By on December 15, 2011

Through the mid-1980s, General Motors essentially owned the midsize sedan market. This dominance was ended by the original Ford Taurus, and GM’s position sunk further with the rise of the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry to the top two spots. In recent years the Fusion has replaced the Taurus, while Nissan, Hyundai, and (for 2012) even Volkswagen have become serious contenders. For GM to reclaim one of the top spots, the Chevrolet Malibu had better be a damn good car. The model has been redesigned for 2013. Is the new car good enough? After doing my best to get some seat time in the Detroit area, I gave up my press junket cherry to Chevrolet to find out.

The Sonata gained its current position partly through striking exterior styling. The same won’t happen with the new Malibu. It’s a handsome car, especially with the LTZ’s 18-inch five-spoke alloys (the chunky overhangs appear more massive with the Eco’s 17s), and the ends of the car are distinctively Chevrolet, but the side profile has been seen many times before in various Accords and Camrys over the past 15 years. The trunk bustle was introduced on the 2002 BMW 7-Series, though it is more successfully (if still not entirely successfully) incorporated here. Chevrolet touts the Camaro-inspired tail lamps, but will many potential buyers notice or care unless the car also performs like a Camaro? Either way, the Malibu might be more attractive than most competitors but its conservative shape won’t grab the attention of potential buyers.

The best-looking car I saw in Austin? That would be a double-dubbed 1961 Cadillac Coupe de Ville:

The new Malibu’s interior is better. Though there’s nothing exciting about the instrument panel’s styling, and the strakes connecting the vents are a questionable element, it looks and feels much more upscale than those in competitors, especially the Camry and Passat. Much of the instrument panel and door panels are soft-touch surfaces suitable for a more expensive car.

Step up to the LTZ trim (not available with the eAssist powertrain, and so not offered at launch), and you can get stylish brown and black leather seats with orange piping and neon blue stitching. Sound like too much? Well, it actually works:

In the Eco, the optional leather is a relatively drab single shade, and the standard cloth is even more downscale. At night, everything is lit in ice blue. The various buttons do have a feel in keeping with the car’s price point, but they are large, logically arranged, and within reach. The Eco has MyLink standard, which provides Bluetooth smartphone integration complete with voice activation and apps for Pandora, Stitcher, and others to come.

The new Malibu is 2.7 inches wider than the current car, and rides on a wheelbase 4.5 inches shorter. These dimensional changes translate to the interior, where there’s more shoulder room but less rear legroom. The VW Passat now clearly leads the segment in the latter. The front seats are fairly comfortable, at least when fitted with four-way power lumbar (which is on the passenger side only with leather). Without the adjustable lumbar lower back support is lacking. Unlike in some recent GM cars, power recline is available for both front seats. Raise the driver seat a couple inches to clear the tall instrument panel, and the view forward isn’t too far off the segment average. The view rearward, on the other hand, could well prove a stumbling block for many potential buyers. Because of the very high trunk, the rear window is a narrow slit. And to get the drag coefficient to 0.30 (for the Eco, 0.29 for the upcoming LS with its narrower tires) the side mirrors were downsized.

Though the official rear legroom stat of 36.9 inches suggests otherwise, the back seat is just large enough for one adult male about six-feet in height to squeeze behind another. While the large cushion promises good thigh support, it’s mounted a couple inches too low to actually provide it. Compromised by the rear-mounted battery pack, trunk space and utility are only a match for hybrids. The rear seat folds, but as in the Camry Hybrid the pass through is a small slot on only one side:

Buyers for whom trunk space is a priority will strongly prefer the related conventionally-powered sedans in all cases. Interior storage is fairly generous, and includes a hidden compartment behind the display screen.

Eventually three four-cylinder engines will be offered in the new 2013 Malibu: a 182-horsepower 2.4-liter with “eAssist,” a 190-horsepower 2.5-liter, and a turbocharged 2.0-liter. At launch in early 2012, only the first will be available. Horsepower ratings for the 2.0T, like the 2.5 part of a new Ecotec engine family, haven’t yet been announced for this application. But in the Cadillac ATS it’ll churn out a not-quite-Sonata 270. “eAssist” refers to an electric motor linked by a belt to the engine that charges a small battery pack while braking then provides up to a 15-horsepower boost—on top of the engine’s 182—while accelerating. So it’s essentially GM’s “light hybrid” system from a few years ago with upgraded components (including a lithium-ion battery pack) and re-branded to lower expectations vis-à-vis full hybrids with larger battery packs and more powerful electric motors. How much more powerful? The Toyota Camry Hybrid’s motor-generator can produce 105 kW. The Malibu’s? Eleven.

To take advantage of this assist to benefit fuel economy, GM has fitted the Eco with a taller final drive ratio (2.64 vs. 3.23). Perhaps they should not have. While 190+ horsepower should be plenty to motivate the Malibu’s 3,620 pounds (about 130 were saved through Eco-specific lightweight parts), in practice the powertrain often struggles, especially up hills. While the engine is nearly silent under 3,500 rpm, above that mark a high-pitched whine suggests that too little engine has been given the task of accelerating too much car. Whatever assist is provided by the “eAssist” is far from evident. The full hybrids from Toyota, Ford, and Hyundai all feel significantly quicker. For best performance it helps to manually downshift the six-speed automatic (the only transmission likely to be offered with any of the engines), but this proves awkward. The manual shift rocker switch is on top of the shifter, so you cannot grab the shifter in a conventional manner to operate it. I improvised by using the armrest to fully support my arm, and then tapping the rocker with my free hand.

The EPA rates the Malibu Eco at 25 city, 37 highway. The trip computer reported about 25 in suburban driving with about one complete stop per mile. Out on a rural highway we occasionally observed just over 30. While the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid also struggles to match its EPA numbers, both the Ford Fusion and Toyota Camry are capable of low 40s in suburban driving. Of at least equal concern: the non-hybrid Sonata (24/35) and Camry (25/35) have EPA ratings nearly as high as the Malibu Eco’s.

The new Malibu is even more resistant to stopping than accelerating. While the regenerative braking is transparent, braking force does not build linearly, and the brakes don’t do much until quite a bit of effort has been applied. Repeatedly I had to step up my braking effort, then step it up again, as the Malibu Eco rushed towards a stopped car ahead.

The Malibu’s handling casts further doubt on its claimed 3,620-pound curb weight. Though closely related and dimensionally similar to the Buick Regal, through its steering wheel the Chevrolet feels much larger and heavier. Suspension tuning that contends for the title of softest-in-class is part of the reason. While over decent roads during casual driving the payoff is a very smooth ride, hit wavy pavement at speed and the under-damped body floats and bounds about. The suspension geometry seems sound and the car’s handling is always safe, with mushy understeer as the low limits of the Goodyear Assurance tires are approached, but there’s little sense of what’s going on where the rubber meets the road. Confidence is not inspired. I’d much rather drive a Regal or even a 2012 Camry on a challenging road. What the Malibu does do extremely well: keep outside noise outside. It’s an incredibly quiet car. Even the clatter of a Ford diesel pickup accelerating uphill with a loaded trailer the next lane over was barely audible.

