By on January 11, 2013

I wavered on whether to request a Malibu 2.0T from Chevrolet. My review of the 2013 Malibu in Eco form allegedly helped make it “the most disliked car of the year,” and I’m not one to shoot fish in a barrel. But I did allow that the upcoming conventional engines could make for a better car, and the turbocharged engine’s additional 62 horsepower certainly couldn’t hurt.

The Malibu has too much visual mass in its overhangs to look right with the Eco’s 17-inch wheels. Add the 19s optional on the LTZ, and the car looks much better. It might not push the styling envelope the way the Fusion and Sonata do, but not everyone wants a coupe-like profile on their sedan. Compared to an Accord, Camry, Altima, or Passat there’s a little less appliance. The interior is mostly the same as in the Eco, just upgraded a bit with the LTZ. So materials and styling are perhaps at the top of the class, while rear legroom is at the bottom. Men of middling size can fit in back, but just barely, and they must do without their own air vents. Adding insult to injury, the trim of the rear doors is plainer and harder to the touch.

Chevrolet joins the latest generation of infotainment systems with MyLink. I’m no Alex Dykes, so I often struggle when attempting to figure out these systems. There’s no struggle with MyLink. Pairing with your phone is quick and easy. “Home,” “back,” and “fav” buttons never leave the top left corner of the screen. Each feature has a big square icon on the scrollable home page. Selections include a very well done Pandora app along with weather, movie times, and gas prices. You can’t control the HVAC or heated seats through the screen, but there’s no need to, with large, logically organized conventional buttons for this task. Those into safety nannies might find the Malibu’s arsenal lacking. Forward collision alert (useful) and lane departure warning (not) are offered together for $395, but the rearview camera is very basic and you can’t get obstacle detection or blind spot warning on the LTZ.

Its 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine might be turbocharged to yield 259 horsepower, but this Malibu isn’t—and isn’t intended to be—any sort of SS. Instead, as in the Fusion and Sonata, the turbo four fills the role previously performed by a V6, as an uplevel engine for regular sedan-buying folks. It performs this role well, accelerating the 3,660-pound car swiftly and quietly, with little evident lag. There’s also little torque steer to speak of, but this isn’t to say that front-wheel drive exacts no penalties. Attempt to accelerate even moderately hard out of a turn and the inside front Goodyear Eagle RS-A readily loses traction despite its 245/40WR19 spec. Also, the engine might be refined for a four, but low NVH isn’t the stuff of excitement. For an engine with character, seek a competitor with a V6.

With any engine, the Malibu’s only available transmission remains a six-speed automatic. The box can be manually shifted, but poor design makes this impractical. Not only is the shifter a few inches too far aft, but the manual shift toggle is on top of the knob–where your palm covers it. (In a related ergonomic oops, the armrest is too far rearward to be used while steering the car.) Luckily there’s little need for manual shifting. Unlike in pretty much every other application, in the boosted Malibu GM’s six-speed automatic generally manages to find the gear you want when you want it. Pilot the car con brio, and the transmission automatically joins the dance. No “sport” button is provided, nor is one needed.

How can the transmission combine responsiveness with EPA-pleasing efficiency? Well, it can’t. The official ratings are 21 mpg city, 30 highway, below the Fusion 2.0T’s 22/33 and the Sonata 2.0T’s 22/34. The V6s in the Accord and Altima also do better—so much for the inherent fuel economy advantage of a boosted four. The trip computer largely confirmed the EPA ratings, with a little over 30 in straight 75 mph highway driving and anywhere from 19 to 27 in the suburbs depending on the frequency of reds and the heaviness of one’s right foot. Go with the traffic flow, and you’ll split the difference.

GM’s official order guide notes no steering or suspension differences by engine. I was mystified, as the Malibu LTZ 2.0T steers and handles far better than I recall from my drive in the Eco. Tuning isn’t quite aggressive enough to qualify the car as a sport sedan, but its body motions are very well damped and its steering weights up naturally as the wheel is turned. Take this Malibu hard through a curve, and the nose feels only a touch heavy while the rear works to help the car rotate. An email to Chevrolet brought confirmation of my suspicions: the tuning of the springs remains the same, but the steering and dampers are firmed up with the turbo engine. Even with the firmer dampers—or, truth be told, because of them—the suspension dispatches patchy pavement with neither jiggle nor float. The performance tires aren’t as quiet as those on more pedestrian Malibus, but overall noise levels remain luxury car low.

If you’ve been paying any attention, you know that Chevrolet (along with Ford) no longer seeks to underprice the Japanese, much less the Koreans. Even after an unusual $365 mid-year price cut and without nav (which would add another $795), the almost fully-loaded tested car checks in just under $34,000. Do without the tricoat white paint and “cocoa fashion” interior trim, and you can shave $495 and $150, respectively. But no matter which way you cut it the Malibu LTZ 2.0T is not an inexpensive car. It does undercut a similarly-equipped Ford Fusion Titanium by $325 (a number suspiciously similar to that mid-year price cut), but adjust for feature differences using TrueDelta’s car value comparison tool and the Ford emerges about $500 less. A Hyundai Sonata Limited 2.0T is nearly $2,000 less before adjusting for feature differences, about $700 less afterwards. A Honda Accord Touring V6 checks in a few hundred over the Chevy, though.

Consider the Malibu LTZ 2.0T in practical terms, and it fares little better than the Eco. Its fuel economy is on the low side, its price is on the high side, and its rear seat would be only marginally competitive in the next segment down. But some cars just feel right to me, and the top spec ‘bu is one of them. Add in the car’s stylish, well-trimmed interior, and I found the Malibu LTZ 2.0T unexpectedly satisfying in my typical daily driving. I’m happy I decided to check it out. Midsize sedan buyers who care more about how a car looks and feels than practical considerations like fuel economy and rear seat room should do the same.

Chevrolet provided an insured car and a tank of gas.

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

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166 Comments on “Review: 2013 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ 2.0T...”


  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    No matter how good I don’t think I could manage that car. I have a tall family and that back seat would probably make them sit cross legged.

    • 0 avatar
      Speed3

      Maybe the problem isn’t that the back seat is too small, but that the average American is too big. Yes we all know its true!!

      But in all seriousness, for the mid-cycle refresh, GM should invest in lighter thinner seats to address rear legroom. If I’m not mistaken, I think I remember the CTS having thinner seats for this reason. I’m sure they are somewhere in the corporate parts bin. Getting the ‘bu on a diet and should help mpg/performance in general. Ditto to Americans on the diet ;-)

      • 0 avatar

        The new Malibu’s curb weight is AFTER a diet. In base trim it’s about 200 pounds lighter than the related Regal. Somehow they blow much of this with the LTZ 2.0T, though, as it’s only 50 pounds lighter than a Regal GS, and only 11 pounds lighter than a Regal 2.0T.

        The front seats could use revisions for other reasons. I didn’t fit this into the review, but the front seats are a little too firm and lacking in contour. They’re not bad, but they could be much better.

  • avatar

    Wow. Some love for the General. Evil corporate culture or not, shortsighted inefficient management or not, seems like if they keep going this way they will soon become a contender even in enthusiasts’ eyes.

    BTW, your description of the ride, handling and even fuel economy is similar to my sensations on the latest Brazilians GMs.

    Who’d\'ve thought?

    Thanks for the review Michael

    • 0 avatar

      I drove it over Christmas and could not believe this was the same car people were crucifying. If Michael is correct, it’s a fair bit different from the Eco.

      For reference, my 6’0, ex-football player brother did not complain about the rear seat. The trunk held 4 large suitcases on the way from the airport. I agree with Michael that it’s not sporty, but everything is well controlled and it’s satisfying to drive.

      • 0 avatar

        3 TTACers have driven and think they can recommend the latest from gm. I also remember Steve liking the Sonic. So much for the anti-Gm bias from the site, heh?

        I think 4 positive reviews from us should give our readers some food for thought.

      • 0 avatar

        Huge difference from the Eco, Derek. I’ve heard (i.e. grain of salt) that Akerson ordered that the new Malibu be launched ASAP, even though only the Eco engine (from an older generation than the other two) would be ready in time. Big powertrain mistake compounded by fitting the Eco with a soggy, underdamped suspension.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        Looking at the interior volume data the Malibu is 100 cu ft, which is in the range of mid size cars (Mazda 6 is 99, Fusion is 102 and Accord is 103). Rear legroom is around 1.5 inches less than other mid-sizers. So the space issue may not be as great as some have said – need to test it for myself.

  • avatar
    mjz

    I actually think it’s a good looking car except for the split front grille, soon to be refreshed. But $34,000? Jeesh!

    • 0 avatar
      BrianL

      34k starting price for top level trim. And it is pretty close to its competitors. Price isn’t the problem. Fuel economy and back seat room are the issue.

    • 0 avatar
      fredtal

      I too never thought it looked bad and I see a fair amount of them here in rural SE Texas. More than Hyundais or Kias, but a lot less than Camrys and Accords and I have not seen a new Fusion on the road.

