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2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco Road Test Review by Tim Healy

2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco Review

by Tim Healey

Green Car Buyer's Guide - RTM's Top 10 Picks for 2013

Chevy Malibu Eco

Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

Chevy Spark

Kia Rio SX

Earlier this year, we flew to Virginia to drive Chevrolet's much hyped Camaro ZL1. So, naturally, we're writing a review of the Malibu, Chevy's mainstream mid-size sedan.

Say what? How does a trip to a track end up with us behind the wheel of a totally different car than the one we intended to drive? Simple: blame Mother Nature. Torrential downpours washed out our scheduled track time with the Camaro, and since we didn't feel like cooling our heels all day, we grabbed the keys to a Malibu that Chevy had on hand and set out to explore Virginia and North Carolina. We got ourselves good and lost on several local back roads (maps? We don't need no stinkin' maps) and got well acquainted with both the Malibu and tobacco country.

Features & Prices

The first of the redesigned 2013 Chevrolet Malibus to hit dealerships were Eco models, and that's what we drove through the backwoods along the Virginia-Carolina border. Eco models come with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that's matched with an electric motor for a combined 182 horsepower, and the electric motor is unable to run on its own. GM's eAssist system gives the car start/stop capability, meaning that the engine shuts down at a stop before firing back up when the brake is released, with the intent of reducing idling time.

Conventional Malibus will come in LS, LT, and LTZ trims with a 197-horse 2.5-liter conventional four-cylinder (both engines mate to the same six-speed automatic transmission, and the driven wheels are those up front). The Eco is broken down into 1SA and 2SA trims, with 2SA being the higher level. Available features include satellite radio, a tilt/telescope steering wheel, a navigation system, a power sunroof, a wireless cell phone link, power front seats, heated front seats, remote start, a rearview camera, and leather upholstery. Ecos start at $25,995, including the $760 destination charge.

On Tobacco Road

We found the Malibu's acceleration to be fairly swift, at least by mid-size standards, although it's not a burner. It gets out of its own way without any drama, and the stop/start system is fairly seamless.

Speaking of drama, or lack thereof, the Malibu comports itself with dignity on the open road. It's far from the handling champ of the class, but it has a middle-of-the-road competency that makes cruising easy. The car is unflappable in cornering, although it lacks the sharpness or fun to drive factor of, say, the outgoing Ford Fusion.

Point it straight ahead, and the Malibu settles into comfortable cruise mode nicely. It's a pleasant road-trip companion.

Exterior

The styling is conservative, unlike the Hyundai Sonata or the next Fusion. This new Malibu isn't a head turner, but it's easy enough on the eyes. Consider it an evolution over the last generation, more than a revolution.

Out back, the rear taillights have an unmistakable Camaro influence, and the front grille continues to fit the theme presented in other Chevy models of recent vintage, such as the Cruze.

Interior

Those with an eye for design will appreciate the interior, which looks and feels upscale while also providing more than adequate headroom and legroom for six-footers. We spent a lot of time in the car traversing from South Boston (which, oddly enough, is located in Virginia and not Massachusetts) to Roxboro to Raleigh-Durham and points beyond, and not once did we complain, thanks to the comfy seats.

We should note that trunk space is slightly compromised by the battery.

Fuel Economy & Safety

The Malibu Eco has the standard complement of airbags and fuel economy, which we did not have the opportunity to measure, is rated at 25 mpg city and 37 mpg highway.

Wrapping Up

While we think most buyers will opt for conventional Malibus, we found little to fault with the Eco's eAssist system, and overall, we found the car to be a pleasant companion for both long highway hauls and back road jaunts. It's not as stylish as the Sonata, not as fun to drive as the outbound Fusion, and it doesn't have the same overall package as the Kia Optima. But it's got a lot going for it, and it hits the middle of the mid-size segment perfectly. Chevy's been searching for an Accord/Camry beater for a while, and the previous Malibu fit the bill well. The new one carries the torch quite nicely.

For more information on Chevrolet cars, click here

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