While the Malibu Eco can’t match the Fusion or the Camry hybrids in terms of performance and economy, it also costs less despite having a much more upscale look and feel. The Malibu starts at $25,995. Load one up, and the sticker is $30,625. A similarly-equipped Ford Fusion Hybrid lists for $33,835, over $3,200 more. TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool indicates that in terms of features the cars are close to equal. A similarly loaded up Camry Hybrid or Sonata Hybrid splits the difference between the two: both are about $1,900 more than the Chevrolet after adjusting for feature differences. But a Sonata Limited costs about the same as the Malibu, while a Camry SE is about $2,000 less. So the Eco only seems a good value if compared against full hybrids—with which it cannot compete in terms of fuel efficiency. The Malibu 2.5, when it goes on sale next summer, will likely cost about $2,000 less (the amount GM charges for this system in the Regal).

So, the Malibu Eco isn’t terribly fuel efficient, and also certainly isn’t a driver’s car. And yet Chevrolet will likely still sell many of them (especially once the other engines arrive). Toyota’s and Volkswagen’s recent decontenting have opened up a hole in the segment. Many midsize sedan shoppers prioritize interior materials and a cushy, quiet ride above all else, and Chevrolet has done a very good job with the new Malibu’s interior and an outstanding job with noise suppression. This formula has been working with the Chevrolet Cruze and Equinox. It will likely work with the new Malibu as well.

For this review, GM paid to fly the author to Austin, TX, put him up for a night, and fed him four meals.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta.com, an online provider of car reliability and real-world fuel economy information.

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151 Comments on “Review: 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco...”


  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Not a driver’s car? Sounds like the perfect Cam-cord replacement on the sales chart. Malibu should have lower operating costs long term than the comparable hybrids due to less complexity.

    Are there tax rebate incentives on GM’s battery assisted cars?

    • 0 avatar

      There are no longer tax credits for any hybrids unless they plug into the wall.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      All the complexity with a full parallel hybrid is in the software. The “torque split device”, a.k.a transmission, of a full parallel hybrid practically consists of 2 motors, a couple planetary carriers, and a differential. It is far less complex than an automatic that still relies on more than 4 clutchpacks to fix the carriers for the different gear ratios. That means way fewer bearings. They trade transmission complexity for 1 extra motor (since the 1 motor essentially replaces the alternator like GM and Honda’s mild hybrids).

      • 0 avatar

        There’s not much mechanical complexity with a full parallel hybrid, but there is a lot of electronic complexity. To date there haven’t been many reliability issues with their mechanical components. I’m not sure I’ve ever come across a transmission or electric motor replacement in a hybrid, even though there are hundreds of them in TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey.

        The least reliable hybrid to date: the 2007 Saturn VUE mild hybrid, GM’s first of the design now being reintroduced (with updated components) in the Buicks and Malibu. The problems with the original system centered around the electronic bits.

        Looking forward to having stats on the new Malibu–just a matter of how soon enough owners get involved.

        http://www.truedelta.com/reliability.php

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      Malibu should have lower operating costs long term than the comparable hybrids due to less complexity.

      Isn’t the Prius already about the most reliable car you can buy? How much more reliable to you figure the Malibu is going to be?

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Kluttz

      Lower operating costs? How? It’s a GM POS. How’s that possible?

  • avatar
    jkross22

    This car’s competitors are more efficient and/or more powerful and cost roughly 10% more. How do Camcords’ depreciation compare to the ‘bu?

    I’m willing to bet Camcord buyers more than make up for the price premium when it comes time to sell.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      I agree, this car doesn`t make much sense in this configuration. Wait until the summer when the volume engine choices are available with lower prices and then a balanced judgment can be made.

      • 0 avatar

        One oddity not explicitly mentioned in the review: the “high tech” Eco powertrain uses the current Ecotec engine, while the 2.5 and 2.0T will use the new generation Ecotec, which is more efficient.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        Mike – thanks for the informnation, which just makes this a little more bizarre. I know the 2.5 isn`t ready until the summer which is when this car was to be released but Akerson wanted it out sooner, probably because so many key competitors have been updated recently (Camry, Passat) or will be soon (Fusion). They probably should have waited the 6 months.

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        “One oddity not explicitly mentioned in the review: the “high tech” Eco powertrain uses the current Ecotec engine, while the 2.5 and 2.0T will use the new generation Ecotec, which is more efficient.”

        GM did something similar with the original BAS vehicles. The Malibu hybrid didn’t get the new six-speed when the LTZ with the 4-banger did, so the “hybrid” got really unimpressive mileage, compared to the other vehicles in the lineup.

        Good old GM… some things never change.

      • 0 avatar
        Jimal

        I read somewhere that the Eco is being made available now with the “low tech” Ecotech in order to introduce the car with a more competitive fuel economy number because the newer, better Ecotech isn’t ready yet.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Residuals go out the window when Toyota is throwing incentives on 2012 Camry to move them.

      http://www.edmunds.com/toyota/camry/2012/car-incentives.html?style=101329650

      • 0 avatar
        Conslaw

        Speaking of incentives, Chevrolet is offering 3,000 rebate on the 2012 Impala, and if you are a GM employee, they’ll add an additional $3500. I bring this up because the 2012 Impala, old as it is, has a new 300 horsepower engine. The base Impala is almost as fast as the old SS, but still has a base-like price at $26k list. With incentives and discount, you should be able to find one around $21,000.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        @conslaw, and this is why I can’t wait to find one on the used market in a few years. Every one they build until production ceases will have a powerful engine. That was always my complaint about the old Impala, the engine sucked unless you ponied up for the BIG engine.

      • 0 avatar
        Quentin

        For my area, Fairfax VA, Dearborn MI, and 90210, there is a $500 college graduate rebate and a $1000 military rebate. 2.9% financing is available as well. I wouldn’t call that slamming a load of money on the hood.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Incentives are having less of an impact on used car prices because people don’t buy used cars just to save money any more. They buy them because they have bad credit.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Residuals go out the window when Toyota is throwing incentives on 2012 Camry to move them and it’s still 2011. Rebates started shortly after Michael’s review.

      http://www.edmunds.com/toyota/camry/2012/car-incentives.html?style=101329650

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        2.9% isn’t a big deal when good credit can get you 4 to 5 at a bank. And a college grad discount may get you the buyer-for-life when they can still buy a lot of cars.

        Unsubstantiated rumor: Credits and rebates on a Volt in Colorado can reach $13K. You can definitely get $11K in PA. Now THAT is some serious incentive action. And I don’t thinK GM has to put up any of it.

      • 0 avatar
        vbofw

        Agreed. Even Audi is doing 1.9% on everything today.

      • 0 avatar
        Herm

        Colorado has very generous incentives for electrics, capped at $6000 tax credit, plus the $7500 Federal tax credit. If you dont pay taxes you wont benefit from them..

        Here is a state by state list:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Government_incentives_for_plug-in_electric_vehicles#Other_states

  • avatar
    Quentin

    Those mirrors are tiny now that you mention it.

    • 0 avatar
      MadHungarian

      Good, that means they will not cause a forward blind spot when making left turns like the huge mirrors on so many newer cars do.

      • 0 avatar
        Quentin

        I’ve never had such an issue with any of my cars. The mirror isn’t really perpendicular to my line of sight so the overall size doesn’t matter much particularly when you are looking at a considerable distance to see cars coming when making a left turn. Our MINI has small mirrors and I think it creates more of a rearward blind spot. JMO.

        I do like that door-skin mounted mirrors are becoming more popular. The mirror and A pillar don’t become a huge mass a few feet away from your eyes.

