2013 Chevrolet Malibu

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Key Specs
Our Take
Road Test
Photos
Reviews
Safety & Recalls
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Key Specs

of the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu. Base trim shown.

  • Body Type:
  • Combined MPG:
    24-29 Combined MPG
  • Engine:
    197-hp, 2.5-liter I-4 (regular gas)
  • Drivetrain:
    Front-wheel Drive
  • Transmission:
    6-speed automatic w/OD and auto-manual
  • View more specs

Our Take

From the Cars.com Vehicle Test Team

The Good

  • Quiet cabin
  • MyLink multimedia system
  • Front seat comfort
  • Large trunk

The Bad

  • Cramped backseat
  • Average mileage
  • Interior material quality
  • Ho-hum looks

Notable Features of the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu

  • High-mileage Eco trim debuts first
  • Stop/start engine (Eco)
  • Slightly wider than 2012 model
  • New 2.5-liter four-cylinder base engine

2013 Chevrolet Malibu Road Test

David Thomas

Midsize sedans are the tried-and-true everyday car. They do everything pretty well, and these days get excellent mileage and look good, too. Chevy's Malibu has always struggled to be seen in the same light as the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and lately, the Hyundai Sonata and Ford Fusion.

There's much to like about the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu, but consumers may have a hard time reconciling not only its looks and interior but also its value and spaciousness versus the class.

Performance
I tested the latest Malibu with its new base four-cylinder engine in various trims. The car debuted with a mild-hybrid system teamed to a four-cylinder called the Chevrolet Malibu Eco that returns 37 mpg on the highway. We reviewed that powertrain earlier this year.

The world shifted away from V-6 engines in midsize sedans with the rise of $4 gas prices; that hasn't changed with the 2013 Malibu. The base engine is a new 2.5-liter four-cylinder with direct injection that is also used to power Cadillac's new small sedan, the ATS. In the Malibu, the engine produces 197 horsepower, returning estimated mileage of 22/34 mpg city/highway with a six-speed automatic transmission.

There are a few problems, whether you're just looking at the numbers or putting the rubber to the road. 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 b...

Midsize sedans are the tried-and-true everyday car. They do everything pretty well, and these days get excellent mileage and look good, too. Chevy's Malibu has always struggled to be seen in the same light as the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and lately, the Hyundai Sonata and Ford Fusion.

There's much to like about the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu, but consumers may have a hard time reconciling not only its looks and interior but also its value and spaciousness versus the class.

Performance
I tested the latest Malibu with its new base four-cylinder engine in various trims. The car debuted with a mild-hybrid system teamed to a four-cylinder called the Chevrolet Malibu Eco that returns 37 mpg on the highway. We reviewed that powertrain earlier this year.

The world shifted away from V-6 engines in midsize sedans with the rise of $4 gas prices; that hasn't changed with the 2013 Malibu. The base engine is a new 2.5-liter four-cylinder with direct injection that is also used to power Cadillac's new small sedan, the ATS. In the Malibu, the engine produces 197 horsepower, returning estimated mileage of 22/34 mpg city/highway with a six-speed automatic transmission.

There are a few problems, whether you're just looking at the numbers or putting the rubber to the road. 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. Luckily, the sound associated with the abruption isn't as coarse as we're used to with previous four-cylinders from Chevy. Power does return to finish the maneuvers — it's just unsteady at the onset.

Otherwise, drivers probably won't complain much about the Malibu. The ride smooths out bumps astoundingly well; the steering is relatively quick to respond, and the cabin is quiet. I mean really quiet. Over all types of road surfaces at all speeds I was amazed at how little road and wind noise crept in. Chevy made a great commuter car with its Cruze compact, and I can see the Malibu becoming a similar pick for shoppers who prize comfort and quiet above all else.

Non-hybrid mileage, however, is a failing. The midsize class is the most competitive in the entire industry. There are four sedans on the market with traditional four-cylinder gas engines returning 35 mpg or more on the highway, and two redesigns coming this fall — the Ford Fusion and Honda Accord — that will likely top that number.

The 2.5-liter's fuel-economy numbers of 22/34 mpg just aren't competitive. Chevy will point to the Eco trim level and its 37 mpg highway figure as an alternative for fuel-conscious shoppers, but the redesigned 2013 Nissan Altima gets 38 mpg highway out of its base engine. That would equal roughly $300 more in fuel costs a year if you went with the Malibu. There's not a quantifiable upgrade in the driving experience between the two cars that I think would change someone's mind. The Eco also sacrifices more than 3 cubic feet of trunk space to the regular Chevrolet Malibu and more than 2 cubic feet versus the Altima.

A 259-hp, turbocharged four-cylinder will be available later in the year with a considerable 260 pounds-feet of torque. Chevy says it will do zero to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds. That should solve the around-town speed woes I experienced with the base engine.

Interior
Even if it fails to make the grade in other areas, Chevy does one thing right with its interiors: The seats are really comfortable. Both the cloth seats I tested in the Chevrolet Malibu LT trim level and the leather seats in the Chevrolet Malibu LTZ had wide seat bottom and back cushions that gave plenty of support. Again, this supports my recommendation of the Malibu as a commuter car.

Unfortunately, the materials in the cabin and the design itself underwhelmed me. This happened the last time Chevy redesigned the Malibu. It was an all-new car with an interior that was just good enough to play in this segment but didn't come close to the best in the class. The same goes for the 2013.

There is a lot of bulky plastic with the worst offense being the area over the glove box. It's part of the dual-cockpit design, but the end result for the front passenger is a humplike shelf of plastic that sticks out like a sore thumb — or arm, considering its size. Other materials are about par for the class.

