The product people behind the Camry, a form of toaster sold by Japan’s Toyota, recently thought it a wise idea to festoon this perfectly boring appliance with quad exhaust tips, flared bumper work, and darkened wheels. This was in hopes to further differentiate itself from norm-core crossovers that have been eroding at the market share of the still-substantial sedan segment, as a “sportier” way to sit in 405 traffic. Being that the Camry is a leader in the segment, this immediately caused a ripple effect.
And so, here we are. The 2019 Chevrolet Malibu RS, attempting to appear sportier than before.
We’ll start by saying that we don’t think there was anything wrong with the design of the pre-facelift Chevy Malibu of this generation. The fascia was well proportioned, the sheetmetal had athletic creases, and it all came together without appearing too overdone. But with strong offerings from the rest of the segment ever present, something had to be done to keep the Malibu fresh for the 2019 model year. That something was a new grille, which Chevrolet describes as a “logical progression,” and the introduction of the RS trim level, which tests the appetites for a continuously variable transmission and darkened looks on Chevy sedan customers. The thrills don’t stretch beyond that. For the core market, they will think these thrills are plenty, as they dare to sample mild hot sauce for the first time. Mild hot sauce with a CVT, at that.
General Motors has traditionally avoided the continuously variable transmission, and the fact that there’s now two passenger cars that feature this transmission design (three if you count a certain Chevy Cruze fleet model) is practically breaking news. As reference, the 2019 Chevrolet Malibu RS sends 163 hp and 184 lb-ft through a proprietary bees nest to return an EPA-estimated 27 mpg city, 36 mpg highway, which seems great on paper only. Start/stop is present and undefeatable.
It’s hard to endorse this decision of a CVT in a *ahem* “sport-inspired” sedan when the nine-speed that’s in the Malibu Premiere, which is excellent, should have been the go-to choice. A CVT – this one with fake shift points – is neither refined, nor sporty. But its design does package extremely well, is less costly to implement, and it’s supposed to return better fuel economy numbers. But the sanity of the buyer will be questioned for embracing 3,000 RPM drones for the sake of a mile per gallon or two. To say nothing of the over-styled looks.
At $24,995, the 2019 Chevrolet Malibu RS is just the right level of nice on the inside, where the tech-focused layout remains unchanged. Cloth seats and textured fabric cover the cabin in conservative colors, centered by a standard 8-inch touchscreen with the latest operating system, dubbed Infotainment 3. The user interface is very akin to that of a tablet, and there are apps such as Weather Channel and Pandora, along with the ability to download other third-party apps as they become available, as well as order things like coffee on the go. And don’t forget, like every other Chevrolet vehicle, there’s 4G LTE wifi as well. The technology and partnerships that GM has made over the years also means that Amazon can deliver packages directly into the trunk of the car. The 2019 Malibu RS is also compatible with side-hustle-friendly peer-to-peer car sharing through Maven, GM’s in-house mobility solutions platform that offers everything from hourly rentals, to leasing out non-personal vehicles for ride-share platforms such as Uber and Lyft. And for emergency situations, OnStar is present and accounted for.
Where the styling and new transmission leave more to be desired, the overall ride and copious technology are major strongpoints for the 2019 Chevrolet Malibu RS. Especially if convenience and gadgetry is the priority, then there’s really no better choice than the 2019 Malibu. Hopefully customers like the design.