      • 0 avatar
        MusicMachine

        Less wind drag! :P

  • avatar
    seanx37

    It even looks just like a Camry. I have seen several on the roads(I live in Warren, down the street from the Tech Center). The first few times,I actually thought it was the new Camry.

    That said, it seems like a decent car. I bet the rental car companies will love it.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    I wonder how close the price of a turbo Malibu and a turbo Regal will be?

  • avatar
    geozinger

    Michael Karesh: So no word on the stop/start system? If I were still commuting in Atlanta, that would be a HUGE selling point. Provided it worked well. I was hoping to glean that from this review.

    This review is the a bit different in regards to the acceleration and braking performance compared to the writeup on autoweek.com. Both reviews agree on the quietness of the ride.

    It seems that this would be an excellent commuter without the extra stuff a full hybrid carries with it. It would be really great if there were a greater price difference, but I guess I can’t have everything. Regardless, it looks like GM set this one up for the everyday driver/commuter type of car.

    Does this signal a hot-rod version coming down the line later?

    • 0 avatar

      Just checked out the AutoWeek review. You might want to give it a second reading.

      Good point on the stop / start, though. I neglected to mention it because it’s standard issue on every hybrid I’ve ever driven. The system in the Malibu works well, with one minor quibble. The engine does automatically cut off whenever you’re stopped with the transmission in D and your foot on the brake. Lift off the brake and the engine automatically restarts with little in the way of noise or vibration–the tach is the main clue that it’s on or off. But if you put the shifter in Park the engine will keep running–apparently so people won’t forget that they haven’t turned the car off.

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        Is the A/C belt-driven or electric?

      • 0 avatar

        I believe it is belt-driven.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        @Michael: I re-read both reviews, and you get into more details about the things that annoyed you, which is fine. Like I said in the OP both reviews agree on the quietness of the ride, but didn’t speak to the issue of the slow acceleration as much. If anything maybe the Autoweek review was less concerned about those kinds of things, maybe due to the length of the piece? I’ll see if there’s a longer article in the print edition when it shows up in my mailbox.

        Thanks for the feedback on the stop/start system, it seems to have been refined this time around. A guy in my subdivision has the Saturn Aura Hybrid and in the past I’ve asked him how he liked the car. He generally was positive about it. But he did mention that he occasionally got some odd transitions with the BAS version 1 stop/start system.

        I think the A/C system is still belt driven, like BAS V1, so in the seasons where you’d use the A/C compressor, the engine would stay running. That would tend to keep the mileage ratings down. I was hoping they would have changed that.

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        Belt driven… So, no A/C when the engine idle-stop or no idle-stop when the A/C is on?

        Ohhh…. GM….

        We can expect the base Malibu to check in at about $22K. This is $26K. $4K for the weak hybrid with little sophistication just seems ridiculous.

        Yes, adjustments for features and options do make a difference… but the features and options aren’t necessarily worth the price to any particular consumer or even to very many.

    • 0 avatar
      LectroByte

      I guess I am having trouble seeing the point of the light hybrid system, typically you expect to see much better city mileage, and here the Eco city mileage seems to just match a non-hybrid Camry or Sonata.

      I’m not quite as far South as Atlanta, but if the start-stop won’t kick in when the AC’s running, then I might as well be driving a conventional car for much of the year.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Every GM hybrid has been a sales failure; looks like this one will continue the trend.

    There is no doubt that GM knows how to make a quiet car – this has to be about the best selling point. Making the back seat smaller and the engine whinier doesn’t seem like a winner to me.

    I’ll guess most people take the 2.5 or 2.0T.

    • 0 avatar

      The engine isn’t any whinier than the typical decent four-cylinder, this typical note just seems out of place in a car that otherwise feels so large and is so quiet.

      • 0 avatar
        KalapanaBlack

        Can’t speak for the E-Assist version, but the base four-cylinder in the ’11 LaCrosse (I believe a one-year-only option) was atrocious. Gave the impression of a cruise ship powered by a blender. Completely changed the feel of the car for me. Most of the LaCrosses I’ve driven of the current generation were 3.0 models, with a few 3.6s thrown in. The last two I’ve driven were 2.4s – one a basic model and one pretty loaded. The engine actually made me dislike a car I had previously enjoyed a fair amount.

        I’ve said it a billion times, and I’ll say it again: the Ecotec has always left me unimpressed. Except the 2.0t in the Regal. That’s the only one I’ve ever actually enjoyed driving.

  • avatar
    Dan

    I like what they’re going for here. Using a relatively cheap light hybrid system to get a much heavier and more refined car into the same mileage window as the economy appliances.

    But calling it an Eco sets up expectations that 25 mpg doesn’t come near to fulfilling. Calling it a Chevy – when they already sell essentially the same thing badged quite properly as a Buick – leaves a gaping hole in the model lineup for something that resembles the class best sellers.

    Considering the braking and driveability issues Michael noted, as well as the ridiculous trunk packaging, it seems to me that this was rushed to market ahead of more than just its engine.

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    Looks like once again GM went to fight in the midsize market with an also-ran. Styling-wise the new interior is a step backward. The old one’s better styled.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Well, this is a thoroughly underwhelming vehicle as described by you, Michael. I cannot imagine even ever wanting to ride in one, let alone test driving it.

    Let’s see: no power, completely non-linear brakes, tiny mirrors, execrable rear view through the tiny rear window, low-mounted back seat, poor rear legroom, so-so fuel economy, mediocre handling, derivative styling, cheapo mild hybrid system of no particular merit whatsoever — all balanced by a cushy ride and super quiet interior with plush plastic surfaces.

    Who exactly would want this car, anyway? Might as well opt for that other paragon of overweight cynicism, the Buick Verano, and revel in the badge and fake portholes.

    Or, based on TTAC reader input, an Impala, which for the moment has that really nice GM 4OHC V6, smooth as silk. On the other hand, why not wait for the new 4 cylinder Cadillac ATS? That should be a real rip-snorter!

    What on earth is Akerson thinking? I think we have him to blame for all this rubbish. I have to agree with the Autoextremist, the car biz is the most difficult in the world at which to excel, and Akerson has only his outsized ego and no industry experience to propel GM forward to an uncertain future. Sure, it may sell OK, but it seems to me that Ford now has the chance to split this segment wide open with the new Fusion, if they balance style, interior design and room, economy and ride/handling. Honda might surprise with the new Accord, but really, who thinks they will based on recent history? Yup, leadership in this segment is Ford’s to lose. Let’s hope they don’t provide some similar cynical compromise as this Malibu.

    • 0 avatar

      The cushy ride, super quiet interior, and plush interior surfaces are the very things that have justified much higher luxury car prices in the past. So I don’t think they can be discounted so readily.

      I do have similarly high expectations for the Fusion. But I do not expect it to have a roomy rear seat, as the Fiesta and Focus are both deficient in this area.

      The ATS will be considerably more expensive. Even a Buick Regal is quite a bit more money.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Good article Michael. I think that GM will sell a few of these but I cannot envision there being a sizable market for it. It’s too costly to be a people’s car, and the competition (all of them) are already well-established in the market place and have a longer well documented track record. I see this more as a Johnny-come-lately.

        Like the Volt, I’m all for it being available in the marketplace but ultimately, like the Volt, I believe sales are going to be disappointing. And then there is this whole Volt/fire thing. How will that affect this Malibu Eco with battery?