    • 0 avatar
      icemilkcoffee

      The old GM is back. For a short while, they said they were going to sell their cars close to the MSRP. But you can bet this Malibu will be selling for $5000 under as we speak. Just like the good old days. The MSRP bears no relationship to the actual transaction price.

      You have to be insane to pay $34k for this rental heap.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Maybe the buyers have to be insane. That just shrinks the potential market, not eliminates it. GM can’t sell 30,000 a month to the deranged, but they can sell 8,000 Malibus while bragging about their transaction prices. I’m not sure that better car companies place as much focus on this metric, probably putting a greater importance on amortizing sunk costs so their volume models are profitable.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      @mjz

      You echo my thoughts exactly.

      The Lincoln MKFusion starts at $35,925 for a 4 banger EB FWD trim… so its almost the exact same type of car and you know you’ll get a little off because Lincoln is hurting. Even if GM does a red tag sale on Malibu, if your already spending 30K+, why buy the Daeworlet if the MKFusion (or Accord etc) is in sight?

  • avatar
    mike978

    It sounds a good car except for those two key (to this segment) flaws of low fuel economy and limited rear space. I didn`t think the rushed MCE would address either of those this year. So Chevy is left to lumber on for a few more years before an all new model comes out to alleviate these two issues.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Yeah that back seat makes me think of the 87 Cutlass sedan I owned in college. Woefully inadequate room for the size class of the car, and with a 34in inseam the drivers seat was almost all the way back, no leg room for an adult back there and even a middle schooler would have their knees touching the cushions. But hey you have to justify the new Impala someway right? I can just hear the salesman now…

    Awwwwwwwwww back seat is tight? Let me show you the new Impala across the showroom here…

    • 0 avatar
      dolorean

      Good point P-Dan. The tight back seat also explains the lack of rear vents; there’s just no room. Have to remember that this is a Chevy, not a Buick so there’s many reasons to keep shopping at the General’s store.

      M. Karesh, I hate to ask such a plebian query, but does the tight back seat add up to voluminous trunk space?

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      They can do that only one more year, with the Impala being dropped. SAY! You don’t suppose the next Malibu can get to market faster by converting the Impala, do you? The last generation of the Impala was downsized already from its original full size, so there would be room for a new full size Caprice or something . . .

      • 0 avatar
        sunridge place

        Uhh…the Impala is not being dropped.

        If you’re confused, google ’2014 Impala’.

        Its coming out in a couple of months.

        The current body style Impala will continue as fleet only for another year and a half or so.

  • avatar
    Detroit-X

    The styling looks good. Competitive. I see nothing wrong with the overhangs. If a 20-something Burger King employee disagrees, I’m fine with that. The Fusion looks nice, but the Sonata is freaky/overkill—that it will get old fast. And I can’t see loving a Korean car, or admitting I’d own a Korean car just yet (unless it’s a Kim Jung Ill edition Hummer H3).

    Trim hard to the touch? Now this is an overused media line without much real-world priority behind it. Things cost money; where are the program priorities put? Are we as humans so dainty we can’t handle some hard plastics? Anywhere?

    Rear seat room? Again, a family decision; it works fine for some, not so well for others. I doubt if a family of six-footers in the back seat will want any sedan.

    As for the excessive tire size (19″? No thanks, GM.) and the wheel-spin in excessive driving, and all the other stuff of other excitement… Malibu’s aren’t for that. Every car shouldn’t be judged against a GTI’s handling. Tradeoffs. Is your spouse the best at everything?

    Manual shifting an automatic? Why? Who really does that, worth commenting on this? And if they do, do they buy a mainstream sedan, not with a manual?

    For the fuel economy differences, what don’t you get for this ‘delta’? You don’t get the Hyundai lies or the Honda road noise roar from lack of noise treatments. As for Nissan… who are they??

    • 0 avatar
      Macca

      Yeah, who is Nissan? It’s not like they make a 270hp 3.5L V6-powered Altima with a higher EPA fuel economy rating (22MPG city/31MWG hwy), with an actual back seat for a midsize car, that handles and outperforms the Malibu, all with a fully-loaded MSRP w/navigation that checks in about $1000 less than this Chevy.

      I mean, they’re just some Japanese upstart with no compelling products, amirite?

      • 0 avatar
        Detroit-X

        Well, okay. Disregard my Nissan comment. And I admire them for adding navigation at a fair price, since the public’s been wise to the fact that you can buy them stand-alone for under $90 all day long.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Did this young upstart ever figure out working auto CVT transmissions? From what I recall they were still a bit dodgy.

      • 0 avatar
        Macca

        Whatever you do, don’t do any research for yourself, 28-Cars-Later. Browsing the forums for these models, this isn’t brought up often – you can also consult True Delta to see the Versa, Altima and Rogue all get the green smileys of approval. with low repair rates. My wife has put 75k on her Versa hatch with nary a problem and my dad has put around 60k problem free miles on his Rogue. Nissan did extend our powertrain warranty on the Versa to 100k, however.

        I do believe early CVT equipped Muranos exposed the need for a more robust CVT, given the 3.5L’s power and the vehicle’s weight. The similarly motivated Altimas and Maximas haven’t suffered the same issue, and it would appear the Murano’s issues were shored up several years ago.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        @Macca

        I was being a little tongue in cheek. Personally I don’t really care enough to research the trials and tribulations of the Nissan Corporation. Fact is the vaunted Japanese never make serious mistakes because they are perfect according to fanboys, so when they do I’ll call them on it.

        But in all honesty could you see something like that happening in 2000? How about 1990? I would imagine if a significant number 1990 Nissans had catastrophic transmissions issues someone would be committing seppuku. I don’t get the attraction, twenty years ago some of the best came out of Japan, now not so much. But it comes down to what you like, so if you like their products buy them and good luck.

    • 0 avatar

      Up front just about everything is downright cushy to the touch. The hard plastics are in the second row. Also note the simpler design of the second-row door panels. No brown inset in the upper panel, and the door opener surround is black (and so likely the same in all interiors) instead of dark brown (and so different with each interior color). Justifiable given the likely use of the rear seat and segment, but worth noting.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Is your spouse the best at everything?

      Ummmmmm… that’s actually why I got married for the 2nd time! Having test driven other models I had something to compare her against.

    • 0 avatar
      chrishs2000

      Honda road noise roar? Have you even been in a new Accord???

      There’s something to be said when both Nissan’s VQ and Honda’s J 3.5L V6′s are superior to this downsized offering in every conceivable way – fuel economy, driveability, flexibility, NVH, and long term ownership costs (anyone who has dealt with – suffered through – a high mileage turbo engine will understand what this means).

      It’s unfortunate that Honda and Nissan will probably also follow the downsizing trend in the near future. For me, give me an NA V6 and let me row my own gears, thanks.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “For me, give me an NA V6 and let me row my own gears, thanks.”

        Well said, that makes two of us.

      • 0 avatar

        Why should they follow the trend if it is not justified? Unless Americans stop buying V6 cars or Government starts to tax cars progressively according to engine displacement (like in every other country in the world). Otherwise I do not see why Japanese have to spend resources and risk damaging their reliability reputation just to play catch up with Detroit LOL. Environmental extremists (most of them SF liberal type) would much likely prefer any Japanese car with V6 badge or not rather surrendering to evil American corporations.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I’m going to have to quote Pch101 from a later post because he makes a very good point:

        “Honda and Toyota joined the post-OPEC size wars by increasing the size of their vehicles. This included making US-oriented models that included larger back seats. They became the benchmark in this class. … You can fight the market and lose, or accept it and increase your odds of winning.”

        The US market demanded a larger rear seat (hence larger car) and the Japanese wisely accommodated. I think at a 30Kish price point the US market expects power, and a V6 to be standard. I don’t work in the industry and don’t have access to their customer data, but I think this turbo 4-cyl trend isn’t desired by the market, its being forced to comply with ever increasing CAFE requirements. Its simply a mistake.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      I think cheaper materials on the rear doors are worth mentioning. Say what you want about the backseat size, but in this segment, GM should have designed the backseat assuming it would be occupied at least occasionally.

      And the doors are something you touch, unlike the upper dash.

      Furthermore, the car stickers at $34k. I understand all mainstream cars are built to a price point; however, obvious cost cutting on a car this expensive is not OK.

    • 0 avatar
      Power6

      If you don’t care about interior materials and love hard plastic, let me show you the Impala…

  • avatar
    mjz

    GM really botched the intro of the Malibu by introducing the coma inducing Eco version before the other models. It looks much better with the 19 inch wheels of the LTZ package.

    • 0 avatar
      Macca

      Yes, but then you’re penalized with horrid Goodyear Eagle RS-A tires – quite possibly the worst tires for the dollar. I’ve had them as OEM tires on two new cars and the results have been awful – the user reviews on tirerack.com confirm that I’m not alone.

      They’re horribly loud, provide little dry traction, and in the wet they’re outright dangerous.

      Why manufacturers continue to put these on their cars is beyond me – they can legitimately ruin the perception of a car.

