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Digital Trends / Tech - Game

Chevy's 2018 Malibu is packed with tech, but it's locked in the top trims

Despite a paucity of the standard driver assistance features the 2018 Chevrolet Malibu is bound to remain the maker's best-selling car.
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The midsize Chevrolet Malibu was by far Chevy’s best-selling car in 2016 and has easily maintained that position in 2017. Overall, the Malibu falls into the automaker’s third sales spot behind the Silverado pickup truck and the Equinox compact crossover.

The 2018 Chevrolet Malibu model lineup is unchanged from 2017 with one exception — the base model Malibu L gas tank capacity is now 15.8 gallons, up from 13 gallons in 2017 for the same trim. Chevy does not include much in the way of driver assist and passive safety features with the Malibu’s lower trim levels, but that doesn’t appear to have much of an impact on sales.

The Malibu’s recent redesign for the 2016 model year began the ninth generation of Chevy’s midsize car. There are five Malibu trim levels for 2018 — L, LS, LT, Hybrid, and Premier. All Malibus are front-wheel drive only, with no AWD option. All trims have four-cylinder engines, including the Hybrid trim. Starting prices range from $22,555 for the Malibu L to the Malibu Premier’s $31,850.

Engines and transmissions

The base engine with the Malibu L, LS, and LT is a 1.5-liter EcoTec turbocharged in-line four-cylinder with variable valve timing, direct fuel injection, and start/stop technology. The only transmission available is a six-speed automatic. The 1.5-liter engine is rated at 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque at 2,500-3,000 RPMs. The EPA fuel economy rating is 27 mpg in city and 36 mpg on the highway. With the 15.8-gallon tank in the L, LS, and LT, you could theoretically drive 568 miles on the highway on one tank of gas.

The Malibu Premier trim runs on a 250-hp 2.0-liter EcoTec turbo engine and a nine-speed automatic transmission. The engine produces a respectable 260 lb-ft at @2,000-5,000 RPM, a wide powerband range. The 2.0-liter engine is EPA rated to average 22 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway.

For the best fuel economy, the Malibu Hybrid’s 1.8-liter four-cylinder hybrid gas/electric propulsion engine with 50W continuous power returns an EPA-estimated 49 mpg in city driving and 43 mpg on the highway.

Tech features

Base Malibu L trim tech includes StabiliTrak electronic stability control, a 3.5-inch driver information dashboard display, Bluetooth streaming audio support, and an OnStar Guidance Plan with Automatic Crash Response and Turn-by-turn Navigation (subscription required).

All Malibus have a Rear Seat Reminder system with audible and visual alerts to check the back seat when a second-row door is opened and closed. This feature can help drivers remember purchases, equipment, and even other people who may be in the back seat.

The Malibu LS is the first trim in the lineup with Chevy’s Teen Driver feature, which can set maximum vehicle speed, music volume, configure included active safety features, and, in conjunction with Chevrolet MyLink, send parents a report on driving activity. The LS is also the first trim level with a standard rear camera.

Only Malibu LT trims and above can opt for the $1,195 Driver Confidence Package. It includes passive safety and driver assist features including low-speed front automatic braking, front pedestrian braking, front rear parking assist, lane keeping assist, lane departure warning, blind zone alert, lane change alert, forward distance indicator, forward collision alert, and rear cross-traffic alert.

Only the Premier trim can also select the $995 Driver Confidence Package II with adaptive cruise control, front automatic braking, automatic parking assist, and an electronic parking brake.

While many car manufacturers include at least partial driver assist features throughout their trim lines, Chevy restricts such features to higher trims and even then only in option packages. This strategy is a marked contrast from vehicles such as the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, and Nissan Altima, midsize cars that all outsell the Malibu.

How to choose a 2018 Chevrolet Malibu

More expensive Malibu trim levels include more standard connectivity, convenience, and comfort features. As mentioned above, if you want driver assist features, they are available as options only with LT trims and above.

2018 Malibu L

Starting at $22,555, the Malibu L has a 1.5-liter turbocharged engine with direct injection, stop/start technology, and a six-speed automatic transmission. All Malibus have MacPherson strut front suspension, GM’s StabiliTrak electronic stability control system, and a tire pressure monitoring system.

