Auto Review: Malibu goes green

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Wed., Jun. 13, 2012
Contributed
- Contributed Photo

As surprising as it may seem, GM revealed this week’s review vehicle, the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco, two full years ago at the 2011 New York International Auto Show. It seems the company was so excited about the Malibu’s redesign that they wanted to show what would ultimately be production units to the motoring press well in advance of dealership arrival. Now the cars are at a showroom near you, and we just tested the Eco version of the new Malibu; their ultra-frugal hybrid model that is arguably the most intriguing of the excellent new Malibu line. Regardless of which model you might be interested in, though, GM has done a great job at polishing and refining the Malibu into a sharp, competitive midsize sedan.

The new Front-Drive Malibu is available with a 2.5-liter EcoTec Inline Four with 197 horsepower, a 2-liter Ecotec Turbo Inline Four with 259 horsepower, and our Eco’s 2.4-liter Ecotec Inline Four with 182 horsepower and e-Assist. This system is a gas/electric hybrid that (as explained by GM’s powertrain folks) “uses power stored in an air-cooled, lithium-ion battery to provide needed electrical boost in various driving scenarios, optimizing engine and transmission operation.” This is a mild hybrid design in that the electric motor never powers the drivetrain exclusively, but instead provides additional power (and the batteries help run accessories when the car is stopped in traffic so the engine itself can be shut down to save fuel and lower emissions). The system has a total horsepower rating of 182, and is mated to a very smooth six-speed automatic transmission. While fuel economy is a key objective, the Eco is no slug and sprinted to 60 mph in about eight seconds.

The new Malibu chassis is taut and well-balanced, and not only delivers crisp handling and admirable ride quality, but is commendably quiet as well. Brakes are likewise cutting edge in terms of good power and their ability to deliver short stopping distances, and regenerative braking through the electric motor helps recharge the battery pack.  Another fuel-saving innovation is explained via Malibu’s e-brochure: “A segment first, the Malibu Eco features Aero Grille Shutters that electronically close when engine-cooling needs allow, so air can flow more seamlessly. When the engine needs air for cooling, the shutters intuitively open using only electricity. It’s designed for increased efficiency while preserving the bold Malibu Eco grille and front-end appearance.” Neat, eh? This is very futuristic, and very clever.

Inside, the new interior is not only comfortable, but the controls are refreshingly logical and workmanship is top-notch, imparting a sense of build quality that permeates the entire car. I’m told there’s actually less rear seat room than before, but it’s certainly not an issue, as it’s still quite roomy. And even with the battery pack in the trunk, there’s still 13.2 cubic feet of cargo space.

The 2013 Chevy Malibu Eco 2SA is EPA-rated 25 MPG city/37 highway and we saw 30 MPG in a week of mixed driving. With options including leather seats, our sticker came to $29,380. www.chevy.com

 

 


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