2013 Chevrolet Malibu Review
By Gabriel Gelinas, Ottawa Citizen
Chevrolet is betting that it’s new 2013 Chevrolet Malibu, the nameplate’s first major redesign since 2007, will become a key player in the brand’s lineup.
The Malibu represents Chevrolet’s first global mid-sized car to be sold in nearly 100 countries on six continents. Indeed, the car’s first official appearance did not take place at a North American car show as the Malibu was first revealed in Shanghai.
For the Canadian market, six variants will be on offer, two of which will carry the “Eco” designation. These are powered by the combination of a 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine and a small electric motor-generator producing 11 kilowatts (around 15 horsepower) for a total output rated at 197 p. Also available is an all-new 2.5L four-cylinder engine, sans electric assist, also rated at 197 hp.
Styling-wise, the new Malibu does not break any new ground, despite the borrowed-from-the-Camaro taillights. But the car is very aerodynamic, with a drag co-efficient that is almost equal to that of the Corvette or Volt. The “Eco” models feature an aluminum hood, smooth underbody panels and an active shutter system in the car’s lower grille to reduce drag. This aerodynamic efficiency coupled with an acoustic-laminated windshield also enables the Malibu to stand out as one of the quietest cars in its class at highway cruising speeds.
One would expect that the slippery shape would pay off dividends in fuel consumption as well, but our observed fuel economy in the Malibu Eco was 8.7 litres per 100 kilometers in mostly highway driving, which is far from stellar given the car’s mission statement. The Malibu Eco is also equipped with an automatic start/stop system that shuts the engine off when the car is stopped, only to re-start it when the driver releases the brake pedal. However, it only actually stopped the engine once during our test drive and that was when I turned off the air conditioner to see if I could get the stop/start system to work.
Driving Nova Scotia’s scenic Cabot Trail at the wheel of the new Malibu, one thing quickly became clear: This is not a driver’s car. The steering wheel does in fact turn the front wheels, but the steering feel is uncommunicative and the low-rolling-resistance Goodyear tires don’t provide a lot of feedback. Also, the regenerative brakes — braking action effectively recharges the lithium-ion battery pack that feeds the electric motor — mean it is difficult to effectively modulate the brakes because the pedal feel is nonlinear. The suspension does soak up bumps reasonably well, but the car does not encourage you to drive it quickly through corners. This is a Point A to Point B in a straight line highway cruiser that is very, very quiet most of the time — except when you floor the throttle to pass a slower vehicle on a two-lane road. At this point, the four-cylinder engine will remind you of its presence as it soars toward its redline. Also, as the car is fairly heavy, passing manoeuvres on two-lane roads must be undertaken with care. Drive the 2013 Malibu smoothly, steady and straight and all will be well. Ask it to perform briskly, even for just a short period of time, and it will want you to return to the regularly scheduled programming as soon as possible.
In this latest re-design, the Malibu became shorter overall. It also makes do with a shorter wheelbase, which effectively reduces the amount of rear-seat legroom and the comfort level of rear-seat occupants, even if hip and shoulder room is marginally better. Up front, the driver and front passenger are effectively separated by the twin-cockpit design, but the new Malibu will feel roomier than the outgoing model. And the car feels more upscale thanks to higher-grade interior materials and an ice blue ambient lighting system for the cockpit.
The 2013 Chevrolet Malibu is presently hitting Canadian dealer showrooms. The 259-horsepower turbocharged and fully loaded LTZ model priced at $32,540 will follow in mid-September. Pricing will vary between $24,995 for the LS model and $29,160 for the 2LT Eco model.