2021 Chevrolet Malibu

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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
March 3, 2021

Buying tip

A well-equipped Malibu can be a bargain; just be sure it’s equipped with automatic emergency braking.

features & specs

4-Door Sedan L
4-Door Sedan LS w/1LS
4-Door Sedan LT
29 city / 36 hwy
29 city / 36 hwy
29 city / 36 hwy

The 2021 Chevrolet Malibu swings with great styling and space, but strikes out on safety.

What kind of car is the 2021 Chevrolet Malibu? What does it compare to? 

The 2021 Chevrolet Malibu is a mid-size sedan. It’s worth cross-shopping against the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, and Subaru Legacy. 

Is the 2021 Chevrolet Malibu a good car?

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We give the Malibu a TCC Rating of 5.7 out of 10, mostly for its style and value. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

What’s new for the 2021 Chevrolet Malibu?

The Malibu was last updated for the 2019 model year, and this year it’s mostly the same ol’, same ol’. There are a few reasons to consider the 2021 Malibu over last year’s version, namely newly-standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Additionally, a new Sport Edition adds blacked-out trim on some versions. 

Most Malibus make use of a 1.5-liter turbo-4, which spins out 160 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels through a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). A 250-hp 2.0-liter turbo-4 is included on the range-topping Premier, where it is paired with a 9-speed automatic. The base turbo-4 is adequate for most needs, and the simulated “gears” delivered by the CVT will go unnoticed—especially thanks to the distraction posed by that newfound wireless smartphone capability.

When it comes to handling, the Malibu doesn’t quite match its sporty looks, though its ride is comfortable and composed. 

Interior space is good but not great given its footprint. The ambience is classy, especially with the 8.0-inch touchscreen that takes up residence at the top of the dash. Base Malibu L and LS versions feel a little too rental fleet inside, though, as they lack the nicer materials seen in higher-trim versions.

The Malibu does OK in crash-testing, but it loses serious points for being one of the last new cars to lack standard automatic emergency braking. This collision-avoidance tech is nearly universally standard today, but Chevy charges more than $1,000 for the feature. 

How much does the 2021 Chevrolet Malibu cost?

A new Malibu will set you back about $23,000 in base L guise, but you’ll be limited to just two exterior colors. Plan on about $24,200 for the Malibu LS that’s far more likely to be parked on your local dealer’s lot. 

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Malibu Premier tops $36,000 with the safety gear we think ought to be standard these days. 

Where is the 2021 Chevrolet Malibu made? 

In Kansas City, Kansas.


2021 Chevrolet Malibu


The Malibu is pleasantly above average.

Is the 2021 Chevrolet Malibu a good-looking car?

For decades, Chevrolet affixed the Malibu badge to a string of four-wheeled wallflowers. That’s no longer the case. Maybe we’re just used to parking lots full of SUVs and crossovers, but to use the stylish Malibu is a cut above. 

A broad grille with attractive brightwork gives way to a gently bulged hood. From the side, the Malibu’s curvy lines and big wheel openings work best with larger wheels, even if they do little for ride quality. The pinched taillights don’t leave as lasting an impression.

Inside, the Malibu prioritizes function over form, with switches, knobs, and the 8.0-inch touchscreen parked up high where they’re easy to access. Chevy’s design crew puts more emphasis on contrasting trim colors than most automakers, so consider opting beyond the basic greige standard on most versions.

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2021 Chevrolet Malibu


Turbo power gives the Malibu a choice between mild and medium performance.

How fast is the 2021 Chevrolet Malibu?

It’s fine, but you won’t win a race unless you opt for the costly Malibu Premier. Most versions of the Malibu use a 1.5-liter turbo-4 rated at 160 horsepower that delivers power to the front wheels through a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). 

The CVT is tuned to simulate real gear shifts. It’s somewhat convincing, which is largely forgivable since fuel economy is decent. 

Pop for the Malibu Premier and you’ll be rewarded for spoiling yourself with good acceleration all around. With 250 hp, the upsized 2.0-liter turbo-4 is plenty powerful for scooting through traffic and it plays nicely with the 9-speed automatic. 

