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How Well Does A Chevy Malibu Drive In The Snow? (Answered)

If you’re planning on buying a Chevy Malibu, that’s, of course, a relevant question, especially if you live in areas where snow is widespread. Let’s start with a quick answer.

With its FWD and a well-balanced chassis equipped with snow tires, the Chevy Malibu performs well on snow. With all the stability features integrated, the car won’t lose control that easily, and when you have a bit of extra snow on the road, you can always use those traction devices to further enhance traction on snow. However, the low ground clearance of 4.6 inches can be a problem in areas with heavy snowfall.

However, that doesn’t give you the whole picture; it’s just the tip of the iceberg. We have all the aspects discussed in detail, but first, we’ll start with a selection of curated comments from owners about the performance of Chevy Malibu in snowy conditions.

After that, we’ll take a deep dive into the specifics of tires, drive systems, electronic support systems, etc. And finally, we’ll talk about the ground clearance, the weight distribution, and the wheelbase. Then we’ll finish with a few suggestions for optional traction devices that can provide even more grip. Read on!

Also read: How Many Miles Can A Chevy Malibu Last?

Experience Of Chevy Malibu Owners

Like any vehicle, the numbers tell a very vague story about the vehicle’s capability to handle different terrains. The best way to determine whether a vehicle is a good winter-fit or not is to have an opportunity to drive it in winters and snow before drawing any conclusions.

I drive my girlfriend’s 98% of the time when she and I take it somewhere. I like it in the snow a lot actually, it handles pretty well, even with some CMF Edit: Language brand tires I’ve never even heard of before. I like the traction control and electronic stability control features the car has, and the ABS works beautifully in her car. In fact, the stability control saved my ass a couple of months ago.. prevented me from spinning around in a circle going 60 MPH. As long as you know how each of the features work and know how to drive smart in the winter, you’ll be good.


Always have driven rear wheel drive or 4×4 in the snow. Always make sure to have full winters on (not all season garbage). So this is my first FWD car in the snow. Never had any problems with any of my cars and the Malibu is no different. Drives well, hasn’t gotten stuck, tracks a little bit on road “snow piles/lanes”. But which car doesn’t? high enough so it’s not a snow plow. I’ve even turned off traction control to give myself more feel for the car. and still easy as pie to drive. Not a 4×4 but still does well.


Does Chevy Malibu Have Snow Tires?

From the factory, you get the all-season tires, which can do pretty good in all types of weather, but they can’t give traction when you are driving in a lot of snow. No matter what systems you have integrated to prevent your wheels from sliding, you will suffer in winter without snow tires.

If you live in a region that sees a lot of snow, then make sure to put on nice snow tires so the wheels will remain happy with their relationship with the road. Otherwise, they will block their connection with it, and you will lose signal from the road, which will cost you a lot of time.

Why should you go with the snow tires?

Well, snow tires have the following characteristics that make them suitable in heavy snow to black ice, and everything in between that winter has to offer.

The Tread Rubber

Extreme cold temperatures cause the tread rubber of an all-season or summer tire to stiffen and become less able to provide sufficient traction. To combat this, the tread rubber compounds of winter tires are composed such that they remain flexible, allowing the tire to grip the road better.

Tread Depth and Patterns

Unique to snow tires are deeper tread depths and unique tread patterns. Deeper tread depths reduce snow buildup and thus provide better traction on the snow. The tread patterns, too, are designed to channel snow and slush and expel water.

Biting Edges

Snow tires have many biting edges and high densities of small slits that increase the tread surface area, thus increasing grip in wet, icy, and snowy conditions.

Have Snow Tires Equipped As Soon As Possible

If you want to buy snow tires, we advise you to use Tirerack. They have a great tool that allows you to find the perfect fit for your exact model, so you won’t have to worry about fitment issues. Furthermore, they also offer free shipping on most of their orders. Check out their store here!

