The 2019 Chevrolet Malibu RS is a new appearance available from Chevrolet that gives the consumer a few sporty-looking goodies for a low entry price of $24,995. For that price you get great-looking 18-inch wheels, a newly designed black grill, black frontend accents, blacked-out Chevrolet bowties, a spoiler, unique “RS” badging, twin exhaust outlets and interior upgrades that include a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter.
Unfortunately, the “RS” upgrade leaves out performance upgrades. While the Malibu RS looks more like a sporty machine, the powertrain remains unchanged from the LS and LT models.
Chevrolet brought us out to Seattle, Washington to drive the 2019 Chevrolet Malibu RS on a combination of highways, back roads and a bit of city traffic. With the Ford Fusion and Chrysler 200 out of the game, the Chevrolet Malibu is the last American car in this competitive class to take on Toyota, Honda, Hyundai and Kia. Just for reference, in the U.S., Chevrolet sold 185,857 Malibus in 2017 while Toyota sold 387,081 Camrys at the same time – still, it’s a big segment for automakers and Chevy’s numbers are nothing to sneeze at.
What is it like to drive?
The 2019 Chevrolet Malibu RS looks pretty good to me. I especially like the wheels and rear spoiler. For the price, it’s a step up from the mundane. Unfortunately, there were no upgrades to the powertrain, suspension or brakes.
Thriftiness is the name of the game with the standard 1.5 liter, turbocharged DOHC four-cylinder engine that makes 160 hp @ 5,700 rpm and 184 lbs-feet of torque between 2,500-3,000 rpm. It’s hooked up to a fairly quiet continuously variable transmission (CVT) which enables this 3,086-pound car to get 27 mpg in the city and 36 on the highway. Good numbers to be sure, but the efficient CVT does not provide any form of sportiness to the drive.
The 2019 Chevrolet Malibu RS drives great for a commuter. The ride is compliant, the steering is responsive and, for a commuter, the steering weight is quite good. Standard four-wheel discs feel very strong and it’s an easy car to park.
There are a few issues, the main one being road noise. On anything other than smooth roads, the road noise that flows from the rear of the Malibu’s interior is pretty noticeable. Sure, the sound-system is more than capable to deal with it, but we noticed that we had to elevate our voice volume to be heard.
While the 2019 Chevrolet Malibu RS may look fast, it isn’t. Off the line and passing performance were acceptable, but not exactly scintillating. You can hold your RPM, kind of like holding a gear, with the transmission select toggle which is now placed on top of the gear lever, but it truly is superfluous.
Around corners, the 2019 Chevrolet Malibu RS feels slightly less athletic than the Toyota Camry SE (four-cylinder), but it was still capable and the breaks were excellent. I liked the heft of the steering and felt pretty confident in the Malibu’s overall capabilities, just as long as it wasn’t pushed too hard.
It’s possible that Chevrolet managed to stay with the competition with powertrain and exterior design while still falling behind in refinement and interior design. Still, the 2019 Chevrolet Malibu RS looks pretty good and give the car a better image than a the fleet car we know it is.