2013 Chevrolet Malibu Turbo LTZ HD Video Review


It’s not exactly news that the mid-sized sedan market is white hot with great choices these days.  Score one for the average Joe or Jane looking for a great car. Chevrolet hopes you’ll consider the new 2013 Malibu while perusing the competition because, last time I checked, they’re in the business of selling cars.

Chevrolet-Malibu-LTZ-StaticFrontThe current generation Malibu has had a bit of a bumpy launch. The first model was the Eco with eAssist, a light hybrid system.  Many felt that this version didn’t deliver the fuel economy it should have and that it lacked zip.  Chevrolet is taking aim at that performance issue with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder.  Works for me.

Stealth Marketing

Not that Chevy’s bragging about it.  Look the car over, you’ll see no badging to announce Malibu packs a turbo.  Just so you know, there’s a standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder available too.  Let’s be clear though, the turbo is the engine you want.  It transforms the Malibu driving experience.  Another clarification, there’s no V6 option.  It’s been 86ed.

The direct-injected twin-scroll turbo engine pumps out 259 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque starting at 1,700 RPM so really, the six shouldn’t be missed.  While it’s not exactly the same powerplant found in Cadillac’s ATS, it’s smooth and refined with a very drivable power curve.  Premium fuel is recommended, not required.

Malibu Turbo HeroGear changes get done with a six-speed automatic. Manual control is on the top of the shift lever, which is cumbersome.  Considering the performance mission, paddle shifters on the steering wheel are missed.

Pressure to Perform

Turbo motors promise V6 oomph and four-cylinder fuel efficiency.  Chevy delivers on the power, my 0-60 time is 6.5 seconds.  Low-end and mid-range torque is excellent, there’s little to no turbo lag. Throttle response isn’t high strung or twitchy so it’s smooth driving Malibu about town.

The EPA rates gas mileage at 21 city/30 highway.  I saw a couple less than that in real world city driving but matched it on the open road. FYI- In one condition where I forced to drive a steady 60 mph for a half hour the trip computer read 32 mpg

Chevrolet-Malibu-LTZ-Trak-008Malibu’s suspension is set firm but still comfortable, a good compromise.  While many would describe it as European in feel, this dynamic has become very common on American brand cars.  Malibu is very quiet on the road, matching luxury brands for sound isolation. It’s great for long road trips.

Throw it a Curve

Malibu turbo is above average in the corners but not in Camaro territory.  Like many mainstream front-drive sedans there’s the expected moderate understeer in hard maneuvers.  It’s not quite as planted as Accord or Altima in very hard driving but few owners will be attempting slalom maneuvers on the way to Ralph’s.  Disc brakes on all four wheels are powerful with very good modulation.

Chevrolet-Malibu-LTZ-VeryWideIntMalibu has optional forward collision warning and a lane departure system.  They work well enough but the resulting beep does send a signal to passengers that the driver isn’t quite on the ball, especially when it’s triggered often.  Perhaps something a bit more discreet?  Surprisingly, blind spot warning is not available.  Neither is Accord’s slick side view camera because, well, it’s only found on Accord.

Wrap Around Cabin

The appearance inside Malibu is quite different from the competitors.  The cockpit dramatically wraps around those up front with attractive ice blue lighting all throughout.  At night chrome trim strips along the IP give the illusion of light piping.  I highly suggest test-driving it at dusk to experience the ambience.  Malibu’s dramatic cabin illumination is best in-class by a long shot, I find myself lingering inside just to admire it.

Chevrolet-Malibu-LTZ-nightlightingSoft touch material has a deep dual grain finish, looking almost like the surface of a basketball.  The whole cabin is nicely detailed with piano black, chrome, and silver trim.  Seats are wide and flat though and the piping trim isn’t quite up to the quality found in the rest of the car.  The chairs are heated, not cooled and get Chevy’s unique memory location on the seat frame.

