2019 Audi A3 Sedan vs. 2019 Chevrolet Malibu

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

The A3 Sedan’s pre-crash front seatbelts will tighten automatically in the event the vehicle detects an impending crash, improving protection against injury significantly. The Malibu doesn’t offer pre-crash pretensioners.

For enhanced safety, the front and rear seat shoulder belts of the Audi A3 Sedan are height-adjustable to accommodate a wide variety of driver and passenger heights. A better fit can prevent injuries and the increased comfort also encourages passengers to buckle up. The Chevrolet Malibu doesn’t offer height-adjustable seat belts.

The A3 Sedan has a standard Secondary Collision Brake Assist, which automatically applies the brakes in the event of a crash to help prevent secondary collisions and prevent further injuries. The Malibu doesn’t offer a post collision braking system: in the event of a collision that triggers the airbags, more collisions are possible without the protection of airbags that may have already deployed.

The A3 Sedan 45 TSFI has all-wheel drive to maximize traction under poor conditions, especially in ice and snow. The Malibu doesn’t offer all-wheel drive.

Both the A3 Sedan and the Malibu have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver and front passenger knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, front wheel drive, plastic fuel tanks, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, daytime running lights, available lane departure warning systems, blind spot warning systems, rear parking sensors and rear cross-path warning.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does 35 MPH front crash tests on new vehicles. In this test, results indicate that the Audi A3 Sedan is safer than the Chevrolet Malibu:

 

A3 Sedan

Malibu

 

Passenger

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

HIC

284

376

Chest Compression

.5 inches

.6 inches

Neck Injury Risk

34%

38%

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does side impact tests on new vehicles. In this test, which crashes the vehicle into a flat barrier at 38.5 MPH and into a post at 20 MPH, results indicate that the Audi A3 Sedan is safer than the Chevrolet Malibu:

 

A3 Sedan

Malibu

 

Front Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

HIC

172

180

Chest Movement

1.1 inches

1.1 inches

Abdominal Force

219 G’s

239 G’s

 

Rear Seat

STARS

5 Stars

4 Stars

HIC

277

460

Spine Acceleration

56 G’s

57 G’s

Hip Force

777 lbs.

809 lbs.

 

Into Pole

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

Max Damage Depth

12 inches

13 inches

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

For its top level performance in all IIHS frontal, side, rear impact and roof-crush tests, its standard front crash prevention system, and its available headlight’s “Acceptable” rating, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the A3 Sedan the rating of “Top Pick” for 2018, a rating granted to only 85 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The Malibu was a “Top Pick” for 2017, but no longer qualifies under the tighter 2018 guidelines.

Warranty

The A3 Sedan comes with a full 4-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, which covers the entire car and includes 24-hour roadside assistance. The Malibu’s 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty expires 1 year and 14,000 miles sooner.

The A3 Sedan’s corrosion warranty is 6 years and unlimited miles longer than the Malibu’s (12/unlimited vs. 6/100,000).

Reliability

The Audi A3 Sedan’s engines use a cast iron block for durability, while the Malibu’s engines use an aluminum block. Aluminum engine blocks are much more prone to warp and crack at high temperatures than cast iron.

A reliable vehicle saves its owner time, money and trouble. Nobody wants to be stranded or have to be without a vehicle while it’s being repaired. Consumer Reports rates the A3 Sedan’s reliability 18 points higher than the Malibu.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that Audi vehicles are more reliable than Chevrolet vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Audi 16 places higher in reliability than Chevrolet.

Engine

The A3 Sedan 40 TSFI’s standard 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. produces 24 more horsepower (184 vs. 160) and 37 lbs.-ft. more torque (221 vs. 184) than the Malibu’s standard 1.5 turbo 4 cyl.

As tested in Motor Trend the A3 Sedan 45 TSFI is faster than the Malibu Premier 2.0 Turbo:

 

A3 Sedan

Malibu

Zero to 60 MPH

5.4 sec

6.2 sec

Quarter Mile

14 sec

14.7 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

98.6 MPH

96.2 MPH

Environmental Friendliness

In its Green Vehicle Guide, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the Audi A3 Sedan higher (7 out of 10) than the Chevrolet Malibu (5 to 7). This means the A3 Sedan produces up to 8 pounds less smog-producing pollutants than the Malibu every 15,000 miles.

Transmission

The A3 Sedan offers a standard sequential manual gearbox (SMG). With no clutch pedal to worry about and a fully automatic mode, an SMG is much more efficient than a conventional automatic but just as easy to drive. The Malibu doesn’t offer an SMG or a conventional manual transmission.

Brakes and Stopping

For better stopping power the A3 Sedan’s front brake rotors are larger than those on the Malibu:

 

A3 Sedan

Malibu

Front Rotors

12.3 inches

11.8 inches

The A3 Sedan stops much shorter than the Malibu:

 

A3 Sedan

Malibu

 

70 to 0 MPH

156 feet

171 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

108 feet

127 feet

Motor Trend

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the A3 Sedan has larger standard tires than the Malibu (225/45R17 vs. 205/60R16).

The A3 Sedan’s standard tires provide better handling because they have a lower 45 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Malibu L/LS’ standard 60 series tires. The A3 Sedan Premium Plus/Prestige’s optional tires have a lower 35 series profile than the Malibu Premier’s optional 40 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the A3 Sedan has standard 17-inch wheels. Smaller 16-inch wheels are standard on the Malibu L/LS.

Suspension and Handling

The A3 Sedan has vehicle speed sensitive variable-assist power steering, for low-effort parking, better control at highway speeds and during hard cornering, and a better feel of the road. The Malibu doesn’t offer variable-assist power steering.

