2021 Volvo S60 vs. 2021 Chevrolet Malibu

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

© 1999 - 2020 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved. This vehicle comparison and all of the content in it are provided only by license from Advanta-STAR Automotive Research Corporation of America. If you are not a legally licensed user of this vehicle comparison, it is against federal law to access it, copy it, forward it or use it in any manner whatsoever. Any unauthorized use of this vehicle comparison is a violation of U.S. and international law and is punishable criminally and civilly. 6IUEX-0KENZ 45.55.47.189 2020/10/29

For enhanced safety, the front and rear seat shoulder belts of the Volvo S60 have pretensioners to tighten the seatbelts and eliminate dangerous slack in the event of a collision and force limiters to limit the pressure the belts will exert on the passengers. The Chevrolet Malibu doesn’t offer pretensioners for the rear seat belts.

The S60’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 seat shoulder belts of the Volvo S60 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.

Both the S60 and Malibu have child safety locks to prevent children from opening the rear doors. The S60 has power child safety locks, allowing the driver to activate and deactivate them from the driver's seat and to know when they're engaged. The Malibu’s child locks have to be individually engaged at each rear door with a manual switch. The driver can’t know the status of the locks without opening the doors and checking them.

The S60 has standard Automatic Braking After Collision, which automatically apply 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.

Over 200 people are killed each year when backed over by motor vehicles. The S60 offers optional CTA Auto Brake that uses rear sensors to monitor and automatically apply the brakes to prevent a rear collision. The Malibu doesn’t offer backup collision prevention brakes.

The S60 offers all-wheel drive to maximize traction under poor conditions, especially in ice and snow. The Malibu doesn’t offer all-wheel drive.

The S60 offers an optional 360° Camera to allow the driver to see objects all around the vehicle on a screen. The Malibu 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 S60’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 doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

Both the S60 and the Malibu have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front wheel drive, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, daytime running lights and rearview cameras.

The Volvo S60 weighs 434 to 1305 pounds more than the Chevrolet Malibu. The NHTSA advises that heavier cars are much safer in collisions than their significantly lighter counterparts.

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, its standard vehicle-to-vehicle front crash prevention system, with its optional vehicle-to-pedestrian front crash prevention system, and its available headlight’s “Good” rating, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the S60 the rating of “Top Pick” for 2020, a rating granted to only 32 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The Malibu last would have qualified as a “Top Pick” in 2017.

Warranty

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The S60 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 S60’s corrosion warranty is 6 years and unlimited miles longer than the Malibu’s (12/unlimited vs. 6/100,000).

Volvo pays for scheduled maintenance on the S60 for 3 years and 36,000 miles. Volvo will pay for oil changes, lubrication and any other required maintenance. Chevrolet only pays for the first scheduled maintenance visit on the Malibu.

Reliability

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The battery on the S60 is in the trunk, which protects it from hot underhood temperatures that can degrade battery life. By keeping the S60’s battery 20 to 30 degrees cooler, its life is increased by years. The Malibu’s battery is in the hot engine compartment.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2019 Auto Issue reports that Volvo vehicles are more reliable than Chevrolet vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Volvo 1 place higher in reliability than Chevrolet.

Engine

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The S60 has more powerful engines than the Malibu:

Horsepower

Torque

S60 T5 2.0 turbo 4-cylinder

250 HP

258 lbs.-ft.

S60 T6 2.0 turbo/supercharged 4-cylinder

316 HP

295 lbs.-ft.

S60 Recharge 2.0 turbo/supercharged 4-cylinder hybrid

400 HP

472 lbs.-ft.

Malibu 1.5 turbo 4-cylinder

160 HP

184 lbs.-ft.

Malibu Premier 2.0 turbo 4-cylinder

250 HP

260 lbs.-ft.

As tested in Car and Driver the S60 T5 is faster than the Chevrolet Malibu 1.5 turbo 4-cylinder:

S60

Malibu

Zero to 30 MPH

2.3 sec

2.7 sec

Zero to 60 MPH

6.1 sec

8 sec

Zero to 100 MPH

15.2 sec

24.7 sec

5 to 60 MPH Rolling Start

7 sec

8.9 sec

Passing 30 to 50 MPH

3.5 sec

4.9 sec

Passing 50 to 70 MPH

4.7 sec

5.9 sec

Quarter Mile

14.6 sec

16.4 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

98 MPH

85 MPH

Top Speed

131 MPH

130 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

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On the EPA test cycle the S60 Recharge running on electricity gets better fuel mileage than the Malibu with its standard engine (70 city/68 hwy MPGe vs. 29 city/36 hwy).

The S60 Recharge can drive on battery power alone for up to 22 miles. The Malibu must run its internal combustion engine to move.

Regenerative brakes improve the S60 T8’s fuel efficiency by converting inertia back into energy instead of wasting it. The Malibu doesn’t offer a regenerative braking system.

Regardless of its engine, the S60’s engine automatically turns off when the vehicle is stopped, saving fuel and reducing pollution. (Start/Stop isn’t accounted in present EPA fuel mileage tests.) Chevrolet only offers an automatic engine start/stop system on the Malibu 1.5 Turbo.

