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2013 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ Review
Chevy’s mid-size misses the mark
By Mike Schlee, Photography by Mike Schlee and Chevrolet, Apr. 15, 2013

The 2013 Chevrolet Malibu is the tale of two cars. For everything Chevrolet seemed to get right with this vehicle, there is something that went wrong. Maybe this car subscribes to Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion (Wikipedia is your friend), or maybe the designers ran out of time preparing the 2013 model.

FAST FACTS

1. An entry-level 2.5L 4-cylinder engine makes 197 hp and 191 lb-ft of torque.

2. The only transmission available is a 6-speed automatic.

3. Fuel economy is rated at 22 mpg city and 34 mpg highway.

4. Priced from $22,785 our LTZ test car retails for $32,360.

Either way, it’s a shame as there is so much potential in this new Malibu. Thankfully, Chevrolet is quickly addressing the Malibu’s short comings and expect a sooner-than-usual refresh to occur, similar to what Honda did with the 2013 Civic. Until then, here are our thoughts on the car you can buy today.

See Also: 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Review

As it stands, the Malibu is not a bad vehicle. It is a decent mid-size entrant, but in this hotly contested segment, decent no longer cuts it. The Malibu has received its fair share of criticism since arriving earlier this year, and in certain trims, like the Eco, it is warranted. But grasp a Malibu in the proper trim, like the LTZ 2.5L model featured here and not all is lost.

FINE FROM THE FRONT, BAD FROM THE BACK

 

Starting on the outside, Chevrolet has done a great job molding the corporate front end to look both attractive and sophisticated. Out back however, things fall off the rails as the rear treatment is a mismatch of various design cues. It looks a bit like a homemade customization project where someone thought it a good idea to graft Camaro taillights onto the Malibu.

Inside, it is much the same. The interior features a refreshingly stylish dashboard design that stands out in the mid-size sedan segment. The materials and finishes appear decent, but lean in for a closer inspection, or cop a feel of the soft touch goodies and it’s obvious they are not. The leather appointed seats suffer the same fate as they feel like anything but leather. That said, the two-tone seating surfaces are visually appealing and the easily adjustable front seats are a comfortable place to be.

LIMITED REAR SEAT LEGROOM

 

During a week of testing in sunny Florida (we’re working even when we’re on vacation), three adult passengers were consistently shuttled around in the backseat. Although they all fit, they felt crammed-in, especially the unlucky soul in the middle seat. With 37.5-inches for headroom and 36.8-inches of legroom, the Malibu exceeds only the Nissan Altima’s rear seat dimensions while trading off less headroom for more legroom with the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima cousins. All other mid-size sedans trump the Malibu in rear seat space.

Thankfully trunk space isn’t impacted with a 16.3 cu-ft of space. It’s not the most in its class, but is more than you’ll get in the Accord, Fusion or Camry.

The new Malibu is highly customizable when it comes to pairing up trims, options and drivetrains. Although it starts at $22,785, including destination charges for base LS models, to acquire a Malibu equipped like the vehicle shown here requires stepping up to the $28,590 1LTZ trim. Add on the Electronics and Entertainment Package ($1,900), the LTZ Premium Package ($1,000), the Advanced Safety Package ($395), Crystal Red Tintcoat paint ($325) and the Black/Brownstone Fashion Trim interior ($150), and the price quickly expands to $32,360 plus destination charges. That slots it slightly higher than a fully loaded 4-cylinder Honda Accord or 5-cylinder Volkswagen Passat, and much higher than the top spec 4-cylinder Toyota Camry.

SURPRISINGLY POWERFUL

This price does net one of the more powerful base engines in the segment. The 2.5 L direct injection four-cylinder unit produces 197 hp and 191 lb-ft of torque. That is more torque than all of its competitors and only the Korean cousins beat it by a few ponies in total horsepower.

Mated exclusively to a six-speed automatic sending power to the front wheels, this drivetrain offers enough motivation for the 3,547 lbs Malibu; even with five adults aboard. When pushed hard, the engine does emit an unpleasant sound that thankfully is not heard under normal operation.

The LTZ Malibu is officially rated at 22 MPG city and 34 MPG highway which is not great for this class, something that is likely linked to the hefty curb weight. Our Malibu averaged 22.5 MPG in mostly city driving at maximum occupant capacity.

See Also: 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco Review

Where this Chevrolet begins to redeem itself is in ride quality and refinement. Much quieter inside compared to many of its competitors, the ride is creamy smooth and makes the stiffly sprung Camry feel harsh by comparison. These qualities can be attributed to the Malibu sharing a platform with a few Buicks; so too can the excessive curb weight.

All of the Malibu’s on-road maneuvers are slightly delayed and predictable; very much aimed at the Camry and Accord crowd. Riding on 235/50R18 tires, the Malibu tracks straight and becomes quite the interstate cruiser, once up to speed. The steering lacks any sportiness, but does offer the proper amount of feedback for a vehicle in this class. There was a strange driveline warble around 40 MPH on our test Malibu that was not present in other Malibus we have tested, so we think it may be specific to this particular tester.

THE VERDICT

 

Since the Malibu is sold in nearly 100 markets worldwide, it is important that Chevrolet got the 2013 redesign right. Unfortunately, they came up short.

If the planned refresh shores up the weak points of this car, like the rear end styling, interior materials, rear seat space and excessive weight, the Malibu could be a real winner. Then again, it might also be an entirely different car.

LOVE IT
  • Powerful engine
  • Quiet interior
  • Smooth ride
  • Attractive interior
LEAVE IT
  • Back end styling
  • Interior materials
  • Rear seat space
  • Fuel economy