By on November 4, 2013

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Well. How to begin? Perhaps by pointing to a positive review for the Malibu 2.0t from our own Michael Karesh. Alternately, I could refer you to a four-star recommendation for this car’s predecessor from illustrious former E-I-C, Ed Niedermeyer. I want you to understand that there are people on our editorial staff, including Derek, who have good, solid, well-founded, nice things to say about the Malibu. And why not? We’re out of the GM Deathwatch business now. There’s no longer anybody in the TTAC virtual office angling for a job with the Republican Party, General Motors itself, or some improbable combination of the two. I, personally, believe that GM is in the business of building outstanding automobiles, from the outgoing Tahoe in which I recently spent a few pleasant days as a passenger in New Mexico to the Corvette C7 I thrashed around the Road&Track “Motown Mile” last month.

But this rented 2013 Malibu LTZ, on which I recently moved the odometer from 14,010 to 14,574 miles in the course of a Midwestern day trip, isn’t even close to outstanding.

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Let’s start by noting that there’s already a 2014 Malibu available, which offers a variety of detail improvements over the car I just drove. Autoblog confidently says that the 2014 Malibu “does the Camry thing better than the Camry does right now”, which I feel confident in dismissing as the sort of PR-pampering-fueled twaddle that ensures shortlist positioning on the next Cadillac trip to that Dubai indoor-skiing place. Some dealers have the 2014 in stock, but there’s still plenty of the old model to go around, with a $2,500 rebate and other incentives to ensure that the approximately $29,875 MSRP will be knocked down to at least the $25K range.

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Before discussing the Malibu’s redeeming qualities, I might as well go through a list of things I hated about the car. Sit down, this is going to take a minute. Some of them will be rightly characterized as “trivial” by the Malibu’s defenders; others will be problematic for everyone.

  • If you’re too cheap to buy keyless entry, you’ll be given an ignition tumbler/key combination that places the key right where your right knee would like to go. In a crash, this would be more than a little painful. At all other times, it simply makes moving around in the car during long drives troubling. I drove from Powell, Ohio to Winchester, Kentucky and back (about 450 miles) without much of a stop and by the time I came to a halt I was completely sick of that ignition key’s desire to violate my kneecap.
  • In the name of cheapness, the automatic transmission “PRNDL” display to the left of the shifter is mechanical, not electronic. Because GM can’t help their urge to gimmick-up the car, the display is geared or mechanically scaled somehow, so that moving the shifter doesn’t exactly correlate to changing the display. It’s hard to explain, but you’ll notice it when you drive the Malibu. It also makes selecting “R” or “D” in a hurry troublesome because the detents in the shift motion appear to be out of sync with what the display is doing.
  • Placing a pizza and a two-liter bottle of soda on the passenger seat activates the seatbelt chime.
  • The position of the left-side temp knob guarantees that you’ll hit it when you move your knee to avoid hitting the ignition key. The HVAC system itself is remarkably uncouth and appears unable to summon impressive heat or cooling. Noise, however, is not in short supply when the fan winds up.
  • There’s a (presumably better) Pioneer nine-speaker sound system available as an option, but the base stereo is weak and muddy all at once. It’s remarkably poor by modern sedan standards.
  • My admittedly formidable 18,023-song iPod Classic proved to be almost unusable with the MyLink system, requiring up to ten minutes of indexing every time the car was started before any music would be available. A full index never occurred; during three hours of continuous operation, the MyLink climbed to 10,000 songs exactly and quit. When the Malibu was restarted, it locked-up the iPod, requiring a reset of the iPod and another indexing session. To be fair, Bluetooth integration was excellent and hands-free phone conversations were pleasant for all involved.
  • I don’t know how a color can feel cheap, but the blue-green illumination used in this Malibu somehow manages the trick. Although the interior itself has some interesting and respectable materials, (not to include the bizarre five-slot fake grille that sweeps across from door vent to door vent) the lighting is straight out of an old Cavalier or Grand Am.
  • Pressing the unlock key on the remote causes the Chevrolet to emit a chittering noise from the rear taillights that approximates the infamous “dead battery click” and therefore causes those of us with years’ worth of experience in mechanically compromised used cars to shudder briefly.
  • The cruise-control rocker switch is unforgivably crap-feeling and belongs on a ten-dollar handheld video game from the Eighties. No big deal except you will, you know, use it pretty much every day of your life.
  • The power-window switches for the passenger windows “click” like they have auto-up. They don’t. Every time you try it, you’ll feel just a little bit of disappointment.
  • It’s possible to change the idling speed of the engine by holding the aforementioned window switches up after the windows have closed. This is just one of the ways in which this Malibu is surprisingly reminiscent of a ’93 Tempo.

I could go on. And I will. About just one more little thing that serves as a nice little metaphor for the vehicle as a whole. Here’s the infotainment stack:

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What’s that slider underneath the MyLink display do? Let’s find out:

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Whoa. This is one of those showroom-customer-shocker features for which dealer principals across the nation are continually begging. And its true that you could fit all sorts of fun things in there: your wallet, a small-caliber pistol, a half-kilogram of cocaine, your house keys. It’s just a great idea. But the execution isn’t good. The hinges are weak, the fold-up screen feels flimsy and doesn’t click back into place convincingly. Also, doing it repeatedly can lock up your iPod. It’s hard to shake the feeling that, one of the times you pull this party trick, the whole thing’s going to break. Not a bad idea, but it should have been fully-baked before release.

