2020 Chevrolet Malibu vs. 2019 Volkswagen Jetta

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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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 Jetta doesn’t offer a back seat reminder.

The Malibu LT/Premier’s optional lane departure warning system alerts a temporarily inattentive driver when the vehicle begins to leave its lane and gently nudges the vehicle back towards its lane. The Jetta doesn’t offer a lane departure warning system.

Both the Malibu and the Jetta have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, front wheel drive, plastic fuel tanks, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, available crash mitigating brakes, 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 Volkswagen Jetta:




5 Stars

4 Stars



5 Stars

4 Stars

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


The Malibu comes with free roadside assistance for 5 years 60,000 miles. Chevrolet will send help if you run out of gas, need a jump-start, lock your keys in or need any assistance on the road. Volkswagen doesn’t give free roadside assistance for the Jetta.

There are almost 5 times as many Chevrolet dealers as there are Volkswagen dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the Malibu’s warranty.


J.D. Power and Associates rated the Malibu first among midsize cars in their 2019 Initial Quality Study. The Jetta 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 Volkswagen vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Chevrolet 6th in initial quality, above the industry average. With 28 more problems per 100 vehicles, Volkswagen 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 Volkswagen vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Chevrolet fourth in reliability, above the industry average. With 16 more problems per 100 vehicles, Volkswagen is ranked 12th.


The Malibu’s standard 1.5 turbo 4 cyl. produces 13 more horsepower (160 vs. 147) than the Jetta’s 1.4 turbo 4 cyl. The Malibu Premier’s standard 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. produces 103 more horsepower (250 vs. 147) and 76 lbs.-ft. more torque (260 vs. 184) than the Jetta’s 1.4 turbo 4 cyl.

As tested in Consumer Reports the Chevrolet Malibu 1.5 turbo 4 cyl. is faster than the Volkswagen Jetta (automatics tested):



Zero to 30 MPH

3.1 sec

3.6 sec

Zero to 60 MPH

8.4 sec

9 sec

45 to 65 MPH Passing

5.3 sec

5.5 sec

Quarter Mile

16.6 sec

17 sec

Fuel Economy and Range

The Malibu has 2.6 gallons more fuel capacity than the Jetta (15.8 vs. 13.2 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups.

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 Jetta doesn’t offer a cap-less fueling system.


The Chevrolet Malibu comes standard with an automatic transmission, for driver comfort, especially in the city. Automatic costs extra on the Jetta.

A nine-speed automatic is standard on the Chevrolet Malibu Premier, for better acceleration and lower engine speed on the highway. Only an eight-speed automatic is available for the Jetta.

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 Jetta doesn’t offer a CVT.

Brakes and Stopping

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



Front Rotors

11.8 inches

11.5 inches

Rear Rotors

11.3 inches

10.8 inches

The Malibu stops much shorter than the Jetta:



70 to 0 MPH

167 feet

191 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

117 feet

124 feet

Motor Trend

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the Malibu RS/Premier’s tires are larger than the largest tires available on the Jetta (245/45R18 vs. 205/60R16).

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 Jetta R-Line/SEL Premium’s 55 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the Malibu offers optional 19-inch wheels. The Jetta’s largest wheels are only 17-inches.

Suspension and Handling

For superior ride and handling, the Chevrolet Malibu has fully independent front and rear suspensions. An independent suspension allows the wheels to follow the road at the best angle for gripping the pavement, without compromising ride comfort. The Volkswagen Jetta has a rear torsion beam axle, with a semi-independent rear suspension.

The Malibu has standard front and rear stabilizer bars, which help keep the Malibu flat and controlled during cornering. The Jetta’s suspension doesn’t offer a rear stabilizer bar.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the Malibu’s wheelbase is 5.7 inches longer than on the Jetta (111.4 inches vs. 105.7 inches).

For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the Malibu is 1.9 inches wider in the front and 2.1 inches wider in the rear than on the Jetta.

The Malibu Premier handles at .88 G’s, while the Jetta SEL pulls only .81 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 Jetta SEL (26.4 seconds @ .68 average G’s vs. 27.6 seconds @ .62 average G’s).

Passenger Space

Because it has more passenger and cargo room, the EPA rates the Malibu a Mid-size car, while the Jetta is rated a Compact.

The Malibu has 8.2 cubic feet more passenger volume than the Jetta (102.9 vs. 94.7).

The Malibu has .6 inches more front headroom, .4 inches more front legroom, 2.6 inches more front shoulder room, .3 inches more rear headroom, .7 inches more rear legroom and 3.1 inches more rear shoulder room than the Jetta.

The front step up height for the Malibu is 2.3 inches lower than the Jetta (13.5” vs. 15.8”). The Malibu’s rear step up height is 1.9 inches lower than the Jetta’s (14.1” vs. 16”).

Cargo Capacity

The Malibu has a much larger trunk than the Jetta (15.7 vs. 14.1 cubic feet).


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 Jetta does not have an oil pressure gauge.

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

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 Jetta’s mirrors don’t automatically adjust for backing.

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

To quickly and conveniently keep personal devices charged without cables tangling and wearing out, the Chevrolet Malibu Premier has a standard wireless phone charging system (Qi) in the center console. The Jetta doesn’t offer wireless personal charging.

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 Jetta 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 Jetta doesn’t offer an automated parking system.

Economic Advantages

Insurance will cost less for the Malibu owner. The Complete Car Cost Guide estimates that insurance for the Malibu will cost $635 less than the Jetta over a five-year period.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Malibu is less expensive to operate than the Jetta because it costs $209 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost much less on the Malibu than the Jetta, including $194 less for a water pump, $68 less for a muffler, $321 less for a starter, $98 less for fuel injection, $134 less for a fuel pump, $163 less for front struts, $69 less for a timing belt/chain and $250 less for a power steering pump.


The Chevrolet Malibu outsold the Volkswagen Jetta by 59% during 2018.

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

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