By on April 6, 2018

Image: General Motors

In redesigning the midsize Chevrolet Malibu sedan for the 2016 model year, General Motors shaved an impressive amount of weight from the not-so-well-regarded eighth-generation model. It also stretched the wheelbase, adding volume to a rear seat many found lacking. Now boasting carefully creased body panels, the lithe-looking new Malibu relegated the chunky, previous design to the Island of Bad Bodies.

That frowny face could still use some work, many said at the time. For 2019, GM takes care of that, updating — fairly extensively — the model’s visage in a mid-cycle refresh. The Malibu also sees the addition of a dedicated “sporty” trim.

As seen in these photos, the Malibu adopts a larger grille and a less compartmentalized front fascia for 2019. If the previous model looked a little ornery, the new one appears somewhat joyous. Gone are the LED-ringed side vents, replaced by secondary lights (and trim) that flow towards the bottom of the now-taller grille. Certainly, there’s more chrome to be found up front.

Redesigned headlights and taillights shine from both ends, with Premier models gaining LED peepers. LT and Premier models see LED running lights and taillights. Out back, GM pushed the exhaust tips, ringed by a new valence, towards the corners of the car.

Image: GM

While the 1.5-liter and 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinders carry over for 2019, the entry level six-speed automatic does not. All 1.5-liter Malibus swap the old ‘box for a continuously variable automatic. The uplevel 2.0-liters continue onward with a nine-speed automatic.

It’s this 1.5-liter/CVT combination you’ll find in the new RS trim, which brings sportier looks and no extra power to the Malibu line. That model, which should retail for around $25,000, slots between the LS and LT models, providing buyers with 18-inch machined wheels, rear spoiler, blacked-out grille and badge, dual exhaust, and leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter.

With the appearance of the RS, it doesn’t look like the Redline appearance package has much use in the lineup anymore.

Image: GM

You’ll find an 8.0-inch touchscreen running an updated infotainment system inside all new Malibus, replacing the 7-inch unit found in lesser 2018 trims. The base Malibu L gains a standard backup camera, while the Premier sees an 8-inch digital driver information center for the gauge cluster. That’s up from 4.2 inches. Outboard rear-seat passengers in the top-flight trim will now find a heated cushion below their derrieres.

Overall, the refresh’s intent is to make the Malibu more things to more people. A slightly more upscale appearance, greater standard content, and a nod to individuality in the form of the RS. Nevermind that it has a CVT and base engine — automakers aren’t in the habit of giving people everything they want. Still, Chevy has to do something to keep the model alive in a sinking segment.

The 2019 Malibu hits dealer lots this fall. Expect pricing details closer to the release date.

[Images: General Motors]

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40 Comments on “For 2019, the Chevrolet Malibu Puts on a Happier Face...”


  • avatar
    kcflyer

    Nice looking sedan. Maybe if they do drop the Impala the next Malibu will offer the V6 as an option. It would set the Malibu apart from most of the competition.

  • avatar
    VW4motion

    The Malibu is a seriously nice sedan. Without the brainwashing it is a Camry killer. In fact Camry probably has more rental/fleets sales over the Malibu.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    It looks a lot better, but I’m a bit disappointed that they didn’t use the 9 speed variant of the 6AT instead of the CVT.

    I agree with kcflyer, a V-6 would be nice. The RS trim is pretty pitiful without any performance upgrade to go with the enhanced appearance/equipment. The 3.6L V-6 would go a long way towards making it a performance-oriented model. Maybe not as much kick as the Fusion Sport, but it’d be a welcomed addition. Oh, and pair it to the 9AT, please.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    I’m still not crazy about the horizontally split grilles. Also, can we go back to the blue bowtie?

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    I think the Malibu’s ties the Mazda 6 for best looking in its segments, although I prefer the current front end.

  • avatar
    65corvair

    We recently had a ’17 rental Malibu. Own a previous generation Accord, a ’14 with the manual and 100,000 miles. I expected the Malibu to be the better car. It wasn’t. It was close. Ride was almost as good, and while it was quick, but not up to the Accord. The interior was a little cheaper. This is the typical GM car, they quit at 95%.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      GM used to quit at 65-70%, so they are improving.

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        Those 65% of the way there GMs used to absolutely knock it out of the park at something. Whether it was big pushrod six for import four money or the whole generation of Epsilons that rode 200 pounds quieter and more substantial than the competition because they were, they left you with reasons to what-if while you walked away.