We might as well get the rear seat space issue out of the way. I’m told by automotive journalists that the short wheelbase and concurrent cramped back seat of the 2013 Malibu was an unavoidable consequence of moving to a new platform that happened to have a shorter wheelbase. Remember, GM is the same company that built a long-wheelbase Cadillac SLS for the Chinese after the tame journos repeatedly told us that the pathetic rear seat of the SLS/STS was an unavoidable consequence of platform blah blah. Color me unconvinced. The Malibu is effectively the same size on the inside as the Cruze, which means that one of the two is probably a redundant product. So what. I don’t normally drive adults around in the back seat of my car anyway. However, I do take a child seat around:

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That’s with the front seat about halfway forward, so that a 5’8″ woman would be only barely comfortable in it. However, I think the kid’s hamming it up a bit.

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Better, but not much. I can make more room than this in my Porsche 993 if I’m willing to make the front passenger suffer a bit.

My long I-75 trip in the LTZ showed off the Chevy’s greatest strength: its quiet, compliant, trouble-free demeanor on divided highways. This is what Chevrolets were once expected to do in the Biscayne era and there are no disappointments here. It’s the one area where you get your money’s worth and it’s the one area where it really does outdo the Camry and Fusion. You can have conversations with all the passengers at 80mph and none of them will need to raise her voice. And it rides at least as well as the Camry and slightly better than the Fusion. This is probably all wheel/tire/package dependent, but that’s my impression.

The 196-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder makes good numbers in theory, but in the real world it’s a bit of a disaster. It’s slow pretty much all the time. Even during a long freeway trip, the ‘Bu never self-reported more than 29 miles per gallon, eventually settling in the 27-mpg range. With any acceleration input, even going up mild hills, the instant mileage fell off the face of the earth:

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The claimed mileage at the end of my trip was a 26.5mpg average. In those same situations, on that same trip, my Town Car returns 22.1 and my Boxster S thinks it’s getting 27.5. Where’s the payoff for this mouse motor?

Perhaps the transmission is to blame; it’s without a doubt the most stupid self-shifter I’ve driven lately. It continuously throws incompetent, jarring change-downs in during deceleration. Ironic, since GM was the first company to make the shift-to-high during off-throttle standard equipment, way back before I was born. Whatever the Malibu is supposedly doing better than the Camry, shifting ain’t it. It should be noted that other TTAC testers reported a better experience with the higher-capacity automatic used in the Turbo. I believe that one is the combined GM/Ford transmission; I believe this one is the combined Daewoo/Daewoo transmission. I didn’t drop it out from under the car, so I can’t say for sure.

I liked the looks of the previous Malibu: clean, distinctive, tasteful, unique. It was the ’68 A-Body of FWD mid-sizers. Well, this one’s the Colonnade. Seriously. It looks like nothing so much as a ’77 Monte Carlo, from the bluff front end and wavy-gravy bonnet to the overwrought hippy hindquarters. At least the Monte had a graceful tail, which this does not. Styling analysis here at TTAC is properly done by Sajeev Mehta so I’ll shut up on this, but not before I note that I cannot think of a single visual aspect of this automobile that improves on its predecessor.

It’s hard to make any argument for the hapless Chevrolet. Aesthetically, it is repugnant. Operationally, it is deficient in multiple areas. It is short on passenger room front and rear. The electronics are subpar. The climate control is subpar. It is not particularly economical to purchase or operate, nor is it likely to retain any value. The Chevrolet and Malibu names, when uttered together, have not impressed anyone, anywhere, since about 1974. It is not fast. It does not handle particularly well. It’s quiet, but it needs to be quiet so you can hear the stereo.

It is possible, likely even, that the 2014 refresh addresses some of these issues. I’ll know as soon as somebody rents me one. But this car should never have been released. GM is where Toyota was circa 1972: fighting a horrendous public image and in need of some brilliant cars to earn points with the buying public. This Malibu was a failure of vision, planning, and execution. It is not recommended.

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141 Comments on “Rental Review: 2013 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ...”


  • avatar
    sirwired

    This appears to be a well-justified negative review for a car that has been widely acknowledged to be a dud. That said, it’s refreshing that TTAC has moved on from the “GM can do nothing right, ever” era.

    I will say that despite all the little details that are lacking, that is a pretty sharp looking interior; the design staff had the right idea.

    • 0 avatar
      mjz

      The 2014 Malibu looks even worse to me than the 2013. The new grille is heavily weighted visually to the lower air intake. It makes the car look front heavy in person. Why they didn’t adapt the new “cleaner look” front of the Impala and Traverse is beyond me. Unfortunately, they did not bother to change those ugly tail lights. They are awkwardly styled and look cheap. Seriously, couldn’t they swing a few more bucks for at the very least some new lenses? This car is doomed until it gets all an all new design. Akerson’s boneheaded decision to launch the 2013 Malibu six months early with only the lackluster Eco model sealed this car’s fate. Only Chrysler has had a worse launch (Fiat 500, Dodge Dart, Jeep Cherokee) in recent memory. Maybe Akerson can get a gig at Chrysler after the GM job is over. Hey Dan, give Sergio a call.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I agree the Chevrolet car interiors have gotten very nice since about 2008 onward, its one (if not only) of the consistent bright spots about the cars.

      • 0 avatar
        MLS

        While the new Malibu has been poorly received, journalists routinely praise both the Cruze and Impala, and not just for their interiors, either.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I haven’t been in the new Impala but I’m familiar with Cruze. A big step forward from J-body but I still m’eh it in both outside styling and power. If I was shopping in the segment I’d go for its superior cousin Verano or if my budget didn’t permit it I’m giving Impreza a hard look. If somehow Impreza didn’t work out I’m still shopping Toyonda if only for the resale, if I’m going to drive something ugly I’d might as well get good money when its time to dump it. I’m not sure what the 13s cost but MY14 Cruze LT auto is $19,735 on the website with $1K cash back. Cruze hasn’t been out for years and years so its difficult to estimate future resale but MY13 Cruze LT auto does 13-13.7 sub 20K otc, it will probably hit its equilibrium around 10K after 4yo/40-50K and like Cobalt/Cav probably sink like a stone in years hence. Unless MY14 Corolla crashes and burns, I’d gamble Civrolla is still the better buy for your small car dollar over Cruze.

