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2020 Chevrolet Malibu

Consumer Reviews
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2020
The Car Connection
2020
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Brian León Brian León Contributing Writer
June 16, 2020

Buying tip

Mid-size sedans are spending longer on dealer lots as crossovers continue to gain popularity, so try to score a deal on a well-equipped Malibu; just make sure it comes with automatic emergency braking.

features & specs

4-Door Sedan L
4-Door Sedan LS w/1LS
4-Door Sedan LT
MPG
29 city / 36 hwy
MPG
29 city / 36 hwy
MPG
29 city / 36 hwy
MSRP
$22,140
MSRP
$23,270
MSRP
$26,670

The 2020 Chevrolet Malibu is a handsome mid-size sedan that’s overshadowed by competitors in terms of standard features.

The 2020 Chevrolet Malibu is a middling, mid-size sedan that’s largely overlooked in the midst of the great SUV and crossover onslaught. Though it’s stylish and comfortable, curious absences in active safety make it forgettable even in its own shrinking segment. We give the 2020 Malibu 5.8 out of 10 overall. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

For 2020, the Malibu gets minimal changes amounting to two new exterior colors and a new grille and wheel design for RS trim models. Unfortunately, the thrifty Malibu Hybrid is gone this year following slow sales. This year Chevy offers the Malibu L, LS, RS, LT, and Premier.

With an update just last year, the Malibu looks sharp and handsome as ever, which is high praise for a mid-size sedan. A super-wide grille and a sloping roofline make for a more coupe-like look than many competitors, as does the tapered tail end. Paired with the handsome RS package, it’s a good-looking sedan by any account. The interior warrants less praise, however, with a lackluster design that features a big, standard touchscreen front and center with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

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Forward motivation comes from a 1.5-liter turbo-4 that makes 163 horsepower through the front wheels via a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Unlike other CVTs among mid-size sedans, the Chevy’s features simulated “gears” to alleviate the rubber band feel of this type of gearbox. Those looking for more power will want the 2.0-liter turbo-4 with 250 hp, as well as its smooth 9-speed automatic. Fuel economy is good for the base model at 32 mpg combined thanks to its small-displacement engine and thrifty transmission; handling is direct and competent, but not as sporty as rivals like the Mazda 6, and ride quality is comfortable and quiet.

The Chevy Malibu falls short in safety and in standard features. While a big touchscreen with smartphone connectivity comes with each Malibu, Chevy omits standard active safety tech on lower-priced models, and there are blemishes on its crash-test record. 

6

2020 Chevrolet Malibu

Styling

The 2020 Chevrolet Malibu is sharp outside but dull inside.

The 2020 Chevrolet Malibu is a handsome sedan, especially after its visual refresh last model year. Inside, things aren’t so sharp. We give it a 6 out of 10 here. 

Before its exterior refresh last year, the Malibu’s face was a bit too catfish-like. Thankfully the designers at GM have amended this with a wide, sporty front end that pairs better with the sloping roofline and tapered rear end that makes for a handsome mid-size sedan.

Where the Malibu falls short is inside, featuring a dashboard design and materials that are inexpensive-looking compared to its contemporaries like the Honda Accord and excellent Mazda 6.

A bright and clear 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system is prominently displayed front-and-center (and comes standard) but flanked by textured cloth dashboard panels on lower trim models; it feels too “rental fleet” for our tastes.

In sporty RS guise, blacked-out wheels and badges add to the overall visual appeal and turn the Malibu from handsome to almost head-turning.

Review continues below
6

2020 Chevrolet Malibu

Performance

The 2020 Chevrolet Malibu provides plenty of turbo power in both forms and a comfortable cruising experience.

The 2020 Chevrolet Malibu makes good use of its turbo engines but emphasizes softness over sportiness. That’s just fine by us (and most mid-size sedan buyers), so we give it 6 out of 10 here. 

As standard, the 2020 Malibu comes with front-wheel drive and a 1.5-liter turbo-4 that makes 163 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. The only transmission option with this engine is a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). While competitors feature similar belt-driven gearboxes that lead to engine drone, the Malibu simulates “shifts” to make the experience feel more natural and avoid having to rev it out for more power.

Those seeking more power will want to choose the Malibu Premier trim level for a 2.0-liter turbo-4 with 250 hp. This engine also gets a 9-speed automatic transmission instead of a CVT, and is better for highway passing maneuvers.

While steering is direct and sharp, the Malibu is geared more for comfort than corner carving. Though it weighs less than 3,500 pounds, heavy sound deadening and a compliant suspension make for a smooth ride over long distances, though larger 18-inch wheels on the RS and Premier trims do enhance road imperfections.