        Given the choice, I believe most GM fans will opt for a Cruze instead of this Malibu or maybe even an ICE Buick Verano, instead. But if we can get away from the whole Eco concept, then a V6 Malibu LTZ might hold its own against offerings from Hyundai, Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Ford, with the help of the rental fleets.

      • 0 avatar

        There won’t be a V6. Like Hyundai and Ford (with the new Fusion), the performance engine will be a 2.0T.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      all balanced by a cushy ride and super quiet interior with plush plastic surfaces.

      Sounds like the perfect car to appeal to me and about 98% of the new mid size car buying public.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    So the Chevy Sonic 1.4 turbo would have slightly less cabin space, will be cheaper, have more useful utility space, will have better handling, better breaks and most importantly get better gas mileage. I would buy this Malibu because?

  • avatar
    jhott997

    Yet another over-hyped, underwhelming and completely useless vehicle from Generic Motors. Well, useless to all but a few of the “loyal legions of apologists” and the rental agencies. Everyone else will simply shrug their shoulders and move on to the better options.
    With this dud, the Verano, the Regal, the Volt, the upcoming ATS and the XTS, GM has all but guaranteed it will be broken up within the decade. Oh, and the trucks fall farther behind every day energy is wasted on the ATS and the answer to a question nobody asked: Verano.

    The car’s development may have been rushed but PLEASE, PLEASE don’t use this as an excuse for the car. Please don’t blame Ackerson either. The reviewer comments about this car are the same as most GM cars before it; only the interior doesn’t completely suck. The people doing the work are the same, their managers are the same, the requirements are the same, the results are the same… What else should be expected? Nothing else.

    If Ackerson was worth his salary he would fire everyone and start over. But since that isn’t going to happen the same mediocre excellence will continue to come out of GM. I guess that mediocre excellence is good enough for some people…..

    Whether the organization had another week or another 10 months the results will be the same. I see this car as a soul-less and emotion-less vehicle from an organization that has NO MORALE LEFT. The organization that “engineers” this dud is well and truly bankrupt and adrift looking for some reason for being.

    Finally, why the hell can’t GM figure out how to make a useful trunk?!!!!! Every time I see a GM car I am awe struck at what seems to me to be an afterthought: trunk space and utility.

    • 0 avatar
      SV

      I think you’re letting blind GM hate get in the way of reason. The last Malibu was the most competitive and reliable GM sedan in decades, there’s no reason this one shouldn’t be the same. The only reason it seems a bit underwhelming at the moment is the compromised hybrid powertrain whose only purpose was to enable the Malibu to be rushed to production half a year early.

      Which raises another important point: we’re seeing this new-generation Malibu less than five years after the last one. That should be huge indicator that GM has changed; they’ve finally moved to competitively short model cycles.

      And the reason why the trunk in this one is so small is because of the battery pack. The Fusion and Camry hybrid are no different.

  • avatar
    Amendment X

    As with every new GM offering, this vehicle should have been on the market 3 years ago. Even the Bangle-butt, which has been adopted and then dropped by many vehicles since the 2002 7-series, looks dated. Visibility is still atrocious (still crossing my fingers that it’s a passing fad to have obscenely high beltlines but with each new model it appears that it may be here to stay). The kink above the rear wheels is just pointless, and seems to be a favorite styling detail of new American cars.

    Compared to the mid-2000s Malibu, it’s no doubt a LEAP forward, but whether it’s actually a competitor amongst its peers today is anyone’s guess.

    Looking at the Cadillac (which I spend considerably longer analyzing), I really miss cars having “lines.” Remember those days? Getting tired of all these melted bars of soap.

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      I wonder if the high belt lines are an answer to the question of how to make a passenger car safer in a side impact with the taller CUVs and SUVs that are so popular now?

  • avatar
    JSF22

    Well written review. Talk about damning with faint praise. New GM looks and sounds more like old GM every day. I can practically see the National Car Rental bar code sticker in the left rear window of this thing.

  • avatar
    A5autobahn

    Good God…ya think the bow tie on the grille is big enough?

  • avatar
    peteinsonj

    I saw this car at the autoshow — in person it comes off much better than the current Malibu. Interior truly wows – and at least in the front seat, seems more spacious. And the exterior design could even be described as sensuous.

    Since I bet at least 75% of cars in this class are sold with no more than a cursory test drive — I bet Chevy will sell a boat load of these cars.

  • avatar
    Guzzi

    On the bright side, I will not be as uncomfortable in my rental cars, thanks to the width hopefully translating into extra shoulder room.

    It annoyed me that they gave the last genertion so much leg room to seemingly compensate for the lack of width. I do not have a terribly wide ass, but I do have wide shoulders. Anyway, three across in the back may be possible and not painful.

    The problem with this car (at least in hyper-brand-conscious cities)? The ginormous bowtie brand. I must be the only person on earth who preferred the olf wave logo on the Malibu (and the impala on the Impala). On the coasts Chevy has A LOT of work left to do rebuilding its branding. If they want to convince people this Chevy is a Camry, they have to take the Flava Flave-sized blingy gold logo off.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Two things:

    “The trunk bustle was introduced on the 2002 BMW 7-Series”

    1998 Hyundai Grandeur

    “Malibu’s 3,620 pounds (about 130 were saved through Eco-specific lightweight parts)”

    So, the regular Malibu would be 3,750 pounds minus the eAssist bits. Eeeep.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    This appears to me to be a “wait and see” vehicle. Aside from that, I like it a great deal, but will have to check one out if one is at our upcoming Cincinnati auto show in February.

    I wonder about all these heavy vehicles powered by 4-cylinder engines as to long-term reliability, though…

    I just had my 90K service done on my Impala, so I don’t believe I’ll be in the market anytime soon.

  • avatar
    NN

    as an owner of a 2010 LTZ, I’m underwhelmed here and don’t think I’d consider this for a replacement…maybe the new Fusion/Mondeo or promising looking next-gen Mazda 6. This Malibu looks more like a Camry, but maybe the photos don’t do justice. The powertrain and driving experience sound disappointing. And I’m concerned that GM is launching only the eco version for the first 6 months…likely to be the worst driving, least reliable, worst looking version of the car. What a way to make a first impression…poor decision by Akerson. Come out with all your guns blasting so that you make an impact. Toyota and Honda know how to do that…and the 2012 Camry will clean up because of it.

    That said…this car may actually do very well in China, where they are more like Americans in the sense that they value a nice interior and quiet ride more than driving performance. And the Chevy brand is making huge gains there now, with the Cruze and Sail being two of the top 5 selling cars. This Malibu is a good step up there (replacing current nasty Epica). So in the US it may not do as good as the current generation did for GM, but in China I’m sure it will improve quite a bit, so globally it may work out for them.

    On another note, the recent Impala spy shots actually look great…

  • avatar

    I hope you at at Torchy’s.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    Chevrolet has a lot of baggage.
    Read through these postings?
    There are many here who cannot measure how good or bad this car is because it is a Chevrolet. If this was a Kia, you would be reading more complimentary postings. If it was a BMW, you would be reading a lot of frustration about how the car would fail to meet BWM’s high standards. Instead, this is a Chevy, so the comments on this car are misdirected and loopy.

    Chevrolet is in a position where a lot of buyers have lost faith in them and regardless of what they produce, are unable to give the brand another chance. Out of respect, these cynics will claim that they would give Chevy a real chance, but deep inside, it seems through their choice of words posted here, hate Chevrolet.

