SHELTON, Wash. — Considering that nearly every story we write these days starts with something like, "As crossovers continue to crush sedans in sales ...," it'd be obtuse to ignore the very real headwinds that face the 2019 Chevy Malibu. Crossovers march steadily on to sales records, and the still-sizable cadre of sedan buyers has eroded. But those remaining have a strong selection of interesting, well-designed, and efficient sedans to choose from – the fittest of the breed are hanging on. And also, the Malibu. While it debuted in 2015 as a 2016 model, the Malibu felt a bit old when it was brand new. A few years later, this refreshed Malibu — and the RS trim level, specifically, which is new to the nameplate — seems like it's fresh out of an alternate universe, where sedan sales were healthy enough to support a bunch of backmarkers. Remember, Ford is killing the Fusion, once a solid mid-packer. At the moment, it seems like the automakers have decided that being fourth or sixth fiddle to the big dogs isn't worth the effort. And yet, the Malibu. It is here, and it has a new face. The RS trim — which consists of a black grille, a blacked-out bowtie badge, unique 18-inch alloy wheels, and a dual-outlet exhaust — takes aim at the Accord Sport and Passat R-Line. It, like other Malibus, also ditches the old six-speed auto for a new CVT. The engine remains a 1.5-liter turbocharged inline-four, and also remains somehow well-matched to this car's size and weight. There's nothing different of note about the RS's interior. Compared to the old Malibu's face, the new Malibu has larger upper and lower openings, filled with a distorted-diamond mesh. Chevy calls it black chrome, but for all the world it looks like black-tinted plastic. The headlights are similar, but improvements in low-beam lighting force some elements to move down into the reshaped lower lamps, like the daytime running lights. There's less brightwork and more aggression to the front fascia overall, mirroring Chevy's current corporate design language. Around back, dual exhaust tips poke out from a revised lower fascia, replacing the tucked tips hidden behind the old Malibu's bumper skin. They're rounded, oblong quadrangles, loosely resembling the taillights, which themselves are unchanged. A spoiler juts above the trunklid. The five-spoke wheels split at their tips. Is this what counts as sporty in the midsize segment? Don't expect any contribution to the sportiness from the powertrain. The 1.5-liter engine and CVT are adequate — but neither rises beyond that descriptor. Frankly, the Malibu feels immense, but as we found out in 2016, it's not terribly heavy, so the 1.5 works just fine here. Its ride, handling, and power delivery are unremarkable — few demerits and certainly no plaudits. Steering duties are begrudgingly handled by a leather-wrapped steering wheel that looks a bit like a caricature of itself – cartoonish and distorted. The profound adequacy extends to the seats, which support well for about an …
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|MPG||29 City / 36 Hwy|
|Transmission||2-spd CVT w/OD|
|Power||160 @ 5700 rpm|
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