Standard equipment includes a theft-deterrent system, daytime running lights, halogen projector-beam headlights, power adjustable side mirrors, keyless open and start, and remote keyless entry. All trims also include power-programmable door locks, AM/FM stereo with six speakers and streaming Bluetooth support. Driver information displays in a 3.5-inch dashboard screen.

The General Motors OnStar Guidance Plan with Automatic Crash Response and Turn-by-turn Navigation is standard with a six-month free trial. All Malibu trims also include power windows, power door locks, cruise control, single-zone manual air conditioning, and a 12V power outlet.

2018 Malibu LS

The first Malibu upgrade trim, the LS, has a $24,100 starting price. In addition to L features, the LS includes 16-inch aluminum wheels, a rear camera, Chevrolet MyLink radio with a 7-inch color touchscreen display, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support. The LS has OnStar with 4G LTE and mobile Wi-Fi hotspot support for up to seven devices (data plan required). Other standard equipment includes a USB port, front visor vanity mirrors, compass and outside temperature displays, and Chevy’s Teen Driver feature.

2018 Malibu LT

The Malibu LT trim, with a $26,000 starting price, upgrades features and unlocks availability to additional options such as the Driver Confidence Package. In addition to LS features, the LT includes LED daytime running lamps, outside heated power-adjustable mirrors with integrated turn signals, and a SiriusXM Satellite All Access Package. LT’s have Chevy’s Warm White ambient lighting, an eight-way power driver seat with power lumbar control, and illuminated driver and passenger vanity mirrors.

2018 Malibu Hybrid

The Malibu Hybrid trim ($28,750) features most of the same features as the LT, with the addition of dual-zone automatic climate control, a hybrid-specific instrument cluster, and of course, hybrid power.

2018 Malibu Premier

If you want the most luxury, the most powerful engine, and access to the full suite of driver assist and passive safety options, the only choice is the Malibu Premier trim, a $31,850 starting price.

In addition to the LT features, the Premier has a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with a nine-speed transmission. The engine produces 250 hp. The car also wears LED taillamps and 18-inch aluminum wheels. Also included standard with the Premier trim are remote starting, Chevrolet MyLink Radio with an integrated navigation system, an 8-inch color touchscreen, Bose premium audio with nine speakers, and a color display driver information center.

Malibu Premiers have dual-zone automatic climate control, dual charge-only USB ports, and wireless charging support. Drivers and passengers enjoy driver seat and outside mirror memory, heated and ventilated driver and front passenger seats, six-way power-adjustable front passenger seat with power-lumbar control, leather seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift controls, and a heated steering wheel.

Trim2018 Malibu L2018 Malibu LS2018 Malibu LT2018 Malibu Hybrid2018 Malibu Premier
Base price$22,555$24,100$26,000$28,750$31,850
Drive wheelsFrontFrontFrontFrontFront
Base engine1.5L turbocharged EcoTec 4-cylinder engine1.5L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with VVT1.5L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with VVT1.8L engine with hybrid electric propulsion system2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder enginer
Base horsepower160 Hp @5,700 RPM160 Hp @5,700 RPM160 Hp @5,700 RPM124 hp @5,000 RPM250 hp @5,300 RPM
Base torque184 lb-ft @2,500-3,000 RPM184 lb-ft @2,500-3,000 RPM184 lb-ft @2,500-3,000 RPM129 lb-ft @4,750 RPM260 lb-ft of torque at @2,000-5,000 RPM
Transmission6-speed automatic6-speed automatic6-speed automaticTwo-motor automatic hybrid transmission9-speed automatic
FuelRegular gasRegular gasRegular gasRegular gasRegular gas
Fuel capacity (gallons)15.8 gallons15.8 gallons15.8 gallons13.0 gallons15.8 gallons
Fuel economy27 mpg city/36 mpg highway27 mpg city/36 mpg highway27 mpg city/36 mpg highway49 mpg city/43 mpg highway22 mpg city/32 mpg highway
Base wheels16-inch steel16-inch aluminum17-inch aluminum17-inch aluminum18-inch aluminum
Body style4-door sedan4-door sedan4-door sedan4-door sedan4-door sedan
Seat upholstery ClothCloth ClothClothLeather

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