      • 0 avatar
        DubTee1480

        I’m glad I skimmed before commenting, I was going to say something about the RS-A’s also. Horrid tires, they were factory equipment on my 2004 Impala SS. I was never so glad to have new tires. There are far better tires for less money, from Goodyear no less and even within the Eagle family.

      • 0 avatar
        npbheights

        Never met a Goodyear tire that I liked. Fortunately they are the most appropriately named product ever. They are good for about a year. Then you can justify a new set of Michelin MXV4 Energy S8 tires

      • 0 avatar
        DubTee1480

        I put 2 sets of Eagle Response Edge’s on my Impala in the 5 years and 85,000 miles I had it. They dropped them in my size and I reshod the car in a set of Kumho Ecsta 4X’s not long before I sold it. Neither tire was bad for the money. I hate the Goodyear Eagle HT’s (HT? H-something, can’t recall) on my Sonoma. They were mounted on the ZQ8 sport wheels I bought off of someone on a forum, just a mediocre tire.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        …..Never met a Goodyear tire that I liked….

        I guess you have never experienced Goodyear summer tires then. But then I have to say the Micheline MXV4′s are great tires for their category. I put them on my old station car (along with Koni struts) and I was amazed at how good they were. But they were big bucks…

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      I think it’s a nicely styled car – it looks good without trying too hard (compare to Fusion, Sonata, Mazda6). I even like the look of the wheels.

      That said, 19″ wheels on a family sedan is an unfortunate development. I wish manufacturers would try harder for an attractive package with reasonably sized wheels, instead of using 18″+ wheels as a crutch. The tire replacement costs are a disservice to anyone who keeps the car long enough for a tire change. Running costs matter in this segment. I’m not sure if it is a huge difference, but the added unsprung weight can’t help the fuel economy numbers everyone is chasing these days either.

      Let’s say you want to ditch the RS-As at tire replacement time with Continental DWS. I consider the Contis mid-priced and should be a reasonable alternative. A certain online tire distributor has them listed at $240/ea in 245/40/19.

      Live in the snow belt? With tires that wide, you probably want a smaller wheels with winter shoes. In this case, I’m guessing 17″ is the smallest you can go. That’s an expensive winter setup.

      This is more a general complaint about the industry direction, rather than a shot at the Malibu. I realize GM isn’t the only company doing this.

      • 0 avatar
        Macca

        The Conti DWS is exactly what I went with – a superb tire and better than the RS-A in every possible way: better dry grip, better wet grip, and not only that, but far quieter too!

        I’ll disagree with you on the Mazda6 derision, though – I think that’s one well styled car.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        Didn’t intend that to be a shot at the Mazda6. In pictures anyway, I actually think it is the best looking in the segment inside and out. Haven’t seen one in person though.

        The Mazda6 is clearly making the extra effort at styling though. I think it succeeded.

      • 0 avatar
        celebrity208

        has anyone done a cost vs circumfrence comparison? To burgersandbeer’s comment, a 19″ tire rotates fewer times than a 16″ tire over the same mile so likely a 19″ tire from the same mgf and same rubber compound would have a longer tread life. NOW, as to whether that justifies a higer price and whether it’s more cost effective… I’m too lazy to run the numbers… but I’m sure some of teh B&B aren’t as lazy as I.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        Naah, both the 16″ and 19″ wheel options should be about the same overall circumference (the 16″ has more sidewall).

      • 0 avatar
        celebrity208

        True, once they’ve designed the car for that tire outer/outside diameter (OD) but burgersandbeer’s comment was about the mfgr’s decision to go with such a large OD. I mistakenly used bab’s rim dimensions as the parameter of choice in my comment. I should have referred to OD. So my question about the tread life of different sized (outer diameter that is) tires in relation to the increased tire cost is still relevant.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        As bumpy said, a smaller rim will have a tire with a larger sidewall. The circumference is roughly the same, and the different sizes will rotate about the same number of times per mile.

        Besides, driving conditions and style would have a larger impact on tire life. For example, 25k miles of stop lights and slinky traffic on the highway are harder on tires than 25k miles of cruising.

      • 0 avatar
        Wheatridger

        Agreed. This big wheel, tiny tire fetish is simply a style preference, with negative practical benefits.

        On 19s, my Tiguan SEL would do a drug dealer proud, but I’m looking forward to selling them once the tires are used up and stepping down to a lighter wheel, better mpgs and ride and quite likely, no penalty in handling. “Plus One” made sense when our cars came with 15-inch wheels, but we’re up to Plus 4 and 5 now. When will the madness stop?

        Reminds me of the early ’50s Rambler “bathtub”styled sedans, when front and rear wheels were enclosed completely. Turning circles were widened and snow packed under the fenders, but there was no dreaded “wheel gap.” That craze didn’t last, either, and it looks stupid today. As does my new car…

      • 0 avatar
        Truckducken

        Hey, this reminds me…

        Can someone explain why a 19″ tire costs more than a 16″ tire of the same outside diameter? If anything, shouldn’t the 19″ tire be cheaper, since it comprises less material? I feel like we’re all getting screwed by the tire makers and it’s time for someone to call them on this crap. Please correct me if I am wrong.

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        I think it’s mostly that there tends to be only high-end options available in those sizes, and also that they’re still manufactured in smaller quantities. They’ll probably get relatively cheaper as they continue to become more common.

      • 0 avatar
        Bimmer

        @ Truckducken

        Larger diameter tire (i.e. 19″) requires stiffer sidewall (since it looks like a rubber band around the rim) compared to regular diameter tire (i.e. 16″).

  • avatar
    mjz

    I’m finding the new Fusion to be kind of boring. The Aston grille looks great, but the side view looks flat and underwhelming. Same for the back end. While the new Malibu needs some grille and taillight work, in the upper trim levels it doesn’t look too bad.

  • avatar
    prndlol

    This car’s ‘last place right out of the gate in comparos’ status gives me that warm fuzzy familiar feeling of pre-Millennium GM.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    The in-laws have a previous generation. A lower model, doesn’t seem like that bad of a car. They paid in the low $20′s for that and I thought that was a bit high…

    $34k for this??? First, I’d do without any info-tainment system in the car (or in any car, for that matter) if that’s even possible to get anymore with the higher-trim engine. But I’m sure that’ll still be a $30k car, and no way am I paying that kind of money for a transversely mounted drivetrain connected to a 4 banger.

    • 0 avatar

      The only way you can skip MyLink is to get the base LS model, which isn’t much of a bargain…

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      For that same $34K, in my 2013 Honda Accord Touring which is on order, I’ll be getting:

      1. V6 with 278hp and 250+ lb./ft. of torque, and (finally) a properly-sorted cylinder-deactivation function. (My favorite automative trueism is “no replacement for displacement.”) All this yields “real-world” fuel-mileage which exceeds the EPA figures–within an MPG or two of the four-bangers! I’m just not convinced about the long-term reliability of turbocharged gasser engines, having grown up in the Chrysler 2.2 turbo, “TurboTimer” era of the 1980s.
      2. 17″ wheels. (Just budget for tire replacement in advance–around $1K for Michelins.) Handling is still near the top of the segment–probably only the Mazda 6 beats it.
      3. Standard navigation, Adaptive Cruise Control (the reason I am popping for this model versus the V6 Nav Sedan) and LED Headlights (which trumps the Fusion, which doesn’t even offer HIDs–not sure if the Mazda or Altima has them). The higher-trim Accords also have Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, and the Honda-exclusive LaneWatch camera, as well as a backup camera with three view modes and guidelines. This ‘bu has the FCW, Blind Spot Assist and a basic backup camera, but none of these other items. No cross-traffic alert or tire-inflation-assit (Altima). No lane-assist or self-park (Fusion).
      4. The Accord and Altima may be more appliance-like, but unlike the Fusion, 6, and a couple others, outward visibility is not sacrificed.

      The only negatives with the new Accord over the last generation or two are that there is a touch less storage space in the cabin, and that Honda removed the trunk pass-through in the center of the back seat, yet didn’t adapt a 60/40-split, so if you have to carry skis and passengers in the back, you’ll likely need a roof rack. Also, Honda includes paddle-shifters with the slushbox V6 in the coupes but left them out of the highest-trim Touring (which, with the change to a single Sport (“S”) position on the shift gate, which only locks out sixth-gear and delays upshifts, and effectively removes any manual control of the transmission). (For years, I’ve been used to being able to lock my Honda’s tranny into 2nd-gear to drive at city speeds in deep snow–engine-braking is increased, and wheelspin is controlled when starting from a stop without relying on the traction-control.)

      The worst thing about this ‘bu is that Chevy, in general, dropped the VALUE of this car relative to the rest of the segment. The previous-generation was a decent value when compared to the other previous-generation offerings in the segment (until Chevy started to cut equipment later in the model run–the most egregious example being that Chevy cut the onboard HomeLink garage-opener, as I remember reading on this site), and you could sit in the back behind a 6′ driver to boot! If I’m buying a family-oriented sedan (even if I don’t need that capability all the time), I don’t want my back-seat passengers to suffer. That’s a problem in this ‘bu!

