By on August 15, 2018

Image: GM

It’s easy to make fun of what amounts to an appearance package, but appearance remains a very important part of the car-buying decision. This isn’t a Warsaw Pact country, circa 1980.

To sweeten its midsize pot, Chevrolet crafted an RS-badged version of its Malibu sedan for the 2019 model year, perhaps as a way of tempting current Redline Edition owners to trade in their rides. Once glance should tell you this thing isn’t a rental, though it still contains the turbocharged 1.5-liter four-banger you’ll find under the hood of lesser-trimmed variants. But what does extra flash and no added dash cost compared to a volume LS? As it turns out, not a lot.

According to order guides seen by CarsDirect, the 2019 Malibu RS stickers for $24,995 after destination, which is exactly a grand more than the Malibu LS.

For that price, buyers gain a blacked-out grille and Chevy emblems, 18-inch wheels, rear spoiler, and leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. Chevy makes no mention of “speed holes.” The RS, slotted between the LS and LT, does not carry the Premier trim’s 2.0-liter, 250 hp turbo engine, but it does pick up all of the styling and content changes afoot for 2019. And they are notable.

Image: General Motors

First off, 2019 Malibus gain a refreshed face with a larger — and perhaps more joyous — grille. On the transmission front, the elimination of the lower trims’ six-speed automatic means the RS sends its 160 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels through a continuously variable automatic. A manual shift mode and flappy paddles seems a given, as RS badging hardly conjures up images of shift-free driving. It also doesn’t conjure up images of a 1.5-liter, but for a relatively low-trimmed car costing a grand more than the rental fleet model, who’s going to make a fuss? The worst thing buyers can do is ignore it.

CarsDirect notes that the Malibu RS undercuts the price of competing Japanese sedans, including the four-cylinder Toyota Camry SE ($26,270) and Honda Accord Sport ($26,675). It’s worth noting, however, that the Accord lets you stir things up with a six-speed manual.

[Images: General Motors]

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39 Comments on “Brawny, Four-cylinder, CVT-equipped Chevrolet Malibu RS Demands a Modest Price...”

  • avatar

    The 1.5T engine in this car with the start/stop made this car the most miserable driving experience of any car I’ve ever driven in my life. I cannot put into words the frustration it is to drive this car, I am way too young for my blood pressure to go up as high as it did trying to drive this rental for 2.5 weeks.

    • 0 avatar

      Though I don’t get these as rentals for more than a few days, I can echo the same experience. I have no idea why any sane person would choose these things. They are 100% miserable trash in rental spec. They’re slow, mushy, boring and bland.

      The start/stop thing didn’t get on my nerves too badly; all you have to do is come to a stop, lift off the brake and then stop again and it will stay started. I did get tired of the coolant whooshing around at every stop light. Made me want to take a leak after a fair amount of stop and go traffic.

      These are cars for people who do not care about cars–which means they’ll probably sell quite a lot of them.

    • 0 avatar

      Preach it!

      I don’t know how anyone could buy this today. It is completely noncompetitive in the class. I know it sells relatively speaking, and it isn’t as much a rental queen in terms of percentage (Altima) and sheer number (Camry) but WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE BUYING THIS?!?!

      I had a 2016 like you, it was dreadful. I have a 2018 service loaner and it is still dreadful.

      I thought this had the 9-speed not the CVT — but it makes sense because the 2018 penalty box the service department foisted on me sure feels like it has a horrid CVT that makes the Altima look well programmed in comparison.

  • avatar

    This has 50% foreign parts content (and domestic includes U.S. AND Canadian-sourced parts).



    “General Motors LLC” (the NEW GM, post-bailout) is a Shell Company that is a sleeper cell entity controlled by the Chinese Communist Government.

    China is using it to steal American Engineering, IT, Hybrid Tech, Battery Tech, and other important technologies that have dual-use military and commercial applications, and is weaponizing this technology against the United States as I write this.

