Chevy Malibu Vs. Kia Optima: Midsize Sedans With Big-Time Fun

Midsize sedans may have lost some popularity to crossovers, but the 2019 Chevy Malibu and 2019 Kia Optima have tons to offer our Orange Park, Jacksonville, and Fleming Island area buyers. But which of these sedans is better for your daily commute to Orange Park or your weekend journeys to Jacksonville? Find out below.


The midsize sedan segment is far from creative in terms of design, but it has gotten far better in recent years. The Chevy Malibu recently went through a refresh that gave it a fresher face and a sportier look. The 2019 Kia Optima also went through a refresh that includes mild tweaks to its front and rear ends, and a sporty new S trim level.

While both these sedans have plenty of standard features, the Optima offers a few extra standard exterior goodies the Malibu does not. These features include 16-inch alloy wheels, projector headlights, LED daytime running lights, a stylish grille, and much more.

The Malibu is 193.8 inches long, 73 inches wide, and 57.6 inches high. This sedan rides on a 112.2-inch wheelbase. The Optima is close to the Malibu in size at 191.1 inches long, 73.2 inches wide, and 57.7 inches high. It rides on a 110.4-inch wheelbase.

Advantage: 2019 Chevy Malibu

  • Sharp new look
  • Sporty RS trim

Advantage: 2019 Kia Optima

  • More standard exterior features


Inside, the 2019 Chevy Malibu is very basic with its horizontally oriented instrument panel a and simple setup. There is nothing overly creative about the Malibu, but many buyers will appreciate this simple look. The 2019 Optima boasts a more creative-looking cabin, but some may find its red-accented SX interior a little too over the top.

The base Optima LX and Malibu L are similar in features with their 8-inch touchscreens, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and more.

2019 Malibu’s front seats offer 40.1 inches of headroom, 45.3 inches of legroom, 58.5 inches of shoulder room, and 54.1 inches of hip room. The 2019 Optima beats the Malibu by 0.2 inches in legroom, 0.4 inches of shoulder room and 1.9 inches of hip room, but it comes up short in headroom  by 0.3 inches.

In its rear seats, the 2019 Chevy Malibu offers 37.5 inches of headroom, 38.1 inches of legroom, 57.1 inches of shoulder room, and 53.4 inches of hip room. The Optima beats the Malibu by 0.3 inches in headroom and 2.6 inches in hip room, but it comes up short in legroom by 2.5 inches and shoulder room by 0.7 inches.

The 2019 Malibu boasts 15.8 cubic feet of cargo room, but this is 0.1 cubes tighter than the Optima.

Advantage: 2019 Chevy Malibu

  • Significant rear legroom advantage
  • Basic interior that meets many buyers’ needs

Advantage: 2019 Kia Optima

  • More stylish interior
  • Sporty SX cabin


The 2019 Chevy Malibu comes with a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. This power heads through a continuously variable transmission for an independently tested 8.3-second 0-to-60 sprint time.

The 2019 Kia Optima comes standard with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 185 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque. This engine pairs with a six-speed automatic transmission. In its EX trim, the Optima boasts a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 178 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. This model uses a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

2019 Chevy Malibu Premier comes standard with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 250 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. This engine pairs with a nine-speed automatic transmission to sprint the Malibu to 60 mph in an independently tested 5.7 seconds.

Delivering added performance is the Optima SX and its 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that cranks out 245 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. This engine pairs with a six-speed automatic transmission to deliver a 6.7-second sprint to 60 mph.

The 2019 Malibu’s base 1.5-liter engine delivers great economy at up to 29 mpg city, 36 highway, and 32 combined. The Malibu’s optional 2.0-liter engine delivers a respectable 22 mpg city, 32 highway, and 26 combined.

With its base 2.4-liter engine, the 2019 Kia Optima gets up to 25 mpg city, 35 highway, and 29 combined. Moving into the 1.6-liter engine pushes fuel economy to 27 mpg city, 37 highway, and 31 combined. With its boosted 2.0-liter engine, the Optima’s fuel efficiency falls to 21 mpg city, 30 highway, and 24 combined.

