Fifth Place: 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco  1LT

Comparison Test: Best Family Sedans toyota nissan honda ford car comparisons chevrolet
Comparison Test: Best Family Sedans toyota nissan honda ford car comparisons chevrolet

2013 CHEVROLET MALIBU ECO 1LT. Click image to enlarge

Who brought the hybrid? Chevy did, that’s who. The 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco is, however, such a mild hybrid that we saw no reason to exclude it—it was also priced right in the heart of our comparison at $31,740 (freight and A/C tax in), which was a couple hundred bucks more than the Fusion and second most expensive in test.

At that price, you’d expect that it would be nicely featured and it was. Aside from the climate control, MyLink with seven-inch touchscreen, satellite radio, and Bluetooth included as standard with the $27,490 Eco model, the Preferred Equipment Group added sunroof, back-up camera, and 8-way power seats for $2,200 combined.

The key feature of the Eco model is, of course, its mild hybrid system that adds a 15-kW electric motor in support of the 2.4L direct-injection four-cylinder making 182 hp and 172 lb-ft of torque. Power for the electric motor comes from regenerative braking and the vehicle also incorporates an auto start-stop system that shuts the vehicle down at stoplights. One thing we noted was how smooth the restarts were after the engine was paused, and once moving the engine pulls strongly and gets the Malibu up to speed, even if it slightly coarse in doing so.

Comparison Test: Best Family Sedans toyota nissan honda ford car comparisons chevrolet
2013 CHEVROLET MALIBU ECO 1LT. Click image to enlarge

You would expect that the hybrid would be the fuel consumption champ, but the Malibu Eco did no better than mid-pack, finishing our drive loop at 9.2 L/100 km, a ways off from its 8.1/5.3 city/highway estimate, but not the worst in that regard (cough-Ford-cough).

But at the end of the day, the Malibu Eco scored lowest in almost every category, scoring a sole win in Cabin Storage, but that is not enough to redeem its muddled looks, marginal quality interior, compromised cargo space, and utter lack of driving character. Even in the Easy to Drive and Ease of Parking categories it lagged behind the others because of poor steering, strange off-throttle hiccups, and poor visibility.

Overall, it seemed that too much of the cost was invested in a drivetrain technology that adds little value and holds little appeal, and the Eco might well be the least desirable model in the Malibu lineup. –JY

Pricing: 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco 1LT

Base price: $27,490
Options: Preferred Equipment Group $2,200 (Sunroof – 1,195; cargo net, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, back-up camera, 8-way power driver seat – $1,005).
Freight: $1,500
A/C Tax: $100
Price as tested: $31,740

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