The 2013 Chevrolet Malibu is a very good car, and that may be its greatest flaw. Being magna cum laude in a class full of summa cum laude standouts such as the new Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion, and Volkswagen Passat just isn’t enough in today’s mid-size family sedan marketplace.
Despite its failure to captivate a fair share of its intended market, the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu is still a revolutionary step forward from its predecessor.
Its new look screams “hey, guys, I’m not just another rental car anymore,” which is a good thing, as it seemed like ninety percent of the previous-gen cars (2008-2012) had barcode stickers in their rear quarter windows.
My test car’s swept-back projector headlamps, 19-inch wheels, sculpted quarter panels and protruding tail lamps make a design statement of solidity and poise. The car appears as though it was extruded from a solid block of steel, and is more Japanese than American in its design language.
Inside, the Malibu expresses what I feel is the best execution of GM’s new design language to date. The ice blue ambient lighting, two-tone carpeting and upholstery, and convincing wood trim add up to a package that looks as luxurious as it feels.
Chevrolet’s MyLink touch-screen infotainment system is standard equipment on my $33,815 as-tested 2LTZ trim level. The seven-inch display housing rotates upward to reveal additional storage, a nice and unexpected touch.
Even more unexpected is the power provided by the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu 2LTZ’s turbocharged 2.0-L four-cylinder engine. Producing 260 lb.-ft. of torque at just 1,700 RPM, the direct-injected engine’s power comes on fast and strong with minimal lag.
Unfortunately, the six-speed automatic transmission is geared heavily towards economy. This results in a reluctance to kick down more than one gear for rapid acceleration or passing maneuvers.
Although light in effort, the steering feel meshes perfectly with the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu’s MacPherson strut and four-link independent rear suspension. Together, they provide a composed ride and handling quality not unlike that which I experienced in the 2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI last year.
Compared with its class rivals, the turbocharged Malibu’s fuel economy is dismal, rated at 21/30 MPG city/highway. The 2013 Ford Fusion 2.0T, for example, registers 22/33 MPG, respectively.
Through 350 miles of mostly highway driving, I averaged 21.9 MPG. On the upside, the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu 2LTZ’s turbocharged engine can be fueled with regular unleaded gasoline.
When it comes to hauling your family’s gear, the Malibu’s trunk (Eco model notwithstanding) swallows a cavernous 16.3 cubic feet of cargo. Put in perspective, I was able to fit two large suitcases, one small suitcase, and a backpack with plenty of room to spare.
For the driver and front passenger, legroom (42.1 inches) and headroom (39 inches) are in abundance. The rear seats are far less comfortable, as any adult passenger had difficulty finding any trace of useable leg room.
The new 2013 Chevrolet Malibu offers marvelous exterior and interior styling, a sweetheart of an engine, and gobs of cargo room. It’s just not a standout, and in this class, it needs to give buyers a reason to eschew its old rental car stigma.
On the TFLcar.com recommendation scale of:
-Rent it or
I give the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ a LEASE IT.
GM has listened, and is promising “revolutionary” changes to the 2014 Malibu. That being said, go drive the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu. If you like it, wait a few months until the new model comes out, and then the 2013 model should become the midsize family sedan bargain of the century. Just lease it so that you’re not stuck with its likely diminished resale value.
Daniel Buxbaum has had a life-long passion for all things automotive. His background as a Porsche, Audi and BMW service advisor brings a more technical approach to his writing. Dan’s passion for automotive journalism secured him a position as regional manager and contributing writer for Parts & People, a multi-region automotive trade publication. Dan is also an active member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press (RMAP) and Motor Press Guild (MPG).