Malibu comes with 4 different wheel sizes depending on which trim level and package you are going with. The factory wheels can be 16, 17, 18, or 19 inches. The exact sizes are;

  • P205/65R16
  • P225/55R17
  • P245/45R18
  • P245/40R19

You can search for the one you have and make sure you get snow tires with the same dimensions. And when you are looking for snow chains, you can check out our snow traction devices section below.

Also read: The Exact Bolt Pattern Of All Chevy Malibu

What Drive System Does A Chevy Malibu Have?

Chevy Malibu has only one type of drive system, and there are no other systems available. All of the Malibus come with a Front Wheel Drive (FWD).

Front-Wheel Drive

As the name suggests, the front-wheel-drive will transfer power to the front wheels. This system is not as great as the AWD regarding its snow drivability, but it does offer very reasonable traction.

The systems integrated into the modern-day car are extremely subtle and would be doing most of the work, keeping itself firmly to the ground. And on top of that, the FWD is not really that far apart from an AWD system. Rear Wheel Drive is problematic.

What Electronics System Helps The Chevy Malibu In The Snow?


ECS stands for Electronic Stability Control, and in the Chevys, it’s widely known as the StabiliTrak. This is one of the most important features that help you maneuver your vehicle in snow. In short, this is the system that saves you from sliding, especially when you are traveling in extreme weather conditions.

Keep in mind that cruise control will be disabled when the ECS is in action. It’s ever needed because so much stuff is being automated, and you are hardly connected with the road. One way or another, everything has been integrated with electronics, and you won’t be able to tell if the wheels are losing traction.

So when the rear end even thinks of going sideways, the ECS, aka the StabiliTrak, kicks in, and the system will maneuver the vehicle in the direction according to your steering input.

In other words, if your steering is turning to the right, but you are sliding to the left side (understeer), the ECS will make corrections by reducing the speed and adjusting power so that the vehicle can easily go to the right side, just as you originally intended.

Disabling ECS Will Help You In Snow?

It would be best if you never disabled the ESC by any means. There are only two instances where you can turn off the ECS.

  1. If you want to perform the rocking maneuver, where you rock the vehicle back and forth in case you are stuck in snow.
  2. If you want to have an accident.

Other than these two instances, you should never turn it off.

Cruise control can be dangerous on slippery roads. On such roads, fast changes in tire traction can cause excessive wheel slip, and you could lose control. Do not use cruise control on slippery roads.

Traction Control

Almost everyone is familiar with traction control systems. The main job of a traction control system is to prevent the loss of traction. A regulation system enhances the driver’s control over the vehicle by maintaining traction at the wheels. If wheelspin is detected, the traction system cuts the power off from that wheel to minimize wheelspin.

Why Traction Control Cut Off Wheelspin? Wheelspin is the main factor that results in a loss of traction, which worsens the snow’s driving. Traction control will ensure that such behavior is nullified and maximum traction can be made available at all four wheels at all times, thereby reducing the threat of an unpleasant event by cutting off power to that wheel that is spinning without traction.

Brake Assist

As the name suggests, this system will provide extra force in case of an emergency and reduce the stopping distance considerably by engaging the braking system even before you slam the brakes in an emergency.


The Anti-lock Braking System is now a standard feature in all modern-day vehicles. Why is ABS so important? This system would ensure that the wheels won’t lock when you slam the brakes, in an emergency, or even in a normal situation. This feature will prevent your tires from sliding, thus increasing traction several notches.

Had it not been for the ABS, hard braking would have locked the wheels while turning and steering at the same time, and if the wheels do get locked and you happen to be turning, then that situation is a recipe for disaster.

It would be best if you never disabled ABS in any condition. If someone tells you that turning off ABS will help you in the snow, they lie. Without ABS, things will always go sideways.

HAC Hill-Start Assist

This is one of the best features that help the driver maintain traction even when going up a slippery slope, which otherwise wouldn’t have been possible to climb. The older models have outdated tech, which won’t perform well. However, the latest models have amazing bells and whistles that make the Sonata drive extremely well, even on the snow.

This hill-start assist would automatically apply brakes for approximately 2 seconds and release the brake after 5 seconds or when you give it gas.

