2020 Chevrolet Malibu vs. 2019 Subaru Legacy

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

In the past twenty years hundreds of infants and young children have died after being left in vehicles, usually by accident. When turning the vehicle off, drivers of the Malibu are reminded to check the back seat if they opened the rear door before starting out. The Legacy doesn’t offer a back seat reminder.

Both the Malibu and the Legacy have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, 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 Subaru Legacy:

Malibu

Legacy

Driver

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

Neck Injury Risk

23%

27%

Neck Compression

29 lbs.

42 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 post at 20 MPH, results indicate that the Chevrolet Malibu is safer than the Subaru Legacy:

Malibu

Legacy

Into Pole

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

Max Damage Depth

13 inches

17 inches

Spine Acceleration

29 G’s

40 G’s

Hip Force

488 lbs.

736 lbs.

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

Warranty

The Malibu’s corrosion warranty is 1 year longer than the Legacy’s (6 vs. 5 years).

There are almost 5 times as many Chevrolet dealers as there are Subaru dealers, which makes it much 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 Legacy isn’t in the top three.

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 Subaru vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Chevrolet 6th in initial quality, above the industry average. With 28 more problems per 100 vehicles, Subaru is ranked 25th, below the industry average.

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 Subaru vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Chevrolet fourth in reliability, above the industry average. With 21 more problems per 100 vehicles, Subaru is ranked 14th.

Engine

The Malibu’s standard 1.5 turbo 4 cyl. produces 10 lbs.-ft. more torque (184 vs. 174) than the Legacy 2.5i’s standard 2.5 DOHC 4 cyl. The Malibu Premier’s standard 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. produces 13 lbs.-ft. more torque (260 vs. 247) than the Legacy 3.6R Limited’s standard 3.6 DOHC 6 cyl.

As tested in Consumer Reports the Chevrolet Malibu 1.5 turbo 4 cyl. is faster than the Legacy 2.5i:

Malibu

Legacy

Zero to 30 MPH

3.1 sec

4.1 sec

Zero to 60 MPH

8.4 sec

10.2 sec

45 to 65 MPH Passing

5.3 sec

6.2 sec

Quarter Mile

16.6 sec

17.8 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

86 MPH

82.3 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

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

MPG

Malibu

1.5 turbo 4-cyl.

29 city/36 hwy

2.0 turbo 4 cyl.

22 city/32 hwy

Legacy

2.5 DOHC 4-cyl.

25 city/34 hwy

3.6 DOHC 6-cyl.

20 city/28 hwy

In heavy traffic or at stoplights the Malibu 1.5 Turbo’s engine automatically turns off when the vehicle is stopped, saving fuel and reducing pollution. The engine is automatically restarted when the driver gets ready to move again. (Start/Stop isn’t accounted in present EPA fuel mileage tests.) The Legacy doesn’t offer an automatic engine start/stop system.

The Malibu has a standard cap-less fueling system. The fuel filler is automatically opened when the fuel nozzle is inserted and automatically closed when it’s removed. This eliminates the need to unscrew and replace the cap and it reduces fuel evaporation, which causes pollution. The Legacy doesn’t offer a cap-less fueling system.

Brakes and Stopping

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

Malibu

Legacy

Front Rotors

11.8 inches

11.6 inches

The Malibu stops much shorter than the Legacy:

Malibu

Legacy

70 to 0 MPH

167 feet

179 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

117 feet

123 feet

Motor Trend

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the Malibu RS/Premier’s tires are larger than the largest tires available on the Legacy (245/45R18 vs. 225/55R17).

The Malibu’s optional tires provide better handling because they have a lower 40 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Legacy Sport/Limited’s 50 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the Malibu offers optional 19-inch wheels. The Legacy’s largest wheels are only 18-inches.

Suspension and Handling

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the Malibu’s wheelbase is 3.1 inches longer than on the Legacy (111.4 inches vs. 108.3 inches).

The Malibu Premier handles at .88 G’s, while the Legacy 3.6R Limited pulls only .78 G’s of cornering force in a Motor Trend skidpad test.

The Malibu Premier executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver 1.2 seconds quicker than the Legacy 2.5i Limited (26.4 seconds @ .68 average G’s vs. 27.6 seconds @ .6 average G’s).

Chassis

The Chevrolet Malibu may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 400 to 500 pounds less than the Subaru Legacy.

As tested by Car and Driver, the interior of the Malibu LT is quieter than the Legacy 3.6R Limited:

Malibu

Legacy

At idle

42 dB

44 dB

Full-Throttle

71 dB

74 dB

70 MPH Cruising

65 dB

69 dB

Cargo Capacity

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

Towing

The Malibu has a 1000 lbs. towing capacity. The Legacy has no towing capacity.

Servicing Ease

The Malibu has a maintenance free battery for long life without checking the battery’s water level. The Legacy doesn’t have a maintenance free battery, so the water level in the battery’s cells must be checked often to prevent damage.

An Oil Life Monitor is standard on the Malibu to save the owner time and money by calculating maintenance intervals for oil changes based on actual driving conditions. This takes the guesswork out of keeping your vehicle in top condition and helps it last longer. Subaru doesn’t offer a maintenance reminder on the Legacy.

Ergonomics

The Malibu Premier’s standard easy entry system glides the driver’s seat back when the door is unlocked or the ignition is switched off, making it easier for the driver to get in and out. The Legacy doesn’t offer an easy entry system.

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 Legacy does not have an oil pressure gauge.

The power windows standard on both the Malibu and the Legacy have locks to prevent small children from operating them. When the lock on the Malibu is engaged the driver can still operate all of the windows, for instance to close one opened by a child. The Legacy prevents the driver from operating the other windows just as it does the other passengers.

The Malibu’s standard front and rear power windows all lower 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 Legacy’s standard power windows’ passenger windows don’t open automatically. The Legacy Premium//Limited’s optional rear power window switches have to be held the entire time to lower them fully.

Consumer Reports rated the Malibu’s headlight performance “Very Good,” a higher rating than the Legacy’s headlights, which were rated “Good.”

When the Malibu Premier is put in reverse, both rearview mirrors tilt from their original position. This gives the driver a better view of the curb during parallel parking maneuvers. Shifting out of reverse puts the mirrors into their original positions. The Legacy’s mirrors don’t automatically adjust for backing.

Standard air-conditioned seats in the Malibu Premier keep the driver and front passenger comfortable and take the sting out of hot seats in summer. The Legacy doesn’t offer air-conditioned seats.

On extremely cold winter days, the Malibu’s optional (except L/LS/RS) heated steering wheel provides comfort, allowing the driver to steer safely and comfortably before the car heater warms up. The Legacy doesn’t offer a heated steering wheel.

The Malibu Premier has a 115-volt a/c outlet on the center console, allowing you to recharge a laptop or run small household appliances without special adapters that can break or get misplaced. The Legacy doesn’t offer a house-current electrical outlet.

The Malibu Premier’s optional Automatic Parking Assist can parallel park or back into a parking spot by itself, with the driver only controlling speed with the brake pedal. The Legacy doesn’t offer an automated parking system.

Economic Advantages

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Malibu is less expensive to operate than the Legacy because it costs $482 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost less on the Malibu than the Legacy, including $76 less for a starter, $11 less for a fuel pump, $83 less for front struts, $91 less for a timing belt/chain and $3 less for a power steering pump.

Recommendations

The Chevrolet Malibu outsold the Subaru Legacy by almost four to one during 2018.

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

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