    General Motors should be identified and listed as an entity wholly controlled by a foreign hostile nation-state, and banned and sanctioned from doing any business or even having a presence within the United States of America or any of its territories.

    Its key executives should also be indicted for sedition/treason/espionage, and many other federal felonies, and tried for such crimes in U.S. Courts having appropriate jurisdiction over these claims.

    • 0 avatar

      p.s. – Australia, New Zealand, Canada and many other “western” nations had better pick sides soon between China and the U.S., lest they find themselves up sh*t creek without a paddle forever more as a territory under the complete dominion and control of The Peoples Republic of China.

      Out Presidents and congress-slime in the U.S. change every 4 to 6 years, so you may be happier or more upset at U.S. policy given whoever is in office at any particular time, but you will have protection, freedoms and benefits that you will lose forever if you let China put its thumb down upon you.


      • 0 avatar

        Oh dear, DW seems to be off his meds.

        Get a grip, dude.

      • 0 avatar

        Deadweight is corr

        Never mind…….

      • 0 avatar

        DeadWeight: True Dat! You got it figured. The snowflakes on this site can’t connect the dots.

        • 0 avatar

          Anyone and every American should read Graham Allison’s “Destined for War”.

          Its thesis rests on a catchphrase Allison has popularized, “Thucydides’s Trap.” Even China’s President, Xi Jinping, is fond of quoting it. “On the current trajectory,” Allison contends, “war between the U.S. and China in the decades ahead is not just possible, but much more likely than currently recognized.” The reason, he says, can be traced to the problem described in the fifth century B.C.E. in Thucydides’ account of the Peloponnesian War. Sparta, as the established power, felt threatened by the rising might of Athens. In such conditions, Allison writes, “not just extraordinary, unexpected events, but even ordinary flashpoints of foreign affairs, can trigger large-scale conflict.”

          Allison sees Thucydides’ Trap in the wars between a rising England and the established Dutch Republic in the seventeenth century, a rising Germany versus Britain in the early twentieth century, and a rising Japan versus the United States in the nineteen-forties. Some historical tensions between rising powers and ruling ones were resolved without a catastrophic war (the Soviet challenge to U.S. dominance), but many, Allison warns, were not. And there’s no disputing China’s steep military and economic rise in recent decades. Its annual military budget has, for most of the past decade, increased by double digits, and the People’s Liberation Army, even in its newly streamlined form, has nearly a million more active service members than the United States has. As recently as 2004, China’s economy was less than half that of the United States. Today, in terms of purchasing-power parity, China has left the United States behind. Allison is so excited by China’s swift growth that his prose often sounds like a mixture of a Thomas Friedman column and a Maoist propaganda magazine like China Reconstructs. Rome wasn’t built in a day? Well, he writes, someone “clearly forgot to tell the Chinese. By 2005, the country was building the square-foot equivalent of today’s Rome every two weeks.”

          China’s challenge to the established postwar order needs to be taken seriously. Gideon Rachman, the Financial Times foreign-affairs commentator, considers China’s increasing clout in the broader context of what he calls, in a remarkably ugly phrase, “Easternization,” which is also the title of his well-written new survey (just published by Other Press). The gravity of economic and military power, he argues, is moving from West to East. He is thinking of more than the new class of Chinese billionaires; he includes India, a country that might one day surpass even China as an economic powerhouse, and reminds us that Japan has been one of the world’s largest economies for some time now. Tiny South Korea ranks fourteenth in the world in purchasing-power parity. And the Asian megacities are looking glitzier by the day. Anyone who flies into J.F.K. from any of the metropolitan areas in China, let alone from Singapore or Tokyo, can readily see what Rachman has in mind. There is a great deal going on in Asia. The question is what this will mean, and whether “Easternization” is an illuminating concept for understanding it.

