First Drive: 2013 Chevrolet Malibu reviews first drives chevrolet
2013 Chevrolet Malibu. Click image to enlarge

First Drive: 2013 Chevrolet Malibu

Manufacturer’s web site
Chevrolet Canada

Review and photos by Grant Yoxon

Photo Gallery:
2013 Chevrolet Malibu

Margaree Valley, Cape Breton Island, NS – Since 1964 the Malibu name has traditionally been associated with North America. Built in North America. Sold in North America.

With the 2013 model year and the introduction of the eighth generation of the venerable nameplate, that is about to change. Now based on a shared platform and a global four-cylinder powertrain strategy, the Chevrolet Malibu will be sold around the world.

At first glance one might not notice that the 2013 Malibu is not the same car as the 2012 model, largely because the new Malibu shares its basic shape with the old model and carries brand-specific design cues like Chevrolet’s dual-port grille and the new Camaro-inspired LED dual-element tail lamps. But look a little closer and you will notice that the nose is more prominent, the rear deck higher and shorter, and the stance is wider, giving the Malibu a more aggressive, yet more mature profile.

First Drive: 2013 Chevrolet Malibu reviews first drives chevrolet
2013 Chevrolet Malibu. Click image to enlarge

The new Malibu has a wheelbase that is 114 mm (4.5 in.) shorter and 1,574 mm (62 in.) front and rear tracks that are more than 51 mm (2 in.) wider than the model it replaces, yet it is bigger inside in every dimension; there is 110 L (4 cu. ft.) more interior space and 34 L (1.1 cu. ft.) more trunk space.

Rear seats fold flat 60/40, giving the Malibu a level load floor for carrying larger items (although the utility of this feature is compromised in Malibu Eco models by the placement of the car’s storage battery).

The new Malibu is nearly 70 mm wider than before and the extra width translates into more hip and legroom front and rear. Despite chopping over 100 mm from the wheelbase, only rear legroom is affected, down just 18 mm (0.7 in.). Overall length is just 13 mm (.5 in.) less than before.

The Malibu interior features a new dual cockpit design with gauges inspired by the Camaro. Metallic or chrome and wood accents surround the shifter, the centre stack, the instrument cluster, the doors, and the steering wheel. Curiously, controls mounted on the driver’s door are encased in a beautiful chrome frame, while the smaller passenger door controls are not.

First Drive: 2013 Chevrolet Malibu reviews first drives chevrolet
First Drive: 2013 Chevrolet Malibu reviews first drives chevrolet
First Drive: 2013 Chevrolet Malibu reviews first drives chevrolet
First Drive: 2013 Chevrolet Malibu reviews first drives chevrolet
2013 Chevrolet Malibu; dash photo (top) courtesy GM Canada. Click image to enlarge

Soft, ice-blue ambient lighting reflects off chrome strips that wrap into the doors, while the colour of choice for gauge and centre stack backlighting is also ice blue, a colour I find relaxing. Interior panels on the LT and LTZ models I drove featured plenty of bright work and soft touch materials.

Even a seven-inch colour touchscreen is standard on all models except LS. The screen flips up revealing a lit storage compartment behind. Nifty, but don’t store your snacks behind the screen; heat from the electronics and equipment behind the dash will turn your Mars bar into a chocolate fondue.

Standard equipment on the base LS includes 16-inch aluminum wheels, cloth seats with manual four-way adjustment, Bluetooth for phone, six-speaker sound system, manual climate control, cruise control, and power locks. Seat covering changes to premium cloth with leatherette bolsters with the mid-level LT, with dual zone climate control being standard on the 2LT and 1LT Eco model. Eight-way power seats with four-way power lumbar support are standard on 2LT and optional on 1LT. A power sunroof is optional on all LT models, while a navigation package can be added to 2LT and LTZ. The LTZ gets the full load with 19-inch aluminum wheels, heated power seats, nine-speaker Pioneer sound system, express up and down windows, and chrome accents.

General Motors is all in with four-cylinder power, betting the house on a global four-cylinder power strategy. The standard engine for the Malibu LS and LT is a new direct-injected 2.5L four-cylinder engine that delivers 197 hp and 191 lb-ft of torque. The Malibu Eco has a 2.4L engine combined with GM’s eAssist technology (182 hp/172 lb-ft), while the LTZ will be powered by a “next-generation” 2.0L EcoTec Turbo with 259 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque (optional on 2LT).

A V6 is not available. Not planned. Not even contemplated.