Advantage: 2019 Chevy Malibu

  • Quicker to 60 mph in top trim
  • Smooth ride

Advantage: 2019 Kia Optima

  • Sport-tuned SX suspension
  • Traditional base transmission

Pricing and Features

The 2019 Chevy Malibu is available in five trim levels — L, LS, RS, LT, and Premier — and their starting prices range from $22,965 to $32,545.

The 2019 Kia Optima comes in four trim levels — LX, S, EX, and SX — and their starting prices range from $22,900 to $31,900.

2019 Chevy Malibu Key Features and Pricing by Trim

L: $22,965

  • 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine
  • Front-wheel drive
  • Continuously variable transmission
  • Automatic stop/start
  • Four-wheel disc brakes
  • 16-inch steel wheels with covers
  • Black antenna
  • Daytime running lights
  • Auto-on/off halogen headlights
  • Power mirrors
  • Single-zone manual climate control
  • Chevrolet Infotainment 3
  • 8-inch color touchscreen
  • Six-speaker AM/FM audio system
  • Bluetooth connectivity with audio streaming
  • Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
  • Cruise control
  • Power door locks
  • Monochromatic driver information center
  • Front and rear floor mats
  • Keyless open
  • Keyless ignition
  • OnStar
  • 12-volt power outlet
  • 60/40 split-folding rear seat
  • Rear-seat reminder
  • Tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel
  • Steering-wheel-mounted control
  • Trunk cargo anchors
  • One-touch-down power windows
  • Rearview camera

LS: $23,995

  • All L features, plus
  • Acoustic front glass
  • 16-inch aluminum wheels
  • Compass
  • 4G LTE Wi-Fi
  • Temperature display
  • Teen Driver

RS: $24,995

  • All LS features, plus
  • Dual stainless-steel exhaust with polished tips
  • Black front and rear bow tie emblems
  • Blacked-out grille
  • Rear spoiler
  • 18-inch Black-Chrome wheels
  • Eight-way power driver’s seat with lumbar adjustment
  • Leather-wrapped shift knob
  • Leather-wrapped steering wheel

LT: $27,340

  • All LS features, plus
  • Body-color antenna
  • LED daytime running lights
  • Heated mirrors
  • LED taillights
  • 17-inch wheels
  • Dual-zone automatic climate control
  • SiriusXM
  • Remote vehicle ignition
  • Heated front seats
  • Rear seat vent
  • One-touch up/down power driver’s window

Premier: $32,545

  • All LT features, plus
  • 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine
  • Nine-speed automatic transmission
  • Dual stainless-steel exhaust with polished tips
  • Chrome door handles with body-color accents
  • LED headlights
  • Mirror-integrated turn signals
  • Bright sill plates
  • LED taillights
  • 18-inch aluminum wheels
  • 8-inch HD touchscreen
  • Nine-speaker Bose audio system
  • Smart-charging USB port
  • 8-inch driver-information system
  • Two-position driver’s seat memory
  • Ambient interior lighting
  • Auto-dimming rearview mirror
  • 120-volt rear power outlet
  • HD rearview camera
  • Ventilated front seats
  • Heated rear outboard seats
  • Six-way power passenger seat
  • Heated steering wheel
  • Trunk mat
  • Wireless charging pad

2019 Kia Optima Key Features and Pricing by Trim

LX: $22,900

  • 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine
  • Six-speed automatic transmission
  • 16-inch alloy wheels
  • Projector headlights
  • LED daytime running lights
  • Auto-on/off headlights
  • Tinted rear glass
  • Heated, power, body-color mirrors with black base and LED turn signals
  • Body-color belt-line molding
  • Body-color side-sill moldings
  • Matte-gray mesh grille
  • Sport front bumper
  • Tilt-and-telescopic steering column
  • Variable intermittent front wipers
  • 3.5-inch multi-information display panel
  • Outside temperature display
  • Overhead console with sunglass holder
  • Front console tray with power outlets
  • Silver metallic inside door handles
  • Interior satin chrome accents
  • Door scuff plates
  • Black cloth seat trim with CleanTex anti-soiling
  • 60/40 split-folding rear seats
  • Air conditioning
  • Cruise control
  • Six-speaker AM/FM/MP3 audio system
  • 8-inch color touchscreen
  • Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
  • Auxiliary and USB audio input jacks
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Power windows with one-touch-down driver’s window
  • Power door locks
  • Steering-wheel-mounted controls
  • Hill-start assist
  • Blind-spot monitoring
  • Reverse parking sensors
  • Rear cross-traffic alert
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Lane-change assist
  • Lane-keep assist
  • Driver-attention warning
  • Automatic high-beam headlights
  • Lane-departure warning
  • Forward-collision warning
  • Rearview camera

