Chevy enthusiasts who are die-hard fans of the sedan class are finding the field narrowing down to very slim pickings. In fact, 2021 may be the slimmest year of all if you want to buy a Chevy sedan. In fact, if you want a car with more than two doors, you only have one option: the 2021 Chevy Malibu. Now that the Impala is a thing of the past, the Malibu is the only sedan Chevy has available. The good news is that this midsize sedan is a rather nice ride if you’re looking for a classy, comfortable car.
Buyers who may want more than just the average vehicle have a few options to spice up the look of the Malibu. Two of those options will give the Malibu a sort of sporty makeover that can help your sedan stand out a little against the crowd, and there are a couple of perks to go with the appearance packages. One trim level, the RS, offers a sporty look for a lesser price, while the more expensive LT trim will give buyers more features with the Sport Edition. We’ll take a look at both these trims in more detail to help buyers who want more pep in their midsize car.
Under the Hood
Perhaps the most disappointing decision Chevy made is to keep the more powerful 2.0-liter turbocharged engine out of the mix for any of the sport-focused options. Sadly, only the 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine is available for all the trims to be discussed here. This engine is paired with a CVT and front-wheel drive and will make up to 160 hp with 184 lb-ft of torque. Fuel efficiency is good at 32 MPG combined, and the engine will have a relatively smooth acceleration when you hit the gas.
However, as one would expect, this is not a powertrain that will offer the thrilling driving experience one wants in a sporty sedan. Buyers who really want that experience will have to pony up for the most expensive Premier trim, which is the only trim that comes with the 2.0-liter engine and nine-speed automatic. Alternatively, an entry-level Camaro costs around the same as a mid-trim Malibu, and while the muscle car only has two doors, it has all the performance you could ever desire.
RS Trim Exterior
Exterior appearance details will give each of these Malibu sedans a slightly different sport style, and the RS will have a lower price tag. While the price will attract some buyers, the RS also comes with some sporty features that are not available for the LT trim. All the elements of the RS trim exterior mentioned here are standard equipment, including a rear spoiler. Each of the details gives the Malibu that sporty edge, but not all of them will be standard on the more expensive LT Sport Edition.
Starting with the grille, the RS comes with a sleek black grille outlined in chrome. Above the grille is a black bowtie emblem mirrored on the back end, where dual-outlet exhaust pipes add to the flair. Halogen headlights and body-color wing mirrors are also standard, without the option to upgrade. Upgraded 18-inch aluminum wheels will provide better driving performance, although you may want to consider replacing the factory all-season tires with something sportier. Color choices for the exterior are open for the buyer to decide from the available options. While the LT will have more available equipment that can be added, the RS comes ready with the sport appearance without having to add anything.
LT Sport Edition Exterior
When you want a sporty styling, the LT Sport Edition may be missing the mark. Standard features focus on black details for the appearance, like the front and rear black bowtie emblems, a blacked-out grille surrounded by dark chrome, and black-painted aluminum wheels. The alloy wheels are larger than those of the RS at 19 inches, but the all-season tires remain the same. While these features will offer a slightly different “sport” styling, the spoiler must be added on as an option, while it comes standard on the RS. A single outlet exhaust pipe is also standard and decidedly un-sporty.
On the other hand, the benefits of the LT trim may lure some to the higher price point. Being able to enjoy the standard heated body-color wing mirrors is a great convenience in colder climates. Most buyers are also seeking vehicles with the more upgraded appearance of LED daytime running lights and taillights, both of which are standard on the LT. You still only get halogen headlights, but the daytime running lights are definitely more attractive. Of course, many buyers will be drawn to the fun of a sunroof, and the LT has that option available for the folks who want to feel the wind in their hair.
When it comes to the differences in interiors, the LT Sport Edition will come standard with more desirable features for the most part. There are also more optional features that can be added to the Sport Edition, though the RS trim has its own set of choices that can be added. To begin, the RS comes standard with a leather-wrapped steering wheel and premium cloth seats. The LT comes standard with a jet-black interior which includes premium cloth seats that are heated in front and will have remote start as standard. A leather package for seats, steering wheel, and shift knob is optional for the LT, and a heated steering wheel is also available. Buyers of the RS trim can add remote start as a package if desired, but the LT comes with it standard.
For the most part, this is where the biggest differences end. Both the RS and LT Sport Edition will have similar features available as either standard or optional. This includes a number of amenities that will be attractive to buyers, like the standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, and Chevy Connected access. This final feature even allows an Amazon Alexa account to be linked to the infotainment system. An available sport pedal kit can be added to both trims, and drivers interested in driver-assisted safety features can add on the Driver Confidence I and II packages.
Other conveniences like keyless open and start, powered lumbar control for the driver’s seat, a tilting and telescoping steering wheel, and a filtration system for air in the cabin are all standard. While most of the active safety features need to be added as a package, Teen Driver and a rear-seat reminder are standard, as are stability, traction control, and the handy electronic grade braking. That last feature will save your brakes when going downhill because it will maintain your speed, so you don’t have to ride the brakes on a slope. Of course, a rearview camera is also standard equipment.
Which Trim Is Better?
If you’re looking for a vehicle that stands out more, the RS has additional exterior features that add a sporty appeal without having to spend extra. Most of the interior features will give buyers a comfortable interior that allows for all the smartphone connectivity and entertainment modern life affords. There are also plenty of optional features that can be added if you want more. However, buyers seeking a more feature-laden vehicle with a slightly sporty edge may be happier with the LT Sport Edition. You can also add a small number of upgrades if you are willing to spend extra cash. Having the option to add leather upholstery and a sunroof may be enough to tip some toward this price point. Either way, you will have a 2021 Chevy Malibu that has more personality if you choose one of the two sporty trims.