November 12, 2012
Contender: Chevrolet Malibu
By: Carlos Lago
2013 Chevrolet Malibu
We Like: Clean exterior.
We Don't Like: Overworked powertrain, numb steering, tight back seat, problematic interior design.
Neither fun to drive nor particularly good with fuel, with a cramped back seat and a questionable interior design, the Malibu was a consistent disappointment. Lieberman even categorized it as "not so much a car as it is a collection of things I hate about rentals."
The problems? The judges' notes go on about "lifeless" steering feel and a "thrashy" 2.5-liter inline-four. The automatic six-speed, eager to serve some kind of fuel economy deity, not only shifts to top gear as soon as it can, but also offers a huge gap between second and third gear that "lets the engine torque fall off a cliff," said Markus. And despite these sacrifices, the Malibu's 22/34-mpg city/hwy rating is, at best, average in class.
The rear seat was tight for staffers of average height and weight, and it offered "rock hard" leather with "no support at all." Our LTZ tester came bathed in burnt orange leather that received mixed acceptance, but the swathes of chrome merging with high-gloss woodgrain got no praise. Particularly distasteful was an odd and out-of-place chrome trim surrounding the driver-side power window controls. As a final insult, the small infotainment screen washed out in the sun.
On the road, judges complained about a "nervous" sensation on the oval at freeway speeds, an "overwhelmed" engine, and "weak" brakes. The word "average" was used five times in one judge's notes. "Average" used to define midsize economy sedans, but in recent years, the Fusion, Accord, and Passat have made large strides in refinement, driver enjoyment, interior space, design, and fuel economy. This Malibu has not.
To be fair, its asking price is modest and its exterior is sharp, though Markus noted, "The decklid is chafing the bumper fascia paint." Reynolds summed it up: "GM is really in danger if it thinks it can drop back into its old mediocre quality rental car habits. This car is worrying."
Full article, and winner (no spoils here) at link.