By Mark Phelan
Detroit Free Press
December 11, 2012
Forget the Snake. I don't care what your menu said at the Chinese restaurant: 2013 is the Year of the Midsize Sedan, thanks to four strong new players in the popular segment.
A 2013 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ with the 2.5-liter base engine is the latest to land in my driveway. It features a capable European-engineered chassis, good power, an appealing look and feel, and advanced features. The Malibu's fuel economy trails its best competitors, however, and the car I tested had a slightly misaligned trunk lid. The optional electronic lane-departure alert also went off so often that I turned it off early in a long test drive that included a round trip from Detroit to New Orleans.
Despite that, the Malibu is an appealing alternative to the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima, all of which are new for 2013.
Prices for the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu start at $22,930 for a car with the 197-horsepower 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine. All Malibus have a six-speed automatic transmission. The Malibu Eco, which uses electricity to boost fuel economy, starts at $25,335. The performance model boasts a turbocharged 259-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Prices begin at $26,950.
I tested a very well-equipped Malibu LTZ with the 2.5-liter engine. Its features included a good voice-recognition system, two-tone leather seats, Pioneer audio and collision alert. It stickered at $31,600. All prices exclude destination charges.
The car's price fell roughly in the middle among well-equipped midsize family sedans.
The 2013 Malibu is 0.3 inches shorter than the '12 model but 2.7 inches wider. The result is more passenger and luggage space.
There's plenty of room in the front seat, and the extravagant interior storage includes a bin hidden behind the touch screen in the dashboard and a big drawer by the driver's left knee. Rear leg, shoulder and headroom are fine.
The controls combine excellent voice recognition with a touch screen and traditional dials and switches on the center stack and steering wheel. The gauges are big and readable.
The voice-recognition is fast and accurate.
Chevy says any phone with Bluetooth streaming and a navigation app with spoken directions works with MyLink.
The Malibu uses a platform developed with engineers at GM's European Opel brand. Its ride and handling benefit from that collaboration. The car is smooth and composed in fast driving.
The 2.5-liter engine's 197 horsepower and 191 pound-feet of torque easily top the competitors' similar-size engines.
The 2.5-liter Malibu's EPA fuel-economy rating of 22 mpg in the city, 34 on the highway and 26 in combined driving is unimpressive. Comparably powered models of the Altima, Accord, Camry, Optima and Sonata all beat it.
The 2013 Chevrolet Malibu's features, looks, comfort and performance make it a strong contender as we roll into the Year of the Midsize Sedan.
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