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    Review: 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco



    William Maley

    Editor/Reporter - CheersandGears.com

    June 13, 2012

    All of us have had the experience of something not meeting our expectations. Whether it’s an expensive hotel that provides the same service of a Motel6, a nice restaurant that serves the equivalent of Burger King, or a highly recommended mechanic that somehow charges $650 for an oil change.

    This happened to me with the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco. When it arrived onto my driveway for a few days, I was excited at the premise of the Eco model. However when my time with the Malibu Eco was up, I was a bit deflated.

    Onward to the exterior


    Exterior

    When I first saw the new 2013 Chevrolet Malibu at the North American International Auto Show in earlier this year, I was a bit disappointed. Compared to the outgoing Malibu, the new one didn’t have the presence and the sexy curves. Instead, it went for a mishmash of Cruze and Camaro, giving it an unpleasant look. However, when you drop the bright lights of an auto show and bring it into the real world, the Malibu design begins to grow on you

    gallery_10485_426_348950.png

    Up front, there is a lot of Cruze influence. The front end juts out, putting the double grille opening with chrome accents running around the edge as the main focus. A pair of projector headlights extends up into the front fenders. The side profile shows off the Malibu’s beltline going up a slight angle. The back end features a Camaro inspired trunk lid and taillights. Also, the Malibu Eco includes a Camaro inspired narrow rear window view. Thankfully, this Malibu Eco was equipped with a rear-view camera, making it easier to back up.

    Now Meet The Malibu Eco's Interior


    Interior

    One place where the new Malibu runs rings around the old one is in the interior. Stepping into the Malibu Eco for the first time, my jaw dropped. I couldn’t believe how much effort GM put into the Malibu’s interior design. Organic curves, HVAC vents molded into the dash, soft touch materials used throughout the cabin, and some impressive build quality.

    gallery_10485_426_494015.png

    The Malibu Eco is one the first vehicles in Chevrolet’s lineup to come equipped with the MyLink infotainment system. A five-inch touch screen radio takes center stage in the dash, providing controls and information for whatever you’re playing (AM/FM/XM/iPod/Aux). MyLink also includes Pandora and Stitcher internet radio that uses your smartphone to play though. The system had its hiccups though. From time to time when using Pandora, no sound would come out. That was remedied by unplugging and plugging my iPhone back into the system. Also, MyLink froze up on me, causing me to turn off the car and turn it back on. Now, this is a first generation product and I expected some bugs to come with it, but hopefully GM has some fixes on the way to squash them.

    As for passengers, those sitting in the front won’t find much to complain about as the optional leather wrapped seats provide enough comfort and support. Passengers sitting in the back will complain about the claustrophobic feelings they’re having. Headroom and legroom is on the short end, especially when compared to other midsize sedans.

    gallery_10485_426_8863.png

    The space deficiency is even more apparent when you compare the Malibu Eco to its little brother, the Cruze.

    gallery_10485_426_4487.png

    Trunk space is also on the small size, measuring in at 14.3 cubic feet. That’s due to the Eco having a battery in its trunk. If you want more trunk space in your Malibu, you’re going have to wait till later this year when the 2.5L four comes out.

    What's Under The Hood


    Ride & Drive

    Underneath the Malibu Eco’s hood lies GM’s eAssist mild-hybrid system. eAssist is comprised of a 2.4L Ecotec four-cylinder producing 182 HP and 172 lb-ft of torque, and a electric motor producing 15 kW and either 110 (cranking) or 79 (electric assist) lb-ft of torque hooked up to a 115V lithium-ion battery.

    gallery_10485_426_662923.png

    eAssist differs from a regular hybrid on how the electric and gas powertrains deliver their power. In a regular hybrid, the electric motor can power the vehicle alone at low speeds. eAssist cannot do that at all. Instead, eAssist uses the electric motor to help the gas engine in acceleration. Also, eAssist allows stop/start tech to be used.

    Driving with the eAssist system was an interesting experience. Pulling away from a stop, it gives you the illusion of having a more powerful engine. You can thank the gas and electric motors working together. After the initial acceleration, the electric motor switches off and the 2.4L provides adequate power for most driving. If you need to make a pass, the electric motor kicks back on to provide extra power. The transition from hybrid to gas power is seamless; the only way to know when it happens is when you have the hybrid powertrain screen up.

