June 19, 2013
Written by Steven Macoy
Thursday, 09 August 2012 10:15
With its mild-hybrid drive system, Camaro-inspired styling and refinement rivaling that of today’s hot-selling Buick models, the redesigned 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco is a pleasant surprise from the bow-tie division. General Motors’ mid-size mainstay is even a little roomier than its predecessor.
Chevrolet boasts that the new Malibu is “the quietest Chevrolet ever.” That’s hard to believe; those big, high-end Impalas and Caprices of the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s certainly aspired to near-luxury status. But a summertime week with a new Malibu in western Connecticut was a convincer. The Malibu’s strength, especially when compared with major competitors like the Toyota Camry, Ford Fusion and Hyundai Sonata hybrids, is its unexpectedly soft ride and the tomb-like silence of its lavishly appointed interior.
The base Malibu, a four-door sedan, is priced a little lower than these competitors, too. Our 2013 Malibu Eco, with the 2SA option package, leather package, crystal red tint coat and cocoa fashion trim in the cabin, had a sticker price of $29,080. The base model starts at $25,335.
The Malibu does come up short in the fuel-economy sweepstakes, however. It’s rated at 25 mpg city, 37 highway. (We averaged a little better than 32.) The best of this midsize group, the Camry, enjoys bragging rights of 43 mpg city, 39 highway. But if you do a lot of long-distance highway driving, the Malibu might be a better choice because it gives up only two mpg and rides much more smoothly.
The main purpose of the electric motor in Chevrolet’s mild-hybrid system, called eAssist, is to give the 2.4-liter, 182-horsepower Four a boost under hard acceleration and on steep hills. It also facilitates the Malibu’s fuel-conserving auto-stop function. By contrast, the more robust electric motors in the Camry and other models can move the car on their own from a dead stop.
In many ways, the Malibu is reminiscent of the big GM cars of old. It has plenty of leg room, rides softly and handles competently, though its passing resemblance to the Camaro doesn’t extend to the sporty coupe’s handling characteristics. The Malibu can carry five passengers in comfort as long as driver and front passenger don’t move their seats back to the pegs. Most won’t; even our six-foot driver had more leg room than he needed. This could be a strong selling point for very tall drivers.
Our Malibu had a near-luxury personality, with optional leather upholstery, power driver’s seat and heated front seats, remote start, XM radio, dual-zone automatic climate control, Color Touch radio with seven-inch screen, cruise control, rear-vision camera and blue ambient lighting. It also had a feature called MyLink, standard in all Eco models, which allows Internet connections via the driver’s smartphone.
This summer, Chevrolet will roll out Malibus with non-hybrid engines, including one with a turbocharged Four. These models likely will deliver stronger performance (and lower fuel economy). They also will hold more cargo than the Eco, which sacrifices some trunk space to the hybrid battery.
Engine: 2.4-liter inline Four, 182 horsepower, 172 lb.-ft. torque, with electric assist
Transmission: 6-speed shiftable automatic
Weight: 3,589 lb.
Suspension: Four-wheel independent, McPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Wheels: 17-inch aluminum
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 13.2 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 15.6 gallons
Fuel economy: 25 mpg city, 37 mpg highway
Fuel type: Regular
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