2013 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ
2013 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ
2013 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Lesley Wimbush

If we still tapped out our car reviews on Olivetti Underwoods, the floor of my office would be covered in crumpled paper balls.

No matter how I approached it, I couldn’t seem to come up with a cohesive overall definition of this car.

And perhaps that, in itself, is the most telling statement of all.  When it comes to “redefining a segment” – the Malibu is “undefined” personified.

And with the excellent Buick Verano, Chevrolet Impala and Cruze as stablemates, it can’t help but appear as an also-ran in a large family of overachievers.

Thoroughly revised for 2013, the Malibu rides on GM’s Global Epsilon platform. While its overall length remains about the same as the previous model’s, cabin and trunk space have slightly increased.

My dark grey tester, is at first glance, totally respectable and utterly nondescript.  Up front, the blunt nose features a rather unremarkable grille that’s just a little too small for its face. Perched on its snout is the ubiquitous oversized golden bow-tie that always looks out of place to me on a sedate passenger vehicle and much more suitable on a large, burly pickup truck.

It’s not unattractive, though, merely a bit bland. In profile, the Malibu is nicely proportioned with chiseled character lines adding a bit of drama to its deep flanks. The roofline flows smoothly but ends in a sharp and chunky rump that’s a bit incongruous on an otherwise mild-mannered mid-size sedan.  Unlike the signature parrot-beak treatment that renders an Acura’s backside virtually indistinguishable from its face – the Malibu looks like the recipient of a Camaro rump-donor program.

The effect is rather puzzling, leading one to believe that the Malibu LTZ harbours aspirations of sportiness.

It doesn’t. Forced-air induction does not an SS model make.

Under the hood is a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder engine that puts out 259 hp and 260 lb-ft. Where such a mill was once the domain of sportier performance models, they’ve now come to represent fuel efficiency and weight savings over the V6 options of a few years ago. The 2.0L engine represents a 62-hp increase over the base 2.5L, with a fuel rating of 10.1/6.6 L/100 km city/highway versus the naturally aspirated model’s 9.2/5.7 L/100 km. During my week of mostly mixed driving, I averaged 10.6 L/100 km – but admit I wasn’t attempting to drive frugally.

2013 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ2013 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ2013 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ2013 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ
2013 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ. Click image to enlarge

It has no trouble moving the LTZ’s 1,660 kg briskly, but those hoping for any semblance of rumbling exhaust note from the twin tailpipes will be sorely disappointed.  Instead, the four-cylinder engine goes about its business quietly and efficiently.  GM does a really good job of silencing any harshness or vibrations in its four-cylinder vehicles through the use of noise-cancelling sound waves and extra insulation.

The cabin is attractive – but the Malibu could probably benefit from a little New Age Spiritualism – its insides don’t match its outside.  Unlike its sedate, respectable middle-management exterior, the cabin design is slick and modern with a swooping centre console and neon-blue ambient lighting.  The styling and quality is Buick-like in execution – my tester’s leather seats were plump and cushy and materials met cleanly with no gaps.

There’s plenty of leg- and headroom up front, but my rear passengers on an evening outing to the theatre complained of their cramped quarters.  We also had some issues with temperature – as there were no climate controls or even air vents in the back, we were constantly fiddling with controls and opening windows.

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