As far as the editors at Car and Driver are concerned, the Honda Accord is the gold standard for family sedans. Since the magazine started a ‘10Best Cars’ list nearly 30 years ago, the Honda Accord has been selected a record 25 times – more than any other model. But in the extremely competitive family sedan market, there are a lot of worthy competitors. Take for instance the 2011 Chevrolet Malibu. Both of these family sedans are solid choices, but which of these two machines takes the title when compared against the other?
To start, the 2011 Accord has a lower starting MSRP, at $21,180, compared to the $21,975 MSRP of the 2011 Malibu. Both sedans offer four-cylinder and V6 powerplants. The Accord four-cylinder is a 2.4-liter unit producing 177 hp and 161 lb/ft of torque with EX models getting a power bump to 190 hp and 162 lb/ft of torque. Both options in the Honda outmuscle the Malibu’s 2.4-liter four, which generates 169 hp and 160 lb/ft of torque. Not only is the Accord more powerful, it also edges out the Malibu in fuel economy, returning up to 23 mpg city and 34 mpg highway versus the Malibu at 22 and 33 respectively.
Opt for the six-cylinder in the Accord EX and EX-L models, and their 3.5-liter V6 continues to outperform, posting higher power numbers of 271 hp and 254 lb/ft of torque as compared to the Malibu V6’s 252 hp and 251 lb/ft of torque in the LT and LTZ models. The Accord is also far more fuel efficient in V6 guise, returning 20 mpg city and 30 mpg highway versus the Malibu’s 17 mpg city and 26 mpg highway. These fuel efficiency gains in the Accord can be chalked up to improved aerodynamics, engine friction reductions and refinements to transmission gearing.
Both the Accord and the Malibu have above-average handling characteristics for the family sedan segment, but the Accord comes out with an advantage. Again, this advantage of more communicative steering and suspension balance comes from more than three decades of refinement.
Although the interior fit and finish of the Malibu is good, there are still some inconsistencies that put it behind the flawlessly executed Accord, which features higher quality materials and leather upholstery on well-equipped models.
The 2011 Accord is the most roomy it has ever been and bests the Malibu in nearly every category. Longer, wider and taller, the Accord boasts more front and rear headroom, front legroom, front and rear hiproom, and front and rear shoulder room as well. The trunk has a large opening, enabling full use of its 14.7 cubic feet of space. Rear-seat space in the Malibu is tight compared to the Accord, and the rear seat lacks a center armrest. The Malibu features a 15.1 cubic foot trunk, but the opening is so narrow and the space so shallow that the trunk’s use is severely limited.
Both models are equipped with standard keyless entry, full power accessories, air conditioning, cruise control, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a six-speaker sound system with CD player and auxiliary jack. Uplevel trim packages feature leather-upholstered, heated, power-adjustable front seats, Bluetooth integration and an upgraded sound system complete with CD changer and satellite radio capability.
Surprisingly though, certain optional features offered on the Accord, and most other family sedans, are missing from the Malibu. Items like dual-zone climate control and in-dash navigation, which are must-have features for many buyers, aren’t available in the Chevy.
The Accord stands on top in the safety arena with a perfect five-star rating all around for overall performance, front-impact protection and side-impact protection in the new, more strenuous 2011 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash tests. In the same tests, the Malibu earned a four-star overall rating.
Another area where the Accord has an inherent advantage over the Malibu is in resale value. Because the Accord is so established as a high quality, reliable machine, it commands one of the highest resale values of any family sedan. In fact, the Accord is rated higher by ALG for both 36- and 60-month residual values and has a better ownership cost rating – “Excellent” – than the Malibu, which is rated “Average.” If protecting your investment is a big concern, the Accord should be your top pick.
The Malibu is a decent performer, but it simply can’t compete with the Accord in power, fuel efficiency, spaciousness or value. As one of the most popular family sedans ever created, the Accord has built upon decades of refinement to offer buyers one of the most well-engineered and reliable sedans on the market. Its increased fuel efficiency for 2011 is yet another attractive reason to park an Accord in your garage.
Come in for a test drive today and discover why Car and Driver has voted the Accord to its ‘10Best Cars’ list more times than any other vehicle.
Based on 2011 EPA mileage estimates. Use for comparison purposes only. Do not compare to models before 2008. Your actual mileage will vary depending on how you drive and maintain your vehicle.
MSRP excluding tax, license, registration, $770.00 destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary