Not the most value oriented or fuel efficient hybrid in the mid-size class, the Malibu ECO provides a quiet ride, handles well and offers an upscale interior few competitors have matched to date. [fimg=right]http://www.cleanmpg.com/photos/data/501/2013_Malibu_ECO1.jpg[/fimg]Wayne Gerdes - CleanMPG - Feb 19, 2012 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco - $25,995 to start including D&H and a 25/37 mpgUS city/highway rating. In a short GM release, the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco with eAssist whose release date was moved up by 6-months has begun to arrive at Chevrolet dealerships nationwide. Below you will find a number of its details. The longest running nameplate in the midsize category spans some 35 years and now eight generations. That model is Malibu. For the long and illustrious history of Chevrolet's Malibu, look no further than the Malibu, Chevrolet's longest lasting nameplate file. Adding to that history, the now aging Malibu just missed being Chevrolet’s best-selling passenger car in 2011 by a little over 10% with 204,808 vehicles sold vs. the all-new and much more celebrated smaller sibling Cruze. 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco Specifications The 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco will be available in a single trim with four option packages. Complete specifications, pricing, standard and optional equipment including its features can be found on the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco - Specifications page. 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco eAssist Drivetrain The Malibu Eco's claim to fame is its eAssist propulsion technology combining start-stop with regenerative braking and a small lightweight Li-Ion battery that provides an electric boost to improve fuel economy by 12 percent over GM’s upcoming Malibu with its 2.5L Ecotec. Malibu Eco’s eAssist system is mated to a direct injected 182 HP 2.4L I4 and GM’s latest 6-speed automatic transmission. The 2.4L engine features dual-overhead cams, direct injection, continuously variable intake and exhaust timing, and electronic throttle control, as well as a lightweight aluminum cylinder block and head. 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco Engine Bay The direct injected and mildly hybridized 2.4L Ecotec. The eAssist system uses power stored in the air-cooled, 115V Li-Ion battery and 15-kW motor-generator to provide an electrical boost in higher demand acceleration scenarios while also optimizing engine and transmission operation. For better fuel economy. Other eAssist highlights include: Regenerative braking which provides up to 15 kW of electricity to charge the battery. A taller final drive ratio for more efficient highway cruising. Automatic engine start-stop functionality. Aggressive fuel cut-off during deceleration to 0 mph. Intelligent charge/discharge of the high-voltage battery. Thanks to the Malibu Eco's eAssist technology, it is rated for 580 highway miles between fill-ups with its 15.8-gallon fuel tank. 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco Design Exterior - The Malibu Eco exterior incorporates Chevrolet’s signature dual-port grille with a “tall and wide” swept-back projector HIDs. A minor center crease separates the hood with aggressive sculpted cutouts set wide at the outer edges near the windscreen and whose depth dissipate as the pattern is carried forward to the grille emboldened with a larger Chevrolet bowtie badge. The profile reveals a standard coupe like silhouette with slightly bowed out fender flares accentuated by a hint of a lower sill cutout angling upwards from front to rear. It is in the rear where things get interesting. A tall and flat rear deck lid rises from the trunk lit itself to form an integrated spoiler with rear stop lamp as it smoothly curves inward. A large Chevrolet bowtie badge is prominently displayed just below the stop lamp with a slight vertical crease running form the integrated stop lamp down to the lower rear bumper fascia. Small parking lamp cutouts appear to be added as an afterthought. 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco Interior Luxurious appointments no matter which way you turn. Classy Interior - The new Malibu’s interior is a step up from anything you have ever experienced from the Bowtie. The center stack is surrounded with a pewter colored border that flows seamlessly from the center console upwards integrating nicely into the smoothly curved and driver centric dash. The lower central stack features either a chrome or wood inlay beneath the HVAC and Radio controls and the shift lever is chrome banded on the top and center with a beautiful embossed white stitch on black leather gate cover. Even the shift gate is surrounded by a wide band of chrome. Truly upscale appointments! The large control knobs use a rubberized side and chrome surrounds providing both good tactile feel and upscale appearance. The welcome larger and more legible control fonts are easy to read at glance. Above the