gives way to a thoughtfully laid-out interior, which merits a 7 out of 10 overall. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Chevy drew less from the Malibu nameplate’s heritage than from the rest of its lineup when it came to designing this latest model. Though it debuted for the 2016 model year, it remains fresh into 2018. Its nose hunkers down low with a twin grille design flanked up top by narrow headlights and at the bottom by available LED running lamps. To some of us, it’s a bit droopy, but others like the squat appearance.
It’s the same story at the rear, where the Malibu’s pert tail and swept-back window line combine for a look that’s slightly reminiscent of the Audi A7. Sure, the Audi wears its fastback look better—in part because it’s a real hatchback—but credit is due to Chevy’s styling team for trying harder than many rivals.
Things are more understated inside with a clean, simple look. A 7.0-inch touchscreen is on most Malibus, but an upsized 8.0-inch unit is available. Lower trim levels wrap parts of the dashboard in a mesh-like fabric that’s bold, if a little odd, while a synthetic, leather-like cover is on higher-specification Chevy Malibus.
2018 Chevrolet Malibu
Though it provides few thrills, the Chevy Malibu is thoroughly competent and comfortable.
With three available engine options, the 2018 Chevrolet Malibu offers something for just about everyone.
There’s not a lot here for those who relish hard driving, but for the bulk of buyers, the Malibu’s good handling helps it perform well enough to earn a 6 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Most Malibus are powered by a 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder gas engine rated at 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, figures that are a touch below average for the class. But the Malibu’s light weight helps it feel more lithe than those numbers might suggest, and its standard 6-speed automatic makes the most of what’s available.
Opt for the Malibu Premier and you’ll net a 2.0-liter turbo-4 with 250 hp and 258 lb-ft. It’s paired to a high-tech 9-speed automatic transmission. With V-6-level power, this turbo-4 endows the Malibu with terrific acceleration from any speed. But as it’s restricted to the $32,000 Malibu Premier, it’s maybe not the best value.
The surprising powertrain is found in the Malibu Hybrid. As its name implies, under its hood sits a 1.8-liter naturally aspirated 4-cylinder gas engine paired to a 1.5-kwh lithium-ion battery that allows the sedan to run up to nearly 55 mph on electricity alone under ideal circumstances. In practice, the powertrain is smooth and almost silent, but only its refinement reveals that it’s not a conventional setup. There’s no “EV” mode like the Toyota Camry Hybrid offers, so drivers can’t select when they want to skip out on gasoline.
But it’s reasonably quick; Chevy quotes a 7.8-second 0-60 mph sprint.
The hybrid weighs just 3,500 pounds, so there’s really no ride and handling penalty. All models are confident and capable, with higher-spec versions offering slightly more grip thanks to their wider tires. The downside to this, of course, is a choppier ride; we recommend trying out several combinations to see what works the best for you.
Those seeking corner-carving grip and telepathic steering won’t find much to like about the Malibu, which delivers a largely anodyne driving experience. It’s composed and capable, just far short of entertaining like, say, the Mazda 6.
2018 Chevrolet Malibu
Comfort & Quality
Comfortable and refined, the Chevy Malibu has a properly upscale feel.
Roomy and refined; what better buzzwords do you need if you’re looking for a mid-size sedan like the 2018 Chevrolet Malibu?
This four-door aces our functionality requirements with its capacious cabin and quiet demeanor, giving it an 8 out of 10 overall. Only a cosseting luxury car costing far more cash delivers more of what most people will want. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The Chevy Malibu is very well-packaged, addressing our concerns about its cramped predecessor. Four passengers are a cinch and a third person can sit in the rear middle seat without too many complaints. There’s excellent stretch-out leg room for all and we commend Chevrolet for including thoughtful touches like well-placed padded surfaces where knees and elbows might rest.
Non-hybrid Malibus offer a decent 15.8 cubic feet of cargo space, but the Malibu Hybrid slices that to just 11.6 cubes thanks to its battery pack that also ruins what is otherwise a flat trunk floor. That’s the price to pay for less fuel consumption.
The 2018 Chevy Malibu is isolated from the outside world and its smooth ride quality imparts a sophisticated, upscale feel lacking in some competitors.
Malibu L and LS models feel a little downmarket inside, even for their fairly low price tags. Opt for the Malibu LT, the Hybrid, and the Premium, however, and you’ll net some nicer materials and a wider range of color options.
2018 Chevrolet Malibu
The Chevy Malibu does well in crash tests, but it's missing a few safety bits.
Both independent and federal regulators give the 2018 Chevy Malibu solid marks and it offers an array of safety features as optional.
