Chevy freshens 2019 Malibu, Cruze and Spark

The 2019 Malibu Premier’s front fascia, grilles and headlamps are all-new.

LAS VEGAS — Chevrolet is not giving up on passenger cars, despite reported plans to axe the Sonic subcompact.

General Motors’ biggest brand is giving the Cruze, Malibu and Spark facelifts, including a more aggressive split grille design, for the 2019 model year. Chevrolet also upgraded the cars’ infotainment systems and realigned or added options. Powertrain options, aside from one transmission upgrade for the Malibu, remain unchanged.

“The car market today still is very vibrant,” Steve Majoros, Chevrolet’s marketing director for cars and crossovers, said during a preview event here as part of its 2018 Dealer Business Conference. “We have a strong opinion on this and we’re bullish on the car market.”

GM, according to Majoros, expects there to be about 4 million “traditional passenger cars” sold in the U.S. this year — in line with 2017 volume. Many of the changes to the trim options are to lower-priced versions of the cars, where Chevrolet believes most of the growth in the segments will come.

“We’ve created some new models for specific price points where we think the market is going to be,” said GM North America President Alan Batey, who also oversees Chevrolet’s global operations.

Combined U.S. sales of the three freshened vehicles declined 13 percent in 2017, led by a 36 percent drop for the Spark and an 18 percent slide in Malibu deliveries. U.S. sales of the Cruze declined 2.2 percent last year.

Those sales have essentially flipped through the first three months of 2018, with Cruze deliveries down 26 percent and Malibu and Spark off less than 3 percent each. Combined U.S. sales of the three cars are down 16 percent through the first quarter.

The 2019 Spark is expected to begin arriving in dealer showrooms in late summer, followed by the Malibu and Cruze in the fall. Pricing for the 2019 models will be announced at a later date.

Chevrolet officials declined to comment on a Wall Street Journal report that the brand was planning to end production of the Sonic as early as later this year.

Malibu

Chevrolet is offering a new RS trim package on five models of the 2019 Malibu starting at about $ 25,000. It includes a black sport grille, black bowtie emblems, a rear spoiler, 18-inch machined wheels and dual-outlet exhaust. The interior features a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, and black cloth seats

Other additions for the midsize sedan include standard 8-inch touchscreen on all models and a CVT transmission, which replaces a six-speed automatic, on all models with the 1.5-liter turbocharged engine.

Cruze

Similar to the Malibu, the 2019 Cruze’s front fascia was freshened and the company added a 7-inch touchscreen as standard equipment. Other changes include remote start and automatic climate control standard on LT and Premier models and dual-element taillamps with LED accent lighting on Premium models, among other options.

Spark

The 2019 Spark’s front fascia is a bit less aggressive than the Cruze and Malibu, as it features a large plastic bumper in the middle of the lower grille.

Asides from the exterior tweaks and available Low Speed Forward Automatic Braking, little changes in the segment-leading mini-car for 2019.

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