Go Configure

Chevy’s user interface is called MyLink.  It allows you to personalize parts of the car, interface with your phone and electronics, plus listen to music in a blizzard of different ways.  Using the data plan of your smartphone gets you Pandora and Stitcher.  There’s also CD, USB, AM/FM/XM, and Bluetooth streaming. Really, how else do you want to listen to your tunes?

Chevrolet-Malibu-LTZ-secretDoorThe MyLink is configurable and easy to use.  You can also check gas prices, the weather forecast, movie times, and see what’s behind you with the rear view camera.  That’s important, like most sedans these days Malibu’s rump is high.

The sunroof is standard sized.  There are the usual storage areas scattered throughout the cabin plus a handy cubbie strictly for the driver.  Side pockets along the side of the center console are a nice touch. Behind the MyLink screen is a storage secret spot that I’ve just revealed to thieves everywhere. Hope they’re gentle, the hinge arms could be a little beefier.  Malibu’s glove box is standard sized.

As For Your Friends…

I’d say Malibu’s Achilles’ heel is the back seat.  It’s not as roomy or spacious as the competition.  Knee room is okay but I’d like a little more room for my legs and feet.  Also, the prominent center hump will annoy center passengers (is Chevy planning an AWD Malibu?).  No adjustable air vent either.  On a positive note there’s storage in the doors, dual seat pockets, side torso bags, and the armrest gets storage to go along with the expected cupholders.  A 110v household electrical outlet makes it easy to charge computers without an special adapters.

Chevrolet-Malibu-Eco Back SeatMalibu’s trunk release button is camouflaged within the CHML frame (which stands for Center High Mounted Light).  At first glance the well-trimmed space doesn’t look that large.  That’s due in part to big hinge arms covered by a shroud that eliminate pinching of your cargo.  A spare tire?  Yes.  Lid handle?  Yup.  It looks like Malibu will only hold five or six packs of the two–ply max but it swallows seven, standard in the mid-sized sedan segment.  And yes, there are split folding rear seats. Remember the Eco model only gets a small pass through.

Design? Chevy says Malibu is inspired by Camaro which I see it mainly in the c-pillar and small side mirrors.  It’s a very aerodynamic shape, with small touches all over that let it slip through the wind smoothly. While some think the front end is a bit much, the most polarizing element to my eye is the back end.  Sometimes it looks great, other times it’s Bangle-butt awkward. LTZ models get LED taillights.  There are rumblings that GM is considering an emergency design refresh ala Honda Civic.  Stay tuned.

Chevrolet-Malibu-LTZ-Road 006

Sold All Over The World. Yes, Even Uzbekistan.

The Chevy folks are very adamant in pointing out that this Malibu is a world car that’s sold in over 100 countries.  That makes me believe that’s the reason the wheelbase (and therefore the back seat room) shrunk compared to the last generation.  It would explain a lot.  Perhaps they intend for the 2014 Impala to take over as the mainstream family car in the US Chevy stable.  Or maybe they just need to stretch Malibu’s wheelbase for the North American market…

GM has just reduced the price of Malibu across the board so it triggers more internet hits when shoppers input price parameters.  Malibu turbo (called 3LTZ when ordering) starts at $27,410 with shipping. The LTZ model I’m driving is loaded at $32,920.  A standard 2.5-liter for-cylinder 1LS model begins at  $22,805.

In the end I find Malibu more emotionally compelling than many of it’s competitors.  It’s quiet, comfortable, powerful and very stylish inside, especially at night.  Malibu turbo is a sedan worth checking out if you don’t require a spacious back seat.  Just remember, it’s the turbo you want.







  1. Senator41 says:

    Thanks for the review of both Malibu models. I am going to the dealership for a test drive and to maybe catch a deal as the last 2013′s leave the lot.

  2. simply aaron says:

    Really love what Chevy is doing these days. Hey Tom will you be getting a chance to review the 2014 Impala? I really hope so, you always give in-depth reviews and in my a opinion the best reviews of any vehicle!