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        I wonder why Honda eliminated the pass thru rear seat? I don’t have in my hybrid Altima, but the pass thru was sacrificed for the batteries. A trade off that I understand, but don’t like. If no full sized fold down to cheap out, how about a small pass thru for skis like GM, Toyota, and others do/did? That is a very un-Honda thing to do, unless there is sound reason for its elimination. And bean counting is not a sound reason…

  • avatar
    tmkreutzer

    This is a handsome car and it looks nicely appointed. I’d shop it, but at $34K I doubt I would buy it.

  • avatar
    stars9texashockey

    @mjz: I agree with you. The Fusion is one of the few cars that looks better in pictures than it does in person. Also, I don’t think it’s going to wear very well, like the Sonata. The Sonata already looks very tired to me.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    I’ll have to sit in the rear seat of one next time I’m at a dealership to see if the leg room is as big of a deal as everyone makes it out to be. My kids would be back there 99.5% of the time if if I owned one. So that really wouldn’t be deal breaker important for me. Still I suspect the picture in the review has both front seats all the way back and my other question is how far back do they need to be to give the front passengers enough leg room to be comfortable.

    Regardless the only way I could give this car a second look is if it was offered as a wagon. Which I think would/could look really cool with those tailights.

    Good review as usual from Mr. Karesh.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t think the front seats were all the way back. Usually I have the driver seat set for me. I’m 5’9 but set the seat about where someone a little taller normally would (especially when the wheel telescopes).

      For kids the rear seat room is easily sufficient. But most competitors have considerably more of it.

  • avatar
    Onus

    Am i the only one who thinks the current obsession with rear seat room is getting crazy. Heck new cars i go in i could sleep in the foot wells. The only problem i have is the roof is too low on all new cars.

    If your an adult in the back of a sedan then your probably not in there by choice.

    It’s unnecessary. Plus the fact remains that mostly its just the driver, and maybe the passenger in a car.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      If you don’t care about passengers then why would you settle for all the other compromises that come with a 3,700 lb, 192″ car?

      • 0 avatar
        Mandalorian

        Agreed with Dan. Rear seat space is very important consideing this is a 4-door and FAMILY sedan. If it was a Camaro, it really wouldn’t matter too much but it is not.

        My Outback is similar in size to this and the backseat is like a throne. There is no reason this car can’t have a better rear seat.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      Onus, the issue with length between the seats is having enough room to install rear-facing child safety seats. Since the extra couple inches in length doesn’t cost much in weight or wind resistance, why shortchange the customer? The only reason I can think of is that maybe the Malibu was designed by European city dwellers for city dwellers who parallel park. The US suburban market has mostly diagonal parking so shorter length isn’t useful or desirable.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      I find the high belt lines and poor visibility of many new cars to be more of an issue than 1/2 inch less rear legroom.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Ponchoman your statement makes a lot of sense. I don’t really need that much extra leg room in the back, but I recognize that in this segment many likely do. However, everybody suffers with the ever increasing belt lines and lousy visibility. When I was using my friend’s Camaro convertible, I was blind while backing up. I then noticed the camera view in the rear mirror which helped a lot. I lowered the roof and that eliminated the problem. But why should you have to lower the roof and need a camera for simple rearward visibility? This issue, the height/size of pickup beds, and massive rims are all negative things in new car design. Is any manufacturer listening?

    • 0 avatar
      Wheatridger

      Good point, Onus. While leg room increases, head room suffers in silence. Maybe that’s because taller cars have an aero efficiency penalty, while longer is better, in the wind tunnel, anyway.

      I have short legs and an XL torso, so the list of comfortable cars is getting vanishingly small.

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      Onus, some families do need more back seat space.

      For ones that don’t, at $34k, Acura TSX or BMW 328 would be a much better choice than the Malibu.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Less rear seat space than a VERSA, worse fuel economy than V6-powered cars with more power, and looks stupid without enormous 19″ wheels…
    I’m still not buying Chevy’s claim that this is the “Best Malibu Ever.”

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Spent a week with a rental 2LT with it’s std 18 wheels and the std new 2.5 mill and overall I actually enjoyed the car the more I drove it. The back seat issue isn’t a big one for me as I was able to haul 3 adults back there with the seat adjusted where I wanted it with no complaints. The 2.5 was a surprise. Smooth, quiet and able to quickly and freely rev to 6800 RPM. It also provided plenty of scoot and I clocked my example to 60 in 7.7 seconds which is good going for a car this heavy with a 4 pot. I also liked the easy to use Mylink setup and cheered for the normal buttons for the HVAC controls. The ride is quiet, the handling sound and the steering perfectly fine for it’s intended mission. I would like to see Chevy scallop out the rear seat backs for more rear seat room, add rear air vents and fix the cupholder to be side by side as in the Fusion. A little further drop in price would also help!

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I think the new Malibu is a beautiful car and considered one last summer, but with just the Eco version out, I said “no”.

    I’m with Detroit-X above in having enough of media nit-picking, as if all other OEMs use stainless steel, polished teak wood, hand-sewn leather and various other insanely expensive interior appointments.

    After driving and experience the car or any car, you either like the car or not.

    Is it me, or are Detroit’s cars steadily getting worse on fuel economy? My old 2004 3.4L Impala averaged 3 mpg better than my 2012, and this seems to be true across the entire domestic spectrum. Right or wrong? If wrong, why do “foreign” OEMs seem to continue to get passes, where anything domestic is trashed, so to speak?

    Maybe I’m reading too much into things, but that’s my perspective.

    Oh well, I’ll just hop in my born-as-a-Lumina-2012-out-dated-W-body-Impala-with NON-gun-slit windows, lack of excessive electronic gee-gaws, 300 hp-but-less-mpgs-than-a-Toyota-4 cyl-Camry and be on my merry way…

    My car does have a compass, though…

  • avatar
    200k-min

    It seems plenty competent but what’s the BAM factor to get the Camcord buyer to look at this?

    Styling – probably not.
    Economy – absolutely not.
    Utility – doubtful with the back seat issue
    Safety – assume they’re all about the same
    Price – nope

    To me this ‘bu will be another vehicle for the Chevrolet faithful and rental lots. Maybe some “buy America” people will come over from Ford or Chrysler but sales slam dunk I’m not seeing one even if it can competently compete in the segment.

    And one more comment – how does the back seat compare to a mid-sizer from 10-15 years ago? Count me in the camp that doesn’t need to fit an NBA player in my mid-sizer back seat. Then again American’s today want full size boats and not mid-sized sedans.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      “Then again American’s today want full size boats and not mid-sized sedans.”

      That’s the problem with the backseat – this car might as well be a full-size boat. Today’s D-segment cars are pretty damn big, so the back seat should match.

      As far as comparisons from 10-15 years ago, my ’98 5-series is 3.5″ shorter, yet the wheelbase is 3.2″ longer and at 6′ tall, I can comfortably sit behind myself. Slightly more recently, an ’04 Accord has an even more spacious back seat, but splits the difference in footprint between my car and the ’13 Malibu.

      Anyway, some of the B&B have mentioned comfortably putting adults in the back, so maybe Michael’s pics make it look a little worse than it is. I think Alex needs to make a video.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        Calling shenanigans on the 1998 5-series comparison and the 2004 Accord comparison:

        2013 Malibu:
        Internal dimensions: front headroom (inches): 39.0, rear headroom (inches): 37.5, front hip room (inches): 55.0, rear hip room (inches): 54.3, front leg room (inches): 42.1, rear leg room (inches): 36.8, front shoulder room (inches): 57.5, rear shoulder room (inches): 57.1 and interior volume (cu ft): 100.3

        1998 BMW 5-series:
        Front Headroom (in.) 38.70
        Rear Headroom (in.) 37.80
        Front Legroom (in.) 41.70
        Rear Legroom (in.) 34.20
        Front Shoulder Room (in.) 56.80
        Rear Shoulder Room (in.) 55.90
        Passenger Volume (EPA) 93
        Passenger Volume (MFR) 92.5 cu. ft.

        The only way the BMW tops the Malibu is rear headroom, and only by 0.3 inches. Most BMWs have short rear legroom, including the older 7-Series models that were classified as compacts back in the days.

        2004 Honda Accord:
        Front Headroom (in.) 40.40
        Rear Headroom (in.) 38.50
        Front Legroom (in.) 42.60
        Rear Legroom (in.) 36.80
        Front Shoulder Room (in.) 56.90
        Rear Shoulder Room (in.) 56.10
        Front Hip Room (in.) 54.60
        Rear Hip Room (in.) 53.50
        EPA volume: 103 cu ft

        The Accord has more headroom (which gives it the edge in EPA volume), half an inch on front legroom, they match in rear legroom, and the Malibu tops everything else.

        Let’s stop the BS from people who haven’t been in the car.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        It’s been repeated multiple times on this site that manufacturers measure interior volume, particularly legroom, using inconsistent methods. I’m not sure listing interior specs is a persuasive rebuttal.

        I own the 5-series and my parents own the ’04 Accord, so I’m not arguing with paper stats on those. Have you been in either of those cars recently?