  • avatar
    Tomifobia

    I rented an almost-identical Malibu this past summer and let me add:

    The discombobulated feeling the suspension has after hitting an expansion joint at highway speed.

    The 2 second delay when shifting from drive to reverse and vice-versa. More than disconcerting when trying to execute a 3-point turn.

    The sluggishness when lifting off the throttle when coasting. It makes it feel like the transmission has downshifted, even when using manual mode.

    That chrome bar that runs across the dash. It reflects sunlight at certain times that left me temporarily blinded more than once.

    MyLink is almost decent for a touchscreen-based system, but when you deactivate a feature that you don’t use (like Pandora) the icon for it just grays out and stays in place, instead of disappearing or moving down the menu list.

    On long trips, I will sometimes move my left foot from the dead pedal and place it flat on the floor, raising my knee. When I do this, the driver’s door pull rubs against my knee in a somewhat painful way.

    I’ve rented every generation of Malibu since they brought the name back in ’97, and this is by far the most disappointing model.

    However, your carping about getting 12 MPH while accelerating at 90 MPH is pretty ridiculous.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Our rental was a 2013 Malibu 1LT, and the seats were uncomfortable….

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Nice catch on the 90 MPH. Notice the motor’s only turning 3000 RPM at that speed, pretty impressive for a 4 banger. My Honda and Mini are spinning 3000 at 65.

      • 0 avatar
        blppt

        It might be impressive on paper, but for a heavy car with a high torque peak, that will likely result in constant downshifts to 5th and 4th gears on any kind of decent highway grades. Possibly why he was getting such poor economy. Personally, I find this transmission behavior extremely annoying, and a deal-breaker when buying a new car. If you want the engine to be turning under 2,000 rpm at normal highway speeds (65-70), it had better be turbocharged, or large displacement. Or, you had better live in a very flat area.

        Heck, even my father’s Fusion Sport has to kick down to 5th going up moderate grades at 65mph, and thats a 3.5 liter V-6. (about 2,000 rpm @ 65 mph in 6th).

  • avatar
    motormouth

    I rented one last year and just about checked every gripe you had with this example of the ‘Bu. That is aside from the passenger-side window button, which I guess was meant for a higher-spec, non-rental model but got slapped in there as it was the last one in the parts bin.

  • avatar
    npbheights

    I can’t believe how different the combined GM/Ford 6 speed feels in different cars. Its pretty smooth in my ’10 MKZ. It makes some clunky downshifts in my wife’s ’08 MKZ. Felt like a four speed in the ’12 Impala I rented once. Terrible in the ’13 Malibu apparently… Weird.

  • avatar
    jz78817

    ” Autoblog confidently says that the 2014 Malibu “does the Camry thing better than the Camry does right now”, which I feel confident in dismissing as the sort of PR-pampering-fueled twaddle that ensures shortlist positioning on the next Cadillac trip to that Dubai indoor-skiing place. ”

    Don’t mince words, Jack, what do you really think ;)

    anyway, I drove a 2013 Malibu for about a week late last year (not a rental, it was a pretty high trim level) and IMO there wasn’t anything really wrong with it. I can find stuff to bitch about in pretty much any vehicle. I really think that the ’13s failure in the marketplace can be summed up as “it looks almost the same as the model it replaced.” Even now I have to see the arse-end of the car before I’m sure it’s a ’13 and not a ’12 or earlier.

    That, I think, was GM’s biggest screw-up on this car.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Funny you mention the current Malibu looking the same as the one it replaced, because I feel the same way about the new GM trucks. I have to do a double-take on a Silverado or Sierra to see if it’s a 2007-2013 GMT9xx, or one of the newer K2xx ones.

      • 0 avatar
        jz78817

        and this is what gets me about GM. As brilliant as they seem to be with Cadillac, they’re conservative to a fault with Chevy. I hope for their sake they don’t repeat the mistake with the next Cruze.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          Me too. I actually like the conservative design of the current Cruze (to me, it looks mature), but that’s not going to work a second time, since competitors like the Elantra, Focus and Forte are getting better and better-looking. I believe the second-gen Cruze is being released early in China, so we’ll see it sooner than later. What I’m most impressed with is that GM now actually has a compact-car nameplate that is worth keeping for another generation. Cavalier and Cobalt were definitely not equitable names. Likewise, I hope that Dodge gets to keep the Dart name, after ruining Neon, Caliber, and several others…

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        Just look for the big plastic eyesores on the bumper, the wheels which look a foot deep into the wheelwells, and the steeply raked windshield.

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    For a moment, I thought this was a review for a Chrysler product. I am surprised that the ‘Bu exhibited so many shortfalls. Ergonomics should not even be an issue in this day and age. The key position would bother me as well. Certainly, someone taller than 5′ sat in this car and saw the same thing the author did. And what of the sister ship Buick? Same problems as the Chebby? I would be curious as I am sure the parts sharing between the two is high. Too bad for the ‘Bu, it is a sharp looking car. The 2014s even moreso.

    • 0 avatar
      MLS

      There is no direct Buick counterpart to the Malibu, though the Regal is built on the same short wheelbase Epsilon II architecture. The Malibu and Regal have less in common than, say, the Impala/LaCrosse or Traverse/Enclave.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    90+ mph? And you expect fuel economy?

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    I’ve rented the ’14 a few times now. The improvements in the ’14, beginning with the schnoz, make the Malibu a decent rental. Jack didn’t address the C-pillar blind spot and poor rear viz. This car, like many other fat-assed cars, does benefit from a rear-view camera.

