Review: 2020 Chevrolet Malibu
Comfortable ride marred by a lackluster engine.
Nine generations in, the 2020 Chevrolet Malibu is a storied nameplate for General Motors, being one of the longest running nameplates in General Motor’s fleet.
Over time, it has evolved from its rear-wheel drive original to the now established front-wheel drive midsized car we see today. For many drivers, the Malibu’s value is on joining simplicity in style to an affordable price for a mid-sized sedan.
This generation of Malibu comes in several trim levels: LS, RS, LT and finally Premier. The LS is listed – as per Chevrolet’s Canadian website – at $25,248, with the RS moving up to $26,148, the LT at $27,748 and the Premier at $37,848. The trim level I spent time with, courtesy of the folks at General Motors, was the LT which came in a stunning-looking Mosaic Black Metallic trim and equipped with the LT Plus Package and Driver Confidence I and II LT packages. Because of the paint, packages and even the leather-wrapped shift knob, the price on this one went to $37,358. Note a bad price for a mid-sized vehicle that is fully-loaded.
The LS trim comes with a range of standard features such as Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, a built-in 4G LTE WiFi hotspot, Chevrolet Connected Access allowing for vehicle diagnostics and dealer maintenance notifications, keyless open, rear vision camera, and steering wheel-mounted Bluetooth, cruise control and audio controls. This LT trim include what comes with the LS, but adds several others. These include LED daytime running lamps and tail lamps, heated power exterior mirrors and heated driver and front-passenger seats – with the driver’s seat coming with a power 8-way adjuster with lumbar support and SirusXM radio as well. My LT also came with 19-inch wheels mounted on black-painted rims.
An added bonus was the full-sized sunroof, IntelliBeam lights and a host of driver assistance features.
So, how was this 2020 Chevrolet Malibu LT sedan to drive? Let’s first start with the engine. The LT I drove came with a 1.5L turbo 4-cylinder engine that put out 160 hp @5,700 r.p.m. and 184 lb-ft of torque @ 2,500-3,000 r.p.m., and linked to a Continuous Variable Transmission (CVT). Acceleration with this engine was smooth if nothing spectacular. It is well-suited for city commuting where you are not likely going to be mashing the accelerator to the floor; and once the engine gets you to the speed you want, it is quiet and reliable. The problem is when you need to accelerate hard, as when you have to merge onto the highway or pass another vehicle. Here you begin to wish the car came with the larger 2.0L turbocharged DOHC engine on the Premier trim.
When I had to put my foot down to merge onto the highway the engine gets very loud and buzzy as the CVT works hard to keep the revs up and to get you up to speed. Now, once it got to the speed needed the engine quieted down, and the CVT worked efficiently to keep things humming along just fine. But I did have to adjust my driving for that fact that I could not get rapid acceleration that I would get with a larger engine or one not based around a CVT, so merging onto a highway or passing a vehicle has to be done with more care and forethought, which is something you should be doing regardless.
As mentioned earlier, the 2020 Malibu sedan is really made for commuting and it shows in Chevrolet’s use of the MacPherson strut front suspension and the 4-link rear suspension. Driving was smooth, nearly silky in feel and the rear stabilizer bar provided snappy and precise handling. It made for a comfortable ride, especially when I took the car on winding back roads going to Stratford. Open that large sunroof and that smooth ride with the warm summer air became a real treat. The only downside was cabin noise. City driving and cruising along those back roads was fine, but on the highway the road noise inside the vehicle was excessive for my taste.
Kudos should also be given to how Chevrolet has the various driver assistance systems operate. Where most vehicle manufactures would have the systems be highly intrusive, Chevrolet has made them subtle. Take the lane departure warning. It will active when one reaches 60 km/h and operate, as it should in the background, only letting you know it is there with an unobtrusive icon on the dash. If you start to stray across the line, the system gives you a gentle nudge to alert you and it does not feel as if the wheel has been wrenched from you. Forward collision alert was the same. When it comes into play, it is quick and firmly, but never making you believe at any time you have had control of the vehicle taken away from you.
The interior of the 2020 Malibu is simple. Some have complained that the interior is bland, even lackluster. I did not mind that the interior was simple. I preferred it that way as the few buttons and controls were clearly marked as to what they did. No need to clutter things ups. The 8-inch infotainment screen provides a sharp image and could be easily controlled with the central knob. No fumbling with menus here to get to things. As with most vehicles today it comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and can also support Bluetooth audio streaming. The 4G LET WiFi support was especially welcomed by my son who could stream his music while on headphones in the comfort of rear seats that provide ample legroom for passangers.
What I cannot understand is why Chevrolet only included a single USB port instead of two. Yes, there is a USB C port, but it would have been nice to have two standard USB ports. And why did they have to tuck the ports so far beneath the dash, making them near invisible and leaving one to crane down to reach them. It seems they were added as an afterthought. I hope in the 2021 edition, they put those ports someplace easier to see.
2020 Chevrolet Malibu 4-Door Sedan
BODY STYLE: Mid-Sized Sedan
DRIVE METHOD: Front-wheel Drive with Continuous Variable Transmission (CVT)
ENGINE: 1.5L Turbo 4-cylinder engine, (160 hp, 184 lb-ft of torque)
FUEL ECONOMY: 8.2L/6.6L/100 km city/highway
CARGO VOLUME: 445 L
TOW RATING: N/A
PRICE: MSRP27,748/ $37,358 with added packages