Type to search

Review: 2020 Chevrolet Malibu

Chris Kaiser

In a hotly competitive mid-size sedan segment, the Chevrolet Malibu looks the part of a serious competitor. But does it have what it takes to beat leaders like the Accord and Camry?

Endangered Species

American car companies appear increasingly ambivalent over the sedan, steadily ceding the segment to foreign rivals. Ford recently canceled both the Fusion and the Continental and has officially said they’re moving away from “cars” in favor of SUVs and trucks. Chrysler now makes just one car, the Chrysler 300, but this seems mostly out of ingrained habit. GM too ceased production of the Cruze earlier this year but still soldiers on with the mid-size Chevrolet Malibu, a nameplate dating back to 1964.

2020 Chevrolet Malibu - chevrolet.com

2020 Chevrolet Malibu – chevrolet.com  |  Shop 2020 Chevrolet Malibu on Carsforsale.com

The Malibu showcases all that is good and bad, impressive and imperfect about American sedans in the early 21st century. It looks good, with a thorough makeover arriving in 2019. It offers affordability, with a competitive sticker price and impressive fuel economy. But it also lacks the refinement of top competitors and sequesters key safety equipment to the upper trims. Below we sus out all the details on the 2020 Chevrolet Malibu.

Specs – Buy the Ticket, Take the 2.0

Chevy decided to simplify things for 2020, eliminating the complication of a hybrid option and just offering two powertrain options in the Malibu. Thankfully, for those seeking decent fuel economy, the smaller of the two options provides great efficiency without the price premium of a hybrid.

2020 Chevrolet Malibu 1.5L Engine - carsforsale.com
2020 Chevrolet Malibu 1.5L Engine - carsforsale.com

That first option is the 1.5L turbocharged 4-cylinder making 163hp and 184lbs.-ft. of torque paired with a CVT. This set up nets a very competitive 29 city and 36 highway mpg.

2020 Chevrolet Malibu 2.0L Engine - carsforsale.com
2020 Chevrolet Malibu 2.0L Engine - carsforsale.com

The second option is the much punchier 2.0L turbo-4 galloping to 250hp and 260lbs.-ft. of torque married to a 9-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy does take a hit here, with 22 city and 32 highway. Unfortunately, the 2.0L engine is only available on the top Premier trim level.

Sadly, Malibu currently lacks an AWD option, coming in FWD only.

Driving – RS More Talk Than Walk

2020 Chevrolet Malibu - chevrolet.com
2020 Chevrolet Malibu - chevrolet.com

The Malibu provides a respectable driving experience designed to emphasize ease and comfort over excitement. The suspension is well tuned to soak up potholes and rough pavement. Steering is decent, accurate while remaining lightly weighted. Greater feedback from the road would have been nice though. Overall, the handling was good but isn’t as sporty as other options in the segment.

2020 Chevrolet Malibu - chevrolet.com
2020 Chevrolet Malibu - chevrolet.com

The 1.5L engine feels sluggish in passing situations and merely adequate everywhere else, but that’s the trade-off you make for the stellar 35+ highway mpg rating. Meanwhile, the 2.0L was noticeably more spirited and, combined with the sure-footed handling, was a strong point for the Malibu. And yet, once you spend time with the Camry’s V6 or the Accord’s own turbo-4, the Malibu’s 2.0L doesn’t shine so brightly.

2020 Chevrolet Malibu - chevrolet.com
2020 Chevrolet Malibu - chevrolet.com

On the topic of sportiness, we have to address the decision to limit the mid-trim RS to the smaller 1.5L engine. Remember, RS stands for Rally Sport, the trim is supposed to be, you know, “sporty.” Instead, the RS trim is just an appearance package, tacking on some black accenting and leather on the shift knob. But we shouldn’t be surprise at this as it is par for the course. Car companies keep offering mid-level “sport” trims that look sporty while reserving actual performance upgrades for the top trims (or in many cases not offering any legit upgrades at all). Colorful stitching, fake vents, fake exhausts … car companies know racing stripes don’t actually make you go faster, right?