    • TV says:

      It will be a month or two before I see it. I was not on the press launch so I’ll be waiting for one in the press fleet.

  3. fatbaldandhappy says:

    Very nice looking exterior compared to others in its class. The interior appears to be best in class or close to it. Love the imaginative materials especially the contrast tone piping around the seats- all of which seems to be very tastefully done. Great, and unexpected blend of unique, interesting, and classy. I too have heard rumors of a pre-mid MCR, but as you’ve already noted; rumors schmoomers…

    Average is $30K for a new car?!? Wow!! I guess that’s why I almost always ‘new to me’ cars. This definitely looks the part of a $30+K car, but that is still a big number for the scrooge in me to digest. If there’s some Camaro in that car because it comes from GM I’m going to have to remind the good people at GM they are also responsible for the Aztek. How about we just say it’s its own car.

    Side joke from my favorite comedian Brian Regan; “If you were having second thoughts about booking vacation time at an Indian territory, you’d be having a reservation reservation reservation.” :)

    Happy Saturday to you’all!

  4. Facepalm says:

    Good review as usual, Tom.
    I’m surprised by how good this car looks in white. It’s a nice change-up since it seems like every other review or overview of the 2013 Malibu features a red model.

    Also, thanks for providing us with a picture of the interior in the dark. Looks very nice.

  5. Jack in Jax says:

    This review includes an EXCELLENT example of how even a very short comment on EPA mileage vs. test drive mileage can put us closer to the ‘real world’ mileage we can expect. Thanks for including that, Tom!

    Different ‘video car review’ sites offer different things. E.g. the TTAC reviews pour out tons of useful data…but oh my, the dark and scratchy video. CNET’s reviews focus on the ‘infotainment’ features almost more than all other aspects of the car, combined. (Rear seat leg room? Never seen it discussed!) Nowhere else on the Web do I find the video production quality of Tom’s reviews. The ‘video’ end results are above broadcast quality…which is I guess why Tom does these for TV, too! When Patricia asks me about one of the new cars we’re considering, I recommend this as her first stop.


  6. KITT222 says:

    My dad and I rented a new Malibu N/A in Detroit while there for the Auto Show. It was a great car. Comfy, plenty of features, VERY quiet, good interior, and those SWEET accent lights.

    Too bad we were cut short on time with the car. When we came out to it the morning we were leaving for the airport, we discovered someone had stolen the 18″ rims off it.

    • TV says:

      I suppose that’s a good sign of popularity when your wheels are getting ripped off. Must have put a dent in your day. Hope you enjoyed the show!

  7. jlkdmd298d says:

    Great review as usual. Any info on GM’s quick refresh of this car? They must be responding to sluggish sales. On a different topic, I am in the market for a small luxury SUV. This is becoming a very hot and competive segment. Do you have any plans to review the heavily revised Mercedes GLK 350? Will you ever do a comparison of several models within a segment? Thank you for all your hard work. I find you to be a fantastic resource and look forward to your reviews every week.

    • TV says:

      The quick refresh is a rumor Jay. I’ve heard everything from a small nose job to a wheelbase stretch. I’ve also heard for the past three years that Apple is just about to announce a TV…

      I’ll see if there’s a GLK press car. I don’t do comparisons. To do it right I’d need a lot of resources that I just don’t have. I like to stick to the few strengths I have.

      • mx5er says:

        From what I understand, a refresh might come as soon as the upcoming NY autoshow.. There will be a slight styling change and re-contouring of the front seatback and the rear seat to increase the rear legroom. I think a stretch in the wheelbase is too drastic, especially in the short time period.

        • TV says:

          Yeah, that sounds about right. The seats make such perfect sense. It’s the first thing I thought of when I sat in the Malibu Eco. I also find a wheelbase stretch to be, well, a stretch but you know the interweb…