Last year I wrote a detailed review of the 2012 Chevrolet Malibu. This summer, I had a chance to get behind the wheel of a 2013 Malibu while on vacation. So what’s new with this year’s model? Actually, there’s quite a lot!
For 2013, the Malibu gets a big exterior redesign with a new front and rear end. The back has a chunky, muscular look with a recessed trunk lid while the front has a larger, more prominent grille and a bigger bow tie. But the changes are more than cosmetic, there have been some engine and interior enhancements as well.
The interior has a new dashboard layout with a big touchscreen and the Chevrolet MyLink system front and center. There’s also a new vertical screen between the gauges. The interior has several chrome-trimmed knobs and some faux woodgrain that adds to the “premium” feel of the car.
Under the hood, the 2.4L Inline-4 engine has been enlarged to 2.5L. Horsepower is up from 170 to 195, and torque has increased from 158 ft-lbs to 191 ft-lbs. While all of these things sound great on paper, how do they work together? Well, that’s what I am here to talk about.
My impression of the 2013 Malibu is that it tries to do a lot of things at once. Let’s face it, this is a midsize sedan, the bread and butter of the Chevrolet’s line and a car that they expect to sell in huge volumes. This is a car that was designed to meet the needs of a lot of different types of drivers.
The Camaro-esque rear taillights and paddle shifters give the impression that this car is sporty. The chrome knobs and woodgrain on the dashboard give a luxury feel, while the huge touchscreen adds a “techy” element. The 4-cylinder engine gives the impression that this is an efficient and economical car. Chevrolet has given the Malibu a little bit of everything, sort of a “Jack of All Trades” of the automotive world.
Of course, the problem with being a “Jack of All Trades” is that they are usually an “Ace of None.” Such is the case with the Malibu. Truthfully, there are other cars which are far sportier, more luxurious, or more fuel efficient than the Malibu. But the car blends these elements in such a way that it works.
You get a car that feels sporty and luxurious but costs less than a BMW 3-Series. It feels techy but without the geek factor of an Acura. It is not as fuel efficient as a subcompact, but you can haul more things than you can in a Chevrolet Spark.
So let’s get on with the review. I did about 150 miles of mixed driving on both country roads and the highway. The car rode smoothly and felt very nice inside. The gauges were bright and easy to read.
Earlier, I mentioned that vertically-oriented LCD screen between the gauges. This is the Driver Information Center and it is controlled by a stalk just behind the turn signal. The DIC can show you things such as tire pressure, fuel economy, or a digital readout of your speed if you desire. Navigating between the options was unreasonably difficult. The way this system is handled in the Corvette – and even in the old Malibu – was much better.
The Driver Info Center wasn’t the only complaint I had about the Malibu. Some things about the car just didn’t make sense. The driver gets a full power adjustable seat but the passenger gets a manual slider?! That was an odd one.
Also, the driver’s window also features an “Express Down” mode but not an “Express Up” mode. Finally, like all new cars, it has a ridiculously high beltline which makes rear visibility and backing up a real challenge.
I would still recommend the Malibu as a midsize sedan. It’s got a lot of value for the money and while the style and power are vastly improved, it’s very liveable if you don’t mind a few odd quirks.