        I also didn’t even look at the interior measurements for the Malibu since I have no faith in those numbers. I admit that with the Malibu, all I had to go on was Michael’s impressions. I did allow that others didn’t think it was that bad, and said I would be curious to see additional opinions (a video review).

        I’m not trying to argue that the Malibu’s rear seat is uselessly small, only that it sounds small relative to the size of the chassis. That’s why I quoted length and wheelbase.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        What were the rear space specs on the previous Malibu? On TTAC someone might compare it to random things such as 98 5 Series, an 87 Cutlass, or an 81 Cressida… but as an uninformed buyer I would compare it to the larger looking outgoing model on the used car lot next to me.

      • 0 avatar
        wsn

        corntrollio, so you are saying that the 2013 Malibu beats the 2004 Accord in internal dimensions?

        But consider this, the 2004 Accord would typically sell for $5k~10k. The 2013 Malibu sells for $34k as stated.

        If you want an apple to apple comparison, use the 2013 Accord to compare.

  • avatar

    3600 lbs. and $34K and still vanilla beige as hell. Ill still take the Saab 93 or 95. Gm Fd-up its own funeral.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Consider a new 9-5 Aero a decade ago was in the low $40K range, this Malibu is sized almost identical to the 9-5 but a couple hundred pounds heavier.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        Again with the 9-5 Aero non-sense? The $40K base price of the 2002 Saab 9-5 Aero wagon is now over $51K if inflated by CPI. That’s 50% higher than a very well-equipped $34K Malibu and twice a typically equipped Malibu, and therefore in a completely different territory.

        I’ve already shown the 2002 Saab 9-5 wagon to no longer be a relevant vehicle compared to a modern V6 RAV4 because the RAV is faster with better braking, holds the same amount of cargo, and can seat 7 without cargo, so can we stop with the bizarre and irrelevant Saab comparisons?

        http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/in-the-land-of-wagons-the-compact-crossover-is-king/#comment-1977035

      • 0 avatar
        bill h.

        Funny, I thought the relevant comparison here was the Malibu, not the RAV-4. Oh well, guess it helps the ego to keep referring on one’s own thread writing time after time.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        It’s at least as relevant as mentioning a 10-year old Saab and making up ridiculous claims for it in every damn thread. :) It is inferior to current vehicles, as a 10-year old car should be.

        Unless you’re a fanboi on Saabnet, you will notice, if you actually read my comment, that I did address the Malibu and pointed out that NormSV650′s price comparison was silly.

      • 0 avatar
        wsn

        corntrollio: Again with the 9-5 Aero non-sense? The $40K base price of the 2002 Saab 9-5 Aero wagon is now over $51K if inflated by CPI.

        Again with the CPI for cars non-sense? Essentialy no car maker increased its prices in the past 20 years.

        CPI is for food or gas. It doesn’t appear in car prices in the recent 20 years.

    • 0 avatar

      I was talking about the 2012 Saab 93 and 95(even Combis) models…which very few people, even TTAC refused? to drive. But GM certainly could have learned more with their subsidiary.

  • avatar
    corntrollio

    I’ll repeat this comment here since it seems applicable:

    People on this site constantly complain about back seat room in cars (most often without having been in the car, of course). Was there some magical fountain of very roomy back seats that all car manufacturers visited when some of you were growing up? Or did you guys all grow up riding full-size cars?

    My impression is that modern cars dwarf older cars in terms of providing more interior room with a smaller exterior shell. For example, the BMW 7-Series many many years ago was considered a compact car by the EPA due to small interior volume, despite being considered a large car.

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/qotd-what-are-you-looking-forward-to-at-naias/#comment-1990065

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      “Was there some magical fountain of very roomy back seats that all car manufacturers visited when some of you were growing up?”

      Smaller cars gained favor during the 70s, in large part due to the OPEC crisis. Once the OPEC crisis became a distant memory, cars began to increase in size.

      Honda and Toyota joined the post-OPEC size wars by increasing the size of their vehicles. This included making US-oriented models that included larger back seats. They became the benchmark in this class.

      Mazda stuck with a more global design, which helped to make them irrelevant. VW opted not to follow suit with the Jetta, which sealed its fate as a niche compact. Ford’s effort to sell the Mondeo to Americans (badged as the Contour and Mystique), which was designed with European dimensions in mind, was a flop.

      You can fight the market and lose, or accept it and increase your odds of winning. The back seat matters. GM can’t possibly expect the market to follow GM’s whims, and the decision to go with the smaller back seat makes even less sense when one remembers that the Malibu was supposedly designed for the US market.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        The Chrysler LeBaron/Dodge Spirit/Plymouth Acclaim triplets all had very spacious back seats as to leg room. We owned two of them.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        Winner, winner, chicken dinner, from Zackman, and it’s not even an Impala:

        1995 Plymouth Acclaim:
        Internal dimensions: front headroom (in): 38.4, rear headroom (in): 37.9, front hip room (in): 51.7, rear hip room (in): 52.0, front leg room (in): 41.9, rear leg room (in): 38.3, front shoulder room (in): 54.3, rear shoulder room (in): 55.0 and interior volume (cu ft): 96.8

        The Acclaim had 1.5 inches more rear leg room and a tiny bit more rear headroom, with slightly less front legroom.

        The exterior is much smaller than a Malibu:

        1995 Acclaim
        Wheelbase (in.) 103.50
        Length (in.) 181.20
        Width (in.) 68.10
        Height (in.) 53.50

        2013 Malibu
        Wheelbase(in): 107.80
        Length, Overall (in): 191.50
        Width, Max w/o mirrors (in): 73.00
        Height, Overall (in): 57.60

        I’d probably chalk it up to modern crash-tested structures, and you can note that the Acclaim got a driver’s airbag in 1990, but no passenger airbag during the 1989-1995 run. Most cars had passenger airbags by 1996 or 1997, and it was required by 1998.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        The Chryslers of that generation, plus the sebsequent “cloud cars” (Chrysler Cirrus, Dodge Status, Plymouth Breeze), didn’t have the traditional “parcel shelf” behind the rear seat, which allowed the designers to shove the seats back a bit. Tons of room, and reliability was reasonable, IIRC.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      A first generation Lexus LS400 had a 98 cubic ft. interior, that is amazingly small for a flagship.

      The right to complain about a back seat depends on how you use the car. I live 600+ miles from Anaheim, CA where Disney is located. My wife’s family is obsessed with taking a Disney vacation every 3 years or so. I will NOT deal with the hassle of flying for that sort of trip. I have a right to complain about rear seat room.

      If you stubbornly refuse to give into the SUV/CUV craze and do have car seats etc. to worry about then yes you should complain about rear seat room (also the lack of station wagons in the U.S. market).

      If you rarely drive long distances with your vehicle full of passengers and luggage then yes, STFU already about rear seat room and trunk openings.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        Yes, first-gen LS400 had a tiny back seat compared to the 2013 Malibu:

        Headroom 38.6/36.8 in (front/rear) 37.6/35.7 in (front/rear) with available moonroof
        Legroom 43.8/34.3 in (front/rear)
        Shoulder Room 57.1/56.3 in (front/rear)

        The Malibu tops it in headroom, it has less front legroom, but 2.5 inches more rear legroom, and has more shoulder room (therefore probably more hip room). And that’s despite the fact that the Malibu meets higher safety standards with side airbags, side curtains, and other crash-related structure changes that would take up more space. To be fair, the Malibu is a bit wider than the first-gen LS.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        These comparisons to a 20+ year old Lexus are completely irrelevant. The LS 400 competed in an entirely different segment, and consumer tastes have changed over the last two decades.

        What matters is what Toyota, Honda, Ford and Hyundai are doing with their midsized family sedans today. Not twenty or even five years ago, but right now. Since these cars are ever evolving, GM also needs to get ahead of that curve so that it can anticipate what will happen next before it happens.

    • 0 avatar
      Macca

      Corntrollio: you only have to look as far as a subcompact Nissan Versa to find a reason why some folks would be critical of a midsize family-intended sedan with a cramped rear seat. The rear seat legroom in a Versa is comparable to a Crown Vic. I see the 3 series and Lexus IS similarly derided for a cramped (unusable) rear seat in plenty of reviews, too.

      Granted, at one point (not sure if this stat is still valid) the Versa had the most rear seat legroom of any Nissan/Infiniti product. It might seem like an odd stat to shop on, but if you commonly have adult rear-seat occupants, it sure is nice to have space for them, especially when the outer dimensions of your car indicate that you should.

      Certainly the Versa benefits from being a hatchback with a fairly shallow hatch/trunk, owing to how the rear bench was slid as far back as possible.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        Nissan Versa, 2013:

        Head room (front) 39.8
        Head room (rear) 36.6
        Leg room (front) 41.8
        Leg room (rear) 37.0
        Hip room (front) 48.1
        Hip room (rear) 46.2
        Shoulder room (front) 51.7
        Shoulder room (rear) 51.9

        Well-played, sir. It has 0.2 inches more rear legroom, but it’s not cross-shopped against the Malibu. If it has the most of any Nissan/Infiniti, the Malibu is doing just fine. In fact, the Malibu will be more comfortable because of hip/shoulder room.

