2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco Mild Hybrid: Loved, Or Loathed?

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2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco

2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco

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Every year, there have to be winners and losers in the automotive world. 

Usually, winners and losers are picked by sales figures, but according to CNN, the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco mild hybrid may be the least-liked car of the year so far. 

Not measured by sales, but by negative reviews.

When The Car Connection tested the 2013 Malibu Eco, editor Marty Padgett concluded that the mid-size sedan "does an impressive job of forgetting it's a hybrid, mild or no."

He suggested that "tech-wary drivers may grok to its invisibly efficient 37-mpg highway EPA rating."

His conclusion? "The new Malibu's a success, but qualified, with big steps in all the right directions, except maybe the most visible ones."

Starting at $26,000, and with an EPA rating of 37 mpg highway, 25 mpg city and 29 mpg combined, the Malibu Eco uses an existing 2.4-liter four cylinder engine paired with the same eAssist mild-hybrid system also seen in base versions of the 2012 Buick Lacrosse and 2013 Buick Regal.

Compare that gas mileage to other mid-size sedans, like the cheaper non-hybrid 2013 Nissan Altima, and the Chevy Malibu Eco may seem less appealing.

In fact, for the same price, you could buy a 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid LE, which manages 43 mpg city and 39 mpg highway. As a full hybrid, it can also operate in electric-only mode, something the Malibu Eco can’t. 

Behind the wheel, many reviewers have criticized the Malibu Eco’s shorter wheelbase over previous Malibus, while interior space, brake feel and lack of steering feedback have all garnered grumbles.

But perhaps the real kicker came last month, when Chevrolet announced that the standard 2013 Malibu would start at $23,150

With an all-new 2.5-liter engine compared with the older 2.4-liter engine in the Malibu Eco, the 2013 Malibu is expected to get around 35 mpg highway--although official EPA figures have yet to be released.

That’s just 2 mpg less than the Malibu Eco, with a base price nearly $3,000 cheaper.

Without a lithium-ion hybrid battery pack in the trunk, the non Eco Malibu has more luggage space too, making it a more practical option for most families. 

With competition from rival automakers and a new, cheaper non-hybrid sibling, sales of the 2013 Malibu Eco may face challenges.

Nonetheless, Chevrolet now offers customers the chance to give back their 2013 model year Chevrolet if they don’t really love it--so buying one would carry less risk than ever


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Comments (9)
  1. I have never driven this car, but I can understand the view of it missing the mark in efficiency and cost. The Camry Hybrid is roughly the same cost and is considerably more efficient. A better approach may have been for GM to offer the mild hybrid equipment as standard equipment, and then at the top end, offer a full, honest to goodness traditional hybrid powertrain. Perhaps with the 4-mode system being rumored.

    On the other side of this, I think the press is being overly-dramatic about this car too. I mean c'mon..."most loathed"? Seriously?

  2. When does "press" become car experts?

    Usually, not single person in the press have any kind of science/engineering background...

  3. @Xiaolong: You clearly haven't talked to many editors and writers at magazines and online outlets that cover cars. As one data point, I have an engineering degree (I run this site). More usefully, I'd say that as a guess, roughly half the editors I know who cover the auto industry do as well.

    So, a note from your friendly GCR moderator: Please try not to make blanket assertions about other people & their qualifications without data to back up your claims. Or at least, if you want to do so, please don't do it in the comments on this site. Thank you.

  4. For the record. Bob Lutz makes the same comment as Xiaolong Li about journalists in his book "The car guys versus the bean counters." In his experience, journalists used to have the same education as the subjects they covered but increasingly come from a journalism background.

    But then again, Lutz says he is frequently wrong but never in doubt.

  5. John, you might be an exception. But I researched plenty of the so called "car expert" on most news organization's auto columns. None of the major news organziation's so called "car guy" even have an electric, mechanical, chemical, materials, or even computer engineering background. (I would even be okay with Physics)... Now, magzines such as Car and Driver, Motortrend, Motorweek, Road and Track, Edmund's redline aren't much better. You can usually do a biography search on those writers. Consumer Reports are even worse...

    To be fair, that was an "Overly generalize" statement. I have given up on most of those so called "car expert" sites. I still follow your article and your site closely. That shows the respect... :)

  6. Xaiolong, Or at least confine your sweeping generalizations to Prius owners of which statement Voelcker is more tolerant. Making sweeping generalization about journalists is really going to far. :)

  7. LOL... If it makes you feel any better, John my wife is getting a new car in a week or two (no choice, I sold her Mini Cooper without even telling her...) and it looks like the Prius or Prius V is the likely choice... Oh, the horrors...! But presumably like you, it is a solid choice, if obviously not a personal favorite in driving or styling.

  8. It is interesting to see more vehicles with the weird styling mis-cues as the prius, e.g. the sloping back. I don't much care for the Audi A7, Panamera, or Ferrari FF (granted all better cars than the Prius in so many ways.)

    I really do love the Prius, but that is really in-spite of how it looks, rather than because of how it looks.

    And I am sorry, but my wife was between another mini-van and the Prius. Certainly the driving dynamics of the Prius are better than the dynamics in the Sienna. I got to drive a Sienna again recently and decided that I don't miss the Sienna at all (expect when I need to haul something bigger.)

  9. costs too much, Chevy

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