          Since nationalism is now the main ideology propping up the legitimacy of China’s regime, no Chinese leader can possibly back down from such challenges as Taiwan’s desire for independence or Tibetan resistance to Han Chinese rule or anything else that might make China look weak in the eyes of its citizens. This is why Donald Trump’s loose talk about revising the One China policy inflamed a mood that is already dangerously combustible. It’s worth bearing in mind that “The China Dream” is actually the title of a best-selling book by Colonel Liu Mingfu, whose arguments for China’s supremacy in an Asian renaissance sound remarkably like Japanese propaganda in the nineteen-thirties. Rachman quotes him saying that “when China becomes the world’s leading nation, it will put an end to Western notions of racial superiority.” The only Western power that might stand in the way of this project of Chinese hegemony is the United States.”

    • 0 avatar

      So disappointing….at least make it an original rant. Or have you outsourced your commenting to China?

      • 0 avatar

        The way commentary threads are trending here, Alex Jones style and intellect seems to be the destination.

        • 0 avatar

          I should have kept it to a vehicle specific comment, rather than a company-wide one, admittedly.

          Both the Impala with the 2.5 liter engine, and the Malibu, with any 4 cylinder motor, are subpar vehicles, and the stop-start system that Guangzhou-Guadalajara Motors (GM) has installed in these, is awful (so awful, that it alone, among a myriad of other compelling factors) is enought to dismiss these vehicles for consideration of purchase.

        • 0 avatar

          you hit on the head. Somehow people think going past Full Retard strait to Potato gives them some sort of character or value. While it’s entertaining to read/watch it also sad and depressing.

    • 0 avatar

      You’ll be able to rule out Australia in coming years. Like the UK, we have fake conservatives in control.

      Malibu did poorly in Australia.

    • 0 avatar

      You tone is a bit hysterical, but you make a few valid points. Before NAFATA was signed it was not uncommon to see American cars with 90% US content. I remember seeing various Cadillacs and Saturn with more than 90% US content. It has been estimated that America has lost about 40% parts manufacturing to Canada and Mexico. The Fusion and MKZ are probably 80% Mexican in content.

  • avatar

    Amen, Hummer. A ’16 LS was my company car for two years.

  • avatar

    Great, just what this hotrod needed: a soul-sucking CVT.

  • avatar
    Car Guy

    I have a 17 Malibu with the 1.5L. I average 41 MPG driving on the highway and have been happy with it. Its a basic car and does the job. It’s not a Corvette or Motorcycle. Thats why I have those as well…..

  • avatar

    Why is GM putting a CVT in this car when they have a perfectly good nine-speed?

    I guess I really don’t care that much since the majority of Malibu sales seems to be rental and fleet cars for sales reps. The Malibu is an okay car, I never hated driving it and appretiate the standard touchscreen with carplay, but still, there are many other cars I’d rather drive including the Accord, Camry, and old Passat.

    • 0 avatar

      The Malibu looks better than the Camry. The Malibu handles better, but is also slightly slower off the line. All the cars in this segment are decent and have their own pros and cons.

      When Ford announced the cancellation of the Fusion they were admitting to the whole industry they can’t compete.

      • 0 avatar

        The Fusion is still pretty competitive in this field and it’s been around 5+ years. I don’t blame them for not wanting to sink development costs into a redesign just to race to the bottom with the rest of the sedan segment. This ‘can’t compete’ bs is tired (not to mention irrelevant to this post and comment you replied to)

        • 0 avatar

          Mjg, its because its a Ford, that’s his whole joy in life is finding ways to belittle Ford.

          I guess a Ranger ran over his puppy in 1987, and its been an obsession ever since.

  • avatar

    Are the 1.5s still wont to eat pistons, or was that a fluke? Is this the same CVT as found in Nissans? I recall hearing that the Cruze might be going that route and using a Jatco sourced unit.

  • avatar

    USnews ranks this as the best domestic sedan. I think it finished fifth place, which is good in a field of 12. It basically knocks the Fusion out of the top five position.

    Car and driver gave the Malibu 4 out of 5 stars, while the Fusion got 2.5 out of 5 stars. For better or worse the Malibu is the best domestic family sedan.

    I have yet to read a negative review for the Malibu. The people posting negative reviews here are either Ford employees or trolls.

