The 2013 Chevy Malibu Eco: Not Your Mother’s Mom Car

There’s a lot that goes into our car buying decisions, but for most of us, gas mileage is pretty high on that list. So in this review of the 2013 Chevy Malibu Eco you bet that I’m going to focus on the car’s MPG.

But first I’m one of the many who ditched a four-wheel drive, gas-guzzling, able to climb small mountains in a single bound vehicle for something smaller and more fuel efficient.

For the record, it nearly killed me to give up a car I loved for one that was practical and responsible. It’s no fun being a grown-up sometimes. The 2013 Chevy Malibu Eco wants to let me be a responsible adult, but without taking away my fun.

You’ll see a lot about the engineers that designed this vehicle. Yeah, I know that’s super exciting, but there is something unique to this group. The four lead engineers were not only women, but moms. In a very male-dominated industry, this car got a decidedly female design team and they brought their unique perspectives to the process.

I spoke with several of them and it was clear that they brought their personal driving experiences to the table when they were designing the Chevy Malibu Eco. A quiet ride was important not just for comfort, but so a driver might actually hear the voices of young kids in the backseat.

Fuel efficiency was a priority because every dollar saved at the pump was viewed as one more dollar tucked away for that college fund. And safety, well, when you have kids, all those nightmarish videos they show in driver’s education take on a whole new meaning. All totaled, this car has ten airbags.

The Chevy Malibu Eco arrived in my driveway and my first though was that it was a good looking car. The body design and exterior styling were appealing and even sporty. I opened the door and it got better. There were leather seats, and chrome and wood accents that gave it an upscale feel. I know, not real chrome and not real wood, but it looked good. It looked sexy. It did not look like a mom car.

It didn’t sacrifice comfort for looks either, so even on a 100-mile trip the seats were comfortable. My kids had room in the back and the rear center arm rest with its cupholders was a real plus. Sure, mock the cupholders, but until you’ve had a child spill a container of milk she’s holding between her knees, you can’t fully appreciate their importance.

The Chevy Malibu Eco earns a 37 mpg highway rating in part thanks to eAssist technology that sends an electronic boost to the engine during hard acceleration instead of gas. I wondered if this would feel like less power. I’ve driven hybrids that sound like they’ve got glorified lawnmower engines under their hoods and it’s not a comforting sound with an 18-wheeler looming in your rear view mirror.

The 182 horsepower 2.4-liter direct injection four-cylinder engine assures that this not-quite-hybrid definitely doesn’t sound like one. It drives smoothly, with none of the too slow buildup of power that plagues hybrid vehicles. It didn’t have the kick of a larger, less fuel efficient engine, but it wasn’t nerve wracking merging in heavy traffic either. All-in-all it was a comfortable and easy drive

One thing that stood out in the Chevy Malibu Eco was the incredibly smooth transition from gas to battery when the car was stopped. It doesn’t jump through the change so you’ll only notice it for the sound of the engine silencing and then starting back up. And I managed to coax an average of 34 mpg while I drove the car, so not too far off from what was promised.

The big drawback to this kind of technology is that there’s a battery somewhere taking up space. You’ll find a lithiom-ion battery taking a big bite out of your trunk space. It’s not going to be a problem for most day-to-day usage, but if you’re trying to pack up the family for a week’s vacation, then you’re going to be fighting to make everything fit.

The Chevy Malibu Eco starts at $26,095, but once you add on all the bells and whistles you could be looking at just over $30,000 so this isn’t a bargain. There is plenty of competition with the likes of the Toyota Camry Hybrid or Hyundai Sonata Hybrid at similar price points. And of course, there’s the Toyota Prius if you want stellar mileage and for the world to know you’ve gone green. If not, then the Chevy Malibu Eco is a good alternative.

On the recommendation scale of:
– Buy it
– Lease it
– Rent it or
– Forget it

I give the 2013 Chevy Malibu Eco a BUY IT!

Nicole Wakelin fell in love with cars as a teenager when she got to go for a ride in a Ferrari. It was red and it was fast and that was all that mattered. Game over. She considers things a bit more carefully now, but still has a weakness for fast, beautiful cars. When not drooling over cars, Nicole writes for Wired’s GeekMom.