    It is going to take years before buyers respect Chevrolet again enough to read through a thoughtful review. Problem is, Chevy doesn’t have years anymore. It needs a winner now. I wish them the best of luck with this vehicle. But I don’t like the tone of many of these postings. They sound like disinterested mourners.

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      Chevrolet has a lot of baggage.

      You could say it “runs deep”.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Here is GM once again launching a new car before the drivetrain is ready. Immediate obsolescence is guaranteed for the early buyers. Won’t they be thrilled when the engine the car should have is ready in a few months and they’re stuck with a compromised trunk and inferior performance. This also represents yet another GM car that surpasses the weight of its competitors by an entire size class. The Sonic weighs more than a Civic. The Cruze weighs as much as a Camry. The Regal weighs as much as a Genesis. And now the cramped new Malibu weighs as much as an Avalon you could get lost in. It isn’t a reflection of competent engineering.

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      The first thing GM can do to reduce the baggage is to pay back the bailout money.

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Kluttz

      GM in a nutshell. And I hope GM goes bankrupt again, which they will with shit like this on the road. Please let them go away this time.

    • 0 avatar
      JCraig

      GM only needs to look at Hyundai/Kia. Their rep was damaged more heavily than Chevy and it pushed them to come out with class leading style and technology and forced them to make reliable cars. I don’t think that GM is ever going to Get It, that they can’t just keep deciding to make whatever they want. This car isn’t bad and I do think it’ll maintain sales figures, but it looks like it was designed in a matter of hours.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      “Chevrolet has a lot of baggage”

      Apparently it is very heavy baggage. 2012 Toyota Camry LE curb weight 3190 lbs. 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco 3620 lbs. Does the Malibu have armor to stop bullets or something? That’s like carrying not one, but TWO fat girls along every time you take your Chevy for a drive.

      • 0 avatar
        Jimal

        How much does the battery pack weight? A 2012 Camry Hybrid is 3,525 lbs. That means apples-to-apples, the Eco is 95 pounds heavier.

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        The hybrid Camry has a 105kW motor with a 1.6 kWh battery pack.

        The Malibu has a 15kW motor with a 0.5 kWh battery pack.

        Even with that much larger electric powertrain the hybrid Camry also has a brochure weight of 3,414 lbs. Not 95 lbs lighter. 206 lbs lighter.

        Stop making up numbers. The Malibu is morbidly obese.

      • 0 avatar
        Herm

        Dan, its not morbidly obese, the Malibu gives you lots of steel to protect you and your family, and increasing body rigidity at the same time… plus “road hugging weight”.

        The motor in eAssist replaces a starter and the alternator.. so there is probably some weight savings there.. the power cables have to carry 130A all the way from the trunk to the front of the car so there is some weight there (and expense in heavy gage copper cable), the battery assembly is only 65lbs. I dont know how much the cables weigh but it has to be substantial.. so assume the total eAssist package is 100lbs.

        The Camry Hybrid must be a tin can in comparison to the Malibu :)

      • 0 avatar
        Herm

        The eAssist battery is 115V, but I bet the inverter steps it up to 400V at 37A range to reduce the size of the power cables needed.. otherwise the amount of copper would cost more than the battery itself.

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        Edmunds lists the 2012 Camry LE Hybrid as 3435 lbs.

        If, at 3620 lbs, the Malibu has Eco-specific lightweight parts, we can expect that the base Malibu is going to be fairly heavy, too.

        In other unhappy comparisons, the Cd of the Toyota is .27 vs the Malibu’s .30. The Toyota’s edge in fuel economy will likely increase at higher speeds.

      • 0 avatar
        Jimal

        Dan, making up what numbers? I got 3,525 directly from the specs on Toyota’s website for the XLE. the “base” LE Hybrid is listed on the Toyota site a 3,435, but the XLE seemed like the more apples-to-apples comparison. Neither Camry Hybrid is anywhere near 3,200 lbs. Please check your facts before accusing others of lying.

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        “The Camry Hybrid(2011) has a 3,680-pound curb weight, while the Fusion Hybrid has a curb weight of 3,720 pounds.”

        http://www.insideline.com/kia/optima/2011/2011-kia-optima-hybrid-goes-gunning-for-toyota-camry-hybrid.html

        Don’t really know how these cars are equipped like the Camry LE only offering lighter fabric instead of heavier leather.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Motor Trend weighed a 2012 Toyota Camry XLE Hybrid for their 12/11 issue and it came in at 3,460 lbs. The Hybrid XLE they tested came in 395 lbs more than the 4 cylinder LE and 90 lbs heavier than the V6 SE. Comparing the Camry Hybrid to the Malibu Eco to defend the Malibu’s mass is either an act of dishonesty or ignorance though. The Camry Hybrid carries more than 3 times the battery capacity and a motor with 7 times the capability, allowing it to achieve 40/38 EPA numbers, and comparable real world returns. The Eco gives you…engine stop start and a massively compromised trunk. I’m dubious that the non-Eco Malibu will shed 390 lbs like the non-Hybrid Camry does. Anyone want to place any bets?

      • 0 avatar
        Herm

        GM has commented on the accuracy of Toyota’s windtunnels, so dont assume anything by the published Cd of Toyota vs GM.

      • 0 avatar
        Jimal

        CJinSD, The dishonesty is comparing the weight of a non-Hybrid Camry with what is in reality a mild Hybrid Malibu. Even the Motor Trend quoted weight of 3,460 is significantly higher than the 3,190 by George B in his comment. The argument can be (successfully) made that the Camry does more with its Hybrid weight gain than the Malibu or that the Malibu is a load, but you have to at least compare apples to apples. Is there any information out yet on the weight of the non-Hybrid Malibu, which will have the next generation of Ecotech motor?

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        Herm: “GM has commented on the accuracy of Toyota’s windtunnels, so dont assume anything by the published Cd of Toyota vs GM.”

        I got the figures from Edmunds. GM also claimed that the Volt would have a lower Cd than the Prius but the new Prius checks in at .25 and the Volt (also per Edmunds) at .28 (this is one occasion for GM’s windtunnels remarks).

        I would think that, if GM actually built cars that were more slippery than the Toyotas, they’d do something about demonstrating it to Edmunds (and everybody else’s) satisfaction.

        Of course, it could be that the Malibu is more slick than the Camry, in which case we’ll see this advantage reported fuel econmy on FuelEconomy.gov.

        I’m not holding my breath for that.

        To return to the Volt’s CD, I’m pretty sure that the only practical way GM could get the Volt as slick as the Prius was to make the Volt look like a Prius and I am fairly certain that El Lutzbo couldn’t stomach that. So, they settled.

  • avatar
    Diesel Fuel Only

    Something like 230 lbs heavier than a Passat DIESEL, it’s nearly as heavy as a BMW 5-Series saloon.

    How the hell did they manage that?

    And Michael, not only does it have less rear legroom than the Passat, it has less rear legroom than a GOLF! ! ! – at the expense of 600 lbs. extra weight. (In Europe, the Golf is considered a mid-sized, family car; the Polo and Lupo are the compacts).

    It does have considerably more shoulder room than the latter. With its low bench (so typical of GM), and wide seats I suppose that it was designed with rotund people in mind.

    Probably will sell very well in America.