    Ford is not even bothering to compete with the Malibu.

    • 0 avatar

      I can’t stand Ford and their boring offerings, and up until the past few years (since GMoA no longer builds interesting vehicles I have been a dyed in the wool GM guy… not really on purpose they just built interesting vehicles with good V8s. I’m certainly not trolling about this car, if you hate yourself enough go rent one of these and let us know if you have to get on blood pressure meds following your experience.

      It can get all the accolades in the world but the engine is still a horrid mess that can’t get out of its own way.

      • 0 avatar

        I am sure the Malibu’s engine is not as noisy as Ecoboast in my 2014 Fusion. The one advantage my 2009 Malibu had over my current Fusion that it’s engine was far quieter.

        • 0 avatar

          The 2009 Malibu looked great and had good engine options, the current Malibu is the closest thing we have to torture in this country. I could care less if it’s quieter than the Fusion, comparing turds is not very interesting to me. It’s a FWD sedan with tiny 4 cylinders, I dont care how it compares to the competition. There should be one goal since your already buying a turd, to perform mediocre tasks expected of it. The Malibu fails to perform in a way expected of a cheap car.

          If we want to compare turds then I point to the last gen Avengers that could be had with a 300HP V6 for less than $20k.

          • 0 avatar

            Yeah. Those not-300 hp Avengers were so awesome. And yeah, lets compare the not-300 hp top spec engine Avenger to the base engine in the Malibu. That makes sense.

            About as much sense as a Hummer or a 4Runner egomobile.

          • 0 avatar

            It’s a moot point if it’s the upper engine on the avenger and the lowest spec on the Malibu, the 1.5T is more expensive to about the same price as the top spec on the Avenger.

            Hummer or 4Runner may be an egovehicle to you but the Hummers are leisure/work trucks to me, and the 4Runner is a reliable, cheap driver that gets good fuel economy that I can comfortably stack several hundred thousand miles on.

          • 0 avatar

            You tone is a bit hysterical, but you make a few valid points. Before NAFATA was signed it was not uncommon to see American cars with 90% US content. I remember seeing various Cadillacs and Saturn with more than 90% US content. It has been estimated that America has lost about 40% parts manufacturing to Canada and Mexico. The Fusion and MKZ are probably 80% Mexican in content.

          • 0 avatar

            Car and Driver disagrees with. They now rate all Malibu’s models ahead of the Fusion. GM has pulled a head of Ford is all facets of car production.

            “Despite its family-sedan classification, the Malibu is both beautiful and athletic. It offers two refined four-cylinder engines as well as a hybrid powertrain with impressive fuel economy, and its chassis balances ride and handling better than many rivals. Most models have an excellent infotainment system and abundant active-safety options, but lower trims are less blessed. This Chevy offers everything most consumers want, but it doesn’t feel as upscale or as nimble as either the Honda Accord or the Mazda 6.”

            -Car and Driver July 2018

          • 0 avatar

            “They now rate all Malibu’s models ahead of the Fusion.”

            With all due respect I do not see Fusion even mentioned there. They compared it with Accord and Mazda6.

            BTW Did you drive Ford lately?

        • 0 avatar

          Damn. Its a shame they don’t let you test drive cars before you buy them.

          Then again, your Power Wheels isn’t really a Ford Fusion, so, there’s that.

          • 0 avatar

            Hi All – long time reader, first time poster.

            John, you seem like a decently intelligent dude but have some self awareness. You throw so much venom on people’s driving choices yet drive, what, a ’96 Taurus?

            I get it, despite what others might think based on their own experiences and needs, the Taurus is a good car that fits your needs.

            Could it be, despite your own experiences and needs, that the Hummer and 4runner fit the needs of people other than yourself?

            Again, I think you’re a good dude, just something to think on.

  • avatar

    My wife doesn’t know a CVT from a GTI, but she found the Malibu with the 1.5T undrivable.

  • avatar
    Carroll Prescott

    Looks like a red lima bean.

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