Unfortunately, the Malibu Hybrid is gone for 2020, and though we’ll miss its efficient powertrain, the two other Malibu variants are better to drive.

Review continues below
7

2020 Chevrolet Malibu

Comfort & Quality

The 2020 Chevrolet Malibu is comfortable and spacious inside as any mid-size sedan should be, but doesn’t feel special.

The 2020 Chevrolet Malibu has a roomy interior, but it’s unremarkable next to competitors. We give it 7 out of 10 for comfort and quality.

Mid-size sedans are all about roomy passenger compartments and comfortable seats, and the Malibu delivers on both counts. A six-way manually adjustable driver’s seat is standard, but most Malibus come with an eight-way power chair. The rear seats are nicely sculpted and supportive, and best of all, they come with 38 inches of leg room and 53.4 inches of hip room, plenty for fitting three adults abreast. Cloth upholstery is standard, but leather is available on higher trims, and replaces the strange cloth dashboard applique with a vinyl matched to the seats.

The trunk swallows 15.8 cubic feet of stuff, which is on par with other sedans in the segment, but far behind most compact crossovers that have replaced sedans as the default American vehicle.

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4

2020 Chevrolet Malibu

Safety

The 2020 Chevrolet Malibu confusingly (and disappointingly) keeps active safety tech behind three different paywalls.

The 2020 Chevrolet Malibu boasts decent crash test scores, but active safety technologies are still conspicuously absent from the standard features list, and some crash-test scores are troubling. 

We give the 2020 Malibu a 4 out of 10 for safety. 

Most mid-size sedans now offer at least some active safety tech as standard equipment. It’s still tucked away in extra packages on the Malibu. That’s a shame and negates this otherwise competitive sedan’s value proposition.

The Driver Confidence Package adds parking sensors and blind-spot monitors to Malibu LT and Premier models at an extra cost, but features such as automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and automatic high-beam headlights cost even more in the Driver Confidence Package II. Full-speed automatic braking and adaptive cruise control are still more money on top of that, locked away in the Driver Confidence Package III and only available on the top-tier Malibu Premier. Other manufacturers like Toyota, Honda, Nissan, and Mazda make some or all of these features standard.

In terms of crash test scores, the Malibu performs adequately with mostly “Good” or five-star scores from both federal and independent agencies, but a “Marginal” rating for the passenger-side small-overlap test from the IIHS is cause for concern.

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6

2020 Chevrolet Malibu

Features

The 2020 Chevrolet Malibu is reasonably well-equipped across the range, minus the overlooked safety tech.

Our qualms with the safety equipment aside, the 2020 Chevrolet Malibu is reasonably well-equipped out of the box and at the top of the range. We give it 6 out of 10 here.

The base Malibu L gets an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth connectivity, not to mention optional 4G wi-fi in the vehicle for a monthly fee. That’s a great deal for a $23,000 sedan, but most buyers will step up to the Malibu LS, which adds acoustic glass, alloy wheels, and a host of other minor options for about $1,000 more.

The Malibu LT is the sweet spot in the lineup with dual-zone automatic climate control, 17-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats, and rear climate vents, but expect to pay extra for the two safety equipment packages we consider essential for any family vehicle.

At the top of the range, the Malibu Premier adds navigation, leather upholstery, 18-inch wheels, cooled front seats, heated rear seats, Bose audio, and a more powerful turbo engine for over $32,000. Active safety tech is still extra on this trim however, making the Malibu you should actually buy several thousand dollars more expensive.

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2020 Chevrolet Malibu

Fuel Economy

The 2020 Chevrolet Malibu is very efficient in base form, but not so much at its most powerful.

Though the hybrid model is gone, the 2020 Chevrolet Malibu is efficient thanks to intelligent transmissions and thrifty turbo engines. We give it 5 out of 10 here. 

Most Malibus come with the 1.5-liter turbo-4 and CVT, which makes an impressive 29 mpg city, 36 highway, 32 combined. The more powerful turbo engine with its 9-speed automatic transmission suffers significantly at 22/32/26 mpg, but many will find the boost in power worth it, especially if you do a lot of highway driving.

Average gas costs range from $1,200 to $1,900, and the more powerful engine requires premium fuel.

Review continues below
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$22,140
MSRP based on 4-Door Sedan L
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5.8
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 6
Performance 6
Comfort & Quality 7
Safety 4
Features 6
Fuel Economy 6
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2020 Chevrolet Malibu Pricing Insights

  • 2020 Malibu still in generous supply
  • Factory rebate steady at $2,750
  • Lease from $294 for 39 months with $0 down
  • APR offers still on hold
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