Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com
June 10, 2013
Monday: Chevrolet Malibu Turbo
Wednesday: GMC Acadia Denali
The 2013 Chevrolet Malibu hasn't gotten off to the best of starts. When it was introduced last year, the only model you could get for the first few months was mild-hybrid Eco model. This was Chevrolet's attempt to gain a slight edge over the mid-size competition. A decision that sadly backfired on the company as reviews of the Malibu Eco leaned towards the negative.
Since that time, Chevrolet has launched the other models in the Malibu lineup; the 2.5L and Turbo. Can these models help people forget the milquetoast reputation the Malibu currently has? I spent some time with a 2013 Malibu LTZ Turbo and here is what I found.
The Malibu LTZ Turbo gets off to a good start with its visual appearance. The LTZ’s exterior gets small details such as new grille insert with a chrome strip running around and optional nineteen-inch alloy wheels that set off the distinctive design even more. Inside, the Malibu LTZ is much the same as the Eco I drove last year. Design is very much a love it or hate it mantra with a mishmash of a Camaro-esque gauge cluster, organic curves, and the veins running along the dash. Build quality was very good in my low mileage example.
Installed in my vehicle was Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system with the optional Navigation system. Much like my experience in the Malibu Eco, MyLink was easy to use and quick to respond. The navigation system provided good information and the maps were easy to read at a quick glance.
Of course the real story lies under the hood: A 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine that is shared Cadillac ATS. In the Malibu LTZ, it produces 259 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. The engine can quickly put a smile on your face thanks to broad range of power. Build-up of power is very smooth, feeling like a V6 and not a turbo-four. Turbo lag was kept a minimum. The EPA rates the Malibu LTZ Turbo at 21 City/30 Highway/24 Combined. My fuel economy during the week was somewhat disappointing during the six days I had Malibu LTZ Turbo, returning an average of 21 MPG. I’m mostly blaming my somewhat heavy right foot on this. The highway run saw fuel economy increase to 28.1 MPG.
My only concern in the Malibu Turbo’s powertrain was the six-speed automatic. Most of the time, the automatic was very competent with its shifts. But there were times when you would notice the transmission go into the ‘hunting for gears’ mode, especially when the transmission downshifts. I’m hoping this is a programming issue and not something else.
In the handling department, the Malibu LTZ Turbo trades some of the comfort from the Eco model for a bit of sport. It's very noticeable when heading down your favorite road as the Malibu Turbo shows a bit of athleticism with the steering tightened up and the suspension not feeling like its made out of marshmallow fluff. Even with this added sportiness, Chevrolet made sure to balance the Malibu Turbo with some comfort. Driving on the expressway or in the city, the Malibu Turbo was very stable and able to soak up the bumps with no problem.
However, not everything is perfect with Malibu LTZ Turbo. First is the claustrophobic-feeling back seat. Much like the Malibu Eco, the LTZ Turbo features the smallish back seat. This isn’t a good thing to have in a class where backseat space is one of the key criteria.
The other problem point with the Malibu LTZ Turbo is the pricetag. The base price for the LTZ Turbo starts at $29,700, very reasonable for the top model. Its only when you start adding options that the price and value equation gets thrown out of whack. My tester with most, if not all options ticked comes to as tested price of $34,595. Two problems with this: One; certain items on the options list should be standard equipment on the top trim. Those items include push-button start, HID headlights, and a backup camera (note: the Malibu Eco I had last year had the backup camera as standard.) Two; most of competition when comparably equipped to the Malibu LTZ Turbo cost one to two thousand dollars less.
The Malibu LTZ Turbo helps remove some of the milquetoast reputation of the Malibu by building upon the good stuff. However, the poor value for money and backseat space negates the improvements. There is a very good car here, but it is a hard sell.
Balance between comfort and sport
Back seat space
Disclaimer: General Motors provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gasoline.
Year - 2013
Make – Chevrolet
Model – Malibu
Trim – 2LZ
Engine – Ecotec 2.0L DOHC Turbocharged Four-Cylinder
Driveline – Front-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic
Horsepower @ RPM – 259 @ 5,500 RPM
Torque @ RPM – 260 @ 1,700 - 5,500 RPM
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/30/24
Curb Weight – 3,600 lbs
Location of Manufacture – Kansas City, KS
Base Price - $29,700.00
As Tested Price - $34,595.00 (Includes $810.00 destination charge)
Electronics & Entertainment Package - $1,350.00
LTZ Premium Package - $1,000.00
Audio System w/Navigation, AM/FM CD Player w/7" Color Touchscreen - $795.00
Crystal Red Tintcoat - $395.00
Advance Safety Package - $395.00
Cocoa Fashion Trim - $150.00