    I’d hate to have to parallel park it.

    What a hideous, bloated, monster. Short and fat, overweight, easily winded engine, terrible braking, busy instrument cluster, uncomfortable seats. How?

    • 0 avatar
      Herm

      VW did a very good job on the Passat, but dont forget it’s narrower than a Malibu, that saves some weight. A Passat diesel with a stick would be my choice, but I would dump it before the extended warranty ran out. The Passat should return Prius beating MPG on the hwy, if you keep the speed reasonable.

    • 0 avatar
      chris724

      Saloon? What a weird and undescriptive term. My ’02 Audi A4 weighs over 3600#, and its 1.8L turbo makes only 170HP. It’s no rocketship, but it gets me from A to B, and doesn’t rattle. If this new Chevy gets 37 on the hwy, and is as quiet and comfortable as the review says, it doesn’t look that bad to me. But I’ve never been a Chevy fan, and my next car is much more likely to be a Fusion Hybrid.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    High content, well put together interior with quality materials. Check.

    Good exterior fit and finish. (wasn’t addressed but due to a lack of mention of problems…)

    Soft squishy ride without any sporty side to it (check)

    Numb brakes with a pedal you need to push harder and harder to the floor (check)

    Uninspiring acceleration (check)

    Congrats GM. You’ve successfully built the 2012 Camry LE that Toyota didn’t build.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    That ’61 Caddy is pretty sweet, but I’d prefer vintage whitewalls and caps over modern dubs.

  • avatar
    vbofw

    Irrespective of the Eco version, the base Malibu looks like an average or below-average upgrade. I don’t see enough of a jump versus the old version to get people excited, particularly the interior. Maybe in the midsized war we shouldn’t expect revolutionary jumps.

    In any event, the upcoming Fusion seems a good bet to trump this thing immediately in the eyes of any objective buyer.

    Then again — who’s objective when it comes to cars!!!

  • avatar
    philadlj

    I see a lot of possible outcomes with this new ‘Bu. Like the Cruze and Equinox before it, the 2013 Malibu will likely sell much better than the old model’s last year, but Cruze sales could take a hit due to cannibalization.

    Gas prices may play a factor; if they go down, it could outsell the smaller Cruze. If they go up, the Cruze will remain Chevy’s best-selling sedan, especially if the forthcoming diesel model is a hit with the won’t-by-a-TDI crowd.

    And then there’s sedan #3, the 2013 Impala, which we’ll definitely get a clear look at sometime next year. Bigger, plusher, and with V6 power.

    http://www.autoblog.com/2011/12/14/2013-chevrolet-impala-caught-testing/

    Out with the old, in with the new.

    P.S. Of all the car blogs I follow, you’re the first with a review of the Malibu. Kudos!

  • avatar
    nikita

    Rent-a-car red, how appropriate.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Strange there are no body side door moldings showing up on these latest test cars when it is very apparent on most internet pictures that they have them on many models. Are they an option are just offered on certain models?

    • 0 avatar

      Designers hate bodyside moldings. And they don’t do much good now that vehicles vary so much in height. So you’ll find them on few recently designed cars.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        But they did give you at least a chance at protection. Now, a door ding is almost a given. And you know what they say about door dings and bodywork being like a woman’s reputation. You can fix it but it never really goes away…

        I still have zero dings on my fun car…any idea how hard it was to do that for 17 years…

  • avatar
    mjal

    I see the none-to subtle photo of the trailer park eatery in the backdrop. Would we see this in the latest darling Korea product review?

  • avatar
    THE_F0nz

    This review makes it sound like a quality car at his price point. Especially given that they will throw in incentives as they usually do.

    Now the loaded question that everyone dreads on a forum, but I have to throw it out there to try and get people to think a bit:

    Does anyone really believe that this is a horrible player in the mid-sized market? Or are you holding onto a bit too much GM hate?

    The materials and comfort surpass the kia/hyundai offerings on the inside. Surpass the Toyota and Honda. Surpass Nissan. Yet people think this is a waste of time…

    The first available powertrain is the “eco” one. People would complain if it wasn’t available at launch. Did you stop and look at the calender? Its still 2011. This is a test drive of a 2013.

    I rather like the styling. It will age better than the Hyundai and Toyota. It looks better on the outside than all in its class except the Fusion in my opinion. I hope the next Fusion brings an A-list powertrain to beat this one out next time.

    So what if this daily commuter isn’t a PERFORMANCE driver’s car? I just moved to the LA area, and PERFORMANCE driver’s cars sit at the same stop lights and traffic I do. This is a DAILY driver’s car. It may be offered with an upgraded suspension just like almost everything else in the segment when it is released in 2013.

    I’m not in the market for a car like this, but WOW people jump on the hate-GM bandwagon quickly in these parts. The fully optioned car STILL looks like a deal at 30-large. Thats what a loaded focus Titanium almost goes for!

    After incentives a family might pick up the quietest, highest quality interior’ed, and arguably best-looking vehicle in its class. Wow. What a failure.

    • 0 avatar
      THE_F0nz

      I also forgot to mention: That light-hybrid system adds the start-stop and increased city mileage that will sell in high-traffic areas.

      at 2000 dollars (likely wiped out after incentives/deals at the dealer) this sounds like a steal to me.

      I drove the Hyundai Sonata (with a couple hundred miles on the O.D.) for a few long road trips. I would pay a few dollars a month more for the car to drive straight (it wasn’t as severe as the internet makes it sound, but it was noticeable) and a quieter and more comfortable ride. This one achieves that with sacrificing very little in price or MPG.

      • 0 avatar
        srogers

        The one flaw that I see is that the eco system is barely any more efficient than the Toyota or Hyundai base engines.

        I think that it’s just a band-aid fix for the inefficient 2.4L until they can get the new 2.5 into the market. Then, they should either quietly discontinue the eco motor or else re-release a version that actually has come credibility.

      • 0 avatar

        The stop-start will help in heavy traffic more than the EPA ratings suggest. The way the EPA city test is conducted stop-start systems have no impact.

    • 0 avatar
      tikki50

      OK I will lay this out for peeps, the cars release wasnt dependent on the drive train, its being pushed out a bit early, if you search the internet you’d see that Lt. Dan pushed this car up whether or not the drive train was ready.

      I rather like the car, in person its pretty sharp. Nothing over the top, but I like that approach, however, its not really timeless like a BMW, thats the problem. I am upset that they stole some Camaro cues but totally failed in the real cues we all want, aka, HP, torque, etc. It also appears to me that Chevy still wants to participate in the (sedan) game, but are happy with second place, this is not a car that says, hey were taking over, move over. In this market you must play to win. A quite ride is nice, but come on, This car is what most non-GM owners are going to experience in a rental. Are they really going to walk away and say, I want this it was nice. Probably not, there was no wow factor at all.

      as for chevy and their brand/customer base issue with comments. sometimes I wonder if they shut down the wrong brands. Saab sure didnt carry the hate chevy does. I wonder….

      And for the bailout money, as I recall the government hasnt released all the funds yet, right, so all that lost money is speculative, lets say GM’s stock does rebound well. They still stand to make money. So yeah go trash the company in hopes the lost bailout money can be as high as you can make it. Way to go! Winner! Some people amaze me.

  • avatar
    dmw

    Why ignore the Passat TDI in the value comparison? In fact,it is only mentioned to talk about its rear legroom and its apparntly less nice interior. It is certianly competitive in fuel consumption and performance.

