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Coming into the 2021 model year, the Malibu name is nearly 60 years strong and continues to denote affordable automotive prowess. While the name Malibu was first used to demarcate the legendary Chevrolet Chevelle's top-of-the-line trim level, these days, it has long since earned its place as a standalone model in the Chevy lineup. The 2021 Chevy Malibu continues the model's long history of providing an affordable and advanced mid-sized automobile to bolster the overall Chevrolet line of cars and trucks.
The current Malibu features a long list of standard technology, with more features available as options. An 8-inch color infotainment screen is standard in all models of the 2021 Malibu, as is Apple CarPlay, Android Auto capability, and an EPA fuel economy rating of up to 36 miles per gallon. Available features include heated and ventilated front seating and a battery of driver assistance sensors and features. All told, the 2021 Malibu continues to be one of the best midsize cars on the market.
For many, the Malibu's focal point is the interior. This is, after all, where drivers and passengers spend their time while traveling. The 2021 Malibu's interior features refined materials, especially on touch surfaces, while maintaining a highly ergonomic control layout that is at once familiar and comfortable.
The overall design of the Malibu's interior is crisp and sleek, with metallic highlights accentuating the contours of the door panels, center console, and dashboard. Set into the dashboard directly in front of the driver is an easily readable and sporty analog gauge cluster, while the center of the dashboard features a large 8-inch color infotainment screen. This screen provides easy access to the Malibu's full suite of communication and entertainment systems. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on the 2021 Malibu, and the vehicle also features built-in 4G LTE Wi-Fi, which can provide a continuous internet connection relayed through the car itself.
Style and technology are integral parts of the 2021 Malibu's interior philosophy, but simple comfort and space to stretch out have not been neglected. The comfy front bucket seats provide 41.5 inches of legroom, while passengers in the rear will feel far from confined, thanks to a very impressive 38.1 inches of legroom in the rear.
Just as important as legroom, but often overlooked, is hiproom. Being able to move about in one's seat is a freeing and comfortable feeling that not everyone can experience while cruising in a normal mid-sized car, but the 2021 Malibu offers 54.1 inches of hiproom in the front and 53.4 inches of hiproom in the rear. Those few extra inches help the Malibu not just have enough room but feel downright spacious.
The Malibu has more than enough room to move people around in spacious comfort, but it also can move surprisingly large amounts of cargo. With 15.7 cubic feet of cargo volume, those who need to move stuff frequently will find that the Malibu can handle large items without issue through its large trunk door. And if even more room is needed, you can fold down the rear passenger seats to enlarge the trunk further.
Of all the various technologies and features of the 2021 Chevy Malibu, the vehicle's safety features are among the most important. The Malibu includes multiple concentric levels of safety features and protections, starting with the many available driver assistance capabilities. These systems are diverse and broad in scope, starting with Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Zone Alert, which monitors areas around the vehicle the driver is unable to see. A related system is capable of detecting lane drift and warning the driver. Additionally, if the vehicle is about to depart the lane unintentionally, the system will assist the driver in staying in their lane.
Rear Park Assist provides invaluable assistance in judging the distance between the vehicle and objects behind it and can prevent accidents when moving in reverse. A similar sensor available at the front of the Malibu can provide an extremely precise measurement of the distance to the vehicle in front of you, helping maintain appropriate following distance. In extreme circumstances, these sensors can be used to trigger Automatic Emergency Braking when prompted by Forward Collision Alert. This means that when moving along in traffic, the 2021 Malibu's systems can detect incoming threats and stop the vehicle faster than a human being could react, avoiding many accidents altogether.
The engines that power the modern Malibu are a far cry from those that propelled the original Malibus decades ago. On top of making roughly the same amount of maximum horsepower as the old muscle car V8s in the Malibus of the 1960s, the turbocharged four-cylinder power plants of the 2021 Malibu are several times more efficient, exponentially cleaner and healthier to be around, and drastically lighter.
The engine options available for the Malibu are a 1.5 Liter and 2.0 Liter turbocharged inline-fours, both equipped with variable valve timing and dual overhead camshafts. The transmissions available for the Chevrolet Malibu are just as well optimized as the engines and include an eight-speed automatic for the 2.0 Liter and a simple yet versatile Continuously Variable Transmission for the 1.5 Liter.
The two power plants share much of the same cutting edge technology that pushes the internal combustion engine close to its fundamental limits while maintaining robust reliability. Those "limits'' are not just high power and quick response, but high efficiency and clean operation as well. In many ways, technologies that produce greater power in engines also boost their efficiency, and vice versa.
The function of an engine can effectively be summarized as mixing air and fuel, igniting that mix, and using the resulting explosions to move the vehicle forward. However, the laws of physics and thermodynamics conspire to force engines to produce large amounts of waste heat as they generate power. But every small improvement in how air or fuel flows into the engine unlocks dramatic improvements in overall engine efficiency, which automatically boosts power and reduces fuel consumption.
For the Malibu, these improvements start at the top of its four-cylinder engines, in the valves that allow air to flow into the engine to be ignited. The dual overhead camshafts offer greater mechanical control over the valves' opening and closing than the single overhead cam system of old, which is further enhanced by the addition of variable valve timing. This control addition allows the timing of the valves' operation to be changed on the fly as the engine is running, perfectly optimizing the system depending on conditions and driver input far faster than the blink of an eye.
The high tech nature of the Malibu's engines continues further down, in the combustion chamber. A coilpack has replaced the distributor ignition system found in older automobiles, providing a clean and powerful spark that is perfectly timed by the Malibu's engine management system to turn that fuel and air mix into power.
That fuel is directly injected into the combustion chamber instead of being carried into the engine with the air, as was the case with older engines. Direct injection ensures the best possible mix, maximizing performance and efficiency while minimizing harmful emissions from unburned fuel. Finally, lightweight aluminum is used throughout these compact engines, making them far lighter than the iron-block engines of old and thus improving their power to weight ratio.
While the most advanced technology found in the 2021 Malibu is under the hood, the chassis components themselves are far beyond what was available even a few decades ago. The suspension systems especially have elements first found in race cars, such as hollow sway bars that limit body roll while reducing weight. The overall suspension setup is MacPherson Strut in front, with dual-path mountings, while a four-link suspension system keeps the rear well sprung. While compact, this design allows for good road-holding qualities as well as a smooth ride.
The brakes are a critical safety feature on any car, and on the 2021 Malibu, this is no exception. The Malibu utilizes FNC-treated disc brakes on all four corners, with surprisingly large 11.8-inch rotors up front and 11.3-inch rotors in the rear. The large size of the rotors helps quickly attenuate the heat caused by heavy braking. An anti-lock braking system is also standard, improving safety in slick road conditions.