If someone told us 20 years ago that midsize sedans will soon be powered by small turbocharged engines, we would have said no. Things have certainly changed. From large 2.4L straight-4 or 3.5L V6 engines, we're now seeing 1.5L turbo engines in executive cars.

That seems to be the trend for a lot of car makers, and Chevrolet has joined in as well with the launch of the 2021 Malibu XL in China.

It's now available with a 1.5-liter turbocharged EcoTec inline-four which makes 168 PS along with 250 Nm of torque. Coupled to a nine-speed automatic transmission, the Malibu XL can sprint from 0 – 100 km/h in 9.1 seconds and has a claimed average fuel consumption of 15.8 km/l.

Chevy Malibu XL 1.5 image

“Our new entries provide an exciting opportunity for the Malibu XL to keep up with the diverse preferences of midsize car buyers,” said Scott Lawson, general director of Chevrolet for SAIC-GM. “The new engine and powertrain combination offers the perfect balance of performance and fuel economy. Like the rest of the Malibu XL lineup, the new variants feature an athletic design, dynamic handling, and amazing features all at an attractive price.”

Aside from getting small turbocharged engines under the hood, the Malibu XL also comes with plenty of high-tech features. It gets an upgraded MyLink+ touchscreen infotainment, OnStar Telematics, tire pressure monitoring, reverse camera with parking sensors, leather seats, and dual-zone automatic climate control.

Chevy Malibu XL 1.5 image

With an engine displacement of just 1.5-liters, Chevrolet Philippines could source the Malibu from China to take advantage of the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA). This could bring down the price of the midsize sedan significantly: the current Malibu sold locally is sourced from Korea with the 2.0-liter turbo model retailing for PhP 2,131,888.

And here's the kicker: the Chinese Malibu XL model is a long wheelbase/extended wheelbase variant, meaning more legroom in the back. 

Apart from the 1.5-liter mill, there's also a Malibu XL that is powered by a smaller 1.3-liter turbo which makes 156 PS and 236 Nm of torque. Instead of a nine-speed auto, the 1.3-liter model is mated to a CVT. It may be less powerful than the 1.5, but it may result in Chevrolet undercutting the competition greatly. Should the Malibu XL makes its way here, its closest competitor would be the Thai-made Honda Accord which also gets a 1.5-liter turbocharged engine.

Chevy Malibu XL 1.5 image

But with the D-segment market slowly shrinking, can the Malibu XL still convince buyers to get a big midsize sedan? If ever Chevrolet PH does bring the Malibu with a 1.5-liter turbo and price it right, they might just be able to.