2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco
by John Davis
Up until just a few years ago, Detroit auto companies were making big profits by catering to America’s taste for larger SUVs and trucks, fueled by the free flow of relatively inexpensive gasoline. But, this false prosperity caused the companies to put a low priority on designing cars for the volume family sedan market. There were still lots of great sedans available, but they were all made by import brands.
Boy, how the worm has now turned. After a deep U.S. recession, and bankruptcy of two of the three American auto giants, not to mention a rising frequency of fuel spikes, Detroit car companies are once again designing bread-and-butter sedans that are worthy of the American family buyer.
One of the first of this new breed of four-doors to hit the market is the mid-size 2013 Chevrolet Malibu. Not only is it all new and vastly superior to the outgoing car, but GM recognized the need for more fuel efficiency in their product portfolio and has launched the light-hybrid Eco model first.
During our initial outings in the Malibu Eco, our staff noted that the car feels ultra-solid and upscale. The ride is smooth and almost unearthly quiet. You virtually never notice the automatic stop/start function that is part of the Malibu Eco’s fuel saving eAssist powertrain. The eAssist unit consists of a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and a 15-kW electric motor-generator. They combine for healthy Government Fuel Economy Ratings. With lots of aerodynamic help, including active grille shutters, the Malibu Eco scores 25 MPG City and 37 MPG Highway without the cost and complexity of a full-hybrid system.
While the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu may not be quite as eye catching as some rivals, it is clearly one of the better looking mid-size family cars available. Like most recent Chevys, there is a little Camaro influence in the front and rear fascias. But, there is even more style in the body details -- from the deep chin, to the highly sculpted hood, to the expressive side panels. Stance too is more dynamic thanks to a much wider track, broader shoulders, and a well integrated rear deck spoiler.
Inside, the dash wraps nicely into the doors with a pronounced twin cockpit theme. Textures and stitching are upscale, with controls that are deceptively simple to operate. The large Chevrolet MyLink touch screen with voice activation works well, and the storage nook hidden behind it is very useful. Despite a four and a half inch shorter wheelbase, most interior measurements are up. You feel the improvement in space most from side-to-side as width grows by almost 3-inches. Rear seats are also comfortable and the trunk is nicely finished. Extended cargo space is compromised by the eAssist battery, but there’s still a handy pass through. Other Malibus get traditional split folding rear seats.
The 2013 Chevrolet Malibu is more than just the eighth-generation of a well known nameplate. With this car, GM is back in the mid-size family sedan game. Now, it’s up to American families to decide if they’re ready to root for the home team.
If your family needs dictate a modern, well-crafted sedan, then check out our MotorWeek road test of the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco on episode #3136 which begins airing on May 11, 2012. For a complete listing of the public television stations that air MotorWeek, click here. MotorWeek is also seen Tuesday evenings on cable’s Velocity.