    But all is not perfect with the eAssist powertrain. Like most hybrids, the Malibu Eco’s brakes don’t give the kind of reassurance you want. Also, the stop/start system doesn’t stop all of time. At most stoplights, the system would leave the engine idling. Part of that was due to the Air Conditioning running in what is called comfort mode, which needs the engine to run. But when the Air Conditioner was off, the engine still would not turn off. I was left wondering if I was doing something wrong with braking or if this was a problem with this particular Malibu Eco.

    And that leads me to the biggest disappointment of the Malibu Eco; the fuel economy. The EPA rates the Malibu Eco at 25 City/37 Highway/29 Combined. My average for the Malibu Eco was 26.5 MPG. Now, I am going to put a good amount of blame on the Stop/Start system possibly not working. But even with 29 MPG combined in the EPA cycle, cars like the Toyota Camry, Kia Optima, and Volkswagen Passat with their base engines can meet or exceed that average. It left me wondering why GM went forward with the eAssist mild hybrid and not a regular hybrid system or something else.

    Those problems with the powertrain are a big shame since the Malibu’s ride shines as a long distance cruiser. The suspension does a great job of providing a very comfortable ride, soaking up many road imperfections. The steering weighted perfectly for what the Eco is built for. Also, Chevrolet must have stolen a few of Buick’s quiet tuning engineers since the Malibu Eco is very, very quiet.

    And The Verdict


    Verdict

    As my time with the Malibu Eco was coming to a close, I was getting more and more disappointed. The Malibu Eco has some very positive points: a comfortable and quiet ride, good looking exterior, impressive interior, and the new MyLink infotainment system.

    But those positive points cannot hide some very glaring problems of the Malibu Eco: the smallest back seat in the class, the stop/start system that didn’t stop, and the not so impressive fuel economy of the eAssist system.

    And there is one thing I haven’t brought up yet. The Malibu was originally waiting on the new 2.5L four-cylinder to go into production. However, GM CEO Dan Akerson wanted the Malibu out sooner and the decision was made to start building the Eco early since it the closest to being ready. My question is this: if GM had kept the original date, could this have made the Malibu Eco a better car?

    The Malibu Eco is a car full of hopes and dreams, but sadly cannot reach all of them.

    Cheers:

    Comfortable Ride

    Interior and Exterior Design

    MyLink Infotainment System

    Jeers:

    Fuel Economy

    Non Auto Stop/Start System

    Interior Space

    Year - 2013

    Make - Chevrolet

    Model - Malibu

    Trim - Eco

    Engine - 2.4L DOHC Four-Cylinder with eAssist

    Driveline - Front Wheel Drive, Six Speed Automatic

    Horsepower @ RPM - 182 @ 6200

    Torque @ RPM - 172 @ 4900

    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 25/37/29

    Curb Weight - 3620 lbs

    Location of Manufacture - Kansas City, Kansas

    Base Price - $26,845.00

    As Tested Price - $29,380.00 (Includes $760.00 Destination Charge)



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    If it was Ackerson's decision to bring this car forward when it was not ready, he effed up big time. A large majority of these will be sold with the 2.5L engine. By bringing it out with eek-Assist only, real potential customers are going to forget about it by the time the 2.5 is out. It will have to be re-launched with an expensive marketing campaign. That's money GM could be spending on R&D for new products that people WANT.

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    I'm not surprised about your disappointment with the new '13 Malibu. I can honestly say I was not "blown away" when I saw it last year at the '11 NYIAS, and the few I've seen on dealer's lots and on the road have not improved on my initial reaction. I still prefer the exterior styling of the outgoing model:

    2011_chevrolet_malibu-pic-8925758867857189028.jpeg

    2011-Chevrolet-Malibu.jpg

    Too bad they couldn't have put the '13 Malibu's interior into a refreshened '11 body.

    Edited by GMTruckGuy74

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    I saw the '13 first at Barrett-Jackson in January and a couple since then..overall, I like the exterior and interior, but the dumbest mistake was cutting the wheelbase by 5 inches. Epsilon II SWB and LWB both have wheelbases way too short for midsize and full size cars...

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    In retrospect, I don't have a big issue with the front-end styling, it's more the issue with the side profile styling and size proportianing:

    2011-chevrolet-malibu-side-view-in-motion.jpg

    2013-Chevrolet-Malibu-drivers-side-profile.jpg

    The '13 looks squished in the middle compared to the '11 model.