  • avatar
    ant

    “The 196-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder (is) slow pretty much all the time. ”

    Really?

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      The 196 horses appear at 6300 rpm. The 191 lb.-ft. appear at 4200 rpm. The torque curve doesn’t give you much at 2400-3200 rpm, so it seems sluggish. It may be the transmission/ECU settings were calibrated to make sure the package looked good on the dyno and emissions tests.

      • 0 avatar
        Quentin

        I’ve always disliked peak torque as a specification. The engine could be at 180ft-lb from 1500RPM until 4000RPM, but the manufacturers still post the 190ft-lb at 4200RPM. I’d rather see the torque curve and make an estimation of how it will drive from that.

        Anyway, that torque spec isn’t bad compared to the rest of the class. More than likely the gearing is very tall and that keeps the revs low. Low revs = low power when talking about a gas 4cyl, midsize sedan.

        • 0 avatar
          afflo

          Something along the lines of “Peak Torque = X, 85% available X RPM – X RPM”

          • 0 avatar
            Dan

            That wouldn’t reveal much. With ubiquitous VVT, 85-90% of peak torque is, on the WOT dyno, available from every motor at every rpm.

            The usual culprit for soft response is drive by wire calibrated for emissions and mileage instead of moving the car. It’s not giving you WOT, and regardless of how tall or short the final drive is it feels tall because it won’t downshift into an appropriate gear either.

            Driving the same vehicle with the same motor and the same gearing before and after one of the aftermarket ECU tunes is a real eye opener. Factory programming is like an eco mode you can’t turn off without sending $500 and the rest of your powertrain warranty off to a third party.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Okay, first of all, this car rides on the Epsilon II platform, along with the Regal. That basic platform *can* be stretched, as evidenced by the LaCrosse, Impala and XTS, which use the Super Epsilon platform. I’m a huge fan of GM, and I actually like the Malibu’s styling, but here are some things I dislike…

    1. The switch for the cubby-hole should be less prevalent and integrated into the unit better. It’s like a giant pimple on the face of the display bezel

    2. They removed the electronic parking brake for MY2014, in favor of a handbrake

    3. The fact that all GM cars illuminate their reverse lamps when unlocked. Supposedly it’s to provide light, but it can wreak havoc in a crowded parking lot.

    4. The vinyl/cloth combination on lesser-equipped Malibus.

    Ironically, GM was going to offer the Malibu Eco again for 2014 (which combines the older 2.4-liter engine with a trunk-hogging battery), but they discontinued the Eco at the last minute when EPA testing of the 2.5-liter and its standard start-stop revealed that it was as good as or better than the Eco in terms of fuel economy. I do wonder why GM hasn’t *ever* placed a conventional hybrid system in a sedan or crossover (the Volt isn’t conventional). The Malibu Eco might have been worth it’s price premium and lack of trunk space if it were a real hybrid….

    • 0 avatar
      Tomifobia

      Personally, I prefer a handbrake in lieu of the electronic switch.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      You can keep your electric park brake, I won’t even test drive a car with one of those.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        I’m fine with a conventional parking brake, but on a car that doesn’t offer any kind of manual transmission, that parking brake should be a pedal, where it is out of the way. The console on the ’13 models looked really clean because of the lack of a handbrake, and now…it doesn’t…

    • 0 avatar
      jz78817

      “3. The fact that all GM cars illuminate their reverse lamps when unlocked. Supposedly it’s to provide light, but it can wreak havoc in a crowded parking lot.”

      Oh hell yes this irritates me to no end, for exactly that reason.

      • 0 avatar
        afflo

        Ugh, the first time I witnessed this, I was in a parking lot with my young daughter. We were walking down a row toward a store, and I had her walking on the outside, between me and the parked cars, as there were cars moving up and down the aisles. While waiting for a car to finish parking, we were standing behind a Tahoe, and the reverse lights suddenly came on. I knocked on the rear glass twice and yelled “STOP” before realizing that the owner was 5 cars away pushing a shopping cart.

        She was understanding, having her own young child. It’s a bad, bad “feature,” and one that has no real purpose. There really should be lights that would signal a parked car. Maybe just the running lights without the headlights. I would name them “Parking Lights”

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “I do wonder why GM hasn’t *ever* placed a conventional hybrid system in a sedan or crossover (the Volt isn’t conventional).”

      Kyree I had similar thoughts. GM could just license someone else’s technology, Ford is doing very well with their Lincoln MkFusion hybrid from what I have read.

  • avatar
    kokorara

    It was supposed to be an E60 5-series.

    The G8 copied BMW in a better way,

  • avatar
    Zackman

    As far as I’m concerned, I love the looks of the new Malibu far better than the old one, especially the back end. The previous edition, while nice – especially that wonderful side glass profile – looked great, but the old one’s stylists appeared to run out of money when designing the rear end – they just look unfinished, and the new one addresses all that.

    Of course, I haven’t driven one, so I must reserve my impression ’til I do, but sitting in one sure felt great at the dealership.

    I can’t hate on any new car for the most part, because I feel cars have reached a plateau of sorts, where one’s choice comes down to picking what floats your boat. Right now, Chevy does that for me.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Yeah, the previous Malibu had a very abrupt rear end. The new one looks a lot better. I like that they’ve moved the number plate slot to the bumper, which is very Volkswagenesque, and Volkswagen typically has cleaner designs. Also, the front fascia looks a lot nicer if you get the LTZ and opt for the HID headlamps.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      I saw a 2014 Malibu today and I remarked that it looked noticeably better than this 2013. So there’s that at least.

  • avatar
    LKre

    Sounds like a 2006/07 rental Pontiac G6, which was exactly like a rental 2003 Cavalier. There is a lot of business potential in that GM Deathwatch project.

