2013 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ review: Chevy's new Malibu is satisfying, but a bit pricey
The midsize-to-large sedan segment may not be interesting at a first glance. It's filled with grocery-getters and people-movers; it's not very sexy. However, this segment is one of the most hotly contested battlegrounds in the automotive industry. You probably pass more sedans than supercars on any given day, each one of which is a bullet fired in the battle for market superiority.
Chevrolet's latest volley is the 2013 Malibu LTZ, a sedan that is both handsome in appearance and in appointments, slotting near the top of the trim level spectrum and offering a good selection of standard features and options.
For our 2013 Malibu LTZ, the magic of internal combustion happens within the confines of a 2.5-liter, inline four-cylinder engine. Fuel and air are mixed right there in the combustion chamber thanks to direct-injection technology and output is quoted by Chevrolet at 197 horsepower and 191 pound-feet of torque, which isn't too bad for what is the base engine for the Malibu lineup.
Drivers wanting a bit more "oomph" can opt for a sportier 2LTZ trim level, which makes use of the now-familiar formula of a downsized (2-liter) engine, a turbocharger, and direct injection to bump the Malibu's output to 259 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Yet a third engine option exists in the form of the Malibu Eco's 2.4-liter eAssist power plant. Check out our full review of the Eco for more details.
After leaving the engine, our Malibu LTZ 2.5's 191 pound-feet of torque is multiplied by the single-option six-speed automatic transmission before being passed through the front wheels where it meets the road. This gearbox doesn't feature a sport program, but it does have a manual shift mode. Those manual shifts are activated by a rocker switch located atop the shifter stalk, which you'll probably miss it until you accidentally trigger it one day. As is the case with most grocery-getters that offer some sort of "Shiftronic" or "Manumatic" nonsense on their automatic transmissions, the Malibu's ability to manually select gears is potentially good for getting unstuck from slush without spinning the front wheels, downshifting to prepare for a pass, or pretending the turbocharged model is a sports car during the curvy bits of your commute. However, in day-to-day driving, it's mostly a useless feature -- I suppose that it's better to have and not need a feature than vice versa.
Handling is about what you'd expect from a midsize-to-large sedan: dull, but competent. This is not a bad thing. Put bravado aside for a moment, and even we auto journalists have to admit that dull is exactly what you want from this class of vehicle; that's how you know that the suspension is doing its job, soaking up the bumps for a comfortable ride and keeping the vehicle safely tucked into its performance envelope. Sure, you may want a bit of excitement from the Camaro ZL1, but drivers who buy a Malibu LTZ with the 2.5-liter engine are after comfort, safety, and predictability, which the Chevy delivers.
Speaking of delivery, the Malibu also made good on its EPA estimated fuel economy of 22 city, 34 highway, and 26 combined mpg, delivering 25.5 mpg in our testing -- nearly right on the money.
Usually, a base-level infotainment system is nothing to get excited about, but in the case of the 2013 Malibu LTZ, the entry level for dashboard tech is the Chevrolet MyLink system and it is rather good.
Based around a 7-inch color touch screen, the MyLink system gives the driver access to a number of digital and analog audio sources. You get Bluetooth for hands-free calling and audio streaming and USB connectivity for MP3 and iPod playback -- we tested it and found it to be iPhone 5-friendly when used with the Lightning-to-USB adapter. You also get an analog 3.5mm input, a CD player, terrestrial AM/FM radio, and SiriusXM Satellite Radio.
With your SiriusXM subscription, the MyLink system is also able to take advantage of SiriusXM Travel Link, a satellite-based data connection that beams weather forecasts, sports scores and schedules, stock prices, and searchable movie listings and theater showtimes into the dashboard.
MyLink also supports app integration with Pandora and Stitcher streaming audio apps on your connected smartphone. I tested with Pandora on an Android smartphone, which was connected to the MyLink system via Bluetooth. I was able to access all of my preset Pandora stations, view metadata for the currently playing song, skip, and assign a Thumbs Up or Down to songs that I liked or disliked.
Navigation is available on the Malibu, but was not equipped on our LTZ model. Opting for navigation requires the deletion of the MyLink system, so I'm not sure if it's a worthwhile investment. Even without the map-based navigation system, you can still take advantage of the standard OnStar telematics system's turn-by-turn directions if your subscription level supports it.
The Pioneer-branded premium audio system that our Malibu was equipped with is a loud stereo, but I noticed quite a bit of buzzing coming from either the front speakers or door panels at certain midbass frequencies and a sort of splatty, raspberry type of bass distortion coming from the rear speakers at the bottom end of the audio spectrum. This was not the worst-sounding stereo system I've tested, but after going through the trouble of slapping on a brand name, I'd have hoped that Chevrolet and Pioneer would have come up with something that sounded better. I'm not sure whether to blame the Pioneer audio system -- in my experience, Pioneer's systems usually sound pretty good -- the quality of the Malibu's interior, or both for the buzzing and splatting. (Perhaps even a previous reviewer damaged the system with too much volume.) Whatever the case, this is definitely not the audio system for those who like it loud.
To get out of the door with a 2013 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ with the 2.5-liter engine, you have to start by spending $28,590 -- that's before the $760 destination charge. If you want one in the Crystal Red Tintcoat paint that our tester was coated in, add an additional $325 to the bottom line. Add $150 for our Black and Brownstone leather seats and you'll have a decently appointed Malibu that's packing a dashboard full of MyLink tech. It's a handsome ride and, at $29,065 plus destination charge, you probably won't be disappointed.
However, our tester's option list didn't stop there. We've also got a $1,900 Electronics and Entertainment package that adds a rearview camera, the Pioneer stereo system that I didn't particularly care for, a universal home remote, a 110-volt AC power adapter, and a power sunroof. There's also the $1,000 LTZ Premium package that adds HID headlamps, keyless entry and push-button start, and driver's seat memory. Finally, there's the $395 Advanced Safety package that brings onboard Forward Collision Alert and Lane Departure Warning driver aid technologies.
All in, our as-tested price totaled $32,360, which still isn't a bad price at all for what you get. However, the Malibu is a few thousand bucks more expensive than a fully loaded Hyundai Sonata or a similarly equipped Toyota Camry with Entune. In fact, you could put yourself behind the wheel of a 2013 Honda Accord EX-L V-6 with navigation for what you pay for the 2.5-liter Malibu. It's a tough sell even if you want to buy American, because for about what you pay for the LTZ, you could find yourself in a fully loaded 2013 Ford Fusion Titanium with more power and more tech.
The Malibu LTZ is good car, but it faces some pretty stiff competition.
|2013 Chevrolet Malibu
|2.5-liter, inline 4-cylinder, direct-injection, 6-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode, front-wheel drive
|EPA fuel economy
|22 city mpg, 34 highway mpg, 26 combined mpg
|Observed fuel economy
|Bluetooth phone support
|MP3 player support
|Standard analog 3.5mm auxiliary input, USB/iPod connection, Bluetooth audio streaming
|Other digital audio
|SiriusXM Satellite Radio
|9-speaker Pioneer-branded premium audio
|Optional Lane Departure Warning system, Forward Collision Alert, rear camera
|Price as tested