Is the 2021 Chevrolet Malibu 4WD?

Nope, don’t look for that or all-wheel drive here. The Malibu isn’t a sports car, either, though its steering has reasonable heft and its chassis is well-suited to scooting down a curvy road. Bigger wheels and wider tires on the RS deliver slightly sharper handling, too.

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2021 Chevrolet Malibu

Comfort & Quality

Roomy, but not luxurious, the 2021 Malibu is a good choice for families and commuters alike.

The 2021 Chevrolet Malibu is as spacious as a luxury car, but it’s nowhere near as opulent. Most versions have dashes, doors, and consoles awash in heavily-grained plastics that feel hollow to the touch. The mesh trim scattered about should have stayed in the locker room, too.

Opt for a higher-trim Malibu and the ambience is lifted slightly with pleasant leather and nicer plastics, though rivals such as the Honda Accord and Mazda 6 feel more special for similar money.

The Malibu has good space all around, with 38 inches of rear-seat leg room out back. The front seats offer good adjustment, especially the power thrones standard on higher-trim versions.

Trunk space is a hair under 16 cubic feet, which is about par for the class. A wider opening would be nice, but again maybe we’re just getting too used to plump crossovers and SUVs.

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2021 Chevrolet Malibu


The 2021 Malibu doesn’t avoid crashes very well.

How safe is the Chevy Malibu?

Nearly every new car now comes standard with some form of collision-avoidance tech. Not the 2021 Chevrolet Malibu. Chevy’s stinginess is passed onto buyers, who are forced to pay between $1,100 and $2,100 for a slew of features including automatic emergency braking.

That’s a shame since, otherwise, the 2021 Malibu is a fairly safe choice with 10 airbags as standard. The feds—who buy a lot of Malibus—rate it at four stars overall. It misses out on a five-star score due to mediocre side-impact performance for rear-seat passengers.

IIHS testers rate it “Good” in all but the small front-overlap test, where it earns a concerning “Moderate.”

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2021 Chevrolet Malibu


Plan to pay extra for a few safety features and the 2021 Chevrolet Malibu is a decent deal.

Which Chevrolet Malibu should I buy?

Skip the base Malibu L. It comes in just two colors and is as close to a bait-and-switch as an automaker can offer today. You’re unlikely to even find one on a dealer’s lot, where the $24,200 Malibu LS is realistically the entry to the lineup. 

If we were spending your money, we’d spoil ourselves a little with the Malibu LT at about $28,000. It adds some niceties such as a power driver seat, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, and remote start. Toss in the $1,100 Driver Confidence Package for its automatic emergency braking, and you’re still not on the hook for $30,000. Rebates and discounts are the norm, too, so don’t plan on paying sticker price. 

All 2021 Malibus roll out of the factory with an 8.0-inch screen preloaded with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, plus software that’s a cinch to use. A 4G LTE wi-fi hotspot is also included. 

How much is a fully loaded 2021 Chevrolet Malibu?

You could pop for the Malibu Premier at around $37,000 with every option box ticked, but that’s dangerously close to luxury car money.

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2021 Chevrolet Malibu

Fuel Economy

Gas mileage is mediocre in the Malibu.

Is the 2021 Chevrolet Malibu good on gas? 

Compared to more popular SUVs and crossovers, you betcha. The 2021 Malibu is a thrifty choice.

Against other mid-size sedans, well, it’s an also-ran. Most Malibus are rated at 29 mpg city, 36 highway, 32 combined. The 2.0-liter turbo-4 in the Premier dings those figures considerably to 22/33/26 mpg. We give it a 6 based on the lower-output engine.

Chevy once offered a Malibu hybrid, but you’ll have to shop the used-car classifieds for one of those today.

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The Car Connection Consumer Review

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MSRP based on 4-Door Sedan L
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Expert Rating
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Styling 6
Performance 6
Comfort & Quality 7
Safety 3
Features 6
Fuel Economy 6
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