New Malibu impressive as high-value family car
Chevrolet continues to impress with nearly every new model, or revamped model it launches, save the Spark.
Its new Malibu is another winner with tweaked styling to make it look more like a Camry, especially from the rear. But to me, that’s a good thing as the current Camry is the most stylish it has been in years. I tested a sharp looking metallic crystal red ($325 extra) Malibu in 1LZ trim, which is near the top end of the line.
The 1LZ starts at $27,830, right in the midst of the mid-size family sedan market. But this one added loads of options to push it to $32,360. That’s pressing it, but in the Malibu’s defense, it was well equipped, including a back-up camera.
Families on a more moderate budget can get into a base Malibu LS for $22,390 and there are seven trim levels in all, the $30,162 2LZ being the top. Most come with the same 2.5-liter 4-cylinder semi-direct injected engine that creates 197 horses. That’s plenty.
There’s an ECO version too with hybrid electric power coupled with a 2.4-liter 182-horse I4 engine. That model is available starting at $25,335 and boasts 25 mpg city and 37 highway. As it was, the test car delivered 25.1 mpg in my test and is EPA rated at 22 mpg city and 34 mpg highway.
Chevy links its strong 2.5-liter power plant with a 6-speed automatic transmission that is fine, but can feel a little notchy compared with other 6-speed automatics. So you’ll feel some tranny shifts. But acceleration is good and can be pretty peppy if you crunch the gas pedal hard.
Overall I like the Malibu’s feel. It’s fairly quiet inside and smooth in its operation. The 107.8-inch wheelbase along with 18-inch tires and four-link independent rear suspension give the front-drive Chevy a comfortable ride whether on bumpy city streets or Midwest highways with large expansion joints. Passengers praised Malibu’s ride, some likening it to mid-size luxury cars. Good company!
Handling is decent too with only slight steering wheel play. Cornering is fine too, with only slight lean in hard-pressed turns. Braking is stout with four-wheel discs, plus traction and stability control systems.
I like Malibu’s look and its interior is another selling point. It’s stylish, and that’s not something you hear often at this price point. The test car featured a dark brown and black leather ($150 extra) interior with a rugged finish that reminded me of old comfortable leather gloves. There was more texture on the dash and seats than you’ll see in most car interiors.
Chevy uses two shades of brown on the seats and there’s metallic gray trim on the center stack and wood and chrome on the wheel hub. The wheel itself is wrapped in leather and there’s a chrome and wood look trim around the console-mounted shifter. The only style question I have is why use light blue stitching on the seats and the main dash gauge hood. It seems out of place, where a tan stitch would look classy. My theory is the blue is used to correspond to the blue trim ring that glows around the dash at night to provide ambient light. At night it works, but the blue stitching in daylight, not so much.Malibu’s seats are well contoured and power adjusted on the 1LZ model, complete with power lumbar support and three levels of front seat heat. Four adults fit comfortably in Malibu and there’s a large trunk in back for luggage.
The Chevy’s dash is not only attractive, but well laid out. All gauges and buttons are easy to see, as is the screen mid dash. I like the car’s large easy-to-see and understand buttons so that you can spend more time driving and less futzing with the controls.
The car comes with a tilt/telescope steering wheel, keyless entry, dual zone climate controls, XM radio, Bluetooth for your phone and My Link radio system to synch up all your electronics. There are plenty of those here too because the test car added a $1,900 electronics and entertainment package that includes a sunroof, Pioneer premium audio system, 9-speakers, 250-watt amp, a rear vision camera, 120-volt outlet and universal home remote. That rear vision camera is a particularly good safety device.
For just $395 more you get the always annoying lane departure system, but forward collision alert that could help keep you from rear-ending another vehicle if you’re busy texting or using your cell phone. Neither is recommended, while driving.
Beyond all those add-on goodies, Malibu comes standard with automatic lights, a bin that folds from the dash just left of the steering wheel, while overhead there’s OnStar and visors that slide. Yes!
Inside I found only one small drawback, the storage bin between the front seats. It felt a bit cheap and didn’t latch with the authority common in vehicles at this price. But other fit and finish, inside and out, was good.
All told Malibu is a fine mid-size car with sharpened styling inside and out. If value is what you’re after, look at the lower end of the trim levels for your family mover.
FAST Stats: 2013 Chevrolet Malibu 1LZ
Hits: Handsome car with stylish interior, comfortable heated seats, well laid out dash and large buttons. Trunk is huge and ride is smooth city or highway.
Misses: Not much really. Test car was pricy due to options and storage bin between seats felt a bit cheap, considering the price.
Made in: Kansas City, Kan.
Engine: 2.5-liter 4-cyl. SIDI, 197 hp
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Weight: 3,547 lbs.
Wheelbase: 107.8 in.
Cargo: 13.2 cu.ft.
Base Price: $27,830
Dealer’s Price: $26,299
Electronics & Entertainment package (Sunroof, Pioneer premium audio system, 9-speakers, 250-watt amp, rear vision camera, 120-volt outlet, universal home remote), $1,900
LTZ Premium package (HID lights, lamp control, push-button start, EZ Key entry system, memory settings for driver’s seat and mirrors), $1,000
Advanced Safety package (forward collision alert, lane departure warning), $395
Crystal red paint, $325
Black/Brownstone fashion trim, $150
Test vehicle: $32,360
Sources: Chevrolet, www.autos.yahoo.com
Photos: Courtesy of Chevrolet