Road Trip: 2023 Chevrolet Malibu LT (Not Just a Rental Car)

John Berg

The 2023 Chevy Malibu LT is and underrated, worthy sedan.

The Chevrolet Malibu, with its handsome design, outstanding value and limited availability, is in a sweet spot in the automotive market.

Demand for sedans is low as consumers gravitate toward SUVs and pickup trucks. Automakers eager to move their slower-selling models are offering attractive pricing, factory incentives, rebates and sometimes special financing.

Road Trip: 2023 Chevrolet Malibu LT (Not Just a Rental Car) 1
The 2023 Malibu LT is an unheralded sedan, more worthy than a rental car regular.

The ninth-generation Malibu was introduced in 2016, so we’re nearing the end of its life cycle. 2022 was the last year of the more powerful 2.0L engine, and the upscale “Premier” trim was also dropped.

Chevrolet announced it would stop building 2023 models because it had enough cars to satisfy market demand. While General Motors has not yet announced a retirement date, the Malibu will likely cease production soon.

As GM transitions toward an all-electric future, the Malibu likely won’t be directly replaced. That makes this a good time for value-conscious buyers to consider buying this excellent sedan.

2023 Chevy Malibu LT Impressions

The Malibu looks more expensive than it is. The design is handsome, modern and expressive yet it’s sufficiently plain to go incognito. I found the Malibu to be a great road trip companion. I rented a Malibu 1LT for the drive from Detroit to Chicago. The car drove nicely, was very comfortable, visibility was great, and fuel economy was excellent.

The Malibu has a whisper-quiet cabin. Rental cars are generally forgettable, but the Malibu stood out—in a good way. I came away feeling the Malibu deserved a closer look.

Handsome, Upscale Interior

The Malibu interior is handsome and looks upscale. It is adorned with attractive finishes and fabrics throughout. The Malibu is one of those cars that fits like an old pair of jeans. I never had to look for controls or learn how to operate anything. Ergonomics are great with an intuitive layout and everything within easy reach.

Road Trip: 2023 Chevrolet Malibu LT (Not Just a Rental Car) 2
The 2023 Chevrolet Malibu LT is an unheralded sedan and deserves more than its rental-car-only reputation.

My only disappointment was a cheap-feeling plastic steering wheel and generic upholstery. Reason enough to step up to the 2LT that comes equipped with leather and a thick-wrapped steering wheel.

All-day Comfort

The Malibu is a midsized car but feels much larger inside. The seats were all-day comfortable with ample leg room, shoulder room and headroom. The back seat was equally spacious—it could easily seat three adults. The generous trunk was plenty big enough for all my luggage and camera gear with room to spare.

Composed, Playful On The Road

The Malibu is a satisfying car to drive; it feels solid and well-planted. The car maintains its composure even when traversing broken pavement and pothole-ridden streets. When driving in heavy Chicago traffic, the engine’s stop-start feature was barely perceptible and unusually satisfying.

I had the occasion to drive on some backroads and found the Malibu is playful.  The car is light on its feet, handling is responsive and there’s a predictable amount of understeer. Malibu always felt safe even when driven aggressively.

Under The Hood

I would have preferred more power but the little four-cylinder engine has plenty of acceleration and gets excellent fuel economy. The Malibu comes equipped with a 1.5L turbo coupled to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) which makes 160 horsepower and 184 lb ft of torque. While 1.5L of displacement may not sound like much, it’s a high-feature power plant utilizing direct injection, variable valve timing, and a low-inertia turbocharger that gives the Malibu ample power on the highway and surprisingly quick acceleration off the line, too.

Satisfying Infotainment System

The audio system sounded really good and outperformed upscale systems offered by some rival car makers. Rental cars aren’t exactly an audiophile’s dream so my infotainment expectations were low. It turned out the Malibu’s factory stereo system with 8-inch touchscreen ended up being one of the car’s highlights.

Combined with the car’s quiet ride, the sound system delivered a satisfying listening experience. The 1LT system doesn’t offer factory navigation, but Apple CarPlay worked flawlessly and allowed me to navigate, stream, and talk on my phone wirelessly.

Fuel Economy And Pricing

The 2023 Chevrolet Malibu gets an EPA mpg rated 27 city, 35 mpg highway. I observed an average of 31.6 miles per gallon over 480 miles of mostly highway driving. Price as tested $29,195 including destination.

The Verdict

I ended my trip scratching my head wondering why such a good car has largely been relegated to rental car fleets. It is a buyer’s market for the Chevy Malibu. Value-conscious new car buyers should consider the 2023 Chevrolet Malibu.

Article Last Updated: September 21, 2023.

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