Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips and Reviews

A white 2020 Chevy Malibu is parked in front of steps.

Which Sedan Will Tick All Your Boxes? The 2020 Chevy Malibu vs The 2020 Ford Fusion

Are you in the market for a practical four-door sedan? Let’s be honest: if you’re shopping for a car and budget is number one on your list, you’ve probably accepted on some level that the vehicle you end up with won’t be too exciting to drive. You might have even started to believe that you’ll have to live with a so-so interior and limited technology. What if we told you that you might not have to compromise? Sure, some vehicles limit your options, and others are a little tired in the design department, but there are some great exceptions! All you need to do is take a look at models like the 2020 Chevy Malibu and the 2020 Ford Fusion.

These two popular American sedan contenders may appear strikingly similar at first glance, but the details will prove that one is definitely the better choice. So today, we will take a peek under the hood, slide into the driver’s seat, and explore the range of features and safety options available on these two worthy opponents to see which one will come out on top. The goal? To set you up for the best and most exciting sedan option for the buck.

We know the Malibu and the Fusion are both great sedans, and if you’re lucky enough to be in a position to buy a new car, either one of these vehicles will fit the bill, but there can be only one winner. When every dollar counts, it’s critical to peek under the surface and really figure out which car is the best value. So without further ado, let’s explore and compare these two sedan staples and see which one comes out victorious so you can set yourself up for the most amazing ownership experience!

Affordability and Cost of Ownership

A white 2020 Ford Fusion is shown driving away on a city street.

The base 2020 Chevy Malibu starts at a modest MSRP of just $22,095, while the entry-level 2020 Ford Fusion lands a bit higher in price at $23,170. Right out of the gate, the Malibu shines with the better entry-level price. And even at the high end of the model, the top-of-the-line Malibu Premier comes in at $33,320, and the upscale Fusion Titanium is over $1,000 higher at $34,340. The wallet-friendly winner is the 2020 Chevy Malibu.

A vehicle’s purchase price isn’t the whole budget story, however. What else must you consider? The price of gas! Looking at fuel economy, the base Ford Fusion S gets only 21 MPG in the city, 31 MPG on the highway, and 24 MPG combined. In comparison, the base Chevy Malibu is rated significantly better at 29 MPG in the city, 36 MPG on the highway, and 32 MPG combined, translating into fewer trips to the gas station for you and monetary savings as well. This may translate into pennies after one fill-up, but over multiple years of ownership, the cost difference is going to be substantial. In terms of money, the Malibu is undoubtedly superior, but money is not the only consideration to be made.

Performance and Safety

When looking to buy a new car, what is underneath the hood will play a significant part in the choice. The Chevy Malibu is available with two different engines, depending on the trim. The high end 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine deserves a second look because it delivers a whopping 250 hp. Comparing available engines on the Fusion, Ford’s highest-rated engine, the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder EcoBoost falls short, providing just 245 horsepower. Clearly the Malibu offers buyers with a penchant for performance a better option. More horsepower is always better!

Performance doesn’t end with the engine. The Malibu continues its long list of performance features and capabilities with a 9-speed automatic transmission paired with its superior 2.0-liter engine as compared to Ford’s 6-speed automatic transmission available on the Fusion. More gears translates into better and smoother acceleration, along with increased engine efficiency, a big benefit for the Malibu.

Sometimes a third-party reviewer is the best source for discovering differences in overall safety. For 2020, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the Malibu a five-star rating for front driver side crashes, and front passenger-side crashes. While the Fusion matches driver side crashes with the same five-star rating, its front passenger crash rating is only three stars. This is a very important difference that buyers should seriously consider. Overall, in the areas of performance and safety, the Malibu is the winner yet again.

The Extras

A blue 2020 Chevy Malibu is driving along a coastal highway after winning the 2020 Chevy Malibu vs 2020 Ford Fusion comparison.

Despite specification and price advantages, some buyers can still be confused about the benefits of one car over another. It’s often the little nuances of difference that resonate most with a buyer. Discovering these differences can take some sleuthing, but we have done the work for you here. Take a look at some very interesting features that might catch your eye when playing the comparison game and see if they’ll sway your decision.

Most auto manufacturers have similar new car warranties, rendering that area of comparison irrelevant to buyers. However, Chevy takes its warranty and commitment to excellent customer satisfaction to the next level by offering something Ford doesn’t – a free maintenance visit to the dealer. This visit includes an oil change, new oil filter, and a tire rotation. All free! This may not be the primary reason you’ll choose a Malibu over a Fusion, but in six months you’ll be really happy you did.

Rearview cameras are another big selling point, and we’re finding them on more and more vehicles, not just the upper-end luxury cars. They can really help a driver with visibility, which increases safety and driver confidence. On the Ford Fusion, you will find a backup camera, but the Malibu offers their rearview camera in high definition (HD) for a crisper, sharper video that keeps you in firm control of your surroundings.

Another interesting perspective when comparing cars is to look at how long it’s been since each vehicle was redesigned. Generally speaking, it’s best to buy a new car as early in its design lifecycle as possible to ensure the newest and best technology and engineering. The current Malibu was redesigned in 2016, while the current Ford Fusion was last redesigned in 2013. And a few years can make a very big difference when looking at characteristics like safety and technology.

The Better Car

Overall the differences between these two great cars seem minimal, but, added together, you will start to see a clear winner. Both Ford and Chevy produce great midsize sedans that buyers can feel good about investing in and driving for many years, but when we look at the complete story, it’s hard to argue that the 2020 Chevy Malibu simply offers more.

Whether your focus is on performance, price, safety, or all three, the Malibu edges out its worthy competitor, a fact that is verified by well-respected independent agencies like the NHTSA. The Chevrolet brand is an American tradition, and its vehicles continue to be popular for a reason. The Malibu is no exception. Our comprehensive review proves that the only decision you need to struggle with is which color you’ll choose for your new 2020 Chevrolet Malibu sedan.

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