2013 Chevrolet Malibu Review

2013 Chevrolet Malibu - Refreshed for 2013, Chevy's midsize offering gains refinement and features.


Vehicle Tested
2013 Chevrolet Malibu 2LT
Base Price: $25,250
At-Tested Price: $28,720
Built in Kansas City, Kansas.

Leather Package
Electronics & Entertainment Package
Advanced Safety Package
Cocoa Fashion Trim

Engine: 2.5-liter I4, 197 horsepower
Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic
Drive Wheels: Front-Wheel Drive

Chevrolet's midsize entry gets freshened for 2013 with updated styling, new engines and a redesigned interior that sports more features. The '13 Chevrolet Malibu casts a similar shadow to the car it replaces but has a wheelbase that shrinks 4.5 inches. It comes only as a front-drive, four-door sedan and competes with midsize stalwarts like the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Mazda 6, Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry.

Malibu is available in four different trim levels: LS, LT, Eco, and LTZ. Three different engines are available, all have four cylinders. The LS, LT and LTZ come standard with a new 2.5-liter four that produces 197 horsepower. Eco models get a 2.4-liter four that combines with a battery-powered electric motor to generate a combined 182 horsepower. Available on the LT and LTZ is a 2.0-liter four that's turbocharged to 259 horsepower. All engines mate to a six-speed automatic transmission.

Malibu prices start as low as $22,805 for a base LS and clime to more than $30,000 for a loaded LTZ. New features for 2013 include forward-collision alert, lane-departure warning and General Motor's MyLink multimedia entertainment interface. Also available are leather interior, rear-view camera, navigation system and sunroof.

Get Up and Go
  The new 2.5-liter four will power most Malibus and that's a good thing. The engine delivers smooth acceleration from a stop and responsive passing power. Most outlets peg 0-60 mph acceleration to at 7.8 seconds. That's more than class competitive.

Eco models get a unique "mild-hybrid" powertrain that features a 2.4-liter four and battery-powered 15 kW electric motor. Called eAssist, the combo is designed to improve fuel economy without sacrificing performance. Unlike true hybrid models, eAssist is not capable of running solely in electric mode, however it does offer some acceleration assist and shuts off the engine at stops. Other than silence when sitting at stoplights, you'd never know the eAssist engine was a hybrid. Acceleration smooth, if somewhat slower than the base 2.5, and passing response is more than acceptable. Zero to 60 comes up in about 8.2 seconds.

The 2.0-liter turbo four comes courtesy of the Cadillac ATS. It's quite the spitfire and provides ample acceleration, racing from a stop to 60 mph in about 6.3 seconds. The engine is buttery smooth and packs quite a midrange punch in passing situations.

All engines mate well to the six-speed automatic transmission. Upshifts are smooth and downshifts are prompt. The console-mounted shifter has a separate shift gate for manual operation.

Fuel economy is impressive. Models with the 2.5-liter four are EPA rated at 22 mpg city and 34 mpg highway. The new 2.0-liter turbo rates 20 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. Fuel economy top dog is ECO, which garners 25 mpg city and 37 mpg highway. Base and Eco engines run fine on regular-grade gasoline, but Chevrolet recommends premium-grade fuel for best performance with the turbo four.

Real-world fuel economy greatly depends on your driving style and daily commute. If you have a typical suburban commute with some stop-and-go driving and a bit of highway travel, you could average as high as 30 mpg. Amp up the gridlock and fuel economy drops into the mid 20s. Straight highway driving is likely to net about 34 mpg. Eco is certainly more fuel efficient than the others and a good choice for owners with long-distance commutes.

On the Road
  Malibu shines in providing occupants with a smooth and controlled ride and a fair amount of comfort. Regardless of wheel/tire choice things never get harsh. The suspension does a great job of softening large impacts, filtering out minor bumps and quelling secondary motions.

On the flip side, no one would call Malibu sporty. Still, it acquits itself fairly well when the road grows twisty. Body lean is minimal and the tires have decent dry-road grip. Stepping up to the 18- and 19-inch wheels adds a bit more cornering confidence. Steering is nicely boosted but doesn't offer a lot of road feel. Brakes have good stopping power and the pedal is easy to modulate.

Malibu is one of the quietest midsize cars. Wind and engine noise are nicely muted at all times and tire roar is only intrusive on rough concrete roads. Both the 2.5- and 2.4-liter engines growl in hard acceleration. The 2.0 turbo seems to be the most refined overall.

Behind the Wheel  Malibu's interior is all new but strikes a familiar chord punctuated by a dramatic sweeping center console and flowing dash top. Materials are a cut above the class average with lots of padded surfaces and rich looking plastics.

Instruments and controls are fairly straight forward with a familiar twin dial setup behind the steering wheel. Climate controls are simple, well-marked and easy to reach. Base and uplevel radio layouts are among the easiest to operate - on any car. Available MyLink system adds a video touch screen that incorporates radio and phone controls. It's relatively easy to operate and generally performs well. Sometimes it can be slow to react to input and has a hard time understanding some voice commands. Since it is software controlled, the user interface is likely to improve over time.

Front seats are comfortable and supportive. Head and leg room are just average and those greater than six-foot tall might want a bit more seat travel. Outward visibility is excellent thanks to thin roof pillars and large windows. Front doors aren't as wide as in some competitors, so getting in and out requires a bit more of a twist than you might expect.

Rear seats disappoint for the midsize class. Leg room is tight if the front seats are moved all the way back and seat comfort is lacking. Center seat riders straddle an oddly large driveline hump, which is unusual in the class given the Malibu doesn't offer all-wheel drive. Thankfully the doors are large to facilitate easy entry exit and head room is good.

Cargo room grew by more than three cubic feet in the 2013 redesign and is now amongst the best in the class. Even the Eco model, with its trunk-mounted battery, has good cargo space. Rear seats fold on all but the Eco, which only gets a small rear-seat pass through. Interior storage is class average with a nice center-console bin and deep glove box.

Bottom Line 
Chevrolet curiously downsized Malibu at a time when most competitors were getting bigger. That might actually turn out to be a good thing as shoppers are increasingly turning to smaller and more fuel-efficient vehicles. Plus, Chevy has an all-new and larger Impala to satisfy buyers wanting a big sedan.

The 2013 Malibu has a lot to offer at reasonable prices. The additional safety features and greatly improved engines keep it class competitive and the extra dollop of refinement help it stand out in a wildly competitive class. If you are shopping for a midsize sedan, you'd be silly not to take Malibu for a test drive.

Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.