by Adam Lynton
Mid-size sedans are the make or break segments for any automaker, where even the smallest details can bring a car home or leave it on the showroom floor. Gone are the days of big American V8 muscle picking up the kids, going on holiday, and quick trips to the store, taking a back seat to a market edging towards more practical and fuel-efficient means of making the rounds. The 2019 Malibu Hybrid is Chevrolet's response to that challenge, with its sights set on the Japanese giant's hybrids like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. Its 1.8-liter hybrid four-cylinder engine delivers 182 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque, with two electric motors doing most of the grunt-work. With it's refreshed looks, impressive economy, and almost-elegant styling, 2019's Malibu wraps technology and efficiency in an American bowtie.
The 2019 Chevrolet Malibu hybrid receives its refresh this year, with Chevy bringing it both up-to-speed and up-to-par with technology and looks. Up-front the Malibu Hybrid sports a new fascia, grille, and headlamps, while out back, a new rear fascia and dual-element LED taillamps gives it a fresh look. A color eight-inch driver information center display is easy to use, while Chevrolet's Infotainment 3 System now features as standard on an eight-inch touchscreen display.
The Malibu hybrid takes a subtle but elegant approach in terms of styling, featuring 17-inch aluminum wheels from the LT trim, LED daytime running lamps, LED taillamps, a large front grille, and low swept curves from the front wheel arch stretching all the way back before ending at the rear taillamps. The chrome grille is standard and differs from the black item on standard models, while the Hybrid also gets halogen headlights with DRLs and a noticeably absent exhaust finisher.
The Malibu Hybrid packs a curb weight of 3,366 lbs, making it the lightest amongst its Camry and Accord rivals but heavier than the standard Malibu by more than 140 lbs. Its 193.8-inch long body sits over a 111.4-inch wheelbase and measures 73 inches wide. The Malibu stands 57.6 inches high, too, placing it firmly in the mid-size segment.
Powering the Malibu Hybrid is a 1.8-Liter Hybrid Ecotec four-cylinder engine paired with two electric motors that combine to generate 182 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque. The two-motor hybrid electric drive unit sends power to the front wheels, taking it up to 55 mph before any assistance from the gas engine is required. While efficiency is the name of the game, the motors also get the Malibu off the line with brisk acceleration and strong power delivery. Overtaking at speed is where the gas-only motor pitches in for the extra grunt, doing its part in making the maneuver an effortless one.
Comfort is key with the Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid, with the suspension smoothing over road imperfections impeccably. Tasking it with successive corners doesn't phase it either, with body roll and sway kept to a minimum. The general driving dynamic leans towards a more premium and refined experience, more so than anything sporty. That said, the Hybrid does still feel agile despite its midsize dimensions and added battery weight.
The Malibu demonstrates one of the better-tuned steering setups in Chevrolet's arsenal too, with just enough feedback not to mute the driver from the outside world. Its biggest downfall, however, is an abundance of road noise from its tires. Though not as quiet inside as its Accord rival, the cabin's otherwise excellent insulation isn't nearly enough to muffle out Chevy's choice of rubber on the road, especially true when you consider the gas-only motor sleeps for most of the trip.
The 2019 Chevrolet Malibu hybrid boasts impressive fuel economy figures from its three-motor powertrain, with an EPA-rated 49/43/46 mpg for city/highway/combined cycles. It takes a strong third-place compared to its Accord and Camry hybrid rivals though, with the Accord achieving a consistent 48/48/48 mpg and the Camry 52/51/53 mpg. Both the Camry and Malibu sport a 13-gallon fuel tank capacity, seeing the Malibu achieve up to 598-miles on a full tank of gas.
Space is plentiful inside the Malibu Hybrid, with a very generous 39.1 inches of headroom for the driver and front passenger allowing even the tallest of drivers some room to fit. The rear measures 1.6-inches less at 37.5 inches headroom and boast an impressive 38.1 inches of legroom to boot - not quite as much as an Accord Hybrid, but enough to prevent adults from complaining too much. Shoulder room at the front and rear come in at 58.5 inches and 57.1 inches respectively. The five-seater ticks all the right boxes for driver and passengers alike, offering spacious travel for the segment.
A common problem for automotive manufacturers pertaining to hybrids is where to put the batteries. Hybrid badges were synonymous with inferior trunk space, and it's taken some time for the industry to find better storage solutions in bespoke platforms designed with electrification in mind. Both the Camry and Accord have moved theirs under the rear seats, freeing up trunk space by quite some margin. Sadly, the same can't be said of the Malibu, with 11.6 cubic feet of cargo capacity, 4.1 cubic feet less than its gas-only models. The cabin does, however, offer two center console cupholders, bottle holders in all four doors, as well as small storage compartments above and below the shifter, and a center console storage box.