    • 0 avatar
      Secret Hi5

      I know you’re just trolling, but saying the new Malibu is like the G6 or Cavalier is preposterous. The G6 interior was atrocious, but the car was otherwise tolerable. The Cavalier . . . lets not even go there.

      edit: The post I’m replying to no longer mentions Daewoo, haha!

  • avatar
    klossfam

    The death knell for this semi-current ‘Bu REALLY sounds if someone tests a current Honda Accord 4-cylinder (even with its…GASP…CVT). They seem like cars in a completely different class. And yes, the lighting in the ‘Bu does it NO favors…Very cheap looking for otherwise decent interior materials. I’ll take an Accord, Sonata or Optima over this any day of the week.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      I’ll add the Mazda 6 to your list. Otherwise, all cars I’d rather have than a Malibu. Not to mention, the Korean twins with turbo-fours can be had for less than this car’s $29,875 MSRP!

  • avatar
    mars3941

    I had a 2007 Saturn which shared the old platform with the Malibu and I really liked the car. My only complaints were the interior had to much hard plastic on the door panels, the seats weren’t supportive enough. Other than that I really liked the car. It was the top of the line with the 3.6 V6 engine and performed very well. Apparently Chevy would have done better putting a new body on the previous platform with the 112 wheelbase and still retained the 3.6 as an option.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      The Aura? That was a nice car. I liked it better than the old Malibu, and I could guess that if Saturn was still around, what is the current Buick Regal was actually the second-generation Saturn Aura.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        I believe that was the plan.

        Worth noting: the Regal’s back seat is significantly tighter than the Lacrosse’s. Since the Impala is based on the same platform as the Lacrosse, and has a huge back seat, I guess the Malibu was made smaller to not impede on Impala sales.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      I had an ’07 Aura stripper as a rental car and LOVED it. I was really surprised how good it was. I got mid 30s MPG driving from SFO to SAC. It had solid power and loved the amber ambient lighting.

      Wait – it goes downhill.

      I was excited to get my hands on a loaded Aura later that year with the 3.6L V6 under the hood. Had about 24K miles on the odometer. It was do dogged out, the rotors so hopelessly warped, I turned around and it swapped it out. Ended up in a Hyundai Azera which was a big bag of meh.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “The claimed mileage at the end of my trip was a 26.5mpg average. In those same situations, on that same trip, my Town Car returns 22.1 and my Boxster S thinks it’s getting 27.5. Where’s the payoff for this mouse motor?”

    Exactly. I thought the same thing when I drove the previous Malibu (that I really like) for the first time in 2010. Nice power for an I4 but did not break 28mpg avg @ 65 driving back from Columbus, but my derided “ancient” pushrod motor does that and more on a long trip and in routine 60/40 hwy/city still does 26 mpg.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      It’s interesting to compare these numbers to my Hemi Charger which would get 26-27 mpg highway and the Pentastar equipped model which can do 30. I like having cake and eating it too.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      28-29 Is what ancient RWD Volvos get on trips and they use inline 4s, you would think that 30 years of automotive improvements and numerous aerodynamic tweaks to modern cars could do better.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        35+ years, I thought the B230 came out in 1976.

        Did you have to do anything with your car to get it to that level of mileage (ie did the mileage suck?).

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          Around there I think it came out, I stand corrected.

          I just did a stage 0, careful throttle application (no cruise control here), overdrive bypass, correct tire pressure, narrower wheels from an earlier model,and finally I removed the metal heater hose and put a lid over the airbox port. The airbox likes to get stuck on “warm”, taking in only warm air from the exaust and ruining gas mileage and performance.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    This is a great review on how, even though the products are greatly improved, the domestic manufacturers ‘still’ can’t get it right. They really don’t ‘sweat the small stuff’ like Toyota and Honda have (and still do). ‘Perimeter lighting’ is a great example. On GM products, it’s the infuriating back-up lights. I suspect it’s in response to how Ford vehicles’ entire emergency warning light system lights up and stays on when the remote unlock is pressed until a door is opened. What’s wrong with how Toyotas momentarily flash twice and then stay dark? It’s a brief signal that the car has received the signal and done what was asked, and that’s all you really need.

    It’s like Ford and GM designers decided that their system had to be that much better and, thus, more appealing without doing any kind of research. Are Americans really that lame-brained that they need some kind of light to remain constantly on so they can find their vehicle in a crowded parking lot? Isn’t the brief Toyota flash enough? If anything, if I were a criminal, I’d love Fords and GMs because I’d know exactly which cars had been unlocked and could race to them to do whatever criminal endeavor I had planned.

    Likewise, all the niggling little irritants on the interior. The cheap, disjointed shifter, the poorly designed air vents, window switches, and ignition key placement. That kind of stuff adds up real fast on any kind of trip. It’s as if the heads of the domestics’ interior design teams ordered their well-paid minions, “We’re paying you lots of money. You guys better come up with lots of great features” and this is the result of a sort of panic of underlings to keep their jobs with ‘great’ feature ideas at the expense of common sense.

    BTW, I once had a rental 2013 ‘Bu, too, with less than 5k miles and the passenger side rear window would only lower about 1/4″ inch, and then wouldn’t raise.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Clearly you have not had a rental Camry L lately,

      Honda definitely still sweats the small stuff but the Camry hit a low point from ’08 to ’12 with the current model only incrementally better. Cheap plastic abounds, as does decontenting. There is a reason it has the lowest ATP in class, subsidized leases that don’t cover the residual when you do the math, and pushing 20% fleet sales (and in real numbers more Camry’s have gone to fleet than Fusions)

      NOT in defense of the indefensible – but oh Toyota pays attention to the details is fanboism still living in 1996.

      • 0 avatar
        segfault

        ATP?
        Automatic Toilet Paper?
        Automotive Technical Programme?
        I’m confused.