The 2.0L turbo is not available either, at least until later in the fall. LTZ models at the Canadian press launch on Cape Breton Island were powered by the new 2.5L naturally aspirated engine.

First Drive: 2013 Chevrolet Malibu reviews first drives chevrolet
First Drive: 2013 Chevrolet Malibu reviews first drives chevrolet
2013 Chevrolet Malibu. Click image to enlarge

The 2.5L is an advanced four-cylinder that delivers six-cylinder power with four-cylinder fuel consumption, estimated to be 9.4 L/100 km in city driving and 5.9 L/100 km highway. The new engine has noise-reducing features such as a cast exhaust manifold, steel crank, low-noise timing chain, and direct mount accessories that contribute to a quiet cabin experience. In fact, the new Malibu is one of the quietest four-cylinder-powered cars I have ever driven. Most of the time, one is hardly aware there is an engine under the hood and even under hard acceleration, when the small engine makes its presence known, the sound is muted and, unlike most four-cylinder engines, even pleasant to hear.

The 2.5L engine does not lack for power. While the Malibu is not a sport sedan—it really is a family sedan and doesn’t try to be anything else but a good family sedan—acceleration is very good with zero to 60 mph (96 km/h) estimated to be less than eight seconds.

And even though it is a family sedan, handling is on a par with many much more expensive sport sedans. A front MacPherson strut and rear multilink suspension is nicely tuned for both ride comfort and handling stability. The Cabot Trail has several winding sections to challenge both driver and vehicle (traffic and weather permitting) and the Malibu impressed—not as a sports car would, but definitely superior for a mid-priced, mid-sized sedan.

Large, 297-mm (11.7-inch) ventilated front disc and 292-mm (11.5-inch) solid rear disc brakes, clamped on by dual-piston front and single-piston rear aluminum calipers provide excellent stopping power. Also keeping the Malibu on course are a variety of active safety features including four-channel anti-lock brakes, full-function traction control, four-corner electronic stability control, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist, corner brake control, panic brake assist, and drag torque control.

First Drive: 2013 Chevrolet Malibu reviews first drives chevrolet
First Drive: 2013 Chevrolet Malibu reviews first drives chevrolet
2013 Chevrolet Malibu. Click image to enlarge

The Malibu can be equipped with up to 10 air bags; dual-stage driver and front passenger air bags, driver and front passenger pelvic/thorax side-impact air bags, driver and passenger knee air bags, and roof rail air bags with rollover protection are standard, while second-row head/thorax side-impact air bags can be optionally added, as well as a lane departure warning system with forward collision alert and a rear-view camera system

In the quest to save fuel, engineers are leaving no mechanical component, no sheet of metal, no detail untouched. Electric power steering and an aerodynamic coefficient comparable to the Corvette or Volt contribute to make the Malibu one of the slipperiest family sedans in the GM lineup. The Malibu Eco’s underbody panels, active grille shutters, and low-rolling-resistance tires take efficiency one step further.

The Malibu Eco’s eAssist system is mated to an Ecotec 2.4L direct-injection four-cylinder engine. The 2.4L engine is efficient and lightweight, featuring dual-overhead cams, direct injection, continuously variable intake and exhaust timing, and electronic throttle control, as well as a lightweight aluminum cylinder block and cylinder head. It is rated at 182 hp and 172 lb-ft of torque.

The eAssist system uses power stored in an air-cooled lithium-ion battery to provide electrical boost in various driving situations, optimizing engine and transmission operation. A 15-kW motor-generator provides up to 15 hp of electric power assistance during heavier acceleration. Regenerative braking is used to keep the battery charged. The system also shuts down fuel delivery in certain deceleration conditions and shuts the engine down when stopped.

Despite its lower rating for horsepower and torque, and an estimated 0 to 96 km/h time of around nine seconds, the Eco model doesn’t really feel any different than the 2.5L-equipped car. Fuel consumption ratings for the 2013 Malibu Eco are not yet available, but GM says the car will travel nearly 1,000 km on a 60 L fuel tank.

Pricing for the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco starts at $27,940 (1LT) and includes dual zone climate control as standard equipment. Pricing for the 2013 Malibu starts at $24,995 for the base LS, $26,325 for the 1LT (with manual climate control), $27,915 for the 2LT, $29,160 for the 2LT Eco and $32,540 for the 2.0L-equipped LTZ.

Production of the 2.5L- and 2.4L-equipped cars has already begun at GM’s Fairfax, Kansas and Detroit-Hamtramck, Michigan assembly plants.

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