  • avatar
    wsn

    That rear legroom looks no better than a Honda Civic. Totally not in the same league as the Accord. People buy midsize for a reason.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      That would be a valid argument is the Accord was a midsize car. It is rated fullsize by the EPA and has bloated out significantly in the last decade. With that said, the Accord is a damn nice car. A better interior room comparo GM vs. Honda would be Accord vs. Impala – both rated fullsize.

      • 0 avatar
        wsn

        Car buyers don’t look at EPA classification. They cross-shop Accord, Camry with Malibu and Fusion. If the Malibu is smaller from the inside than the EPA large Accord, then too bad GM doesn’t get the business.

  • avatar
    GarbageMotorsCo.

    Sounds like another typical Rentibu. Only the styling went downhill inside and out compared to the outgoing one. Will most likely end up with one on my next trip to St Louis next month so we’ll see how “the little rental car that could” fares.

  • avatar
    windnsea00

    I am amazed when I see car this day and age missing a middle rear headrest, I guess whiplash for the center passenger is deemed ok!

  • avatar
    alluster

    I wrote this in the posting for 2012 Malibu review. Its worth a mention here…

    “The current Malibu when introduced in 08, while not class leading was an important first step for GM. It has made significant inroads into the retail market share. It was a well made car with lots of attention to detail. The average transaction price rose dramatically ($4k to $5K on average) to levels higher than the Camry and Accord. Even now the Malibu transacts above the Camry and Accord. These are the ATP stats from autoobserver for July. Note that the Camry and Accord prices were higher due to inventory shortages

    Model – July Average Transaction Price – Price change since quake
    Malibu – $24,106 – +73$
    Accord – $24,413 – +1,094$
    Camry – $23,500 – +171$
    Sonata – $23.183 – +478$
    http://www.autoobserver.com/assets/072111%20ATP%20by%20Model%20-%20AO.jpg

    GM has had great success with redesigns in the last few years where the new models sold for significantly higher prices than their predecessors. The new Equinox $5000 more than the old one, the Terrain 7000$ more than the Torrent, The Cruze $4000 more than Cobalt, the Lacrosse 7,000$ more than the previous one, all while enjoying higher sales, especially retail. The new Malibu will continue to change perceptions and make slow but steady gains. Baby steps yes, but in the right direction. You only have to look at success of the Cruze to see what great product can do. Also, once the next gen Impala goes premium and rises in price, it will stop cannibalizing Malibu sales.

    In 2007, the Camry outsold the Malibu by 340,000 Units. In 2010 the Camry outsold the Malibu by only 130,000 Units. In 2011 for the first 11 months, the Camry outsold the ‘Bu by 83,000 Units. Notice the shortening gap given that GM’s midsize fleet sales have gone down, while Toyota’s up.”

    Also everyone predicting how the new Fusion will trounce this thing are the like the ones that predicted the Focus will murder the Cruze. Instead the Cruze is outselling pretty much everything out there. That said, I wouldn’t mind the Fusion actually doing well. Its good to see it outsell the Accord and slowly move up to the top.

  • avatar
    alluster

    So the Malibu ECO costs $95 more than the Camry Hybrid, gets 26 City/38 Hwy while the Camry Hybrid gets 43 City/39 Hwy. Why should anyone buy this over the Camry Hybrid? GM probably saw Cruze selling for $3000 more than an equal corolla and thought they could replicate the same here. Not gonna happen! reduce the price and you will have sales.

    Since the ECO will be released 6 months ahead of the regular models, it will be easy to tell how good or bad it will be doing (As long as Chevy breaks out the sales numbers for 2012 vs 2013 models)

  • avatar
    tonycd

    At least nobody has blamed the UAW for this car yet. Wonders never cease.

    The price problem will take care of itself. Of course the Malibu will end up with cash on the hood.

    As for power, this powertrain obviously won’t be the winning one on the Malibu, but I’m not convinced you need class-leading horsepower on your step-up engine in this class anymore. All the step-up engines now are wildly faster than the buyer demands in this class of car. The mileage-performance combination on the non-hybrid base model will make or break the Malibu as much as anything.

    I’d bet the soft suspension is GM trying to differentiate this car from the Regal. Presumably it’ll be easy to upgrade the springs and shocks later.

    Nice job as usual, Michael. Thanks. It’s getting too easy to take you for granted.

  • avatar
    FromaBuick6

    25/37 MPG? A Camry Hybrid MSRP for a laughably small trunk and a whole 2 MPG more than a base Camry? Pathetic. GM’s already admitted failure by rebadging their previously-unsuccessful mild hybrid system as “Eco” or “E-Assist.” If this is the flagship, environmentally friendly model, I’d hate to see the kind of mileage the 2.5 and the turbo get.

    Speaking of Camrys, it sounds like Chevy benchmarked that car’s widely ridiculed numb driving experience and succeeded. While part of me wants to criticize them (and Toyota) for that, I can’t. Numb sells. Hyundai also figured this out. Ford thinks they’ve outsmarted everyone by going for the Euro feel across the board; They haven’t.

    Where Chevy goofed was going for the Euro small backseat. That’s a deal killer in a family car. How is it that GM still doesn’t have a clue how to do a rear seat? There’s no reason a car that weighs this much should have a back seat that small.

    The weight. Oh, how Lutz was proud of how he dictated heavyass cars when Ed interviewed him awhile back. He wanted the cars to feel quiet and substantial. And GM succeeded in that regard, the cars are remarkably tranquil inside. Too bad all the extra weight kills the mileage at a time when good mileage is paramount.

    This car and everything else from GM still stinks of lazy engineering and cynical management. Nothing has changed. Yes, the interior is very nice and I for one think it’s an attractive car. It will sell in respectable numbers, but nothing more. I’m not sure if this will cannibalize the Cruze or vice versa. How many V6 buyers will defect until the new Impala bows? And it’s absolutely ridiculous how much product overlap there is between Chevy and Buick in the $20-30k range; They achieve retail volumes with 6 sedans what other manufacturers pull off with 2-3.

    Of course, the GM apologists will defend this car to the death. It has no flaws. This is all nitpicking. I am clearly a shill for the imports, they’ll tell me. I hate GM, and by association, America, for critiquing this car. They will buy this car blindly without cross-shoping the competition, just like Toyonda they rail against for not giving Detroit a try.

  • avatar
    cheezeweggie

    It’s a shame that Detroit pissed off thirty years of prospective customers. I still cringe when I see that big bowtie. Good luck winning back customers that have been happy with southern built transplants for all this time.

  • avatar
    md12

    The interior looks appropriate for the next Chevy Lumina update.

  • avatar
    PJ McCombs

    From the pre-Shanghai-auto-show photos, I recall this car looking much more attractive than it does here. Seems this is another vehicle designed around its biggest-available rims and the top-trim appearance items (like the chrome fascia and door handle trim, absent on the Eco).

    Kudos to the interior designers for giving the dash some personality (the Camaroish semi-square gauges, wraparound strakes, etc). But between the compact-sized rear legroom and high rear beltline, this doesn’t seem like the best kid taxi.

    It’s a bit bizarre that GM is still sticking to its guns with the BAS system, which has delivered unimpressive mileage and dismal sales in every application to date.