    I saw the '13 first at Barrett-Jackson in January and a couple since then..overall, I like the exterior and interior, but the dumbest mistake was cutting the wheelbase by 5 inches. Epsilon II SWB and LWB both have wheelbases way too short for midsize and full size cars...

    BINGO!!!

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    I can't say if I agree or disagree with shortening the 2013 Malibu, but I think I can explain out the reasoning. If you remember, the 2008 Malibu was supposed to take on the volume of both the 04-07 Malibu and the 00-05 Impala, as the Impala was expected to move to Zeta. When the Zeta plans imploded Chevy needed to backtrack on future Malibus to re-accommodate a FWD Impala. I'm thinking that Chevy won't have a problem accommodating people who something roomier than the Malibu via the new Impala or the Cruze.

    Personally, I do like the styling of this Malibu. It's to bad about the fuel economy though. All that extra expense for not much in real-world gain. Are there similar complaints about the eAssist-ed Regal?

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    I can't say if I agree or disagree with shortening the 2013 Malibu, but I think I can explain out the reasoning. If you remember, the 2008 Malibu was supposed to take on the volume of both the 04-07 Malibu and the 00-05 Impala, as the Impala was expected to move to Zeta. When the Zeta plans imploded Chevy needed to backtrack on future Malibus to re-accommodate a FWD Impala. I'm thinking that Chevy won't have a problem accommodating people who something roomier than the Malibu via the new Impala or the Cruze.

    Both the Epsilon II SWB and LWB versions have wheelbases shorter than the new Fusion.. 107.x and 111.x are too short for midsize or full size cars.

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    I like the looks, generally, of the new Malibu. A silver one passed me the other day and it looked good rolling. The outgoing one was elegant with no trace of sport, the new one is sporty of line, a trait of successful Chevy sedans of yesteryear. I want to see what they do with the turbo model.

    The public is not stupid. They know eek-Assist is junk. I just hope it's not too late for this car to be a success when the real engines arrive.

    The new Fusion is very future-think in style, where the Malibu plays on nostalgia and emotion. I like them both for different reasons, but wonder what Ford will do with the Taurus for the next go-round since the Fusion is good-sized. A new RWD Taurus would be like a Boss 302.

    Edited by ocnblu

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    I like that front, actually, but the Falcon bodyshell is cursed with that otherworldly, dated/parallel universe situation that afflicts the Commodore. It's a long-running trait of native Australian cars in relation to their American cousins I cannot quite put my widdle middle finger on. Does anyone know wut I mean?

    Edited by ocnblu

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    SHO's now are AWD and previously were never RWD.

    Malibu, Chevy compromised a lot. They did not want to intrude on the guts of the Impala so they shortened the wheelbase, which did a disservice. It surely did not decrease weight much.

    Passats and Altimas now are 3200 pounds. Chevy gets smaller and is major heavy.

    Regal has decent toe space and foot space, why did they f@#k up that crucial element on the Malibu with the non-existent leg room and toe and foot space? Chevy is so stupid. It's a family sedan for crying out loud. Neither the Cruze or Malibu have adequate rear space for legs and feet for their class. REAL WORLD SPACE. (see, mazda6 or accord).

    Design wise, the new look is decent, but it could have been way better with the same theme. There is not enough glass, the overhangs are too long, the wheel base is too short, windshield needs to come ahead some and the back decklid is too long (rear deck needs to come back some more). All they really needed to do was keep the wheelbase or only cut it a tish. The old Malibu which was a beautiful design (but now is tired) which really only had one flaw....visually it was too narrow.

    The aggressive new design is cool but i only give it a B because it could have been a hell of a lot better in terms of proportions and overhangs and amount of glass on the sides.

    Interior is nicely improved but still I think there are a few pieces here and there that could be nicer. The corporate woodgrain steering wheel is already looking tacky, for example. I've sat in this car, the textures and plastics are pretty good. SOme of the center stack is a bit cheesy but that's nitpicky. Overall it's a bit of a busy look but really that keeps it from looking Camry dull. The seat cloth could be better but the leather is bang up.