Then there's the backseat. While some other sedans in this class add voluminous rear compartments that rival full-size sedans, the Malibu remains one of the tightest rear confines around. The numbers don't faithfully reflect the space, either: Rated at 36.8 inches of rear legroom, the Chevrolet Malibu is right in line with some of the roomiest in the class like the new Altima at 36.1 inches and the Hyundai Sonata at 34.6 inches of legroom. But my knees don't lie. They had just enough clearance behind the driver's seat where I had positioned it when driving, and I'm an average height of 5 feet 10 inches.

We tested the Malibu Eco for child-safety-seat fit, and during the test the front passenger seat had to be moved forward to accommodate rear-facing car seats.

If you use the backseat frequently for carrying passengers or children in car seats, there are better options in the class.

Features & Cargo
What did impress was the MyLink entertainment system standard on all LT and LTZ models. It features a 7-inch touch-screen with a USB input for iPod integration, Bluetooth connectivity and audio streaming, and Pandora and Stitcher internet radio applications built-in. OnStar and Navigation is an option.

The MyLink system features giant icons to press to activate various applications. This helps avoid hunting and pecking while driving. You also can customize the Home screen to display the applications you want most in the order you prefer. The screen is bright and easy to read, and it actually swings upward from the console to reveal a cubby that can fit smartphones or other items like wallets.

If you're buying a base Chevrolet Malibu LS model, not only do you get left out of the touch-screen and Internet radio, but you don't even get a USB port. You do get Bluetooth for hands-free calling, though.

There is also quite a bit of difference in equipment levels between the 1LT and 2LT models, so study up on what features you want when researching the trims. For example, if you move up to the 2LT, you add 18-inch wheels and dual-zone climate control.

The Malibu's trunk with the battery pack for the Eco trim level's eAssist system is 13.2 cubic feet, which is far behind the class. The rest of the Chevrolet Malibu lineup has a class-leading 16.3-cubic-foot trunk that looked cavernous to me, unlike those rear seats.

Safety
The 2013 Chevy Malibu Eco earned a five-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Top Safety Pick status from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

As of June 2012, it features 10 standard airbags: There are front and side curtain airbags as well as side torso airbags to protect all front and rear outboard passengers. The front occupants get standard knee airbags. An additional set of side-impact airbags for rear passengers is also optional. You can see a full list of safety features here.

Chevy Malibu in the market
On its own merits, the Malibu is a solid sedan with a quiet, comfortable ride, cool technology and a huge trunk. Commuters and empty nesters might find it a perfect fit. But it's the competition that weighs so heavily on the Chevrolet Malibu with better all-around products that are more efficient with more space and better interiors.

Send David an email  

 


2013 Malibu Video

The Malibu Eco shows how promising Chevy's new midsize sedan is, including its intuitive multimedia system, MyLink. However, the Eco model's minor mpg boost might not be worth it financially.

Latest 2013 Malibu Stories

Consumer Reviews

Exterior Styling
(4.6)
Performance
(4.2)
Interior Design
(4.5)
Comfort
(4.4)
Reliability
(4.3)
Value For The Money
(4.2)

What Drivers Are Saying

(3.0)

Good starter car

by Hailssss from MICHIGAN on August 28, 2018

It?s a really good starter car! Good gas milage takes you to where you need. Has the auto stop which is very nice! Has really nice back seat room too Read full review

(5.0)

So far I'm in love with it!

by measports on July 24, 2018

I really like the style and smooth ride! This model gave me a lot of the options that the newer standard models would not have. Read full review

Safety & Recalls

Recalls

The 2013 Chevrolet Malibu currently has 8 recalls

IIHS Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

Based on 2013 Chevrolet Malibu 1LS

IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal, or poor.

Head Restraints and Seats

Dynamic Rating
good
Overall Rear
good
Seat Head/Restraint Geometry
good

Moderate overlap front

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Left Leg/Foot
good
Overall Front
good
Restraints
good
Right Leg/Foot
good
Structure/safety cage
good

Other

Roof Strength
good

Side

Driver Head Protection
good
Driver Head and Neck
good
Driver Pelvis/Leg
good
Driver Torso
acceptable
Overall Side
good
Rear Passenger Head Protection
good
Rear Passenger Head and Neck
good
Rear Passenger Pelvis/Leg
good
Rear Passenger Torso
good
Structure/safety cage
good

Small Overlap Front - Driver Side

Overall Evaluation
marginal
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a nonprofit research and communications organization funded by auto insurers.

Manufacturer Warranty

  • Bumper-to-Bumper

    36 months / 36,000 miles

  • Powertrain

    60 months / 100,000 miles

  • Roadside Assistance

    60 months / 100,000 miles

CPO Program & Warranty

Certified Pre-Owned by Chevrolet

Program Benefits

Two Factory-Backed Warranties, CPO Scheduled Maintenance Program, Vehicle Inspection & Reconditioning, 3-Day/150-Mile Vehicle Exchange Program, 24/7 Roadside Assistance and Courtesy Transportation, OnStar & SiriusXM Satellite Radio Trial Offers, and a Carfax Vehicle History Report

  • Limited Warranty

    Two Factory-Backed Warranties

    6-Year/100,000-Mile, Powertrain Limited Warranty and a 12- Month/12,000-Miles, Bumper-to-Bumper Limited Warranty, both with $0 deductible
  • Eligibility

    Under 5 years / 75,000 miles

    Vehicles receive a 172-Point Inspection & Reconditioning.

    See inspection details.

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Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The Malibu received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker