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Chevy has been developing and producing the Malibu for decades now, with a brief hiatus from the early 1980s that lasted until the late 1990s. The Malibu can easily be considered one of the best American made sedans on the market today. While the automotive industry has seen significant changes since the beginning, lineups have both come and gone; this lineup has remained in the spotlight as a prominent sedan for drivers everywhere. The 2021 Chevy Malibu is no different but with some exciting additions this time around. Ever since the lineup returned to the market, the Malibu has become the quintessential choice for millions of loyal fans due to a combination of quality, reliability, and efficiency. With the latest iteration of the beloved automobile, both fans and critics have plenty to look forward to.
Like the year prior, the Malibu retains its five available trim configurations, starting with the base model L. This base model starts at an MSRP of $22,140. What helps separate the L from other base-level trims from Malibu’s contemporaries, however, is a feature-rich experience, namely its integrated infotainment center. Following up this trim is the LS, with one of its highlights being Teen Driver integration, considered by many to be a perfect learning tool for newly licensed drivers. The RS replaces the 16-inch wheels with an 18-inch set, along with amenities such as a power-adjustable driver’s seat for an extra layer of comfort, for example. The LT and the Premier both sit at the top of the list. However, while the LT adds excellent features such as dual-zone automatic climate control, the Premier is the ultimate Malibu with a beefier engine paired with a smoother transmission and 19-inch wheels.
Powering the 2021 Malibu is one of two available powertrain configurations. Both of these engines are turbocharged, meaning you can expect superb efficiency and excellent performance for their size. Coming standard with the Malibu on every trim except for the Premier is a turbocharged 1.5L 4-cylinder that comes paired with a Continuously Variable Automatic Transmission (CVT). With two available engines, the 2021 Malibu is simplistic, although this can easily be considered a strength of the lineup.
With this base engine equipped, 80% of the available trims for the Malibu will be able to produce 160 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. However, one of the primary benefactors of utilizing a turbocharged powertrain is its efficiency. This holds for the 1.5L 4-cylinder, which can achieve EPA-estimated ratings of 29 MPG in the city and 36 MPG on the highway, with 32 MPG combined. Those who prefer extra performance out of their Malibu should consider the Premier trim for its much more capable engine.
What makes the powertrain seen on the Premier model so much more powerful is its larger size. This time around, a turbocharged 2.0L 4-cylinder is combined with a 9-speed automatic transmission for a smooth and stable ride. The uptick in performance is quite significant. This engine produces 250 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, approximately 56% more horsepower, and a 40% greater torque output than the stock engine. However, with this increase in overall performance, this engine is slightly less fuel-efficient than the aforementioned 1.5L variant, yet still impresses with EPA-estimated ratings of 22 MPG city, 33 MPG highway, and 26 MPG combined.
Within the interior of the 2021 Malibu, your ride will be both comfortable and stylish. The base model of the Malibu may lack certain amenities and opts for more traditional methods such as a manually-adjusted driver’s seat. However, opting for the RS, LT, or Premier will replace this for an 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat that comes standard. Opting for the Premier will give your front-seat passenger a 6-way power-adjustable driver seat for their comfort as well.
The Malibu supports a maximum seating capacity of five passengers, which translates into 102.9 cu.ft. of passenger volume that feels spacious. Throughout all five trims, you and your front-row passenger will be treated to 39.1-inches of headroom, while rear-row passengers will have 37.5-inches. The legroom is certainly ample, with 41.5-inches in the front and 38.1-inches for the rear-row. Against various contemporaries, the Malibu impresses with its 15.7 cu.ft. of cargo space, which should be plenty of space for your everyday cargo or transporting groceries to your home.
One of the most impressive functions of the 2021 Malibu is its robust infotainment center. This infotainment center is derivative of Chevrolet Infotainment 3, with the Plus variant also available for integrated directional navigation. Regardless of which one you opt for, it’ll come equipped with an 8-inch touchscreen, albeit it’s worth mentioning that Chevrolet Infotainment 3 Plus has a high-definition screen.
Included with this infotainment system is Bluetooth, so you can listen to your phone’s music library wirelessly. Depending on the trim you opt for, your Malibu may also include a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot that will allow for wireless internet connectivity to any device that relies on Wi-Fi, such as a laptop or a tablet. Features such as these lend the 2021 Malibu a spot amongst other modernized sedans on the market today, as these features are newer and highly sought after.
Wireless connectivity is a vital function of the 2021 Malibu as it also includes Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Historically, both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto have only allowed connection via a USB cable. With the 2021 Malibu, you can connect your smartphone to your infotainment center with no wires attached, allowing you to access all of the features that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto can offer. After connecting your smartphone, you may access your contacts and make phone calls and send text messages. Virtual assistants are also present, allowing you to ask various questions regarding weather and navigation. A majority of these features are designed to keep the driver’s hands on the wheel, allowing most of these functions to be performed through voice controls.
While the base model of the 2021 Malibu doesn’t come standard with advanced safety features, that’s not to say the lineup lacks them. Depending on the trim level that you purchase, or whether you’ve opted for various available safety packages such as Chevy’s Driver Confidence Package, your Malibu may come equipped with a plethora of features. Upgrade your Malibu with as many or as few features as you like through the various add-on options.
Among the available safety features, you can add Forward Collision Alert to your Malibu. With this safety feature, your Malibu will warn you of any impending impact by signaling an alert to the driver. Additionally, the Forward Collision Alert will also warn you if the system detects that you need to give the vehicle in front of you more space to avoid any potential accidents. Combining this with the available Automatic Emergency Braking, and your vehicle can assist in applying braking pressure to avoid an impact.
Lane Change Alert is also available for the 2021 Malibu, and with it comes Side Blind Zone Alert as well. These features work together to warn you if your blindspot is not safe, like if you’re looking to switch lanes on the freeway and there is a car next to you, for example. Safety features such as these, along with available Adaptive Cruise Control, help to make highway travel a much safer experience for everybody involved. Adaptive Cruise Control will dynamically shift your vehicle’s speed up and down depending on the distance between yourself and the vehicle ahead of yours.
Rear Park Assist is available for the 2021 Malibu, along with Front Pedestrian Braking. Rear Park Assist utilizes sensors that are placed on the rear-side of your vehicle and will send audio and visual alerts when reversing your vehicle and an obstructed object is in the way. This feature works well when combined with the available Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, which alerts you to obstructions when reversing out of a parking spot. Front Pedestrian Braking is an essential upgrade for the Malibu as it’ll assist you in stopping your vehicle immediately with extra braking pressure, much like Automatic Emergency Braking. However, this feature is utilized in the event a pedestrian is walking in front of your vehicle.
Teen Driver is available as well, serving as the quintessential teaching tool for any vehicle owner who lives with a newly-licensed driver. This software allows parents to set audio and speed limits, along with various warnings and alerts. Some of these features include muting the speaker audio until the driver is buckled in, as well as preventing the vehicle from leaving its parked state. After driving, the parents will get a detailed report card delivered to their smartphone to ensure their child is practicing safe driving etiquette.