2019 Chevrolet Malibu Adds RS Model

Chevrolet is rolling out a slew of updates to the Malibu mid-size sedan for 2019. The changes touch not only the exterior and interior appearance but also some mechanicals and infotainment offerings. There’s also a new RS trim level that finally gives Chevy an equivalent to Honda’s Accord Sport and Toyota’s Camry SE and XSE models.

Perhaps the most significant of these revisions is a transmission swap for the base turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that ditches the old six-speed automatic transmission in favor of a new continuously variable automatic. (Chevy’s only other CVT in a nonhybrid application is found in the diminutive Spark city car.) Presumably the new transmission is an effort to improve the model’s EPA fuel-economy ratings, which currently stand at 27 mpg city, 36 highway, and 30 combined, putting the Malibu behind several of its newer competitors. The gasoline-electric drivetrain in the Malibu hybrid, as well as the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and nine-speed automatic combo found in the range-topping Malibu Premier, are unchanged.

The new RS trim level, which sits between the LS and the LT in the lineup, is offered only with the 1.5-liter engine and the CVT. It’s not much more than an appearance package that essentially replaces the outgoing car’s Sport package, bringing different 18-inch wheels, black trim for the badges and grille, a spoiler, and dual exhaust tips. All 2019 Malibus also get a freshened face with a revised grille and headlights, while the rear benefits from updated taillights and a different rear bumper. The 16-, 17-, and 18-inch wheels’ designs are new, too.

Similar styling elements can be found in the cabin, too. The steering wheel and shifter are now wrapped in leather, and black cloth seats come standard, as does an 8-inch touchscreen system with Chevy’s new Infotainment 3. The tech update includes better Bluetooth connectivity, faster processing, more apps, and improved graphics, as well as the same Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and a 4G LTE wi-fi hotspot.

Interior changes mostly amount to new standard and optional features, although there are new upholstery colors available. An 8.0-inch touchscreen with Chevrolet’s new Infotainment 3 software is now standard, replacing the previous 7.0-inch unit. Heated rear seats are now standard on the Premier model, and the base L now gets a backup camera.

The updated Malibu will be on sale in the fall. The RS is expected to come in around $25,000, while pricing for the rest of the lineup will likely hew closely to the 2018 model’s.