        But it is no Crown Vic (2007), which has an inch more rear legroom, and obviously tons more shoulder/hip room:

        Front Shoulder Room (in) 60.6
        Second Hip Room (in) 56.1
        Front Head Room (in) 39.5
        Second Leg Room (in) 38.0
        Front Hip Room (in) 57.4
        Front Leg Room (in) 41.6
        Second Shoulder Room (in) 60.0
        Passenger Volume (ft³) 106.4
        Second Head Room (in) 37.8

      • 0 avatar

        Interior dimensions can be cheated a bit. The rear seat of this car is considerably tighter in person than the official specs suggest it ought to be.Sitting behind myself, my shins graze the front seatback in the Malibu. They’re inches away from the front seatback in a few competitors.

        It makes little sense to look at the front and rear legroom separately, for the simple reason that you can move the front seat to redistribute them. Also, these stats are usually measured without the front seat all the way back (most stats where front legroom is 40.4-41.4 inches are measured with the front seat set for an x-percentile male).

        Unless you’re Ford with the new Escape and Fusion. Then you measure front legroom with the front seat all the way back, move the seat forward a couple inches to where the x-percentile male would put it, then measure rear legroom.

      • 0 avatar
        Macca

        Corntrollio: you’re posting manufacturer reported dimensions – there’s no consensus on how legroom is measured. You need to actually sit in these cars to see how they stack up.

        Also, I was referring to the Versa Hatchback, not the ’13 sedan (my bad). The hatch has 38″ of rear legroom (again, according to Nissan) which is the same dimension as you found for the Crown Vic.

        Some of your points are valid: few people will cross-shop these cars, and hip/shoulder room is also very important – the Versa is much more narrow than a midsizer. Still though, the Malibu’s rear seat appears to be much smaller than the competition (not from the manufacturer specs, but folks sitting in each), which could be an issue for some shoppers.

    • 0 avatar
      MadHungarian

      Yes there was. Just go back a little farther. And I don’t mean any barge-sized Cadillacs either. Check out the rear seats in cars called “compacts” at the time, like first and second generation Falcons/Comets, 1961-63 Tempests and Buick Specials, 1963-66 Valiants/Darts, 1959-63 Studebaker Lark. For that matter, the first-generation Chevelle/Malibu, since we’re talking about Malibus here.

      • 0 avatar

        How about a 73-77 GM mid-sized and the FWD 82-96 A-body (Cutlass, Celebrity, 6000…) Other than the obvious 209″ vs 188″ overall length, the FWD car has the old car beat in spades except in hip room, which is obvious vs the 76″ and 65″ width.

        My ’77 Malibu using GM specs, is as follows; Sedans only since the new Malibu is a sedan only
        Headroom; 38.3/37.5
        hiproom; 56/57.9
        shoulderroom; 59.6/58.9
        leg room 42.1/37
        Usuable trunk space is a laughable 15cu ft. with a small opening to make it difficult to load largish objects.
        Wheelbase is a longish 116″ with a 209″ overall length

      • 0 avatar
        MadHungarian

        @texan — notice I was referring to 60′s cars, not 70′s. Agreed that the 70′s were not the best for space efficiency in midsized cars. I owned a ’77 T-Bird, same length as a ’77 Sedan de Ville but a useless rear seat, so I know.

      • 0 avatar

        True, I’ve no experience with anything comparable to a ’60s car other than my friends ’71 Chevelle convertible, and that car is so laugably small in the back seat that its a penalty box.

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      corntrollio: People on this site constantly complain about back seat room in cars.

      That’s simply a false statement. People on this site don’t complain about back seat room in any car.

      If it’s a sports car, no one would complain.
      If it’s a compact car, no one would complain.
      If it’s a pickup, no one would complain.

      If it’s a midsize people mover with very roomy competitors, people will, and they are right at it.

      I mean, if you are a musician but suck at cooking, it’s OK. If you are a chef and still suck at cooking, don’t blame those who complain. It’s what you are supposed to do well.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I don’t get the harping on the MSRP. Nobody will EVER pay MSRP for one of these – I would expect $3-4K off at a minimum. Ditto rear seat room – I can’t imagine there isn’t enough space for a ridiculously large sprog seat, and otherwise anyone complaining can make thier own transportation arrangements. Did not hear any mention of the headroom back there – that is usually FAR more of an issue these days than legroom. In my experience, the Passat is the only car in the segment with decent rear headroom, and what a shock – it is about the only one that doesn’t try to look like a swoopy coupe, since VW has the CC for those buyers.

    Otherwise, eh, whatever. Another biegemobile. I’m sure I will get one as a rental eventually. If I had to buy in this segment it would either be a Passat or an Optima. This is a car that will be just like the last one, rare on the coasts, plentiful in fly-over country, but mostly at a rental lot near you.

    • 0 avatar
      johnny_5.0

      I was thinking $5K under MSRP easy. I’m guessing these highest trim cars rarely get advertised to avoid the MSRP scaring folks away. I can’t imagine people seeing $34K Malibus in the paper or on TV and actually wanting to go cross shop them vs. Accords/Camrys/Altimas. I also can’t imagine them going for anywhere near MSRP because that is getting dangerously close to entry level luxury sedan territory. An ES 350 starts at $36,995 including destination. Not that I think anyone is cross shipping an ES 350 with a Malibu, but for me mid $30k range is off limits for a non-luxury mid sizer. I’m not paying Volvo S60 T5 Premiere package money for a Malibu.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        To be fair, $34k is also insane for a Camry, Accord, Altima, Fusion, etc.

        If I remember right, a family member’s ’04 Accord cost $22k new. It’s an EX V6, only missing the Nav. Adjusting for inflation, that’s about $27k now.

        Also, why wouldn’t someone cross shop an ES350 with a loaded Malibu? If you are starting a shopping list based on advertised MSRP, an ES350 is the functional equivalent of a Malibu and theoretically in the same ballpark for price.

        No one sells base model ES350s and the Malibu will have cash on the hood, I know I know…

      • 0 avatar

        The Malibu feels like a more refined, higher quality car than the Volvo. And the Volvo isn’t remotely the same price–comparably equipped, it’s a significant $6,500 more.

        Even after adjusting for feature differences, a Lexus ES 350 is about $9,000 more.

        It seems people are comparing the actual MSRP of the Chevrolet to imagined prices for these other cars–they also list for more than you think!

      • 0 avatar
        johnny_5.0

        “The Malibu feels like a more refined, higher quality car than the Volvo. And the Volvo isn’t remotely the same price–comparably equipped, it’s a significant $6,500 more.

        Even after adjusting for feature differences, a Lexus ES 350 is about $9,000 more.

        It seems people are comparing the actual MSRP of the Chevrolet to imagined prices for these other cars–they also list for more than you think!”

        In my case I honestly wasn’t, but I should have added “option differences be damned” to the end of my post to make that clear. I just can’t spend close to $35K on a Malibu. It won’t ever happen. I could spend it on the Volvo, or spend a few grand more on a myriad of other cars. I know checking every options box on any of them would quickly have me $10K+ more in the hole compared to this, but I’d happily live with less options on a better car (and a better dealership experience). $34K on this or $38K on a G37 sedan with most of the basic options that probably cover a huge percentage of buyers’ wants (leather, heated seats, dual zone climate, Bluetooth, backup camera, etc.).

        I know this thing isn’t far north of the average transaction price of a car these days, but you can get into so many good cars for not much more if you have a little self control with the options (and on many of the cars there’s only a few options like $4K tech or premium packages).

        Maybe I’m weird and I just have a bizarre aversion to the number 35,000, or anything that approaches it, when it comes to generic non-luxo midsize family sedans. And I know ALL cars are expensive these days. I just shake my head when enthusiasts on blogs are indignant that you can option the crap out of a Mustang GT or Camaro and get it north of $40K. Sure that may not be in “every man’s” territory anymore but Christ look at the performance you get! The V6 models of today are about as quick as the V8s were (stock) back 15 years ago when you could get them for the $22K that some people still think a GT or SS should cost, and the new ones are a hell of a lot nicer and safer. That long tangent was really just to say I don’t expect all cars to be cheap. And they don’t have to be luxury cars to crest $35K. But if they aren’t luxury they should at least be halfway special. If Ford dropped the 3.5 ecoboost with AWD and a six speed manual into a new Fusion ST and made it handle well I wouldn’t bat an eye at $40K. Or a new Mazdaspeed6, or …

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        @Micheal Karesh

        This is getting into that always interesting question – would you rather have the most gussied up version of a plebian car, or the “stripper” version of a nominally more expensive car at similar prices? The 2013 F30 BMW 328i starts at $36,850. Now a base 3-series is a fairly basic car in terms of toys (though not exactly a prison cell on wheels these days), but it is certainly a very nicely engineered piece of machinery. Of course, once you ladle on the toys that the Chevy has the BMW would probably end up $15K more, but what price can you assign to better fundamental engineering and build quality?

