Granted, most of the aforementioned vehicles are compacts, but they offer similar fuel efficiency for what will likely be several thousands of dollars less. Is the 2013 Chevy Malibu Eco a one-trick pony, or does it bode hope for an aging nameplate?
Chevy’s bag of fuel-efficient tricks has three ploys: an improved powerplant, eAssist hybrid system, and aerodynamic enhancements.
The bread and butter of the act is the base 2.4-liter EcoTec engine, which is rated at 180 horsepower at 26/38 mpg. North America receives an available 2.5-liter EcoTec engine, which boosts horsepower past 190 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque. Chevy is quick to preach the sporty inclinations of the Malibu. The 2.5-liter will reputedly deliver “V6-like performance.” Add in the gamut of control features, such as standard stability and traction control, electronic brakeforce distribution, brake fade assist and drag torque control, and Chevy has a convincing sales pitch. But the question remains, can all the chassis tightening and driving gizmos in the world give a sporty performance to anything slapped with “Eco” moniker?
eAssist is a mild hybrid powertrain with regenerative braking that supplements the engine with a 65-lb lithium-ion battery. Electricity will power the Malibu Eco at low speeds and while idling, and augments performance at higher speeds.
Chevrolet borrowed tactics from backyard hypermilers for the new Malibu. Besides reshaping the body, Chevy added four underbody panels and an active shutter system to shut off air intake when unnecessary to increase aerodynamics.
The rest of Malibu is more evolved than revolutionized. Cabin and cargo space have been slightly increased, and styling is agreeable and aggressive, but not particularly noteworthy. The Malibu offers tempting standard features, such as a 7-inch touchscreen display and MyLink infotainment system, but most of its avant-garde features will likely occupy the options roster.
The Chevrolet Malibu Eco is an undisputed star for 2011. But hold off judgment about 2013.