The 2019 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid is packed with features. Based on the regular Malibu LT, as standard the hybrid sedan gets a tire pressure monitoring system, HD rear vision camera, LED daytime running lamps, outside heated power-adjustable mirrors, keyless entry and start, cruise control, power door locks and windows, and tilt and telescopic steering column. Other features include an HD eight-inch driver information center, dual-zone climate control, rear-window defogger, Teen Driver Technology, compass and outside temperature displays, a remote vehicle starter system, eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat with lumbar control, and a center console power outlet. Features such as a sunroof and heated front seats are kept purely optional, however, as are most driver aids like forward collision alert and front pedestrian braking.
Thanks to the Malibu's 2019 refresh, the infotainment got a substantial upgrade to Chevrolet's Infotainment 3 Plus System, dressed in an eight-inch touch-screen color HD display. An AM/FM stereo and SiriusXM satellite streaming cover everything radio, while Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support deliver a more connected experience. Bluetooth audio streaming offers connectivity for two devices simultaneously as well. The system boasts a range of compatible applications that pair with smartphones for various functions, while built-in navigation is reserved for the Malibu's gas-only Premier model. Sound clarity and loudness lean towards the more acceptable end of the spectrum, but with only six speakers, we would've liked to see the Malibu come with an optional uprated audio package.
At the time of writing, there have been no recalls issued for the Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid, with owners only reporting minor issues. The Malibu Hybrid carries a three-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper limited warranty, as well as a hybrid component warranty spanning over an eight-year/100,000-mile period. A five-year/60,000-mile powertrain limited warranty and matching roadside assistance come as standard, too, while six-year/100,000-mile rust-through protection completes the list.
The NHTSA has yet to rate the 2019 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid, though the IIHS has given the Hybrid 'Good' scores all around with the exception of the small overlap front passenger side and child seat anchors ease of use receiving only 'Moderate' ratings. Fortunately, ten airbags are standard, including front knee airbags and seat-mounted side airbags, but the best safety features are reserved for the options list, with items like forward collision warning, pedestrian braking, and lane change alert all optional, and forward automatic braking not available at all.
The 2019 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid offers both practicality and fuel-efficiency in equal measure, with updated styling and technology shifting focus back to the American manufacturer's take on the everyday hybrid. Though outclassed in terms of efficiency by both the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, the bowtie-wearing sedan sparks its own appeal with modern interior design and an easy-on-the-eye exterior. With only a single hybrid model offered, buyers get a wholly-featured Malibu straight off the showroom floor that boasts a rather extensive list of features, reserving only the most premium of creature comforts as optional. Chevy's decision to include its Infotainment 3 System on an eight-inch touch-screen as standard certainly bodes well for the Malibu, too, setting it apart from last year's variant. Though not a bad car by any measure, better vehicles can be found with very little effort, both in and out of the hybrid segment.
The 2019 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid is only available in a single model, pooling all the features from its lower-tier gas-only variants and even a select few from the Premier model. Priced at $29,095 before tax, licensing, registration, and $875 in destination charges, it's the second-most expensive model in the Malibu lineup, only exceeded by the Premier.
1.8-liter Inline-4 Hybrid
The 2019 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid is only available in a single trim, limiting options to additional packages made up of customization and enhanced features. Chevy's decision to condense the five-trim Malibu range into a single Hybrid model does have its benefits for the prospective buyer though, boasting a rather extensive list of features as standard, as well as benefiting from the largest selection of optional packages in the Malibu range. Priced at $29,095, it's $3,600 cheaper than its gas-only range-topper and offers superior fuel efficiency, though at the cost of some usable cargo space. We recommend the Driver Confidence and Driver Confidence II packages at $545 and $550 respectively, adding safety features such as lane keep assist and forward collision alert, essential for the family daily driver.
Toyota's Camry has been a household name for over 30 years, a heritage that translates to the Camry Hybrid for both its practical nature and fuel-efficient motor. In its base LE configuration, it decimates its hybrid rivals with its 51/53/52 mpg, leaving the Malibu Hybrid rather shy at 49/43/46 mpg. In comparison, however, the Hybrid LE is significantly bare-bones when standing head to head with the Malibu Hybrid, with the $30,100 Hybrid SE bringing things more in line in terms of how they're specced. Fuel efficiency falls in line too, bridging the gap to an almost indistinguishable 44/47/46 mpg. The Camry stays ahead though, only taking a back seat in terms of power (176 vs 182 horsepower), but redeems itself with a larger cargo capacity (15.1 vs 11.6 cubic feet), and a one-year longer warranty period on its powertrain (six vs five years).
The Honda Accord Hybrid takes a stance at the top of the proverbial food chain when it comes to gas/electric hybrids available today, and it's easy to see why. The Accord features a humongous 16.7 cubic feet of cargo space, 5.1 cubic feet more than the Malibu. Things continue to go downhill from there for the Chevy, with the Accord's consistent 48/48/48 mpg triumphantly staring down at the Malibu's 49/43/46 mpg estimates. The Chevy does bounce back a little with its more responsive and lively motor but drops the ball again in terms of interior quality. The Accord features an upscale interior even at base trim, as well as a lower base cost amongst its four-model hybrid lineup, awarding the Japanese manufacturer the crown in this comparison.