That’s enough to give it a 7 out of 10 on our safety scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The insurance industry-funded IIHS says that the Malibu is a Top Safety Pick when it’s fitted with optional automatic emergency braking. With the low-speed system that’s available on the LT, the system earns four points; pick the high-speed automatic emergency braking system on Premier models and a full six points are awarded. But the IIHS is less favorable when it comes to the Malibu’s headlights; its narrow outlets deliver poor visibility.
Meanwhile, the NHTSA awarded the Malibu five stars overall, although it earns four for its rollover resistance.
All Malibus come with 10 airbags plus stability and traction control, but the base L model doesn’t include a rearview camera as standard. That’s an obvious cost-cutting move, but given the sedan’s so-so over-the-shoulder visibility, it’s a demerit we’d like to see addressed. A rearview camera will be a federal requirement for all passenger cars under 10,000 pounds (which includes the Malibu) by May 2018, so we expect Chevy to either make a running change to the Malibu L or to add it for an early 2019 model year.
In terms of active safety tech, Malibu LT models are available with a forward emergency warning system that can brake the car automatically at lower, urban speeds if it detects an impending accident with a vehicle or a pedestrian. On the Malibu Premier, the system is more advanced and can work at higher speeds. It’s important tech that will eventually be standard on nearly all cars—and we wish that Chevy would offer the full high-speed system on every trim level like more competitors are beginning to do.
2018 Chevrolet Malibu
Though rather basic at the entry-level, the Chevy Malibu can be loaded up nicely.
With the 2018 Malibu, Chevrolet has a flavor for just about every taste—and budget.
The base model isn’t particularly well-outfitted for the money, but higher-end variants can be equipped with a wide array of features. That brings the Chevy Malibu to an 8 out of 10 in our eyes. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The Malibu L is mainly a fleet special, meaning it was designed to be ordered by corporate and municipal buyers. Those meter maids and insurance sales people who wind up in one will find a basic audio system, cruise control, and power windows and locks but little more. The Malibu LS runs around $1,500 more, money that buys a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, 16-inch alloy wheels, a rearview camera, and Bluetooth connectivity. It’s not lavish, but it’s not missing much, either.
The Malibu LT goes further with LED running lights, heated exterior mirrors, 17-inch wheels, an eight-way power driver’s seat, and a few more goodies. The LT offers a few option packages that bundle goodies like a larger 8.0-inch screen, a wireless charging pad for Qi-equipped devices, leather seats, heated seats, Bose audio, automatic high beams, forward collision warnings with low speed automatic braking, and more. All told, the sweet spot is probably an LT with the Driver Confidence Package and the Convenience/Technology Package. That puts a mid-level Malibu well under $30,000.
Topping the lineup is the Malibu Premier, which is the only way to get the Malibu’s 2.0-liter turbo-4 engine. It’s well-outfitted with leather upholstery, 19-inch alloy wheels, and Bose audio, but it can be further upgraded with one of two safety packages. The Driver Confidence group adds automatic high beams, park assist, and low-speed automatic emergency braking. The Driver Confidence II group adds to that an electronic parking brake, adaptive cruise control, and full-speed automatic emergency braking.
Chevy considers its Malibu Hybrid to be basically an LT for about $2,750 more. Its specifications mirror the LT, as do its extra-cost options.
Notably, Chevy offers built-in navigation on any Malibu with the 8.0-inch screen for a hair under $500, which is quite reasonable. But given that most drivers these days will have an Android or Apple smartphone, the CarPlay and Android Auto capability on all but the base Malibu L may negate the need for navigation.
We’re smitten with both the 7.0- and 8.0-inch screens, however. They are both low glare units with intuitive menus and quick responses that put them toward the top of their segment.
2018 Chevrolet Malibu
The hybrid's the real star here, but all Malibus are pretty thrifty.
The 2018 Chevy Malibu is highly efficient for a mid-size sedan, and the news only gets better.
The high-volume model is the smaller of the two turbocharged engines, and its figures earn it a solid 8 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
That variant of the Chevrolet Malibu is rated at 27 mpg city, 36 highway, 30 combined. The 2.0-liter in the Premier nicks those figures to 22/32/26 mpg.
If it’s efficiency you’re after, the Malibu Hybrid is the clear winner here: 49/43/46 mpg is impressive for a vehicle that’s not a dedicated hybrid like the Toyota Prius. We don’t have a lot of wheel time in the Malibu Hybrid under our collective belts to properly draw an experienced conclusion, but our limited drives leave us little reason to doubt the EPA figures.