S: $24,900

  • All LX features, plus
  • 18-inch alloy wheels
  • Projector fog lights
  • LED rear combination lights
  • Outside door-pocket lighting
  • Gloss-black side-sill moulding
  • Gloss-black mesh grille
  • Dual chrome exhaust tips
  • Body-color rear spoiler
  • Auto-dimming rearview mirror
  • Black cloth and leatherette seat trim
  • 10-way power driver’s seat with two-way power lumbar support
  • Leather-wrapped steering wheel
  • Dual-zone automatic temperature control
  • 4G LTE Wi-Fi
  • SiriusXM radio
  • One-touch up/down front windows
  • Keyless ignition
  • Smart trunk

EX: $26,800

  • All S features. Plus
  • 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine
  • Seven-speed dual-clutch transmission
  • 17-inch alloy wheels
  • Acoustic front door windows
  • Body-color side sill moulding
  • Illuminated glove box
  • Front door mood lamp
  • Satin-chrome inside door handles
  • Wood-grain power window switch panel
  • Wood-grain center console trim
  • Electronic parking brake
  • Black leather seat trim
  • Heated front seats
  • Leather-wrapped gear shift knob
  • Rear AC vents
  • Two rapid-charge USB ports
  • Rear power outlet and USB charging port
  • Pedestrian detection
  • Smart Cruise Control with Stop and Go

SX: $31,900

  • All EX features, plus
  • 2.0-liter turbocharged engine
  • Six-speed automatic transmission
  • Sport-tuned suspension
  • Paddle shifters
  • 18-inch alloy wheels
  • Auto-leveling LED headlights
  • LED turn signals
  • LED fog lights
  • Gloss-black mirrors
  • Gloss-black honeycomb grille
  • Red front and rear brake calipers
  • Gloss-black rear spoiler
  • Panoramic sunroof with power shade
  • Chrome “Turbo” fender garnish
  • 4.3-inch multi-information display panel
  • Ambient lighting with six variable colors
  • LED rear room lamps
  • Overhead LED front and rear reading lamps with LED pin lamp
  • Gloss-black power window switch panel
  • Metal hairline center console trim
  • Black sport leather seating with red stitching
  • 12-way power driver’s seat with four-way power lumbar support
  • Two-position seat memory
  • 10-way power front passenger’s seat two-way power lumbar support
  • Ventilated front seats
  • Black headliner material and pillar covers
  • D-shaped steering wheel with red stitching and “SX” emblem
  • Leather-wrapped steering wheel with perforated stitching
  • Heated steering wheel
  • Navigation
  • 10-speaker Harman/Kardon audio system
  • Low-beam assist

Who Should Buy the 2019 Chevy Malibu?

The Malibu’s roomier rear seats and more traditional interior meets the needs of many buyers. Plus, its silky-smooth ride makes it ideal for buyers who have no need for a performance sedan. That said, those who want added pep will get a nice dose from the optional 2.0-liter engine.

Who Should Buy the 2019 Kia Optima?

Buyers looking for a more unique take on the midsize sedan will love the Optima’s looks. This is even truer inside the cabin where its sharp SX package adds doses of color and a flat-bottom steering wheel.

Ready to tackle the streets of the Jacksonville, Florida area in a premium midsize sedan? Head down to Garber Automall to take the 2019 Chevrolet Malibu for a test drive. We’re sure you’ll find it meets your needsIf you can’t make it in today, you can also view our online inventory to see if we have the Malibu you’re seeking in stock. You won’t be disappointed.

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Jeff Knudson

Jeff Knudson

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Garber Automall 30.0177773, -81.7049501.