2013 Chevrolet Malibu Walk Around

A quick way to understand the new looks of the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu is to consider its competition: the midsize Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Ford Fusion, and Hyundai Sonata. Malibu's nicely integrated modernism puts it well in range of them. It has a sleek, coupe-like profile without sacrificing too much rear seat headroom to the sloping roofline, as some higher end sedans do.

The 2013 Malibu is 4.5-inches shorter than the previous-generation version, and its front and rear track are two inches wider, for a more stable package.

At the nose of the Malibu are two main horizontal grille ports and a lower intake containing very advanced aerodynamic shutters, among the first in this economical category. These shutters automatically close to decrease drag and increase fuel mileage at higher speeds. Conversely, they automatically open at lower speeds, when climbing or hauling a trailer, improving cooling. When appropriate, the upper grille closes to redirect airflow over the hood, further decreasing aerodynamic drag. The outside mirrors are also designed for minimum aerodynamic drag, as are the taillights. Finally, heretofore found only on luxury cars, the Malibu has underbody panels that create smooth airflow and reduce drag beneath the car. Chevrolet estimates the Malibu's coefficient of drag at a very low 0.30. First rate.

The Malibu's nose is high in order to meet current European safety standards for pedestrian impact. The idea is for the nose to collapse progressively but not so completely as to direct the pedestrian at the engine's solid cylinder head.

The muscular Malibu's nose flows nicely rearward without an excess of character lines, ending in a concisely modeled tail that is somehow Volvo-like. Not a bad thing. Chrome highlights the side-window frames, brightening the profile, which is punctuated by wide door cuts for easy ingress and egress.

The trunk is opened with a button in the center-high-mounted-stoplight or the key fob and has a high lift-over. Space is severely encroached upon by the battery pack for the engine's E-Assist system. The trunk is, by far, the smallest in its class.


The first impression of the Malibu's interior requires but one word: lavish. The seats are Business Class, with the full range of travel, excellent comfort and firmness, beautiful sable leather, and deluxe lumbar adjustment. It's downright un-Chevrolet. The dashboard and trim are dynamic and modern, with a strongly contrasting dark boomerang of soft-touch dark leather arranged against a broad sable background, the dark leather framing all the functional controls and hardware. Flashes of chrome highlight the door handles and window controls, console and gearshift, but the center stack is framed in understated earth tones. Very grown-up, nicely un-Retro.

A full 8000-rpm radial tachometer for the 7000 rpm-redline engine is matched to a speedometer that ranges to 160 (but that, of course, is only so it can be switched to 160 kph). The fuel gauge is accompanied by an ECO gauge, which casually tells you whether you're achieving excellent or slightly less-excellent mileage.

The shifter in the console controls the 6-speed automatic, and we mean controls. You can shift it to D and drive it as a full automatic, or move one more notch rearward to M, for Manual. Now you press a toggle switch on the top of the shifter to command the up-shift or down-shift you want. It works well, unless you make an irrational request, which it will reject. Yet there is something not very satisfying, not very commanding, about the fiddly little button. And when you press the detente release button needed to get out of Park and pull the lever back, it goes straight back past Drive to Manual. Most of the time, we think most people would prefer it to stop at Drive. At least that's what we'd prefer.

The nice cocoa leather steering wheel has the usual yoke-mounted controls, and at night the dash has pleasing, deluxe wraparound ambient lighting. The center stack provides wonderfully intuitive audio controls, and pressing a release, the entire touch-screen pops open, revealing a hidden storage space. The climate control is straightforward and flawless. There are handsome elements of French stitching in the door panels, adding another luxury touch. And the front windows are one-touch down, but alas, snail-mail up.

The 2013 Malibu's increased width gives it 1.5 inches more front shoulder room and 3.2 inches rear shoulder room over the previous-generation model, combined with nearly three inches more hip room front and rear. The front feels roomy enough, but the rear is extremely tight for three adults. The rear seats are also flat and rather hard, and for taller adults, headroom is limited. The rear seat does have a nice fold-down center cushion with two cup-holders and a folding compartment. Triple seat anchors are provided for child seats.

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