instruments is another feature rich addition with white embossed stitching at the front edge of the black hood. A small letdown arrives with an inexpensive feeling plastic border and vent controls between the upper and lower dash. This design feature is highlighted by a soft blue light-pipe on top and a chrome inlay through the center providing a futuristic and upscale look but the flexible plastic inlay is not of the same robustness as the rest of the dash pieces. In addition, the low resolution white text on dark blue hue background within the MFD between the tach and speedometer is dated and out of place. The curved dash flows seamlessly into the doors as if they were a single piece. Not only are the window controls surrounded with the same wood or chrome as that of the center console inlay, the armrests have the same white embossed stitching exuding luxury that would normally only be found in a much more expensive nameplate. The 2013 Malibu Eco in equipped with a unique and elegant interior not representative of anything that Chevrolet provided in the past. Softer, warmer and richer to the touch interior plastics, more legible controls, white stitched highlights, metallic, chrome or wood accents and all laid out in a logical and highly refined manner demonstrating that Chevrolet not only knows how to do interiors right but is leading the segment in doing so? This a very welcome addition from what used to be an afterthought in the pre bankruptcy days and good job Chevrolet. Good for us too! All of the above was of course my impressions of the leather appointed 2013 Malibu Eco. Having driven $40,000 Lexus’ that did not provide this level of “upscale” detail, Chevrolet's really got something here. 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco Aerodynamics The Malibu Eco like the Cruze Eco incorporates an active shutter system. Located in the lower grille, the Malibu Eco’s active shutter system automatically closes airflow through the lower intake opening when air intake is least needed. When closed, the shutter system enhances aero performance by redirecting airflow around the front of the vehicle and down the sides, rather than through it. The shutter is open or closed based on engine coolant temperature and speed. Other aerodynamic features include: Grille upper is closed to redirect air flow up and over the hood. Outside rearview mirrors designed to maximize efficiency but are otherwise too small. Taillamps are shaped for improved aero performance. Four underbody panels cover approximately 50 percent of the lower portion of the vehicle and provide a cleaner airflow path beneath the vehicle. 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco Aero Details Too small of a side mirror hampered rearward visibility. Tall and flat trunk lid helped both aero and real world cargo capacity. 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco - It is definitely quiet! The second most redeeming feature of the 2013 Malibu Eco is its quietness. In fact, it is the quietest Chevrolet ever built and is one of the quietest cars in the midsize segment. 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco - Door Seal Detail Quite possibly the best designed door seal(s) in the entire automotive industry! To achieve that, engineers used real world road testing, sound evaluation tools and vehicle components to reduce and absorb noise from entering the cabin. Some of the contributors to its quiet driving experience include: Malibu’s stiff body structure and isolated engine cradle help reduce noise and vibration from being transmitted to the passenger compartment. The wind tunnel-tuned exterior has a reasonably low coefficient of drag of .30 Cd (ECO model) helping to reduce wind noise to what is expected to be a segment-best 33 decibels. Air leakage into the passenger compartment is expected to be the best in the segment at about 20-25 cubic feet per minute. Close to the minimum leakage required per the current DOT standards. A 5.4-mm acoustic-laminate windshield and 5-mm acoustic-laminated front door glass reduce wind noise by about 3 decibels when compared to conventional tempered glass. There are sixteen expanding-foam acoustic baffles placed in cavities throughout the body structure. The foam expands when the body passes through the drying oven in the paint shop, filling the cavities to restrict or eliminate sound paths. Liquid-applied sound deadening and melt-on sound deadening materials are used on the floor pan. 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco Safety In the midsize class, safety is compulsory and a 5-star crash test rating on the NHTSA is all but mandatory. While the 2013 Malibu has not yet been rated, having optional outward rear side airbags along with driver and passenger knee, front, side and full length side curtains are certainly a great start. Passive and Active Safety features include: StabiliTrak stability control system Traction control Four-disc brakes with ABS Optional Forward collision alert (late availability) Optional Lane departure warning (late availability) Pedal release system. The Malibu Eco also comes standard with OnStar (six-months free) with Automatic Crash Response. 