2018 Chevrolet Malibu: Mid-Size subtly builds on award-winning rep

By Mike Blake Carlisle Events
Thursday, June 28, 2018

Named after a Southern California beach community that derives its name from the Chumash word “humaliwo,” meaning “the surf sounds loudly,” the Chevrolet Malibu began as a Chevelle trim level in 1964, and became its own model line in 1978, when it replaced Chevelle in the Chevy line-up. Malibu made two previous runs (1978-1983 as a rear-wheel-drive vehicle, and revived as a front-wheel-drive sedan from 1997-2003) before re-emerging on its third and current trip beginning in 2008 as an FWD.

In its ninth generation that began in 2016, Malibu will be refreshed for the 2019 model year with a refined grille, a new sporty RS trim and a new infotainment set-up. So the 2018 Malibu remains essentially the same as it was in 2017, when it was named the 2017 Best Midsize Car in U.S. News and World Report’s annual Best Cars for Families survey. Building on the rep Malibu has gained by being the No.1 Midsize for the third year in a row in the J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study, this year’s edition subtly gains an option and some color. For 2018, the Midsize Sedan gains a Redline Edition Package that is available on LT models. The content includes black Chevy “Bowtie” emblems, black nameplate with red outline, and 19-inch black aluminum wheels with red hash marks, blacked-out grille and black outside mirror accents. The line-up also adds Sandy Ridge Metallic as an exterior color.

The 2018 Malibu is offered in five trims: L, LS, LT, Premier and the Hybrid. The Malibu LT that I tested adds 17-inch alloy wheels, ambient lighting, an eight-way power-operated driver’s seat including power lumbar support, Warm White ambient lighting on the instrument panel, body-colored antenna and LED daytime running lights to the standard items in lesser trims levels that include a six-speaker audio system, outside heated power-adjustable body-color mirrors with integrated turn signal, Bluetooth, keyless entry/start, a 3.5-inch instrument cluster info display, a rearview camera, Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system with a 7.0-inch touchscreen, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration.

With styling influenced by the 2014 Impala, the 4-door, 5-passenger sedan advances Chevrolet’s global design language with features such as slim, sweeping headlamps, a dual-port grille a wavelike group of body-side creases and a rear spoiler. Constructed with a classic mid-size configuration, Malibu measures 193.8 inches in length; 73.0 inches in width and 57.6 inches in height on a 111.4-inch wheelbase. Curbweight for my test Malibu LT was 3152 lbs.

Malibu offers two gasoline-only engine choices: the 1.5-liter DOHC inline-4 direct injection turbo engine and an Ecotec 2.0-liter I-4 turbo (standard on the LT and Premier trims). There is also an ECO version of Malibu (a hybrid), with an Ecotec 1.8-liter hybrid engine paired to an electric motor. The system delivers 122hp and 129 lbs.-ft. for 48mpg/city and 45mpg/highway. The 2.0 is estimated at 250hp and 260 lbs.-ft. for 22/city and 32/highway.

My test Malibu LT’s 1.5-liter liter I-4 turbo was coupled with a 6-speed automatic transmission and was estimated at 27mpg/city and 36mpg/highway -- I averaged 29.7mpg in mixed-use testing. Not a tire-smoker, it is responsive and generous for a family car, and it conquers long uphill grades, while passing at speed takes some strategy at times.

On the track, Malibu was quiet and predictable, with the 1.5-liter engine earnestly taking 8.3 seconds for a zero-to-60mph sprint while completing a quarter-mile in 16.4.

The cabin is comfortable and with seating for five, and it is borderline entry-luxury, packed with soft-touch materials, a touchscreen, generous seats, and lots of infotainment. Malibu’s cabin is on the low-mid-size scale with front headroom of 39.1 inches, with 37.5 for row two. Legroom goes 42.0 in front and 38.1 in row two; and there is a wide-body 58.5 inches of front shoulder room with 57.1 inches in row two.

The 2018 Chevrolet Malibu is offered in five trims, with the base L starting at $22,555; the LS bases at $24,195; LT starts at $26,095; the Hybrid version starts at $28,795; and the loaded, upscale Premier starts at $31,895.

My Malibu LT test vehicle with Blue Velvet Metallic paint and Dark Atmosphere/Medium Ash Gray Premium Cloth seat trim, added a $1300 Sun and Wheels Package with a dual-pane sunroof, and18-inch aluminum wheels, and required the Leather Package upgrade of 6-way power front passenger seat adjuster and power lumbar control, heated front seats, Bose premium 9-speaker sound system, and leather-appointed seats for $2140. The Convenience Technology Package added $995 (remote vehicle starter system, inside rearview auto-dimming mirror, and Chevrolet MyLink® Radio with 8-inch diagonal color touch-screen); and The Driver Confidence Package added $1245 for low-speed front automatic braking, front pedestrian braking, IntelliBeam® automatic high-beam headlamps, front and rear Park Assist, Side Blind Zone Alert with Lane Change Alert, Lane Keep Assist, Following Distance Indicator, Forward Collision Alert and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.

Front and rear splash guards added $200; carpeted floor mats added $140 and as destination freight charges of $995 were already included in the base price, my Malibu-as-tested stickered at $32,115, but dealer prices vary and incentives and cash offers may be available from your dealer.

> Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.

Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.

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