CarCorner Review: 2013 Chevrolet Malibu ECO

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By Cathy Droz and Bill Zervakos –

Chevrolet’s first global midsize sedan and will be sold in countries on six continents. It sports a new design with Camaro rear styling, which I’ll reserve judgment on for the moment, and a nicer interior that offers comfort and space and with a GM estimated 37 highway mpg.

Malibu Eco has a wide stance, broad shoulders and exterior design cues that include Chevrolet’s dual-port grille, large swept-back projector HID headlamps with three-dimensional execution, larger Chevrolet bowtie badges front and rear, tail lamps inspired by the Camaro and a single hidden exhaust outlet. The look is complemented by standard 17-inch alloy wheels and low-rolling-resistance Goodyear tires. The Malibu has also taken advantage of aerodynamics with enhanced design features and utilizes fuel saving technologies making it Chevy’s most fuel efficient midsize.

Malibu Eco is among the first vehicles in the midsize segment with a standard fuel-saving, active shutter system. Located in the lower grille, the Malibu Eco’s active shutter system automatically closes airflow through the lower intake opening when air intake is least needed. When closed, the shutter system enhances aero performance by redirecting airflow around the front of the vehicle and down the sides, rather than through it. The shutter is open or closed based on engine coolant temperature and speed. For example, the shutters open when the car is traveling up a hill, pulling a trailer or in hot city driving; the shutters close at highway speeds when less engine cooling is required.

Chevrolet’s new MyLink infotainment package and OnStar are standard on the Malibu Eco. They build on the safety and security of OnStar and seamlessly integrate online services like Pandora® internet radio and Stitcher SmartRadio®. MyLink integrates wireless connectivity through Bluetooth to enable hands-free use of selected smart phone apps while the device remains safely stowed.

Malibu Eco’s eAssist system is mated to an Ecotec 2.4L direct-injection, four-cylinder engine and next-generation six-speed automatic transmission. The 2.4L engine is efficient and lightweight, featuring dual-overhead cams, direct injection, continuously variable intake and exhaust timing and electronic throttle control, as well as a lightweight aluminum cylinder block and cylinder head. It is rated at an estimated 182 horsepower (134 kW) and is a variant of the same engine recognized as one of Ward’s Ten Best Engines in 2010.

Along with the Ecotec 2.4L and six-speed transmission, the eAssist system uses power stored in the air-cooled, lithium-ion battery to provide needed electrical boost in various driving scenarios, optimizing engine and transmission operation. An advanced 115V lithium-ion battery and 15-kW motor-generator unit help increase fuel economy by using regenerative braking, using electricity instead of fuel when stopped and fuel cutoff during deceleration. With eAssist technology the Eco has a highway range of 580 miles from its 15.8 gallon fuel tank.

The Malibu Eco offers style comfort and an enjoyable drive in a neat package that won’t break the bank. My test car based at $26,845 and with the leather package, paint and trim adds and destination the total came to $29,380, which isn’t too bad for what you get. If you don’t want a hybrid, the Malibu ECO may be just what you’re looking for. Try one out and see for yourself what it’s all about.

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