        GM has lost that. They addressed the you’ve got to be kidding me interiors, models from 10 years ago, and build quality but at the same time they’ve given up any notion of standing out either. It’s wholly forgettable store brand from one end of the showroom to the other.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    BIGGER GRILLE

    And more weird chrome lipstick all over the front

    That’s what Chevy needs

  • avatar
    rpol35

    Talk about a nothing burger, this! I’d 86 this thing long before the Impala.

  • avatar
    Sam Hell Jr

    I hope the LEDs will plug into the 2016-2018s. Car was rightly panned for dim headlights.

    Wonder how much longer they’ll bother with the hybrid. I like mine a great deal but I think the Fusion Hybrid is outselling it like 10:1 or something.

  • avatar
    PlaysInTraffic

    “As seen in these photos, the Malibu adopts a larger grille and a less compartmentalized front fascia for 2019. If the previous model looked a little ornery, the new one appears somewhat joyous. Gone are the LED-ringed side vents…”
    … that made it look like a catfish.

  • avatar

    This is the best and last true American family sedan. When the Fusion is cancelled America will have only one family sedan in production. Fortunately, the Malibu is the best American family sedan yet. It better be good because it will now hold the fort alone.

    RIP
    200 – 2015
    Fusion – 2022

  • avatar
    stingray65

    This now becomes the best looking car in the segment (Fusion and 6 are close), and waaaaaay superior to the Camry and Accord. The question is will it matter in a shrinking segment and when it carries the “damaged” Chevy badge?

  • avatar
    TMA1

    Had one as a rental in Canada, and has to be, by far, the worst car in its segment. Lipstick on a pig, except now the pig is actually even worse because you’ve chopped off its tail and one of its legs (CVT/embarrassing RS trim).

    Cars I’d rather have in this segment: Mazda6, Passat, Fusion, Optima, Sonata, Accord, Camry, Altima, 200 (if we’re talking used).

  • avatar
    300zx_guy

    I also had one as a rental, and was disappointed. I wanted to like it more, I think it is a pretty good looking sedan. It drove well enough, but the interior seemed low rent. I found the gauge cluster oddly angled, it would have been great if my eyes were in my chest. And then there was the odd occasional clicking sound, which sounded like a relay, that I never could figure out where it was coming from or why. Given the choice for a rental, I would easily pick a Sonata, Fusion or Altima over the Malibu.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    Good to see the wild and wooly tales of the rental Malibu are still around. /s

    I love these tales of woe and sadness from folks who have spent zero real time with these cars. Renting one may give you a feel for the car (in the larger sense) but you aren’t living with it day to day. Rental “reviews” like these are worth

    Horrors! Rental car interiors are cheap? I never would have thought this! Woe, the abomination. Every car must have the highest level materials in the known universe! Action must be taken! Destroy all the facilities, burn the product and shoot the employees…

    Yeesh. No wonder I generally don’t read anything GM related here. It’s always the same crap…

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      Did you not read the Impala vs. Taurus article? The Impala cleaned house, and is an exceptional car. The Malibu is a cheap turd. Batting .300 is still considered really good.

      Besides, what’s wrong with impressions from a rental? None of the others flopped as hard and as quickly as the Malibu. The car was cheap and nasty the moment I sat in it, and it only got worse as I drove. At least some of the others can look or drive beyond their price point. GM clearly has a winner on its hands, it’s just called Impala.

    • 0 avatar
      Trucky McTruckface

      And it’s good to see that you’re still whining that we haven’t collectively forgiven GM for continuing to halfa$$ everything…

      I actually reserve my rental car hate for Toyota and especially Nissan these days. Both are clearly attempting to prop up sales with massive fleet dumping. It’s shocking to see ’18 Camrys running around with bar code stickers in the windows, while it’s hard to take the Altima seriously as a retail product anymore. Those two companies picked up the Detroit playbook and ran with it.

      However, GM totally earned it’s rental car reputation by “selling” mediocre wares for decades, and no amount of fanboy foot stomping is going to change the fact that the company still hasn’t figured out how to market a sedan to retail customers. If they were serious about competing, for starters, they’d design a sedan specifically for the American market like all their competitors do, rather than rehashing the GM-10 for 25 years or taking a competent platform and shrinking the rear legroom so they can sell the same car unsuccessfully in Europe.

