Every week, wheels.ca selects a new vehicle and takes a good look at its entry-level trim. If we find it worthy of your consideration, we’ll let you know. If not, we’ll recommend one – or the required options – that earns a passing grade.
As they used to say in the golden era of television: “Do not adjust your sets.” Despite the majority of consumers (nearly three out of four in Canada) preferring to plunk down their hard-earned Loonies on a truck or SUV, Chevrolet does indeed still make the four-door Malibu sedan. It isn’t offered with the same array of powertrains it once was, nor in as many flavours, but there is still a base model – and that’s the one in which we are interested today.
Call it a bit of obscure trivia for your next socially distant pub quiz.
These days, the base Chevy Malibu LS is powered by a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine making 160 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque funneled to the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission. Yes, General Motors has a CVT in its corporate cupboard. We will permit you to draw your own conclusion about why it is largely limited to a slow-selling sedan. It is worth noting that, unlike other turbocharged vehicles equipped with a CVT, maximum torque doesn’t come online until 2,500 r.p.m. – and stays there for just 500 revs. Most small-displacement turbos make their peak torque much earlier than that and manage to hang onto it for a wider range of engine speed.
Nevertheless, upgrading a Malibu to the 2.0-litre turbo with 250 horses (and peak torque between 2,000 – 5,000 r.p.m.) costs a stupefying $38,198, so we’ll stick with the $25,598 LS trim. Sixteen-inch aluminum wheels arguably look better than sad-sack steelies, and the typical features like power side mirrors and automatic headlamps are present. Every colour, including the extra-cost choices, are on the greyscale instead of visible light so we may as well stick with the $0 Silver Ice Metallic shown here. Hey, at least you’re unlikely to attract attention from cops at speed or thieves while parked – if you want an invisible car, this is as close as it gets. And, yes, those are flat black side mirrors in true base model fashion.
Economies of scale, the Base Camp’s best friend, mean that even this cheapest of Malibu sedans get the same infotainment screen as equipped on GM trucks and SUV costing double or triple the price. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto work wirelessly, so go ahead and stream music from your phone without having to dig it out of your pocket. The system is also capable of providing wi-fi to passengers, though that is an extra monthly cost for data. Cloth front seats are manual but at least they adjust six ways, and the steering wheel adjusts for reach and rake.
A remote start system is included, as are keyless entry and keyless start, meaning you can keep your keys in the same pocket as your phone as mentioned earlier. Since this is 2021 and not 1991, features like cruise control and air conditioning are standard equipment. Just don’t expect newfangled gear like radar-guided cruise control. An optional package costing $1,670 adds automatic emergency braking and lane keeping among other similar kit.
What We’d Choose
If you’re hell-bent on getting a Malibu, spend the extra $900 and get an RS trim. While the powertrain is identical to the LS, this model does add some exterior jewelry in addition to better wheels and a natty decklid spoiler. Its steering wheel gains a leather wrap and the driver’s seat is appended with power movement. It would be silly not to upgrade, especially since the RS also unlocks decent paint colours like Cherry Red Tintcoat.
The price delta between this Malibu and some of its competitors is worth noting, checking in at approximatly $2,000 less than the least expensive Hyundai Sonata and some $8,000 less than the base Accord. Still, it’s always worth shopping around to make sure one is buying a vehicle containing a level of features with which they are happy. As your grade-school teacher probably said at some point, it’s a good idea to do your homework.