A blue 2021 Chevy Malibu is driving next to a body of water.

Best Bang for the Buck: The Very Capable (and Overlooked) 2021 Chevrolet Malibu

Let’s be honest: the midsize four-door sedan segment is fairly lacking in show-stopping magazine-cover-ready model options. But its lack of pretense doesn’t mean there aren’t a handful of sleepers. Perhaps the biggest sleeper of them all is the 2021 Chevy Malibu. This dependable 57-year-old Chevrolet icon has been a long-time favorite of savvy sedan shoppers everywhere.

Starting at just $22,140, the 2021 Malibu leaves the gate with an affordable price tag, providing great fuel economy and Chevrolet’s extensive new vehicle warranty coverage to keep total ownership costs low as well. Since it seats five comfortably and offers plenty of cargo space, the Malibu is a practical choice for families. It also doesn’t hurt that the latest Malibu possesses elegant curb appeal, lending it an air of much more expensive luxury sedans.

Chevy describes the Malibu as a car with “muscular lines running across the interior” and as a “modern take on the sedan.” We agree, and upon deeper examination, we also believe the Malibu offers plenty more reasons to consider it over the more common crossover SUV body style. It’s easy for sedans to disappear among the dozens of crossovers flooding the market, but the Malibu is worth a test drive, thanks to its roomy cabin and competent handling.

Chevrolet also infuses the Malibu with plenty of advanced technology, from connected infotainment to driver-assist safety systems. Smartphone integration converts the Malibu into an information hub and keeps drivers connected while on the go, while features like a 4G LTE Wi-Fi Hotspot and Amazon Alexa compatibility further drive home the message that this Malibu isn’t as simple as it looks.

It’s time to dive a little deeper into the features and attributes of the underdog 2021 Chevy Malibu, including reviewing important features like cabin space, safety, and performance. With so many new vehicle options, consumers need a reason to take another look at the less popular sedan category. We think the Malibu might just be the vehicle that justifies it.

A Variety of Trims

The 2021 Chevy Malibu lineup consists of five separate and unique trims. The base L, which starts at $22,140, combines a standard 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with a continuously variable transmission. The multi-link suspension, designed to ride over uneven road surfaces smoothly, delivers a surprisingly luxurious ride.

Upgrade to the Malibu LS for $23,270, and you’ll get visor mirrors, an outside temperature display, and a special Teen Driver feature that uses app-based technology to monitor teen driving habits and adapt on-board systems to keep teens safe behind the wheel. The Malibu RS, with a starting price of $24,270, includes all L and LS equipment, plus special black exterior badging, a chrome grille outline, 18-inch aluminum wheels, and the addition of sporty dual exhaust and a rear spoiler. Inside, a power driver’s seat and leather-wrapped steering wheel provide a boost of interior luxury.

The Malibu LT, at $26,670, includes standard LED exterior lighting, heated exterior mirrors that are body-colored, and heated front seats. It also offers a Sport Edition that shares many of the distinctive exterior features of the RS trim. Opt for the top-of-the-line Malibu Premier, and for $33,370, and you’ll get a big boost in power, thanks to a standard 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, a nine-speed automatic transmission, and larger 19-inch wheels that add to the Malibu’s already sporty appearance.

A white 2021 Chevy Malibu is driving through a city intersection.

Modern Technology

Chevy is known for its advanced in-vehicle technology features, and those features are prominent in the 2021 Chevy Malibu. Beginning with Chevy’s standard Infotainment 3 system, connectivity is front-and-center. The system flawlessly connects with your smartphone to deliver one-touch access to streaming music apps and podcasts, making the drive a little more entertaining. You can access your content easily via the standard dash-mounted 8-inch infotainment touchscreen.

With the available 4G LTE Wi-Fi Hotspot, everyone can stay connected no matter where you go. It even works as far away as 50 feet from the vehicle, which means reliable wireless service even after you reach your destination. With standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus the available wireless charging pad, your car will clear of messy cords while your phone remains connected and charged.

Let’s talk about Chevy’s myChevrolet mobile app: the app is intelligently designed with an intuitive user interface that converts your smartphone into a command center. The app acts as a virtual key, locking and unlocking your Malibu and even remotely starting it so that it’s warm and toasty when you’re ready to leave. The app also monitors vehicle diagnostics and provides a gateway for scheduling regular service appointments.

The Malibu is also available fully-loaded with advanced safety systems and driver-assist technology, all designed to keep occupants safe and avoid dangerous hazards and collisions. These systems work together to constantly monitor the environment and road ahead, alerting the driver to potential issues and, when necessary, providing automatic emergency braking and even gentle steering corrections when the vehicle accidentally drifts out of its lane.

The two-tone gray dashboard and steering wheel are shown in a 2021 Chevy Malibu.


The 2021 Chevy Malibu boasts two different engine options, depending on the trim you choose. The base engine is a very efficient and capable 1.5-liter four-cylinder turbocharged design with Continuously Variable Valve Timing and Direct Injection, both of which work to deliver optimal performance while maintaining fuel economy ratings of 29 MPG city and 36 MPG highway. This engine is found in all three of the lower trims on the 2021 Malibu.

However, the impressive Malibu Premier comes standard with a larger and more powerful 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. This powertrain delivers a hearty 250 horsepower via its advanced EcoTec technology. EcoTec motors are lighter and more efficient, which translates into better performance and solid fuel efficiency. The 2.0-liter engine is also paired with a smooth-shifting nine-speed automatic transmission for even better performance.

There’s a reason Car and Driver labeled the Malibu a “nice balance of ride and handling” with an “efficient standard four-cylinder.” Even at the lower trim ranges, Chevy maximizes the Malibu’s output and performance by pairing engines with capable transmissions and adding a power steering system that’s responsive and especially agile at lower speeds, when turning radius counts the most. This crisp handling and agile design is something that is increasingly absent in a world of SUVs and pickup trucks.

A High-Value Sedan Option

There is very little compromise when it comes to choosing a 2021 Chevy Malibu. The only real drawback is its sedan styling, which some feel is dated and losing its luster. We think body style is a highly personal choice, and if you’re not married to a crossover configuration, the Malibu might be the best choice for you based on value alone.

Chevy sweetens the pot with a liberal factory warranty that includes a 3-year/36,000-mile limited warranty and a comprehensive and lengthy 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty. Want free maintenance and roadside assistance? You get that too with the 2021 Malibu, making it a tremendous bang-for-the-buck option.

With the 2021 Chevy Malibu, our question is, what’s not to like? For around the mid-$20,000 range, you can get a nicely-equipped family sedan with plenty of interior cabin space, cargo room, and a low cost of ownership. It’s backed by Chevy and a network of some of the most professional and experienced dealers in the country. Our unanimous vote: don’t overlook the Malibu if you’re in the market for a practical four-door vehicle.