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While the Chevrolet Malibu name dates back to the 60s, it exploded in popularity following the 2008 redesign that turned it into the popular mid-size sedan it is today, competing for the top spot in this very competitive segment.
Its major strengths are its stylish looks and spacious interior, as well as a very efficient engine, but it is also lauded for its advanced infotainment system and a wide range of trim levels that make it appealing to many diverse types of drivers.
The current Malibu was redesigned for 2016, and has seen only minor updates over the next two years. In 2017 a new transmission option was added, while the 2018 Chevrolet Malibu gets an optional 360-degree camera.
The current Chevrolet Malibu comes in four regular trim levels and one hybrid trim level. Between these base levels and their optional packages, the Malibu runs the gamut from a basic economy car all the way out to the quite upscale Premium model.
Compare the 2018 Malibu L vs LS Trims. What is the difference?
The very basic Malibu L may seem like a bargain, but it is very short on features and is primarily targeted at corporate buyers, government agencies, and rental fleets. It comes with the efficient 1.5-liter turbo engine and a six-speed automatic transmission, but little beyond the usual standard equipment.
Power doors and windows, air conditioning, six-speaker audio and Bluetooth are all standard features. Other than those, the Malibu L has 16-inch steel wheels, cruise control, and a halogen headlights with daytime running lamps. Aside from choosing between one of the two available exterior colors - white or silver - there are no options to choose from on the L.
The LS features a few upgrades over the L, but they do a good job of making it feel more like a modern car. This is the more common entry level trim for most Malibu shoppers, as dealers are unlikely to have many L models in stock. The LS includes alloy wheels, a rearview camera, and a 7-inch MyLink touchscreen infotainment system.
The infotainment supports Bluetooth for both calling and audio streaming, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for smartphone apps. It can also produce its own Wi-Fi hotspot through the OnStar 4G LTE connection, and has a USB port for direct connection or charging devices. A remote starter is the only major factory option.
While the L may be very cheap for a mid-size sedan, the premium for the LS is not a big one, while the features that it offers are very desirable. The rearview camera alone is pretty much a must-have for anything over a compact vehicle, and even many of those now included it as standard equipment.
Compare the 2018 Chevrolet Malibu LS vs LT Trim Levels. What is the difference?
While the LS does come with quite a good value for the money, most buyers are likely to end up purchasing the mid-range LT instead. The base model of the LT is not a particularly strong attraction, adding only 17-inch wheels, a power driver’s seat, heated side mirrors, LED running lights and satellite radio to the LS equipment. What makes it attractive are the several optional packages it can be specified with.
The Convenience and Technology package adds a remote starter, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and an 8-inch touchscreen along with wireless charging functionality. The Leather Package is also a popular choice, and it adds heated and powered front seats in addition to the leather upholstery, as well as a 9-speaker Bose sound system.
It requires the Convenience and Technology package, as does the Driver Confidence Package. That package adds the full range of active safety gear to the Malibu, including forward collision warning, low-speed automatic braking, parking assist, blind spot monitors, rear cross traffic alerts, and smart headlights. Other packages include a dual-pane sunroof and a number of appearance options.There is a lot of available equipment on the Malibu LT, which makes this a great trim level if you are looking to get a vehicle with some advanced equipment without stretching your budget. With the optional leather, moonroof, and safety packages, it becomes easy to mix and match the ones important to you. Just keep an eye on the price tag, as a well-equipped LT can come close to the top-end Premier in price.
Compare the Malibu LT vs Hybrid Trims. What is the difference?
The Malibu Hybrid is built on top of the feature set of the LT, and the two are almost identical with the exception of the hybrid’s engine and the dual-zone climate control system, which is standard on the Hybrid. The 1.8-liter engine powering the Hybrid is a very efficient one, with mileage of 49 miles per gallon in the city and 16 more mpg combined than the standard Malibu.
The Hybrid’s feature list is the same as the LT’s, with the same packages available. The only missing one is the Sun and Wheels package, which bundles the moonroof and the larger wheels on the LT.
At just under $3,000 more than the LT, the Hybrid offers some very nice fuel savings, easily earning back its extra cost in a few years if you are a regular commuter. You also won’t take much of a hit in terms of driving feel either, as the hybrid engine feels just as good as the 1.5-liter turbo, though neither is particularly exciting.
Compare the Malibu LT vs Premier Trim Levels. What is the difference?
The high-end Premier comes with a stronger 2.0-liter turbocharged engine in addition to the usual set of high-end comfort amenities and technology options. The bigger engine definitely gives the car a more athletic feel, helped by the 9-speed automatic transmission that is also exclusive to the trim.
Aside from those, the Premier comes standard with the contents of the Leather and Convenience packages from the LT, including full leather seating, Bose audio, and an upgraded infotainment system with navigation. It also includes ventilation for the front seats and driver seat memory, as well as a dual-zone climate control and 19-inch wheels.
The moonroof and the Driver Confidence Package are available as options on the Premier the same as on the LT, while the exclusive Driver Confidence Package II also adds adaptive cruise control, automatic parking assist, an electronic parking brake, and full speed automatic braking to the features included in the first Driver Confidence Package.
If you are already planning on including several of the high-value packages on the LT and like the idea of a more powerful engine, then the Premier is only a small increase in price. If you like how the Premier feels and drives, it’s a good deal.
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Which Trim Level to Choose?
The 2018 Chevrolet Malibu offers a set of very distinct trim levels, each of which offers some strong advantages. The L is very inexpensive, and can be a good option for drivers looking for a good mid-size car on a budget.
The LS has all of today’s basic features covered, while still being a very price-worthy alternative. The LT is very customizable, and can be kitted out in a way that maximizes value for different kinds of drivers. And while the Premier may not offer many exciting features over the LT, its stronger engine makes it a good choice for those who want a little extra power to go with their family sedan.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Hybrid Malibu offers very high economy numbers without having to significantly compromise on either features or price.
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