High Style—Low Price
In 1967 Chevrolet offered the first-ever Camaro RS, with RS meaning Rally Sport. The RS package then offered mostly cosmetic enhancements, without significant performance upgrades. Chevrolet has tagged other cars over the years with the RS badge, with the 2019 Malibu RS being one of the latest. Like its Camaro predecessor from five decades ago, this is mostly an appearance trim line which adds a bit of flair to the already stylish base Malibu.
The thing about an appearance package is it had better give the car some added pizzaz, resulting in passers-by commenting on how good it looks. Driving throughout Southern California, where there are no lack of cool-looking cars, the 2019 Chevrolet Malibu RS, painted in Cajun Red, got plenty of glances, even a few comments of “cool car.” So far, so good, but how does it go?
Clean Fleet Report’s Malibu RS had a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a continuously variable transmission (CVT). A 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with a nine-speed automatic are optional. The 1.5-liter is good for 160 horsepower and 184 pounds-feet of torque, delivering EPA fuel economy estimates of 29 mpg city/36 highway/32 combined. For even better fuel economy, the Malibu comes in a hybrid version that Chevrolet estimates will deliver 46 mpg combined.
The CVT has been programmed to simulate a geared automatic transmission with seven ratios. They’re ratios because a CVT has no gears; if these ratios were not artificially added, then the transmission would seamlessly go through its smooth and silent paces without nary a bump or a grind.
This silent and smooth operation is one of the beauties of a CVT, but owners complained that CVTs did not feel right, so manufacturers added the faux gear shifts. The seven ratios can be controlled by the driver, via a button located on the center-mounted shifter, which will keep the CVT in a ratio until another is selected. There can be a slight droning at low speeds, but by utilizing the seven “manual” step shifts, the Malibu RS feels its most sporty.
The front-wheel drive, 3,135-pound Malibu RS ran consistent 0-to-60 mph runs of 7.9 seconds. This was adequate for onramps and highway passing, but it could never be considered exciting. The Malibu RS comes with 18-inch wheels shod with Continental Pro Contact 245/45 all-season tires for confident cornering on twisty roads. The electric power-assisted steering was programmed for good road feedback.
Design Details: Exterior
The Chevrolet Malibu was restyled for 2019, with the RS package offered for the first time. New for 2019 is a revamped front and rear. The front received a new fascia, grille and dual-element LED headlamps. The rear sees a new fascia, deck spoiler and LED taillights. Both ends get blacked-out Bowtie emblems.
The long hood and sweptback windshield lead to a smooth roof, which is only interrupted by the color-keyed shark fin antenna. The raked rear window slopes to a crescent-shaped spoiler on the trunk lid. The quad LED taillights sit above dual, rectangle chrome exhaust tips set wide below the lower fascia. The trunk opening is not as large as we have seen on other sedans, but it easily accommodated multiple bags and luggage.
Design Details: Interior
The Malibu RS comes with supportive front cloth seats, with the driver getting power adjustments while the passenger’s were manual. Leather is found on the gearshift knob and the steering wheel, which housed controls for audio, Bluetooth and cruise. The tilt and telescoping steering column, along with the seat adjustments, including driver-side lumbar, helped me find a comfortable driving position. The rear can seat three adults, with two best for longer trips. The fastback roofline doesn’t restrict rear seat access, where leg and head room are very good. The rear seat splits 60/40 and folds flat, resulting in additional storage space.
The sound system had an 8.0-inch high-definition color touch screen that housed the AM/FM/CD/MP3/AUX radio with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. OnStar was easily accessed in our test call, and a nice feature for this trim level was the 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, which came with a limited period subscription. This is a feature that Clean Fleet Report is seeing more frequently, and one we like.
The Malibu RS comes equipped with many safety features, including airbags, rear vision camera, electronic stability, traction control, a theft deterrent system, tire pressure monitor system, remote and keyless start and four-wheel disc anti-lock brakes. The engine automatic stop/start was smooth, with no noise or jolts when restarting.
The 2019 Chevrolet Malibu has earned five and four stars (with five stars being their highest ranking) in the US Government National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) testing. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) also gave the Malibu high ratings with nearly all Good marks, their highest ranking.
Pricing and Warranties
Clean Fleet Report’s 2019 Malibu RS had a base price of $24,120. With the special Cajun Red paint and the Convenience Package 1, the MSRP came to $24,865. All prices exclude the $875 destination charge.
The 2019 Chevrolet Malibu RS comes with these warranties:
Bumper-to-Bumper Three years/36,000 miles
Powertrain Five years/60,000 miles
Roadside Assistance Five years/60,000 miles
Corrosion Six years/100,000 miles
Maintenance First visit: oil and filter, tire rotation, multi-point inspection
Observations: 2019 Chevrolet Malibu RS
The sedan market is getting smaller by the month, with crossovers and SUVs the vehicles of choice with consumers. Chevrolet’s restyling of the Malibu, adding the RS trim line, are good steps to keep the Malibu relevant among sedans. The low entry price (under $25,000) for a five-passenger midsize car is very attractive and will help them fight the likes of the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry, among others in this crowded segment. Starting next year, the field thins by one, as Ford has announced the Fusion sedan will no longer be manufactured.
The good looks, quiet ride and smooth performance, along with mid-thirties fuel economy, should add the Malibu to your shopping list. This family sedan feels solid and can easily accommodate people and their gear for a long road trip.
Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!
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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
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