The A3 Sedan’s front to rear weight distribution is more even (58.1% to 41.9%) than the Malibu’s (61.6% to 38.4%). This gives the A3 Sedan more stable handling and braking.

The A3 Sedan Premium Quattro handles at .94 G’s, while the Malibu LT pulls only .86 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

The A3 Sedan Premium Quattro executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver 1.8 seconds quicker than the Malibu LT (25.6 seconds @ .71 average G’s vs. 27.4 seconds @ .63 average G’s).

For better maneuverability, the A3 Sedan’s turning circle is .9 feet tighter than the Malibu’s (36.1 feet vs. 37 feet).

Chassis

The A3 Sedan is 1 foot, 6.7 inches shorter than the Malibu, making the A3 Sedan easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

As tested by Car and Driver while at idle, the interior of the A3 Sedan Premium Quattro is quieter than the Malibu LT (41 vs. 42 dB).

Cargo Capacity

A low lift-over trunk design makes loading and unloading the A3 Sedan easier. The A3 Sedan’s trunk lift-over height is 26.3 inches, while the Malibu’s liftover is 30.5 inches.

To allow full utilization of available cargo room, the A3 Sedan’s trunk lid uses concealed beam hinges that don’t intrude into the trunk. Its intrusive beam hinge reduces the Malibu’s useful trunk space.

A standard locking glovebox keeps your small valuables safer in the A3 Sedan. The Malibu doesn’t offer locking storage for small valuables.

Servicing Ease

The A3 Sedan uses gas struts to support the hood for easier service access. The Malibu uses a prop rod to support its heavy hood. It takes two hands to open the hood and set the prop rod, the prop rod gets in the way during maintenance and service, and the prop rod could be knocked out, causing the heavy hood to fall on the person maintaining or servicing the car.

J.D. Power and Associates surveys of service recipients show that Audi service is better than Chevrolet. J.D. Power ranks Audi third in service department satisfaction. With a 22% lower rating, Chevrolet is ranked 10th.

Ergonomics

The A3 Sedan’s front and rear power windows all open or close with one touch of the switches, making it more convenient at drive-up windows and toll booths, or when talking with someone outside of the car. The Malibu’s standard power window switches have to be held the entire time to close them fully. The Malibu LT/Premier’s passenger windows don’t close automatically.

If the windows are left open on the A3 Sedan the driver can close them all at the outside door handle or from a distance using the remote. On a hot day the driver can lower the windows from a distance using the keyless remote. The driver of the Malibu can only operate the windows from inside the vehicle, with the ignition on.

The A3 Sedan has a standard locking fuel door with a remote release located convenient to the driver. A locking fuel door helps prevent vandalism, such as sugar in the tank and fuel theft. The Malibu doesn’t offer a locking fuel door.

The A3 Sedan’s rain-sensitive wipers adjust their speed and turn on and off automatically based on the amount of rainfall on the windshield. This allows the driver to concentrate on driving without constantly adjusting the wipers. The Malibu’s manually variable intermittent wipers have to be constantly adjusted.

Heated windshield washer nozzles are standard on the A3 Sedan to prevent washer fluid and nozzles from freezing and help continue to keep the windshield clear in sub-freezing temperatures. The Malibu doesn’t offer heated windshield washer nozzles.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducts detailed tests on headlights for their range both straight ahead and in curves and to be certain they don’t exceed acceptable amounts of glare to oncoming drivers. The A3 Sedan’s available headlights were rated “Acceptable” by the IIHS, while the Malibu’s headlights are rated “Poor.”

In poor weather, headlights can lose their effectiveness as grime builds up on their lenses. This can reduce visibility without the driver realizing. The A3 Sedan offers available headlight washers to keep headlight output high. The Malibu doesn’t offer headlight washers.

The A3 Sedan’s standard outside mirrors include heating elements to clear off the mirrors for better visibility. Chevrolet only offers heated mirrors on the Malibu LT/Premier.

The A3 Sedan Prestige has standard automatic dimming rear and side view mirrors which automatically darken quickly when headlights shine on them, keeping following vehicles from blinding or distracting the driver. The Malibu offers an automatic rear view mirror, but its side mirrors don’t dim.

The A3 Sedan has a standard dual zone air conditioning allows the driver and front passenger to choose two completely different temperatures so people with different temperature preferences won’t have to compromise. This makes both the driver and front passenger as comfortable as possible. Dual zone air conditioning is only available on the Malibu LT/Premier.

Both the A3 Sedan and the Malibu offer rear vents. For greater rear passenger comfort, the A3 Sedan has standard rear air conditioning vents to keep rear occupants cool in summer or warm in winter. The Malibu L/LS/RS doesn’t offer rear air conditioning vents, only heat vents.

Model Availability

The Audi A3 comes in convertible, sedan and station wagon bodystyles; the Chevrolet Malibu isn’t available as a convertible or station wagon.

Economic Advantages

The A3 Sedan will cost the buyer less in the long run because of its superior resale value. The IntelliChoice estimates that the A3 Sedan will retain 47% to 47.42% of its original price after five years, while the Malibu only retains 40.6% to 42.37%.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the A3 Sedan is less expensive to operate than the Malibu because typical repairs cost less on the A3 Sedan than the Malibu, including $54 less for a muffler, $59 less for front brake pads, $52 less for a fuel pump and $124 less for a timing belt/chain.

Recommendations

Consumer Reports® recommends the Audi A3 Sedan, based on reliability, safety and performance. The Chevrolet Malibu isn't recommended.

J.D. Power and Associates rated the A3 Sedan first among small premium cars in owner reported satisfaction. This includes how well the vehicle performs and satisfies its owner’s expectations. The Malibu isn’t in the top three in its category.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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