$9,198 - $12,059

2013 Chevrolet Malibu Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu was new.


Performance: 7.1

The Chevy Malibu has a couple new engines for 2013, including a turbocharged four-cylinder, which replaces last year’s V6, and a mild hybrid eAssist system in the Eco model. Test drivers aren’t overly impressed with the Eco model’s performance, saying they’re disappointed with its fuel economy estimates. Most reviewers think the base Malibu’s performance is adequate, but they say that it struggles during highway passing and climbing hills.

  • "The most definitive conclusion from this short drive is that the '13 Malibu, even in high fuel mileage form, is going to be on the more exciting side of the industry's most boring segment." -- Motor Trend (Malibu Eco)
  • "The new-for-2013 Malibu Eco isn't going to be anybody's partner of choice on the tango floor or the racetrack - its weight plays too big a role on twisty roads, and the Hyundai Sonata/Kia Optima 2.4-liter engine is the take-charge 4-cylinder of the class -- but it makes perfect sense for a nice, clean waltz across the country or a daily commute." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The engine goes about its business in a quiet manner, though, and there isn't much road or wind noise." -- Inside Line (Malibu Eco)
  • "Behind the wheel, the Malibu Eco seems to suffer from nearly all the pitfalls of a hybrid vehicle without being able to offer buyers the benefits of dual-mode fuel economy." -- Autoblog

Acceleration and Power

The 2013 Chevrolet Malibu has three four-cylinder engines, as Chevrolet has discontinued the V6 engine from last year’s model. The base engine is a 2.5-liter that produces 197 horsepower and is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. A turbocharged 2.0-liter engine is also available. This engine makes 259 horsepower and replaces the 2012 Malibu’s 252-horsepower V6 engine. The third option is the Eco model’s eAssist system, which combines a 182-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, a lithium-ion battery and a six-speed automatic transmission. The EPA estimates the 2013 Malibu Eco’s fuel economy at 25/37 mpg city/highway, while the base Malibu earns 22/34 mpg.

Most test drivers say the base model’s four-cylinder engine has enough power for city driving, but some note that it struggles when you need to pass on the highway or tackle a big hill. The transmission receives positive remarks for its smooth shifts. Most say the Eco model’s power is good for a car designed to conserve fuel. A few mention that the start-stop function, which shuts the gas engine off when the car is stopped (at a red light, for example), is seamless when it starts the engine back up again.

  • -"Though the Malibu's 197 horsepower is near the top of the segment, it still doesn't feel quick around town. Acceleration is smooth, moving up through the gears during normal driving, but it will buck for a quick instant when trying to accelerate to pass on the highway or power up a steep incline." -- Cars.com
  • "The 2.5-liter base four-cylinder is a bright spot. Pretty quiet and calm normally, and will yowl and scoot under heavy foot. Doesn't feel taxed, just feels as if it's having a ball at WOT ('wide-open throttle,' which is what engineers call flooring the gas pedal)." -- USA Today
  • "Fortunately the six-speed automatic is buttery smooth, with shifts hardly noticeable at any speed." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "The Eco model's quasi-hybrid system operates seamlessly, rarely reminding the driver of its existence. For instance, when the engine shuts off automatically when the car comes to a stop, you don't get as much of the telltale shudder when it turns back on as is common to most auto stop/start systems." -- Edmunds

Handling and Braking

While not the most athletic car in the class, most reviewers say the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu handles better than other midsize cars, saying it is comfortable for long road trips and absorbs bumps with ease. Several test drivers report that the steering is precise and gives good road feel, with a few saying the electric power steering is among the best they’ve experienced. A couple auto critics disagree, citing numb brakes and unresponsive suspension and steering systems. The Malibu Eco’s regenerative brakes, which help recharge the battery, receive positive comments for being firm and linear in power delivery, which is uncommon since regenerative brakes are usually disliked for being spongy and nonlinear.

  • "The Malibu's body motions are neatly controlled and it has higher cornering limits than its competitors, although it understeers like any front-wheel-drive sedan once those limits are reached. The rack-mounted electric power steering is better than most - accurate, confident on center, and surprisingly communicative." -- Automobile Magazine (Malibu Eco)
  • "As a mainstream family sedan, we wouldn't expect this to be terribly sporty, but the Malibu seems to resist enthusiastic driving more than most. The steering is numb, conspiring with a suspension setup that keeps the car from changing directions with any fluidity or urgency." -- Car and Driver
  • "There's the expected understeer and the car acquits itself reasonably...but it's not a sports sedan. Then again, it isn't meant to be. This is a cruiser, with a nice ride and quiet environment." -- Road and Track
  • "Stops feel entirely normal in the Malibu Eco, mostly because the brakes are the brakes. You can't generate significant power during deceleration through a serpentine engine accessory belt, so the eAssist regenerative system is merely a thin veneer laid over a conventional braking system with good pedal feel." -- Inside Line
  • "Steering is some of the best electric power setups we have experienced with fine center weighting as well as a lack of that too-boosted effect we have seen in other vehicles, including those that once bared the GM logo. Handling proved about par for the segment in our testing thanks to ordinary MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link setup out back." -- Left Lane News (Malibu Eco)

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