      I kinda liked the loaded last-generation Malibu LTZ I had as a rental when they first came out. But a week of living with that car showed that it just wasn’t thought out very well. They’ve come a long way, but there’s really no excuse at this point for why they shouldn’t be at least aiming for the head of the class. Instead, they keep aiming for the middle of the pack and missing.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        There have been many examples of automotive redemption. One example that comes to mind is Volkswagen, which is now starting it’s third(?) round of redmeption after the latest scandal. However, GM/Chevrolet has been building solid (if unexciting) sedans for close to ten years now, but can’t get the same level of respect as Hyundai or Kia. Got it. Toyota, Ford, Nissan and others have been selling mediocre product (see, Corolla, Altima, base Camrys, Passats) for quite some time now, but no deliverance. Got it. It’s been long noted on here (and other places) that many popular mid sized sedans scrimp on materials that are ones you don’t regularly touch (i.e., hard plastics below the armrests), but no forgiveness. Got it.
        FWIW, the Malibu is sold internationally (read: worldwide, not just Canada), which explains some of the decisions regarding the car’s size. CAFE and other US regulations have their impact also. Domestically, it makes no sense should it encroach upon the (soon to be axed) Impala’s territory by offering a larger (longer wheelbase) model? This was the problem for them 20+ years ago, five models competing for the same space. A combination of the BK and the culling of brands has helped in this regard.

        10 years ago, there were people out there screaming that GM should become more like Toyota. GM heard them and has done so. Look at the automobile line ups and how similar they are, with the exception of cars like the Camaro and Corvette. But hey, now that they did all that, it still isn’t good enough. Got it.

        I think expectations are far out of line…

  • avatar
    cpthaddock

    Chevy still make a Malibu? Why?

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    What’s up with Chevy putting fake clear/amber turn signals on the rear of their cars? It’s totally unsafe: you’re behind the car expecting the turn signal to flash if they plan to turn, and it takes a moment to process that one brake light is blinking because actually the turn signals are phony and the brake light is also the actual turn signal. Not only that, but it’s frightening from a quality perspective: if they were willing to cheap-out on something so very visible, what horrifying corners did they cut where you CAN’T see them? Whatever bean counter ordered the turn signals be rendered inoperable in favor of dual-filament brake lights should be publicly drawn and quartered. It makes the car appear to be a little more upscale to the unsuspecting buyer doing a walkaround in the lot, but makes the car seem like a POS to every driver that ever rolls up behind it. NOT COOL, GM. NOT COOL AT ALL.

  • avatar

    The Malibu outsells the Mazda 6 by nearly a 3 to 1 margin. Mazda only sells about 40,000 6’s a year.

    • 0 avatar
      gasser

      Yes, Malibu outsells Mazda 6, by 3:1. Now lets cut out the fleet sales, and take the remaining number and divide it by the number of dealers each brand has. Which brand has the retail (read as profitable) customers? In my part of Los Angeles, I see Accords, Camrys, Altimas, Fusions, Impalas and Cruzes. If Chevy stopped Malibu production tomorrow, we would not notice. If Chevy plans on dropping the Impala, Malibu will really have to up its game to capture those customers. IMO Malibu won’t do it with 4 cylinder engines and CVTs.
      The “full size” sedan market is almost dead. The compact/subcompact sedan (Sonic, Sprint, Fiesta, Focus) is on the rocks for American manufacturers. If they want to make ANY sedans, they need to up their game, a lot!

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      And there are only about 4,000 more Chevy dealerships than Mazda dealerships in the USA (4,200 vs 200). It’s kind of pathetic that Chevy is only outselling Mazda 3:1.

  • avatar
    Oldschool

    I agree gasser. I’m used to driving big cars and honestly most midsize sedans still aren’t that spacious to me. But the Impala is “big enough” without feeling cramped inside like the majority of modern sedans do especially if you’re a large person.

    Once the Impala is gone, there’s not really going to be much of a choice for buyers that want a large affordable sedan besides for the 300 and Charger, which will be the only options available to buyers. The 300 is actually a great car mechanically besides for its aging and cheap feeling interior, it still has that big car feel that a lot of people still like and it rides extremely well. Now buyers will eventually have to fork down even more cash if they want a bigger car in the future since no American automaker will have anything available to offer consumers. The only other options would be a Kia Candenza, K900, a Genesis G90 or a Lexus LS460 which are all very expensive cars.

    So yes, GM is going to have to invest mightily into the Malibu’s future if it wants to stay relevant and competitive as it frees up its resources.

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