Most automakers offer at least one respectable midsize sedan. But buyer beware: Every model year sees an underperformer or two. Sometimes, Consumer Reports accurately predicts the underachievers, though the review site is off-base other times. This year, Consumer Reports’ worst midsize sedan might earn drivers’ scorn.
How Consumer Reports predicts overall owner satisfaction
Every review outlet approaches automotive evaluations somewhat differently. Of course, every publication, from Car and Driver to Autoblog, includes vehicle specs and an expert’s assessment of the vehicle’s merits. But Consumer Reports reviews are known for their comprehensiveness, covering every facet of a car, from accessibility to warranty coverage. CR’s testers also pore over the results of annual member surveys, which helps them understand how owners feel about their vehicles.
The insights Consumer Reports gathers allow the site to develop a prediction of how much consumers will like new models. This prediction is encapsulated in a measurement known as the “Overall Owner Satisfaction” score. When you look at this score, you’ll see it’s a composite of four scores from Driving Experience, Comfort, Value, and Styling.
Those scores are drawn from survey responses and help car shoppers understand what current owners think of their vehicles in each category. Now, there’s no guarantee these scores will match up with how you’ll actually feel about a particular model (or Consumer Reports’ expert assessments). After all, every consumer evaluates things differently. There are also intangibles these categories don’t cover. However, these scores provide prospective buyers with a good barometer of how they might feel about a specific model.
Additionally, Consumer Reports testers measure a vehicle’s likely reliability. They do so by sifting through previous reliability scores for each vehicle, as well as ones they’ve awarded for each of a vehicle’s parts, and examining recall data. Shoppers should find this section of particular interest because it can signal they might face breakdowns, expensive repairs, and dissatisfaction.
Consumer Reports warns shoppers about the worst midsize sedan of 2022
Considering all the 2022 midsize sedans Consumer Reports has evaluated, there’s one whose fairly bad review is on par with its predicted overall owner satisfaction scores: the 2022 Chevy Malibu. CR’s reviewers didn’t exactly savage the Malibu, but they noted the many areas where the 2022 model lags behind competitors. They include performance, handling, interior fit and finish, and standard features.
Reviewers also cited seat comfort, access, and visibility as negatives. Cheap seating material undermines cushion support on the 2022 Chevy Malibu’s lower trims, especially for riders’ thighs, while the power seating’s lumbar adjustments don’t compensate for height on the premium models. In addition, the car’s low-slung design makes it difficult for taller riders to get in and out of the vehicle. And the Malibu’s sleek styling reduces visibility below other midsize sedans.
Consumer Reports almost gave the Malibu the lowest possible predicted owner satisfaction score. And though CR has not published how it assessed the Malibu in each of that score’s subcategories, the sedan likely earned a fairly low comfort score.
Is the 2022 Chevy Malibu really the worst midsize sedan?
Despite its low overall score from Consumer Reports and low predicted owner satisfaction score, the 2022 Chevy Malibu isn’t terrible. CR’s reviewers praised its attractive styling, spacious rear seating, quiet cabin, and intuitive controls. And despite weak powertrain options (a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder or a 2.0-liter turbo), the Malibu performs admirably, whether accelerating, cornering, or braking. Consumer Reports also noted the ride is among the most comfortable in the segment.
So, the Malibu is not a terrible midsize sedan per se. Still, the poor seat comfort and support, reduced visibility, and access difficulty are distinct flaws. And despite the Malibu’s excellent insulation from wind and road noise, the cabin isn’t entirely quiet, especially in the model with the 1.5-liter engine. That powertrain is somewhat raspy, making the 2.0-liter option more attractive.
With a starting MSRP of only $23,400, the 2022 Chevy Malibu is affordable. Still, the price difference between it and its rivals isn’t enough to discourage shoppers from looking elsewhere in the segment. And compared with midsize sedans like the Honda Accord, Subaru Legacy, and Toyota Camry, the Malibu can’t compete.