2020 Chevrolet Malibu vs. 2019 Buick LaCrosse

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

Both the Malibu and the LaCrosse have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front and rear side-impact airbags, driver and front passenger knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, front wheel drive, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, available crash mitigating brakes, 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 Chevrolet Malibu is safer than the Buick LaCrosse:

Malibu

LaCrosse

Driver

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

HIC

173

220

Leg Forces (l/r)

186/153 lbs.

169/229 lbs.

Passenger

STARS

4 Stars

4 Stars

Neck Stress

173 lbs.

195 lbs.

Leg Forces (l/r)

173/196 lbs.

346/354 lbs.

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 Chevrolet Malibu is safer than the Buick LaCrosse:

Malibu

LaCrosse

Front Seat

STARS

5 Stars

4 Stars

HIC

180

187

Chest Movement

1.1 inches

1.3 inches

Abdominal Force

239 G’s

280 G’s

Hip Force

212 lbs.

282 lbs.

Into Pole

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

Max Damage Depth

13 inches

15 inches

Spine Acceleration

29 G’s

30 G’s

Hip Force

488 lbs.

653 lbs.

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

Warranty

There are over 47 percent more Chevrolet dealers than there are Buick dealers, which makes it easier should you ever need service under the Malibu’s warranty.

Reliability

J.D. Power and Associates rated the Malibu first among midsize cars in their 2019 Initial Quality Study. The LaCrosse isn’t in the top three in its category.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Chevrolet vehicles are better in initial quality than Buick vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Chevrolet 6th in initial quality, above the industry average. With 7 more problems per 100 vehicles, Buick is ranked 11th.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Chevrolet vehicles are more reliable than Buick vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Chevrolet fourth in reliability, above the industry average. With 3 more problems per 100 vehicles, Buick is ranked fifth.

Engine

The Malibu Premier’s standard 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. produces 56 more horsepower (250 vs. 194) and 73 lbs.-ft. more torque (260 vs. 187) than the LaCrosse’s standard 2.5 DOHC 4 cyl. hybrid.

As tested in Car and Driver the Malibu Premier 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. is faster than the Buick LaCrosse eAssist:

Malibu

LaCrosse

Zero to 60 MPH

6.1 sec

7.8 sec

Zero to 100 MPH

15.4 sec

22.4 sec

5 to 60 MPH Rolling Start

6.7 sec

8.2 sec

Quarter Mile

14.7 sec

16.3 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

97 MPH

86 MPH

Top Speed

156 MPH

130 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the Malibu gets better fuel mileage than the LaCrosse:

MPG

Malibu

FWD

1.5 turbo 4-cyl.

29 city/36 hwy

2.0 turbo 4 cyl.

22 city/32 hwy

LaCrosse

FWD

2.5 DOHC 4-cyl. Hybrid

25 city/35 hwy

3.6 DOHC V6

20 city/30 hwy

AWD

3.6 DOHC V6

20 city/29 hwy

Transmission

The Malibu has a standard continuously variable transmission (CVT). With no “steps” between gears, it can keep the engine at the most efficient speed for fuel economy, or keep it at its peak horsepower indefinitely for maximum acceleration. The LaCrosse doesn’t offer a CVT.

Brakes and Stopping

The Malibu stops shorter than the LaCrosse:

Malibu

LaCrosse

70 to 0 MPH

167 feet

173 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

117 feet

123 feet

Motor Trend

Suspension and Handling

The Malibu Premier handles at .87 G’s, while the LaCrosse Essence pulls only .83 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

The Malibu Premier executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver quicker than the LaCrosse Premium (26.4 seconds @ .68 average G’s vs. 26.8 seconds @ .66 average G’s).

For better maneuverability, the Malibu’s turning circle is 1 foot tighter than the LaCrosse’s (37 feet vs. 38 feet).

Chassis

The Chevrolet Malibu may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 350 to 600 pounds less than the Buick LaCrosse.

The Malibu is 3.3 inches shorter than the LaCrosse, making the Malibu easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

As tested by Car and Driver, the interior of the Malibu LT is quieter than the LaCrosse Premium:

Malibu

LaCrosse

Full-Throttle

71 dB

75 dB

70 MPH Cruising

65 dB

68 dB

Passenger Space

The Malibu has .7 inches more front headroom, .8 inches more front shoulder room, .3 inches more rear headroom, .1 inches more rear legroom and .5 inches more rear shoulder room than the LaCrosse.

Cargo Capacity

The Malibu has a larger trunk than the LaCrosse (15.7 vs. 15 cubic feet).

Ergonomics

The Malibu’s instruments include an oil pressure gauge and a temperature gauge - which could save your engine! Often ‘idiot lights’ don’t warn you until damage has been done. The LaCrosse does not have an oil pressure gauge.

The Keyless Access System standard on the Malibu allows you to unlock the driver’s door, trunk and start the engine all without removing a key from pocket or purse. This eliminates searching for keys before loading groceries, getting in the vehicle in bad weather or making a hurried start to your trip. The Buick LaCrosse’s Keyless Access doesn’t unlock the trunk.

While driving with high beams on, sensitive light sensors available for the Malibu LT/Premier detect other vehicles which could be blinded and automatically switch to low beams. The LaCrosse doesn’t offer automatic dimming high beams.

Both the Malibu and the LaCrosse offer available heated front seats. The Malibu Premier also has standard heated rear seats to keep those passengers extremely comfortable in the winter. Heated rear seats aren’t available in the LaCrosse.

Economic Advantages

Insurance will cost less for the Malibu owner. The Complete Car Cost Guide estimates that insurance for the Malibu will cost $65 to $2950 less than the LaCrosse over a five-year period.

The Malibu will cost the buyer less in the long run because of its superior resale value. The IntelliChoice estimates that the Malibu will retain 40.6% to 42.37% of its original price after five years, while the LaCrosse only retains 23.54% to 40.34%.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Malibu is less expensive to operate than the LaCrosse because it costs $546 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost much less on the Malibu than the LaCrosse, including $24 less for front brake pads, $68 less for a starter, $69 less for a fuel pump, $527 less for front struts, $639 less for a timing belt/chain and $618 less for a power steering pump.

IntelliChoice estimates that five-year ownership costs (depreciation, financing, insurance, fuel, fees, repairs and maintenance) for the Chevrolet Malibu will be $8400 to $12013 less than for the Buick LaCrosse.

Recommendations

The Chevrolet Malibu outsold the Buick LaCrosse by over 9 to one during 2018.

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

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