Some minor problems are going to be dealt with in this article in detail. Make sure you carry out all the necessary improvements. And after you have made all of those improvements, you will be good to go in the snow.

Weight Distribution

The curb weight is important because it impacts the performance and safety of the vehicle.

Lighter cars have better fuel economy, respond quicker to acceleration, and have better performance. Heavier cars are safer, provide better protection to the occupants when involved in a crash, and have better road traction.

The malibu is on the heavier side of the spectrum, which is good when talking about snow drivability.

2021 ModelsWeight Distribution F/R
Chevy Malibu L61.2/38.8
Chevy Malibu LS61.2/38.8
Chevy Malibu LT61.2/38.8
Chevy Malibu Diesel61.2/38.8
Chevy Malibu Premier63/37

Also read: Types Of Gas A Chevy Malibu Uses (All Generations)

Ground Clearance (in): 4.6

When deciding on buying a vehicle to drive in snow, ground clearance is an important aspect. Ground clearance is the distance between the chassis and the ground and is one of the basic dimensions of any vehicle. Lower ground clearance means more likelihood of the underbelly of the car scratching against the ground.

The low ground clearance can be a major issue if you live in an area with lots of snowfall. The higher the ground clearance, the better. We know it, and there is no way to refute this. Higher ground clearance adds to the vehicle’s winter-aptness.

A vehicle can easily knife through thick layers of snow with higher ground clearance, as that is one major point of concern for any winter driver. The sweet spot of ground clearance comes at 8 inches and above.

Chevy Malibu has a ground clearance of 4.6 inches which means that you wouldn’t have to worry about snow that is less than this number. But if the snow gets thicker than 4.6 inches, it might become a problem when it has hardened. You wouldn’t have to worry that much on a powder day, even when the snow is deeper than this.

Vehicles do get stuck on those piles left by the plows on the sides, so make sure to steer clear from those. Drive on the tire marks left by other vehicles after the plow, and you will be all good.

Wheelbase (in): 111.4

The wheelbase is the distance between the centers of the front and the rear tires. The wheelbase dimensions affect the vehicle’s weight distribution and are a key spec in determining the balance and steering. Having a longer wheelbase means that the vehicle would be more stable at higher speeds.

On the other hand, vehicles with short wheelbase can usually corner faster but are less aerodynamic. In other words, a longer wheelbase translates into more stability because in cars with a longer wheelbase, the onset of sliding is delayed, thus giving the driver more time to make adjustments.

Chevy Malibu is a midsize car, and its wheelbase would be just like that of the midsize category. Now coming to the exact number, we have 111.4, which isn’t that bad at all, and it’s probably the reason why the overall winter performance of the Chevy Malibu is good.

What Traction Device You Can Use On The Chevy Malibu?

If you see heavy snow and severe winters, there are a few devices that can come to your rescue ‘snow traction devices’ as they like to call them. One of such devices is Cable chains. Cables chains can assist with building traction at the tires, and drivers can have a better-planted driving experience than driving without them.

In addition to the built-in stability and control features, several alternates, such as snow tires (which we have already discussed), snowplows, and chains, are available that can be used in heavy snow. Each has its pros and cons.

Snow tires are expensive and require professionals to install and uninstall. In contrast, snow chains are relatively cheaper and easy to put on and take off but are more damaging to dry pavements and the car itself.

There are various options for one to choose from the plethora of available products in the Class S chain cables. Amazon is one marketplace where you can easily find quite a few options for Class S cable chains.

Keeping in mind all of the suggestions, we would recommend using the Peerlesschain, where you can find which chain would be the one for your tires as fitment is an important aspect when searching for snow chains. Manufacturers mostly recommend s class chains, and on this site, you will be able to choose from many different options.

  • P205/65R16
  • P225/55R17
  • P245/45R18
  • P245/40R19

If you have a base model with 16-inch wheels, you should go for the Z-555 linked here on Amazon. And if you have any other wheel, you can check which size of the chain will go with your tire here on Peerlesschain. Make sure to check the fitment, as improper fitment would cause more harm than good.

Happy driving.