For 2013, the Chevrolet Malibu enters its eighth generation and the first version released is the Malibu Eco.
Let me begin by saying I love what Chevy has done with the Malibu of late. Vast improvements have been made to styling – inside and out – and the overall driving experience.
It was not too long ago when the automaker gave Malibu its due attention, but for 2013 the vehicle needed to be hitched to a new global architecture as this is the model soon to be seen ‘round the world.
All that said, I believe this Eco version and its use of GM’s new eAssist technology was a bit of a miss for Malibu. I recently tested the Buick LaCrosse with its version of this same powertrain and enjoyed that experience but for mainstream application eAssist is not totally up to par given the competition all have vehicles capable of achieving similar fuel economy with conventional gasoline engines, some even besting Malibu Eco’s ratings.
Malibu overall is where it needs to be to compete in the midsize sedan segment and competitive models have recently stepped up their game as well with much of the segment now resembling premium midsize entrants.
The new Malibu is very quiet on the road and while I would not pretend it to be a track performer it does exhibit very good road manners with no residual dullness. Content is above par as is comfort and quality. Chevy is proving itself competent to not only compete in this segment but give the others (Altima, Camry, Sonata) a run for their money.
That brings me back to this Eco model. The eAssist powertrain is its “Achilles heel” in my opinion. I would have much rather seen the little turbo four used by Cruze than the stop-start technology of this Eco-edition. The driving experience is a bit rough around the edges with the eAssist announcing its presence with too much vigor. Not to mention the Eco sacrifices quite a bit of cargo space in the trunk to the battery pack.
Its 2.4-liter four-cylinder gas engine is mated to a 15 kW electric motor backed by a 115-volt Lithium-Ion battery pack so the vehicle has a bit of a boost at launch but little more. Fuel economy figures come in at 25 mpg city and 37 mpg highway – the new Altima hits 39 highway with just a gas engine.
Pricing for the 2013 Malibu Eco begins at just under 26 grand with our loaded tester arriving at $29,100. This edition is only available in North America. Chevrolet will launch the rest of the 2013 Malibu fleet later this year to be sold in nearly 100 countries on six continents.