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    Rereading the review got me wonder…

    So what exactly is the point of the rather complex arrangement of having a battery (that eats up trunk space) and an electric motor that provide “assistance” to the gas engine? Fuel economy? It’s barely better than conventional competitors. Acceleration? Nope, competitors with conventional powertrain are equal or better. So the benefit of all this extra complexity, weight and cost is…?? This seem like a concept that should be left at the drawing board due to poor cost/benefit ratio.

    Maybe the infamous GM accountants just need a way to amortize the money they’ve spent developing the system, and this is the solution.

    • 0 avatar
      Herm

      Without eAssist the MPG would have been much worse.. GM will stick eAssist on a lot of big cars and trucks, its low cost and gives you start-stop ability.. I expect the EPA will soon adjust their testing procedures to account for start-stop.

      Note that GM did not put any hybrid badges on the car.. the average buyer will have no idea whats under the hood.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        It seems to me that the stop/start system is one of the Your Mileage May Vary kinds of exclusions to the EPA tests. Depending upon how bad your commute is, this could be a real fuel saver for some folks.

        WRT the “hybrid” badge, I think it’s a wise choice. Honda’s IMA system is similar to the BAS, and it doesn’t produce the same results as Toyota’s HSD. Over the years, with the exception of the first Impulse and the Civic Hybrid variation, the other Honda “hybrid” models haven’t been particularly successful, either.

        GM has two issues with using the Hybrid badge: Truly, Toyota has captured the mindshare with that word. Secondly, like the Corvette, nothing will be allowed to upstage the Volt, for hybrid-ness. And considering the actual performance of the BAS, e-Assist is probably a better and more truthful label than hybrid.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Insight, not Impusle (that was an old Isuzu…great junkyard find fodder) but your point is well taken. Other than the Insight, pretty much all of the Honda hybrids have been either disappointing mileage-wise or reliability-wise. And that Insight did not sell very well. No, Toyota, and to a lesser extent Ford, have become the go-to for hybrids. Chevy was wise to not call this a hybrid, because once you do that, you will be compared to a Prius and the Chevy’s mileage is just not there. Actually, wise may not be the right word as they did try to fool people with the “Mild Hybrid” thing and those awful hybrid badges…

    • 0 avatar
      Herm

      Dont forget GM can always redesign eAssist, bigger motor, batteries etc.. its all in the cost to benefits ratio… its a very low cost option that could save many high profit V8s.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    For the life of me, I’ll never understand why these hybrid sedans have the big-ass stack between the trunk and rear seat, severely limiting carrying capacity. I mean, hybrid hatchbacks don’t have this. What’s the problem with the sedans? Besides both the Malibu and Camry hybrids, does the Fusion also have the hybrid partition stack? That’s a deal-killer.

    In fact, to do it right, if they got rid of the stack, then they could have a proper station wagon in the line-up. Although it might not appeal to traditional buyers, it might just be the ticket for those in the market for a hybrid.

    • 0 avatar

      I believe it has something to do with the rechargeable battery placement and the stability/balance of the vehicle. A Hatchback and a Sedan have different hardpoints.

    • 0 avatar
      Herm

      Yeah its odd, the batteries themselves dont occupy a big space, less than a 6.5″ cube.. plus the fans, cooling ducts and electronics. Its possible GM could miniaturize everything and keep it under the hood… of course the batteries would prefer cooler conditions than being near a hot engine.

  • avatar
    willbodine

    The current Malibu is a decent looking car, but this replacement is a definite step back to ugly ville. Could it be any more Camry-like?

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    I believe the upcoming Fusion is gonna leave this one behind. Once again, the General comes up short in a very crucial market segment.

  • avatar

    Camry is the car to die for. If Malibu is even 80% is as good as Camry and cost 80% of Camry GM may hope to sell some of them in retail. Camry was 2010 COTY. Will be Malibu able to win 2012 COTY award? I think all those Sonatas, Passats and Malibus will fade away and Camry will still be preferred midsize car by default year after year.

    • 0 avatar

      The operant words being “by default”. Plenty of consumers pick Toyotas and Hondas by default, not because they’ve actually compared cars.

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        Ronnie, your telling me?!

        Compare sales for the year to KBB’s most searched cars to find out they don’t match up. I wonder it is quantifiable lag time or are consumers just that easy to brain wash?

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        Ronnie, your telling me?!

        Compare sales for the year to KBB’s most searched cars to find out they don’t match up. I wonder it is quantifiable lag time or are consumers just that easy to brain wash?

        http://www.autoblog.com/2011/12/16/kbb-names-its-most-researched-vehicles-of-2011/

      • 0 avatar

        Hi There,
        My name is Rebekah and I work at Kelley Blue Book. Shopping behavior on kbb.com is a leading indicator of sales, since most folks tell us they spend 6-7 months shopping for their new car. The shopping behavior you see today will result in the purchases you see over the next few months.
        Hope that helps to explain the gap you see in sales and kbb.com most searched cars. Feel free to email me any other questions, or reply here.
        Rebekah K

  • avatar
    KixStart

    I have to wonder what life will be like at the Chevy dealer when people find out the new 2013 Chevy is $26K.

    I’m sure they can still sell 2012s but this seems likely to lead to a bit of confusion.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Well, when you see the new Kia 5 door high end model goes for over 18k, the Malibu looks like a bargain in comparison. But of course those buyers will NOT move up to Malibu, they’ll most likely end up with a Corolla.

  • avatar
    GarbageMotorsCo.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lClA7WzqKyw&feature=player_embedded

    The Eco Malibu will only make it more difficult imo

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    Just as boring and bland as any Camcord. Just as reliable as any Acamry. Probably competes with whatever car Ford sells in this segment for a similar amount of money and with similar features (is it a Fusion, or a Taurus, or a 500–no one knows).

    Won’t explode into flames like a VW. Since it’s a GM, it’s cheaper and comes with crap tons of rebates (even when brand spankin’ new). Not sure if it’s cheap AND good enough to compete with the cheap boring sedans from Korea, though, because those look different from the rental fleets parked at just about every dealership.

    If you want a boring family sedan appliance and are allergic to wagons, you have another cheap alternative.

  • avatar
    alluster

    To everyone criticizing, Chevy outsold Toyota in the B, C, D and E segments combined after a very long time. This is Chevy Brand vs Toyota Brand Alone, not included are Scion, Lexus, Buick and Cadillac.

    2010 Jan – Nov Toyota subcompact+Compact+Midsize+Full Size: 602259
    2010 Jan – Nov Chevy subcompact+Compact+Midsize+Full Size:502873
    2011 Jan – Nov Toyota subcompact+Compact+Midsize+Full Size:547444
    2011 Jan – Nov Chevy subcompact+Compact+Midsize+Full Size:597214
    2010 Jan – Nov, Toyota lead Chevy by 99386 Units
    2011 Jan – Nov, GM now leads Toyota by 49770 Units – A swing of 150,000 Units in One year!!

  • avatar

    Well, now at least the Malibu is probably better than the Chrysler 200. It looked really bad for the Malibu for awhile.

  • avatar

    I drove my first Malibu 2013 today.

    I am not a fan of hybrids because I don’t care about gas prices anymore. I’d prefer this car with a V6 or a 200HP i4. It’s a very impressive car which easily upstages the Volt’s tech package, but, the interior is what grabbed me. It’s the most strikingly beautiful GM car I’ve seen yet. Considerably nicer than the CTS and XTS even.


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