        I do agree that the Volvo S60 is pretty awful for the price. I have had a couple of T5s for a week at a time recently and I would take a Passat over one in a heartbeat! Total joke at the asking price.

      • 0 avatar
        genuineleather

        Keep in mind, a base ES350 doesn’t include nav or even leather; my grandmother’s decently optioned 2013 runs $44k.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Michael, the Malibu sounds like it is built pretty damn well, yet as you can see from other posters, GM is going to have a very hard sell in getting people to open their minds to check it out. Look at khrodes1 comment about fundamental “better engineering and build quality” as in comparison to a BMW. Well, dynamically the Bimmer is hands down better, no ifs ands or buts. But BMWs are plagued with failures of electronics, cooling system components, and other expensive to fix maladies – at rates that are too damn high to consider “better”. I think the engineering, the actual design work if you will is in fact better with the BMW, but the execution is where BMW fails; there are just too many items that don’t have a very high mean time before failure. GM has not always done well in that regard either, but these high prices may prevent them from getting the chance to show that they are well made. For whatever reason, the Bavarians get a pass on failures that would not be tolerated on other cars. And that I just don’t get. I love the two 330i’s that my two friends own – an absolute rush to drive fast. But they are forever fiddling with a multitude of ABS/Traction light problems, fan speed controllers, window regulators, expansion tanks, etc. I just don’t see why that has to be. The cars were certainly not cheap to buy. And don’t even get me started on the orange peel that seems to be a trademark of BMW paint jobs…

  • avatar
    swilliams41

    I wonder why they reduced rear seat room from the last gen Malibu? That is an important consideration in this segment. I also thought the last gen was better looking but I digress. BTW, why did folk buy Impala’s when the last gen ‘Bu was a much better car. You ever notice the difference in the way a 2010 Impala shakes on a pothole vs the 2010 ‘Bu giving you a solid thunk. I could never figure the last gen Impala’s appeal over the ‘Bu. At least the new Impala holds promise and the SS is probably the platform all Impala’s should be based on, excepting its cost.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      This version of the Malibu is intended to be a world car.

      Honda and Toyota have established that world cars in the midsized family car segment don’t work. You can either target North America with a larger back seat, or else you can target the Europeans with a smaller one. Selling the same car to all of them may sound appealing, but it doesn’t make much sense.

      • 0 avatar
        mikedt

        Out of curiosity, are we the only country with mandatory rear facing child seats? Because from the sounds of it, you’d be hard pressed to fit one in this Malibu while still having a front seat passenger.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        For the record, one of my cars has 2.5 inches less legroom than the 2013 Malibu, and a rear-facing infant seat (i.e. highly-reclined) fits just fine without the front passenger seat being pulled up uncomfortably far.

        We are definitely not the only country with mandatory rear-facing seats. In fact, in many European countries, particularly in Scandinavia, kids sit in rear-facing seats until age 4 or 5 at least ( by custom, if not by law).

        In the US, the old recommendation used to be rear-facing only until 1 year, and now the official recommendation is until 2 years.

        However, it’s much safer for your kid to be rear-facing until they hit the rear-facing weight or height limit of the convertible car seat (many seats go up to 35, 40, or even 45 lbs these days rear-facing).

        When kids are older and can keep their heads up, the rear-facing seats can be more upright and take up less space than the highly-reclined infant rear-facing seats, so this is not much of an issue. In fact, your kid will appreciate being more upright too.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        Honda, at least, is now going to make the new N/A Accord the global platform. (IIRC, they may not sell it in the E/U.)

        Not sure about all platforms going forward–the next Civic, for instance, is supposed to be designed over here, but I don’t know if that will be sold worldwide, or if there will be different variants in different markets.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      The 06-13 Impala offers more interior space and width compared to the more snug Malibu, offers std more powerful V6 engines, on a more proven reliable chassis and a considerably larger trunk. The Malibu has more back seat legroom but feels more claustrophobic due to the lower roof line and reduced Epsilon width. The Impala also has more reliable hydraulic steering compared to the Malibu’s more problematic EPS unit and thus offers better steering feel to some. The best part is that the Impala can be had for the same or less money than the 08-12 Malibu sitting side by side. To the average consumer the larger car with the bigger trunk wit the easier to get into front seat with the more powerful 211 HP V6 compared to the 169 HP 4 cylinder looks like the better bargain. They aren’t worried about how the car feels going over potholes at high speeds.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    I have to say the ‘bu’s looks are growing on me, especially around the trunk, and hooray for actual knobs on the control stack. 21 mpg vs. 22 for the competition amounts to little more than a rounding error, especially considering how inconsistent epa numbers can be. I’ve only owned one sedan in my life, but if I were looking for another I’d consider the Chevy. Not at 34 grand though.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Nice review, Alex, but I have a problem with your fuel economy analysis. From the evidence given, I don’t think you can make the claim that real world fuel economy is lower than the competitors. You achieved 30.x at 75 mph. That matches the EPA rating at a speed far higher than the test accounts for. You averaged between 19 & 27 in town, which not only is a huge range, but also brackets the city ratings of all listed competitors. Unless you have a good idea of how optimistic the onboard computer is, I don’t think you can claim this car has an efficiency disadvantage.

    Need a standardized test, and Consumer Reports will be the place to go for that nugget.

    • 0 avatar

      I wrote this one, not Alex. Though there are exceptions, trip computers tend to be accurate within one mpg, and when they’re off they tend to be a little high.

      On the same run to the airport I observed a little better from a Dodge Charger, which is considerably larger and heavier and powered by a V6. I’ve observed nearly as good in an Audi A7, with a supercharged V6, AWD, and again more curb weight.

      Around town my wife turned in just under 18 (I consistently manage 10-20% better than she does). She’s not a heavy-footed driver, just close to the average person who doesn’t drive with efficiency in mind.

      I personally observed trip averages as low as hers only when I drove with a heavy foot. I only observed trip averages over 25 when I drove the car like I might a Prius. Driving with a moderate foot I observed readings in a much narrower range, 21-24.

      I personally expected about 2 mpg better.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        Oh crap! I don’t know how I got the author wrong, especially since I was wondering where Alex’s trademark 0-60 etc. stats were…

        Thanks for the clarification on driving style and resulting mpg.

      • 0 avatar

        Some cars vary more than others, with turbos often in the “more” camp. I noted the broad range in the review to indicate what was possible if you paid a lot of attention to driving style, vs. no attention.

      • 0 avatar
        tjh8402

        It’s funny you mention the Charger and fuel economy because I was thinking about both it and the Chrysler 300 when I saw the mpg and price ($34k!!!). I realize the RWD chassis won’t mean much to buyers in this segment, but for $34k you can get a pretty well option version of either of the LX cars and they will have way more space in both seating and trunk than the Chevy, better driving dynamics (thank you RWD), a more premium badge with the Chrysler, and roughly equivalent fuel economy (EPA gives the Chevy a 2 mpg advantage in the city and the LX cars a 1 mpg advantage on the highway).

      • 0 avatar

        I observed roughly equal mpg in the city and one mpg better on the highway in the Charger.

        A similarly-equipped Charger is about $2,600 more before adjusting for feature differences and about $2,100 more afterwards.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Dunno, I kind of like this car. Looks good on the outside, unique interior with decent materials, quiet, and handles reasonably well. Don’t like the stupid fake wood on the steering wheel, but I could adapt.

    And the rear seat legroom is only an issue if I cannot fit a rear-facing child seat behind my driving position. If that fits, an adult will be just fine regardless of how freaking huge the Passat and Accord have become back there. Law of diminishing returns.

    • 0 avatar

      At least one other review has called the fake wood “cheesy,” but I thought it looked better than most, and far better than the stuff Toyota has used in recent years.

      • 0 avatar
        Power6

        Funny since a lot of the nicer Toyotas like a high line Camry or Avalon, have real wood veneer…truth is stranger than fiction?

        The wood in my Lexus ES is real California walnut, very nice to look at.

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        Power6, high-line Toyotas like Camrys and Avalons don’t have real wood. Never have (unless Cressidas or Crowns had it in the 1960s or so).

        I believe all Lexus models with wood-look trim are real wood, but never a Toyota-badged model, not even the pricey ones like Avalon or Land Cruiser. This seems to be one of the distinctions the company maintains between Lexus and the more plebeian Toyota nameplate.

    • 0 avatar
      Carlson Fan

      Good point about the rear facing car seat but I suspect one would fit just fine in the center position provided GM built the car with latches in that spot. That’s where all 3 of my kids rode when they were at that stage regardless if there was room directly behind the driver or passenger front seats. Now if you had twins that could be a problem!…LOL

  • avatar
    corntrollio

    Macca and burgersandbeer, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some minor inconsistencies here between manufacturers, but do you think it’s fair to assume GM is consistent with GM?

