By Colin Bird on November 22, 2011
When the redesigned 2013 Chevy Malibu goes on sale early next year, it will only be available as a high-efficiency trim called the Malibu Eco. Today, Chevy announced that trim level will start at $25,235, excluding a $760 destination fee. The Malibu Eco is estimated to get 26/38 mpg city/highway.
The Malibu Eco is about as expensive, but less fuel efficient, compared with the 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid ($25,900 and 43/39 mpg) and the 2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid ($25,795 and 35/40 mpg). It is more affordable than the 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid but still not as fuel efficient ($28,700 and 41/36 mpg). The 2010 Chevy Malibu Hybrid cost $25,925 when it was on sale, but it only achieved 26/34 mpg.
What gives?Chevrolet banished the “hybrid” descriptor from its mild-hybrid systems after poor consumer reception. Despite the rebranding, the Malibu Eco packs an upgraded version of the system found on the 2010 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid. It now has more power and better fuel efficiency; the Buick LaCrosse and Buick Regal also have trims using this second-gen system, which GM now calls “eAssist.”
Unlike the Camry Hybrid or Fusion Hybrid, which can move on battery power alone, the capability of the eAssist technology in the Malibu Eco is more limited. It can capture kinetic energy when braking, and the gas engine shuts off automatically when the car comes to a stop and starts again immediately when the brake pedal is released.
We were impressed by how confidently and smoothly the 2012 Buick LaCrosse with eAssist accelerated and braked in initial testing.
Standard exterior features on the Malibu Eco include heated power mirrors, automatic headlights and 17-inch alloy wheels. Electric louvers (which close off the lower grille when conditions are right to manage airflow better), underbody covers and added use of lightweight aluminum also separate the Malibu Eco from the regular 2013 Malibu. The power pack for the hybrid system is installed behind the backseat, and it reduces trunk space from 16.3 cubic feet to 14.3 compared with the regular Malibu.
The Malibu Eco will be the first Chevy to get the carmaker’s MyLink multimedia system as standard equipment. MyLink is controlled with a 7-inch screen that can move up to reveal a hidden 6-inch-deep cubbyhole.
Other standard interior features include dual-zone automatic climate control, a USB port, Bluetooth connectivity, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls and cruise control, and blue ambient lighting.
The Malibu Eco will go on sale in the first three months of 2012. A base four-cylinder Malibu will follow in summer 2012 along with the familiar LS, LT and LTZ trim levels, which don't yet have fuel economy estimates or pricing.