    I think GM needed to pay for some amortization on the start stop BAS so they have tried to weasel it into the cars that they can in enough volume to recoup some development costs. Over time like everything else it will get revised and I think they see lots of potential for it in volume production over time. So you got to use some owners as beta testers now. I do believe the 2.5 will probably have the same mpg and better acceleration etc..... and I bet they won't produce any more eco malibus until another year or so and try to mate it to the 2.5. Same in the Regal, Lacrosse and maybe Verano also.

    One last word, the Astra....er, Verano, the backseat is easier to get in and out of and feels a bit more legworthy off the bat.

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    I like that front, actually, but the Falcon bodyshell is cursed with that otherworldly, dated/parallel universe situation that afflicts the Commodore. It's a long-running trait of native Australian cars in relation to their American cousins I cannot quite put my widdle middle finger on. Does anyone know wut I mean?

    One thing that is funny is how similar the Falcon looks to the Commodore in profile...the greenhouse is very similiar. A US-market RWD V8 large Ford in the future based on a Falcon or the NG Mustang platform would be great, but I doubt if it will happen...I suspect the Falcon will be replaced by the NG Taurus as part of the 'One Ford, One FWD World' plan..

    Edited by Cubical-aka-Moltar

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    This car could stand to wait until the engine is actually ready. Akerson thought like a software executive, not a car executive. It is better to be a few months late with grade A product than be early with a C+ effort.

    Does he not know that first impressions are everything, especially in the hypercompetitive midsize segment?!

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    I have quite a bit of beef with this car.....I can see this being a rental queen in the near future....there is only ONE good thing about this car.

    GM can be glad I didn't have to review this car...and I think Olds and I'm guessing MM will be a little nicer....

    Note: I've driven both mali models (new and old) back to back...

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    I'm not sure this is as big an issue as others think....here's why.

    Rollouts of any new GM product are typically very slow. Had they waited, the chances are good they would not have rolled that many more in 6 months than the Eco has rolled out so far. In this instance, to roll the car out with the odd duck powertrain to me is not a terrible idea. Gm usually has quite a few glitches on new cars.....if the model is out but not in many people's hands they can stall an epidemic in case something bad happens. They know the Eco is not going to sell a lot but it will get out there a little and be seen and raise eyebrows on the road.

    Secondly, GM has a history of rolling out the new models and continuing a production overlap of the existing. Chevy Classic, the 04+, and now the 08+ Malibus all have gone on now, while their successor was being built. Impala will also do that now.

    THird, whatever is left of the current bu can go to fleets galore and also sell dirt cheap against all the dirt cheap Altimas and such going out of production soon. You can always catch buyers on the fence who are resistant to the new model. I already can tell you for fact three people I know closely who popped on 12 Fusions or Escapes despite being interested in the 13's....one in particular saw the new Escape and backed up and saved huge money on the 12.

    Really this first half year with the Eco lauch is nothing more than a beta testing marketing buzz creation tool and it gets people interested.

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    I'm not sure this is as big an issue as others think....here's why.

    Rollouts of any new GM product are typically very slow. Had they waited, the chances are good they would not have rolled that many more in 6 months than the Eco has rolled out so far. In this instance, to roll the car out with the odd duck powertrain to me is not a terrible idea. Gm usually has quite a few glitches on new cars.....if the model is out but not in many people's hands they can stall an epidemic in case something bad happens. They know the Eco is not going to sell a lot but it will get out there a little and be seen and raise eyebrows on the road.

    Secondly, GM has a history of rolling out the new models and continuing a production overlap of the existing. Chevy Classic, the 04+, and now the 08+ Malibus all have gone on now, while their successor was being built. Impala will also do that now.

    THird, whatever is left of the current bu can go to fleets galore and also sell dirt cheap against all the dirt cheap Altimas and such going out of production soon. You can always catch buyers on the fence who are resistant to the new model. I already can tell you for fact three people I know closely who popped on 12 Fusions or Escapes despite being interested in the 13's....one in particular saw the new Escape and backed up and saved huge money on the 12.

    Really this first half year with the Eco lauch is nothing more than a beta testing marketing buzz creation tool and it gets people interested.

    Some valid and interesting points you make.

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    GM can be glad I didn't have to review this car...and I think Olds and I'm guessing MM will be a little nicer....

    you may be wrong on the assumption about me....

    Maybe not...I want to pretty much trash it.....I found NOTHING better about this car compared to the old one...and I tried too.

    And I do remember you mentioning that now that you say that....

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