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco Ride and Handling All 2013 Malibu models have been engineered to deliver ride and handling capabilities that are near best-in-class and on par with much more expensive sports sedans. During our Preview drive around the Austin, TX area, the Malibu Eco's best attribute proved to be its road holding capability in both wet and dry conditions. In fact so much so it bested both the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and Toyota Camry Hybrid LE in this aspect. The reason why? A solid body structure that’s 20-percent stiffer than previous Malibu’s. An electric power rack-and-pinion variable-effort power steering system that provided effortless parking lot speed driving and one of the best on-center feel experiences at speed in the industry. A highly tuned Macpherson strut front and multi-link rear end with aluminum components and hollow stabilizer bar to reduce unsprung weight. This makes the 2013 Malibu an easy to drive midsize when just driving and a pleasure when taken to its adhesion limits. Large, 11.7-inch ventilated front disc and 11.5-inch solid rear disc brakes (with aluminum rear calipers) provide linear and strong stopping distances. The first 2013 Malibu Eco The first was sold to Jeneise and Talfred Hunt of Romeoville, IL who drove their 2009 Malibu Hybrid to Advantage Chevrolet in Bolingbrook for an oil change and left with the keys of a brand new 2013 Malibu Eco. In doing so, they became the first customers in the country to purchase the all-new 2013 Malibu Eco midsize sedan. The new Malibu Eco is priced a bit less than the full hybrid vehicles from Kia, Hyundai and Toyota ($26,600, $26,450 and $26,660 – all including D&H) with a suggested retail price of $25,995, including a $760 destination and handling charge. Poor driving conditions at best (3) 13 Malibu Eco's, 12 TCH LE, 11 Sonata and 11 HSH at the ready. This is Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive territory and it does not get much worse than this. Unfortunately in the downtown area of Austin round trip driving loops, the Malibu’s fuel economy was called into question when compared to either the 2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid -- itself not in its element -- and especially the 2012 Toyota Camry LE Hybrid in its. The results in rainy conditions and heavy downtown afternoon rush hour traffic were 33, 56 and 69 mpg respectively revealing that the eAssist is not going to help an inner city driver nearly as much as the competitors full hybrids by a good amount. Out on the open road, the Malibu provided a respectable 45 mpg but that is far off the mark of the low 60 mpg capability of the Sonata Hybrid and the mid to high 50 mpg capability of the current generation Camry Hybrid out on the super slab. 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco vs. 2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid vs. 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid LE City Fuel Economy Results Where it gets ugly: 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco@33.2 mpg - 2011 HSH@56.1 mpg - 2012 TCH@69.1 mpg on the same round trip city loop. 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco Preview Conclusions The Malibu proved to be exceptionally quiet, should prove to be one of the safest mid-sizes available once tested, handles extraordinarily well compared to the rest of the “affordable” ($20 to $30K) midsize class and incorporates upscale interior appointments few in the segment can touch. At $25,995 however, it is not in the same league from either a total content or fuel savings capability standpoint versus similarly priced full hybrid rivals today. Another issue found with the Malibu Eco was its rear seat leg room. With the inability to get my knees behind the rear seats when the front seat was adjusted for my 6'-0" frame, this is the tightest rear seat in a D-Segment vehicle I have experienced in quite some time. This could possibly be a result of Chevrolet relying on the smaller European mid-size platform for a mid-size sedan here in the states? 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco Front and Rear Seat Sizing I could not enter or exit the rear seats without contortions. The Hunt’s will enjoy their new Malibu Eco’s strengths but they will also be paying more to both the bank and the pump while we wait for the much anticipated and much less expensive non-hybrid 2013 Malibu to arrive later this summer. The 2013 Malibu is built at GM’s Fairfax assembly plant with more than 1.4 million of Chevrolet’s most recognized sedans being produced since 2003. The all-new non-hybrid 2013 Malibu is scheduled to be built at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant later this summer. CleanMPG was provided with travel and accommodations by GM for the Austin, Texas - 2013 Malibu Eco Long Lead Press Preview.