Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

A blue 2020 Chevy Malibu is driving along the coast at sunset.

2020 Chevy Malibu – The All-American Midsize Sedan

Today, your options for an American midsize sedan are down to just two cars––the Chevy Malibu and the Ford Fusion (and the Fusion is already hovering at death’s door with production slated to end in 2021). But even as ever more shoppers are turning to large SUVs, the sedan remains a solid choice for people who do not spend their free time off-roading and who instead want the best value for their money. Offering a good mix of features on an efficient and safe platform, the 2020 Chevy Malibu is a great choice for daily commuting or long drives.

First introduced in 1964, the Chevy Malibu has a long history. The current model is the 9th generation of the car that first went on sale for the 2016 model year. The Malibu was then refreshed for the 2019 model year, introducing minor changes that brought it back up to date. This recent refresh makes the 2020 Chevy Malibu a particularly good car to purchase since it not only has the latest technology, there has been a full year for Chevrolet to work out all the bugs (not that there were many bugs given that the 2019 Malibu won JD Power’s award for the Highest Ranked Midsize Car in Initial Quality).

A Comfortable and Versatile Vehicle

An all black 2020 Chevy Malibu is parked outside a lit up building at night.

The real advantage of buying a sedan instead of an SUV is that your money goes further. Compared to the midsize Chevy Equinox SUV, pricing for the 2020 Chevy Malibu starts a bit lower. And for less money, you get virtually the same engine options in a vehicle that is lighter and lower, resulting in superior driving performance. If you do plan to use the vehicle to commute or drive long distances, you will also see substantial gas savings from buying a sedan over an SUV. All in all, the 2020 Chevy Malibu remains an excellent choice for anyone who does not require the specific features of an SUV.

And while it may not offer quite as much interior space as an SUV, the 2020 Chevy Malibu is far from being a cramped vehicle like some compact and subcompact cars. With 39.1” of front headroom and 41.5” of front legroom, you will be more than comfortable driving this car. Although the back seat is not quite as spacious with only 37.5” of headroom and 38.1” of legroom, it is roomy enough to fit an adult even for longer drives. And with a trunk offering 15.7 cubic feet of cargo space as well as 60/40 folding rear seats to fit larger items, the 2020 Chevy Malibu is large enough to handle nearly any errand you will encounter in your daily life.

Mechanically, the 2020 Chevy Malibu has two different powertrains. The lower trims come with a turbocharged 1.5L engine that produces 160 horsepower and is paired with a new continuously variable transmission that was introduced for the 2019 refresh. This powertrain option is fuel efficient at 29 MPG in the city and 36 MPG on the highway, but still has more than enough power to get around town without complaint.

However, if you opt for the top Premier trim of the 2020 Chevy Malibu, then the car will come with a larger 2.0L turbocharged engine. This choice produces 250 horsepower and comes with a modern nine-speed automatic transmission. While the fuel mileage for this choice drops from down to 22 MPG in the city and 32 MPG on the highway, the larger engine transforms the 2020 Chevy Malibu from an acceptable car to an enjoyable car and makes highway passing a breeze. The only real fault to be found with the powertrain options for the 2020 Chevy Malibu is that the more powerful engine is inexplicably not offered for the sporty RS trim of the car. Such a combination would have been an excellent choice for someone looking for a fun car without having to step all the way up to a Dodge Charger.

Advanced Safety Equipment

The available advanced safety equipment on the 2020 Chevy Malibu is also solid. Unfortunately, it is only available on the top trims, and you will have to pay more for it as the base car offers nothing more than a backup camera. However, if you are looking at one of the higher trims, then the safety packages are rather cheap and well worth getting. The lowest Driver Confidence I package adds blind-spot alerts, rear cross traffic alert, and rear park assist. When equipped with this package, the 2020 Chevy Malibu received an “Advanced” vehicle-to-vehicle crash prevention rating from the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

But the better deal is with the Driver Confidence II package. This contains all the equipment of the first package, but also adds forward collision alert, automatic forward braking (for vehicles and pedestrians), lane keep assist, a following distance indicator, and IntelliBeam automatic headlights. Together, these systems give the 2020 Chevy Malibu the IIHS highest “Superior” rating for crash prevention. Given that these systems could pay for themselves if they prevent just one minor accident, it definitely makes sense to opt for them if you are buying a 2020 Chevy Malibu, and they should probably have been made standard equipment rather than optional packages.

For the top trim of the 2020 Chevy Malibu, there is only the Enhanced Driver Confidence package. This includes all the features of the Driver Confidence II package for the lower trim, but also adds two advanced convenience features––adaptive cruise control and automatic park assist. When engaged, this last feature will find a parking space for you and then autonomously steer the car into it; however, you will still have to operate the accelerator and brakes yourself. But while these two features will certainly make driving more convenient, it is unfortunate that Chevrolet decided to offer them in a manner that effectively doubled the cost of important safety equipment rather than making them a separate package.

A couple is getting into a white 2020 Chevy Malibu parked on a city street.

Which Trim is Best for You?

The 2020 Chevy Malibu is available in five different trims, ranging from the base L trim to the top Premier trim. If you are looking to save money, then the L trim is the best deal as the only meaningful upgrades you will get with the higher LS and RS trims are an acoustic laminated windshield for noise reduction and (on the RS) an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat. The LS and RS trims also unlock some minor optional equipment such as a remote car starter and universal garage door opener, but outside of specific circumstances, those items probably are not worth the additional cost.

However, if you want more, then it is something of a tie between the LT trim and the Premier trim. Ironically, the lower LT trim is the better choice if you want comfort. When optioned with the Driver Confidence II package, leather interior package, and power sunroof, the LT trim will get you more features than the Premier trim for less money. However, the Premier trim steps performance up a notch with a much more exciting powertrain.

No matter which trim of the 2020 Chevy Malibu best fits your particular needs and budget, you will be getting an excellent blend of economy, comfort, performance, and versatility.