      • 0 avatar
        goldtownpe

        Got data to prove your points about Camry fleet numbers and ATP? Or are you just pulling them out of your fanboism fantasy?

        http://www.automotive-fleet.com/statistics/statsviewer.aspx?file=http%3a%2f%2fwww.automotive-fleet.com%2ffc_resources%2fstats%2faffb13car-reg.pdf&channel=
        2012 registration data
        Fusion: Total fleet = 73,517 31.9% fleet
        Camry: Total fleet = 57,204 16.1% fleet
        Malibu: Total fleet = 79,158 37.3% fleet

        Who’s got fanboism now?

    • 0 avatar
      jz78817

      and why is the Toyota method The Right Thing To Do?

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Just because a Camry is nicely put together and quite reliable does not mean it is not nicely put together reliable crap.

        I actually have a Regal Turbo as a rental this week – I am rather enjoying it. Reminds me very much of my old Saab 9-3. Much nicer than the Malibu, but I assume much more expensive too

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    I had a 2013 Malibu LT and generally share your views.

    Two things.

    In the Florida heat I found the climate control worked fine, and I like it COLD. I would suggest something was wrong with the climate control system of your rental.

    Admittedly only have about 6800 songs on the iPhone 4 – but had no syncing issues – I kind of suspect I had the better stereo. Before someone calls out I’m tone deaf my toy has Morels all around, JBL MS-8 sound process, a 10″ sub and 780 watts of power through three amps – 14 channels through 13 speakers. I care about sound. I was surprised at how good it was – so I’m guessing My rental had the Bose.

    Completely agree that 80 MPH flat highway cruisng the car is great. The key location. was reminiscent of my ’05 Grand Prix (not a good thing) and I’m surprised you made no mention of just how cramped the FRONT is. I found the driver cockpit fighter plane tight and not in a good way.

    The ‘bu refresh was a huge step back, and in addition the prior gen introduced as an ’08 in ’07 and got high praise has not aged well. The ‘bu is now on my avoid at the rental counter at all cost list.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      I also noticed how cramped the front part of the cabin looked. Same thing applies to the redesigned Impala. Saw an LTZ at an outdoor mall this weekend. It has that stupid high console now that intrudes on knee room. The old Impala had oodles of space to stretch out and move your legs around, which made it great for long trips, in fact it reminded me of a larger minivan or SUV in terms of space up front. Part of what drove me from a Cruze into a Civic was the lack of an airy cabin and space to move around in. I’m not a hefty fellow (5’11″ 185 lbs) but I do like my space. A sensation of roominess is a luxury in and of itself. Keep your touchscreens and blue teeth, give me a column shifter and a small (or no) console!

      • 0 avatar
        ponchoman49

        You think the current 2014 Malibu and Impala have large intrusive center consoles you must have never checked out a current Taurus, MKS or LaCrosse. A Civic is hardly what I would call roomy in front.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          If there is ever a remake of “2001: A Space Odyssey” the console of the Taurus will serve as the monolith.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          I agree that the Taurus is hands down one of the worst offenders.

          Ponchoman Have you even sat in a 2012+ Civic? If not, I direct you to some reviews, where front seat space is regularly compared to midsize sedans. I’m not just talking about the front legroom specs. I mean elbow and knee room. The door cards are bowed out, and the center console is very minimal and low. The seat is very wide with minimal thigh bolstering. Combined with the low dash and far away windshield, there is a sense of vast open space. I like to splay my knees out on long drives and my Civic allows for this, the Impala “Classic” does as well. A lot of newer cars with the center console obsession do not.

  • avatar
    kenwood

    Hey JB,
    Would you still take a 2006-2012 Impala over this?

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Comparing his reviews of both one after the other, I’m left with the feeling he’d prefer the Imp, if only for the powertrain.

      The last time I road tripped in a 2012 Impala, the 3.6L V6 and 6 speed auto returned better fuel economy than this 4 banger ‘Bu.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Jack and Derek:

    Love the site, know you need to make money. The Game Stop banner across the bottom of the screen? HELL on an iPad. Absolute, total, complete Hell.

    The ad will as you scroll park itself in the middle of the screen, then jump to the bottom. Attempting to hit the close X results in the following experience:

    60% of the time – leave TTAC to the Game Stop site
    35% of the time – click “through” the ad and end up on some other page on TTAC clicking a hidden link under the ad
    05% of the time – ad actually goes away

    Can’t run Firefox with ABP on an iPad. Please – kill the floating lower banners. PLEASE!!!

  • avatar

    Even the muffler bearings have the cheap plastic coating that wears out in a year, instead of being anodized

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Well, we knew this wasn’t an A+ effort on Chevy’s part. But I’d be interested to see a review of the 2014 model.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    “It’s possible to change the idling speed of the engine by holding the aforementioned window switches up after the windows have closed. This is just one of the ways in which this Malibu is surprisingly reminiscent of a ’93 Tempo.”

    At first, I thought “what an interesting interface to a feature as rarely used as idle-speed adjust”.

    Then I realized it was just that the Malibu is so strained at normal idle that it can’t run the window motors without needing to rev up…

    (On the other hand, I’m not sure the complaint about “instant mileage” while using throttle input is thoroughly fair.

    I don’t really expect ANY vehicle to get great economy while doing anything other than cruising; acceleration [which is what \"going up a hill\" is, as far as the engine is concerned] kills economy.

    That’s why City numbers are low and Highway numbers are high, you know…

    But I also have fewer data points than a car reviewer – what’s the competition like on that front?)

  • avatar
    jkross22

    This car sounds like a step back from the high water mark GM had with new cars – the Oldsmobile Intrigue.

    Great car. Roomy, quiet, non-fatal handling. Good rental car. Pity that was in 1999, and the company’s taken a step back since then.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    Since the 2014 Malibu was revised, it is not fair to keep beating a dead horse, trashing the outgoing ’13. I didn’t bother to read this.

