While the 2013 Malibu's front end doesn't draw comparisons to the Camaro like the recently unveiled Impala does, it is definitely not a bad-looking car, wearing its weight well with thoughtfully sculpted curves coated in its optional $325 Crystal Red Tintcoat paint. However, its looks didn't turn heads or attract attention. It stays under the radar without looking anonymous, which is a good thing.
The Malibu is available with three front-wheel-drive power-train options. The performance option is a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine that outputs 259 horsepower. The efficient option is the 2.4-liter eAssist Eco model that gets up to a combined 29 mpg.
The only gearbox available on the Malibu is a six-speed automatic transmission. It features a manual shift mode, but the mechanism that activates the shifting is a small rocker switch located on top of the shift lever that you tap with your thumb. The whole ordeal is very awkward and is probably best ignored.
The Malibu competes with the midsize sedan segment, including the Toyota Camry and and the Hyundai Sonata, to which it compares favorably in size, power, and torque. On the domestic front, it will also have to compete with the upcoming 2013 Ford Fusion.
Around back, we begin to see more obvious examples of the shared Camaro design DNA in the quad-lens tail lights. A raised lip on the trunk lid gives the visual hit of a spoiler without going full-on boy racer, and dual exhaust tips complete the slightly sporty look.
The Malibu LTZ doesn't come standard with a rear camera, but one is available as part of an optional $1,900 Electronics and Entertainment Package. That package also gets you a power sunroof, Pioneer premium audio, a 120-volt AC power outlet, and a universal HomeLink remote.
The Malibu's cockpit puts all of the controls for driving and infotainment within a short reach of the steering wheel. Whether you choose navigation or not, the LTZ's center stack is topped by the 7-inch color touch screen of the Chevrolet MyLink interface.
The Malibu's steering-wheel controls are, for the most part, logically placed. The right spoke is home to the audio and hands-free calling controls, and the left is where you'll find the cruise controls. However, there is one odd bit that kept me scratching my head...
Just between the two gauges of the instrument cluster is an LCD display that reports a variety of trip computer and fuel economy data. This display is oddly controlled by twisting one of the stalks that emerges from the steering column.
Digital audio sources include SiriusXM Satellite Radio, USB/iPod MP3 playback, Bluetooth audio streaming and hands-free calling, terrestrial AM/FM radio, and an auxiliary audio input. If your paired smartphone (iOS or Android) has the Pandora or Stitcher streaming Internet radio apps installed, you can also take control of those apps via the MyLink interface.
In addition to beaming down digital audio from the heavens, the SiriusXM connection is also responsible for providing MyLink with weather forecasts, fuel prices, and movie showtimes as part of the Travel Link service.
The movie showtimes were particularly interesting to me. I was able to search for a film and filter nearby theaters to see showtimes. Unlike the MovieTickets.com app integration in Toyota Entune, I couldn't actually buy tickets from the touch screen, but I could make a hands-free call via Bluetooth to make an over-the-phone purchase if I needed to.