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For enhanced safety, the front seat shoulder belts of the Kia Optima Hybrid 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 Hybrid doesn’t offer height-adjustable seat belts.
The Optima Hybrid EX offers an optional Around View Monitor to allow the driver to see objects all around the vehicle on a screen. The Malibu Hybrid only offers a rear monitor and rear parking sensors that beep or flash a light. That doesn’t help with obstacles to the front or sides.
The Optima Hybrid’s driver alert monitor detects an inattentive driver then sounds a warning and suggests a break. According to the NHTSA, drivers who fall asleep cause about 100,000 crashes and 1500 deaths a year. The Malibu Hybrid doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.
Both the Optima Hybrid and the Malibu Hybrid have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, front wheel drive, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, daytime running lights, lane departure warning systems, blind spot warning systems, rearview cameras and rear cross-path warning.
For its top level performance in IIHS driver and passenger-side small overlap frontal, moderate overlap frontal, side impact, roof strength and head restraint tests, with its optional front crash prevention system, and its headlight’s “Good” rating, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the Optima Hybrid its highest rating: “Top Pick Plus” for 2019, a rating granted to only 46 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The Malibu Hybrid was last qualified as only a standard “Top Pick” in 2017.
The Optima Hybrid comes with a full 5-year/60,000-mile basic warranty, which covers the entire car and includes 24-hour roadside assistance. The Malibu Hybrid’s 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty expires 2 years and 24,000 miles sooner.
Kia’s powertrain warranty covers the Optima Hybrid 5 years and 40,000 miles longer than Chevrolet covers the Malibu Hybrid. Any repair needed on the engine, transmission, axles, joints or driveshafts is fully covered for 10 years or 100,000 miles. Coverage on the Malibu Hybrid ends after only 5 years or 60,000 miles.
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 Optima Hybrid’s reliability 38 points higher than the Malibu Hybrid.
J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Kia vehicles are better in initial quality than Chevrolet vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Kia second in initial quality, above the industry average. With 15 more problems per 100 vehicles, Chevrolet is ranked 6th.
From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that Kia vehicles are more reliable than Chevrolet vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Kia 18 places higher in reliability than Chevrolet.
The Optima Hybrid’s 2.0 DOHC 4 cyl. hybrid produces 10 more horsepower (192 vs. 182) than the Malibu Hybrid’s 1.8 DOHC 4 cyl. hybrid.
The Optima Hybrid has 2.9 gallons more fuel capacity than the Malibu Hybrid (15.9 vs. 13 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups.
For better stopping power the Optima Hybrid’s front brake rotors are larger than those on the Malibu Hybrid:
The Optima Hybrid’s standard front and rear disc brakes are vented to help dissipate heat for shorter stops with less fading. The rear discs on the Malibu Hybrid are solid, not vented.
The Optima Hybrid has standard front and rear gas-charged shocks for better control over choppy roads. The Malibu Hybrid’s suspension doesn’t offer gas-charged shocks.
The Optima Hybrid 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 Hybrid doesn’t offer variable-assist power steering.
For better maneuverability, the Optima Hybrid’s turning circle is 1.2 feet tighter than the Malibu Hybrid’s (35.8 feet vs. 37 feet).
The Optima Hybrid is 3.1 inches shorter than the Malibu Hybrid, making the Optima Hybrid easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.
The Optima Hybrid uses computer-generated active noise cancellation to help remove annoying noise and vibration from the passenger compartment, especially at low frequencies. The Malibu Hybrid doesn’t offer active noise cancellation.
The Optima Hybrid has .7 inches more front headroom, 4 inches more front legroom, 1.9 inches more front hip room, .3 inches more rear headroom and 2.6 inches more rear hip room than the Malibu Hybrid.
The Optima Hybrid has a much larger trunk than the Malibu Hybrid (13.4 vs. 11.6 cubic feet).
To make loading groceries and cargo easier when your hands are full, the Optima Hybrid’s trunk can be opened just by waiting momentarily behind the back bumper, leaving your hands completely free. The Malibu Hybrid doesn’t offer a hands-free gesture to open its trunk, forcing you to put cargo down if your hands are full.
The Optima Hybrid uses gas struts to support the hood for easier service access. The Malibu Hybrid 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.
When two different drivers share the Optima Hybrid, the optional memory seats and mirrors make it convenient for both. Each setting activates different, customized memories for the driver’s seat position and outside mirror angle. The Malibu Hybrid doesn’t offer a memory system.
The Optima Hybrid’s optional 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 Malibu Hybrid doesn’t offer an easy entry system.
The Optima Hybrid’s front power windows 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 Hybrid’s front passenger window doesn’t close automatically.
The Optima Hybrid 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 Hybrid doesn’t offer a locking fuel door.
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 Optima Hybrid’s available headlights were rated “Good” by the IIHS, while the Malibu Hybrid’s headlights are rated “Poor.”
To help drivers see further while navigating curves, the Optima Hybrid offers optional adaptive headlights to illuminate around corners automatically by reading vehicle speed and steering wheel angle. The Malibu Hybrid doesn’t offer cornering lights.
When the Optima Hybrid with available tilt-down mirrors 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 Malibu Hybrid’s mirrors don’t automatically adjust for backing.
Optional air-conditioned seats in the Optima Hybrid keep the driver and front passenger comfortable and take the sting out of hot seats in summer. The Malibu Hybrid doesn’t offer air-conditioned seats.
To keep a safe, consistent following distance, the Optima Hybrid has a standard Advanced Smart Cruise Control, which alters the speed of the vehicle without driver intervention. This allows the driver to use cruise control more safely without constantly having to disengage it when approaching slower traffic. The Malibu Hybrid doesn’t offer an adaptive cruise control.
To quickly and conveniently keep personal devices charged without cables tangling and wearing out, the Kia Optima Hybrid has a standard wireless phone charging system (Qi) in the center console. The Malibu Hybrid doesn’t offer wireless personal charging.
Consumer Reports® recommends the Kia Optima Hybrid, based on reliability, safety and performance. The Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid isn't recommended.
© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.
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