    How about reviewing a new ’14?

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    How many miles were on your tester?

    I have driven dozens of 2013′s in LS, LT and 2LT trim levels and noticed a variation on engine power, mileage and transmission shifting behavior between them. The earlier cars suffered the worst but the later cars with more miles seemed much better.

    I never thought the 197 Hp 2.5 under powered. In fact it feels peppier and more refined than Ford’s lame 2013 fusion with the 170 Hp 2.5 out of the previous generation Fusion and I easily walked past a 2010 Camry LE automatic being driven by a psycho enraged old guy that thought he needed to beat me out when the road merged into one lane. Mileage varies between models. The bigger is better tire fad works against many cars, the Malibu included. The base LS/LT models averaged between 27.5-28 in 60/40 driving. The 18″ tired 2LT was lower at 26.8-27. All highway runs netted around 33-34 on Malibu’s with over 15K miles. The 2-10K mile cars had a hard time getting 30 on the open road so break in mileage makes a huge difference on this car.

    I agree that the back seat space is lacking and the front seats could use a bit more padding and back support. The front cup holders sucked forcing two large coffees to kiss each other side by side(rectified on the 2014).

    Pluses compared to the 2008-2012 include: overhead assist grips for all passengers. The glove box is lighted. The rear seat has a fold down center armrest with storage and cup holders. The overhead console has a holder for sun glasses. My link and the new standard sound system are an improvement over the old Impala like stereo which was weak. Much more tech available in the 2013. The rear end and taillights look better than the generic 2008-2012 model. More hp and torque than previous generation plus the 2.0 liter turbo offers better power and mileage than the thirsty 3.6 is replaced. Interior materials, color choices and ambiance are considerably better than the cheap hard plastics of the older car. The LT on up models projection beam headlights work better than the previous cars halogens. The new car is also quieter and rides better than before. Other pluses- keyless start on LTZ versions, std alloy wheels vs plastic caps on previous car, available HIDs and the performance sound system upgrade is a big leap from the old car.

    • 0 avatar
      wmba

      Glad to see it had all those improvements for 2013!

      Imagine what Jack would have thought of a 2012 – he might not have found even one redeeming feature.

      When I drive a GM car I can never get over the feeling that it is just a collection of parts motoring in the same direction. There is no feeling of integration into a whole. Last one was an ATS, which was the best so far, but frankly not as nice, to me – not talking about anyone else – as my old Legacy GT, which strikes me as more ofa whole entity. Hard to explain, I know, but there it is for me, just a great sense of disconnectedness and impersonality that doesn’t draw me in to explore a GM car’s capabilities. Like a paint by numbers rather than an expression of a single theme.

      I should add, my brother’s Astra, made by Opel in Belgium does feel all of a piece. It’s a capable small car and nothing gone wrong in 6 years, unlike a typical Golf. No, it’s GM’s North American cars I don’t gel with. Probably just a feeling peculiar to me.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      “a 2010 Camry LE automatic being driven by a psycho enraged old guy that thought he needed to beat me out when the road merged into one lane”

      Was it white?
      :-D

  • avatar
    50merc

    Mr. Baruth, the flaws you listed are not trivial. They are the sort of things that drip-drip-drip until owner satisfaction is eroded away. GM should be embarrassed to put on sale a car so far from being sorted out.

    But what’s the deal with your comment about nobody at TTAC “angling for a job with the Republican party”? I don’t understand that at all.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Ed Niedermeyer got a gig writing Republican speeches at some point.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        So did Ben Stein and he may be conservative but that doesn’t keep him from going on Craig Ferguson and comparing our current healthcare plans to what Nixon had drawn up during his presidency as a proposal for universal healthcare.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        He has been on the payroll of a Tea Party PAC.

        http://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/expenditures.php?cycle=2012&cmte=C00461772

        • 0 avatar
          50merc

          Thanks for the information.
          I followed the link and saw Niedermeyer was paid $26K for work done for a conservative PAC that contributes to Republican campaigns. Dunno about any connection to the Tea Party movement. But even if any tie to the Tea Party movement is the indelible mark of Cain, what the heck does this have to do with a review of a Chevy Malibu?

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            The associations between the Western Representation PAC and its founder Dustin Stockton, and the Tea Party movement, are rather unambiguous.

            I believe that Mr. Baruth is suggesting that some of the articles previously published on this website since the end of the Farago era may have been agenda-driven.

  • avatar
    Carzzi

    “…at 80mph and none of them will need to raise her voice.”
    Another one of those easter eggs embedded in every Baruth column.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    I think the point of this car is just to be an up-sell to the Impala. The new Impala is well regarded in the Automotive World, loved by Consumer Reports. I think a lot of people will walk into the Chevy dealer looking at Malibus and leaving with an Impala. I wouldn’t put it past GM to half-ass this one on purpose and then put a herculean effort into the Impala as part of a strategy.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Good theory, its a slap in the face to current Malibu owners (some of whom may have been GM converts) and also those who might think the new Impala is “too big”, of course… that’s what she said.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    “This is just one of the ways in which this Malibu is surprisingly reminiscent of a ’93 Tempo.”

    And reminiscent of a 82 Chevy Celebrity I owned that would idle at 25 mph if I took my foot off the brake and gave it NO throttle input. Turn on the AC and it would idle at 30 mph.

  • avatar
    JD321

    Can you imagine sitting in on a GM Malibu design review meeting? Trying not to laugh at the stupidity and incompetence spewing from the mouths of these Detroit babes? Maybe sitting in on a Microsoft meeting would be even more laughable.