    2012:
    Front Head Room (in) 39.4
    Second Leg Room (in) 37.6
    Front Hip Room (in) 53.0
    Front Leg Room (in) 42.2
    Second Shoulder Room (in) 53.9
    Passenger Volume (ft³) 97.7
    Second Head Room (in) 37.2
    Front Shoulder Room (in) 55.9
    Second Hip Room (in) 52.1

    As a reminder, 2013:
    Internal dimensions: front headroom (inches): 39.0, rear headroom (inches): 37.5, front hip room (inches): 55.0, rear hip room (inches): 54.3, front leg room (inches): 42.1, rear leg room (inches): 36.8, front shoulder room (inches): 57.5, rear shoulder room (inches): 57.1 and interior volume (cu ft): 100.3

    So the new rear seat is 0.8 inches less in legroom, but up in hip/shoulder. It’s definitely more snug in number than Fusion and Accord, but numerically competitive with Altima and certainly Sonata.

    Is the 0.8 inches in real life that much more noticeable? Some people have noticed the shortened wheelbase (which is a lot shorter) and blamed that. Some people have theorized that if the seat cushion were taller (maybe the slope of the rear portion of the roof is the culprit), it wouldn’t be an issue.

    • 0 avatar
      Macca

      I would hope GM is consistent on their measurement practices, but I can see most any auto maker taking liberties with a stat in order to look better on paper. I don’t think 0.8″ is drastically less legroom in the ’13, but if your knees are planted against the seatbacks, could it be enough to provide a little relief? Your ideas regarding the seat shape are likely spot on.

      Measurement inconsistencies aside, my compact ’08 Mazda3 is reported to have 36.3″ rear legroom. Even with an additional 0.5″ it would still be quite cramped for adults on anything but short jaunts – partially fueling my concern with the Malibu’s measurement for a sedan in this segment.

      I don’t want to be arbitrarily argumentative – I don’t have a dog in the fight, so to speak. I recently rode in a coworker’s new ’13 Malibu, and for the short ride in the front passenger seat, it came across as quiet, refined, and relatively pleasant. The manner in which the infotainment screen pops up to reveal a cubby was particularly trick. As my non-daily driver lacks a rear seat altogether, this isn’t really something I dwell on much. I just find it a bit perplexing that Chevy didn’t see this coming. Given the uphill battle this car finds itself in against the established segment leaders, you’d think this would have been addressed.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    OK, let’s give a more relevant comparison.

    Chevy Cruze 2013

    Passenger Volume: 94 cubic ft.
    Luggage Volume: 16 cubic ft.

    Interior Measurements
    FRONT HEAD ROOM 39.3 in.
    FRONT HIP ROOM 53.0 in.
    FRONT LEG ROOM 42.3 in.
    FRONT SHOULDER ROOM 54.8 in.
    REAR HIP ROOM 52.4 in.
    REAR HEAD ROOM 37.9 in.
    REAR LEG ROOM 35.4 in.
    REAR SHOULDER ROOM 53.9 in

    Chevy Malibu 2013

    Passenger Volume: 95 cubic ft
    Luggage Volume: 16 cubic ft

    Interior Measurements
    FRONT HEAD ROOM 39.0 in.
    FRONT HIP ROOM 55.0 in.
    FRONT LEG ROOM 42.1 in.
    FRONT SHOULDER ROOM 57.5 in.
    REAR HIP ROOM 54.3 in.
    REAR HEAD ROOM 37.5 in.
    REAR LEG ROOM 36.8 in.
    REAR SHOULDER ROOM 57.1 in.

    So apparently the reason for the Malibu to exist is to offer more engine/trim options for a car that is basically the same size as the Cruze? FYI the EPA classifies them both as Midsize cars.

    Or perhaps the Cruze exists for those who want a manual transmission?

  • avatar
    itanibro

    I’m a little confused by the review. Eight paragraphs generally say nothing but less-than-positive things about the car, and in the final paragraph something positive is stated in a few sentences. I really enjoy this blog, but consistency is appreciated too!

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      I didn’t perceive any inconsistency or contradiction. Like any vehicle, it has a few faults that may offend certain buyers. But nothing major and he enjoys driving it.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      Reading through again, I see lots of positives. Here’s the breakdown as I perceived it:

      Positive
      -Exterior styling.
      -Interior quality and styling.
      -Infotainment ease of use.
      -Interior controls.
      -Strong and quiet engine.
      -Tolerable automatic transmission.
      -Steering feel.
      -Suspension.
      -Handling.
      -Road noise.

      Negative
      -Rear legroom.
      -Rear interior details.
      -No limited slip differential.
      -Engine lacks character.
      -Ergonomic details of armrest and shifter.
      -Fuel economy 5-10% below the competition.

      It sounds like something I wouldn’t mind driving. With a six-speed manual and a LSD it would probably even be really enjoyable.

  • avatar
    -Cole-

    The Equinox has more MPGs than this. Fail!

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      The Equinox has more ESTIMATED mpgs than this. Good luck getting 32 out of one in the real world.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      The Malibu has about 50% more peak horsepower and is a considerably quicker car. There’s really no comparison.

      I would hope that regulars on a car forum would understand that higher power output requires higher fuel consumption. But apparently not.

      • 0 avatar
        MadHungarian

        I don’t think anyone understands that. If they did, there would be more 50 MPG cars. Instead, auto reviewers condemn as insufferably slow cars that do 0-60 in times worthy of high performance sports cars from 20-30 years ago.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    Michael, I think you offer the fairest and most relevant car reviews on this site, but I have t criticize you just this once. To state that the fuel economy is “anywhere from 19 to 27 in the suburbs depending on the frequency of reds and the heaviness of one’s right foot” is so vague as to be meaningless. Surprising for a numbers guy like you. Wouldn’t it be more useful to establish the “Koresh Standard Economy Run” of some set route at a given average speed that you would drive every car on, so comparisons between vehicles are easy and straightforward? Something like 10-20 miles in the middle of the night without traffic, and again in rush hour. This may sound boring, like repeating the EPA tests, but at least you’d actually drive the cars (as they usually don’t).

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve responded to a similar comment already, but there are quite a few to dig through at this point.

      First of all, you seem to have disregarded the following sentence, probably because it had no explicit numbers in it. But when I said that driving with the flow of traffic splits the difference, I meant that driving like the average driver in the suburbs yields about 23 mpg. If red lights give you ample opportunities to engage the turbo, and you do, you’ll see high teens. If you drive the car to maximize fuel economy, you’ll see 26-27.

      I often include multiple numbers in my reviews so people can pick the ones that fit how they drive. But, as conceded above, I could have done this more explicitly in this particular review.

  • avatar
    joeveto3

    From the pictures, I think this car looks good, even in the pearl white, which I usually don’t like.

    Last week I had a Camaro with Chevy’s MyLink, and I was shocked by how easy it was to use. I went from thinking I would hate the Camaro’s interior to actually enjoying the functionality of it, aided mostly by the MyLink.

  • avatar
    justinx

    Don’t manufacturers usualy stretch their cars for the Chinese market? I don’t see why they can’t do it for the Malibu.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Sat in the back of a Malibu at the auto show today, and it definitely is tight back there. I think the problem is that the seatback is very reclined. That helps with the headroom, but it also positions your butt further forward than in other cars, which in turn pushes your knees into the front seat.

    GM might be able to fix that, depending on what’s behind the seatback. I wonder if it was tilted forward to protect space for the battery on the hybrid?

    • 0 avatar
      MadHungarian

      That’s the result of trying to maintain similar interior stats while shortening the wheelbase. Carmakers can use tricks like that to game the interior volume formula and have done so for decades. Remember that GM claimed the ’77 downsized full sized cars had the same or more interior room than their predecessors, and they said that again when they took the same cars and moved them to shorter wheelbase FWD platforms in ’85. But put a ’75 and ’85 Sedan deVille next to each other and ask anyone which is the roomier car.

  • avatar
    Phil Ossifer

    according to most of the posts the Malibu has to do 0-60 in under 4 seconds, have interior room of a greyhound bus, the power of a 3406 Caterpillar , get fuel mileage of a moped and handle like an indy race car or its just plain no good.. Seems like the usual anti-American car crowd to me. as far as you michael koresh ,, i thought they (bill clinton and that ugly old hag attorney general) got you in Waco…………………

  • avatar
    jayzwhiterabbit

    Ok, so the back seat is small. Customers will either buy it and deal with it, or move on. IT’S BEEN NOTED EVERYWHERE. Move on!!!

  • avatar
    desertrat5522

    It’s a nice looking car with great features, but I can’t help why I would pay nearly $10,000 more for a vehicle with only 1/3 of the passenger volume of my 2012 Toyota Sienna Van (base model). I paid only $25,500 for my van. Yes it’s plain as vanilla inside but has all that I need.

    Heck I would rather have my old 2007 Malibu that I paid only 10,000 for. (bought a year old). The 2007 while not as flashy had 2 more cylinders and more space.
    What would last longer a turbo 4 or a V6?

    Other than nice styling the only accomplishments that I’ve seen automakers make in the last 10 years are:
    Reduced room, reduced visibility, more complication, higher repair costs. When was the last time you saw a Crossover with decent cargo space with all the seats up?


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