Brakes and Stopping

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For better stopping power the S60’s brake rotors are larger than those on the Malibu:

S60 T5

S60 Polestar

Malibu

Front Rotors

12.7 inches

14.6 inches

11.8 inches

Rear Rotors

11.9 inches

12.6 inches

11.3 inches

The S60’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 are solid, not vented.

The S60 stops much shorter than the Malibu:

S60

Malibu

70 to 0 MPH

163 feet

171 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

110 feet

127 feet

Motor Trend

60 to 0 MPH (Wet)

139 feet

149 feet

Consumer Reports

Tires and Wheels

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For better traction, the S60 has larger tires than the Malibu (235/45R18 vs. 205/65R16).

The S60’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 65 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the S60 has standard 18-inch wheels. Smaller 16-inch wheels are standard on the Malibu L/LS.

Suspension and Handling

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The S60 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.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the S60’s wheelbase is 1.7 inches longer than on the Malibu (113.1 inches vs. 111.4 inches).

The S60’s front to rear weight distribution is more even (55% to 45%) than the Malibu’s (61.6% to 38.4%). This gives the S60 more stable handling and braking.

The S60 R-Design AWD 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 S60 Polestar executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver 2 seconds quicker than the Malibu LT (25.4 seconds @ .75 average G’s vs. 27.4 seconds @ .63 average G’s).

Chassis

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The S60 is 6.8 inches shorter than the Malibu, making the S60 easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

Passenger Space

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The S60 has .8 inches more front legroom and 1.2 inches more front hip room than the Malibu.

Cargo Capacity

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A low lift-over trunk design makes loading and unloading the S60 easier. The S60’s trunk lift-over height is 26 inches, while the Malibu’s liftover is 30.5 inches.

To allow full utilization of available cargo room, the S60’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.

Pressing a switch automatically lowers the S60’s optional rear seats, to make changing between passengers and cargo easier. The Malibu doesn’t offer automatic folding seats.

With its sedan body style, valet key, locking rear seatbacks and remote trunk release lockout, the S60 offers cargo security. The Malibu’s non-lockable remote release defeats cargo security.

A standard locking glovebox (which can’t be accessed with the valet key) keeps your small valuables safer in the S60. The Malibu doesn’t offer locking storage for small valuables.

To make loading and unloading groceries and cargo easier when your hands are full, the S60’s power trunk can be opened or closed just by kicking your foot under the back bumper, leaving your hands completely free. The Malibu doesn’t offer a power or hands-free opening trunk.

Towing

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The S60’s standard towing capacity is much higher than the Malibu’s (2000 vs. 1000 pounds).

Servicing Ease

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The S60 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.

Ergonomics

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Unlike the driver-only memory seat and mirrors in the Malibu Premier, the S60 R-Design/Inscription has a passenger memory, so that when drivers switch, the memory setting adjusts the driver’s seat and outside mirror angle and the front passenger seat also adjusts to the new passenger’s preset preferences.

The S60 offers an optional heads-up display that projects speed and navigation instruction readouts in front of the driver’s line of sight, allowing drivers to view information without diverting their eyes from the road. The Malibu doesn’t offer a heads-up display.

The S60’s power parking brake sets with one touch and releases with one touch or automatically. The Malibu’s parking brake has to released manually.

The S60’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 S60 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 S60’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 optional on the S60 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.

In poor weather, headlights can lose their effectiveness as grime builds up on their lenses. This can reduce visibility without the driver realizing. The S60 offers available headlight washers to keep headlight output high. The Malibu doesn’t offer headlight washers.

To help drivers avoid possible obstacles, the S60 has standard cornering lights to illuminate around corners when the turn signals are activated. The Malibu doesn’t offer cornering lights. The S60 also has standard adaptive headlights to illuminate around corners automatically by reading vehicle speed and steering wheel angle.

The S60’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 S60’s standard rear and side view mirrors have an automatic dimming feature. These mirrors can be set to 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 S60 Inscription offers optional massaging front seats in order to maximize comfort and eliminate fatigue on long trips. Massaging seats aren’t available in the Malibu.

The S60 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 S60 and the Malibu offer rear vents. For greater rear passenger comfort, the S60 has available 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.

Economic Advantages

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According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the S60 is less expensive to operate than the Malibu because typical repairs cost less on the S60 than the Malibu, including $5 less for a water pump, $25 less for front brake pads, $21 less for front struts and $36 less for a timing belt/chain.

Recommendations

© 1999 - 2020 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved. This vehicle comparison and all of the content in it are provided only by license from Advanta-STAR Automotive Research Corporation of America. If you are not a legally licensed user of this vehicle comparison, it is against federal law to access it, copy it, forward it or use it in any manner whatsoever. Any unauthorized use of this vehicle comparison is a violation of U.S. and international law and is punishable criminally and civilly. 6IUEX-0KENZ 45.55.47.189 2020/10/29

J.D. Power and Associates rated the S60 second among compact 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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