    And then the political Carlyle Group twit Akerson makes a stupid decision and launches the $30K “fuel efficient” model 8 months before the standard $20K models – basically scaring everyone away from buying Malibus.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I’d wager the GM meeting would be quite serious and people would voice concerns on some of the failing of the car cited here, and they would be ignored or neutralized by whomever is running the meeting. Watching a Microsoft meeting would just be sad as I imagine you’d see how out of touch the employees are with the customer and reality.

      Wow checkout Dan’s resume, I’m not surprised but he certainly has an interesting background.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Akerson

  • avatar
    honda_lawn_art

    Can I just say that review had me muffling laughs beneath my breath. I guess it’s refreshing to have a car that lends itself to criticism so well.

    It seems like the Chevy’s built on a good platform with terrible execution, and it’s sort of a car no one asked for; between the (larger than a 90′s Accord but still somehow) compact Cruze and the praised Impala.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Seems to me this new Malibu embodies the same complaints I often have with American cars of the 90′s, save for Iphone integration, I’m happy if I can even find anything on the radio.

    There is one upshot to all of this though, it has the new Corvette C7s tailights on it.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I think the current Malibu would look nice with the Holden emblmes/trim shown in the Commodore article posted later, I wonder if you could get those in the US?

  • avatar
    nickoo

    Jack, just curious, since you’ve extensively written on the dodge avenger. The dodge avenger is widely considered one of the worst cars on the road today with the 200 slightly above it. How does the Malibu compare?

  • avatar
    dbcoop

    I rented a 2013 Malibu this summer on a trip to Montana. Other than the infotainment system I didn’t notice most of the gripes mentioned by Jack. Most infotainment systems that I’ve experienced in rental cars are shockingly bad when compared to modern smartphones. I was impressed with the smooth, quiet ride on the highway which was appreciated given that I did about 500 miles over two days. The drivetrain definitely is nothing special in the power department but I was getting 30mpg+ with the cruise control set to 80mph. In this segment I’m more of an Altima guy myself.

  • avatar
    dwight

    Jack says it best. There’s the Cruze with the same interior dimensions of the Malibu. With the Cruze available with every option up to leather, and turbo 1.4L and 2.0 diesel, the Cruze is all the Chevrolet you need, right up to the fantastic looking Impala. Furthermore, when the redesigned model shows up in 2015, it will put the Malibu out of business.

    The ‘bu was great in 2008 back when the Impala was still an archaic rental car or taxi, and the Cobalt was a slightly better Cavalier. Now, it is the other way around.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Impala > Cruze > Malibu within the current GM line up, especially since you can’t get V6 torque in a Malibu anymore. Diesel Cruze seems like a winner for those who have bought a V6 Malibu for the extra torque off the line.

      • 0 avatar
        MLS

        The present Chevy lineup is somewhat reminiscent of Nissan’s pre-2002 range, with the too-small Altima squeezed by the Sentra from below and Maxima from above. Of course, once the third generation Altima debuted, that dynamic changed and the Maxima was rendered largely redundant and irrelevant.

  • avatar
    redav

    I rented one of these a couple months ago. I hated it.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    They should just rename the new impala to Malibu an put a larger car on the impala name.
    The current Malibu interior matches the cruze, the exterior matches the impala, all while the new impala is a perfect midsize, but much too small to be considered full size.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Day late and a dollar short as the Chevrolet Commodore variant was already named SS.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        I wasn’t necessarily referring to the commodore, while the new SS has 2 more inches of highly needed width, its smaller in most other ways.

        **Looking up the width of the new Malibu and the new impala, you will find them both to be 73 inches**

        Chevy has no fullsize, and hasn’t had one in a long time, 73 inch width isn’t anything to write home about in a proclaimed fullsize.

  • avatar
    Pebble

    Sounds dreadful to me. Why can’t GM get it right? I love American makes as much as I dislike Japanese (in both cases, a lot) but this Malibu’s not giving me confidence in GM. You’d think by now they’d know how to make something decent.

  • avatar
    kjb911

    I can say that driving the 13 Eco we have on the lot back to back with a 14 1LT is no comparison…someone must have gotten the memo of how crappy the car was. The front suspension was changed to include the dampening of the turbo version, new floor console that allows better leg room and easier use with a manual parking brake, 1.75 inch of rear leg room which do make a difference, new power steering programming, and better packaging (The ECO has been officially dropped). The LTZ Turbo is down right nasty (in a good Way) with the torque increase and has my nod as a great sleeper…Having said this I am currently putting together a deal to trade in my focus and acquire a nicely equipped 1LT Impala :-)

  • avatar
    Avatar77

    I’ve spent plenty of time in recent Chevy models that use the “corporate” steering wheel controls and couldn’t agree more about how cheap the buttons feel, particularly the cruise control toggle. Cheap, plastic crap is the best way to describe it, and on a part of the vehicle you are in near constant contact with.

  • avatar
    vvk

    Note to self: don’t marry a 5’8″ woman…

  • avatar
    jwalker55

    Ah, you’re one of those tools that drives 90 on the interstate. When I read reviews like this, I have to wonder what it must be like to be such a miserable human being.

    1. If you have to look at the shifter to shift, you’re a freakin moron. You’ve already proved that by taking a picture of yourself doing 90 while hitting the gas pedal to exaggerate the poor instantaneous mileage reading at a speed at which you are significantly breaking the law.
    2. You’re either 7′ tall, drive with the steering wheel in your lap, or you’re so short you have to move the seat insanely forward. I’m average height and my knee doesn’t come close to rubbing the key or the temp knob.
    3. It actually surprised me that you didn’t mention the poor rear-view visibility due to the high profile of the rear-end.
    4. I have over 10,000 songs on a flash drive, works fine.
    5. I especially love all your little followers above that would probably suck your nuts if you told them to.
    6. I can nitpick the hell out of any vehicle.


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