Comfort and Interior – Legit Fleet Cruiser

RECOMMENDED:
Chevy Blazer Through the Years

Comparatively speaking, the interior of the Malibu is probably it’s weakest point, but we’ll start with what’s good. The seats are comfortable and forgiving and well paired with the smooth-riding suspension to make long distance travel easy on your backside. The cabin is roomy, especially up front. The rear might not be quite as spacious as rivals, but most passengers under 6’2” won’t have any complaints. The ride is quiet, and the cabin well insulated from both road and wind noise.

The glaring deficiencies for the Malibu interior are the design and the materials, both of which lag far behind the rest of the segment. As much as we liked the functionality of the seats, they look like something borrowed from a vehicle at least a decade older. The dash is equally uninspired, with copious use of hard plastic and the bizarre choice of cloth in the area just above the glove compartment. The gauge cluster too looks dated, and not in the cool throwback kind of way but rather in the, keeping production costs low kind of way.

Trims and Features – Mass-Market Exclusivity?

Part of the appeal of a car like the Malibu is that you can get something that looks attractive and serves well as a highway cruiser while saving some money. It’s odd then, that Chevrolet decided to keep the base and lower trims as bare bones as they did, especially when it comes to safety technology.

2020 Chevrolet Malibu L - chevrolet.com
2020 Chevrolet Malibu L - chevrolet.com

L – $22,095

8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, Bluetooth, cloth bucket seats, rearview camera, 16” wheels, keyless entry, push-button start.

2020 Chevrolet Malibu LS - chevrolet.com
2020 Chevrolet Malibu LS - chevrolet.com

LS – $23,220

Compass, outside temperature display, Teen Driver system, WiFi hotspot.

2020 Chevrolet Malibu RS - chevrolet.com
2020 Chevrolet Malibu RS - chevrolet.com

RS – $24, 220

Blacked out bowtie and Malibu badging, 18” wheels, rear spoiler, leather steering wheel and shift knob. 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat.

2020 Chevrolet Malibu LT - chevrolet.com
2020 Chevrolet Malibu LT - chevrolet.com

LT – $26,620

Dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, remote start. 17” alloy wheels, LED running lights, heated side mirrors, options for leather upholstery and sunroof, Driver’s Confidence package that includes forward collision warning, forward automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, automatic high beams.

2020 Chevrolet Malibu Premier - chevrolet.com
2020 Chevrolet Malibu Premier - chevrolet.com

Premier – $33,320

Leather upholstery, 19” alloy wheels, 2.0L engine, heated steering wheel, power passenger seat, wireless phone charging, 9-speaker Bose stereo system, sunroof, heated rear seats, Driver’s Confidence package.

Conclusion – All About That Brand

2020 Chevrolet Malibu - chevrolet.com
2020 Chevrolet Malibu - chevrolet.com

The 2020 Chevrolet Malibu can be a decent choice if you value good fuel economy, a roomy interior, and a reasonable starting price. But while American automakers, including GM, are abandoning passenger cars, and basically taking their eyes off the ball, Asian auto makers like Hyundai/Kia, Toyota, and Honda have continued building on their dominance in the segment.

2020 Chevrolet Malibu - chevrolet.com

2020 Chevrolet Malibu – chevrolet.com  |  Shop 2020 Chevrolet Malibu on Carsforsale.com

The mixed bag of the Malibu is best suited for buyers feeling a strong tug of loyalty to the brand. If you’ve had good experiences with Chevy’s sedans in the past, the Malibu will likely meet your expectations. But for more refinement, a lower bar for essential safety tech and convenience features, and a more exciting driving experience give equal consideration to the Camry, Accord, and Mazda6.

Related Review Articles

Review: 2020 Chevrolet Corvette C8

Review: 2021 Lexus LC 500

20 Years of the Prius and the New “2020 Edition”

Tags:
Chris Kaiser
Chris Kaiser

Chris’ greatest passions include topiary, spelunking, and pushing aging compact cars well past 200,000 miles on cross-country road trips. His taste in cars runs from the classic and esoteric to the deeply practical with an abiding affection for VW Things, old Studebakers, and all things hybrid-crossover.

  • 1

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share
Tweet
Pin