This is not the way it is supposed to be. High mileage cars are supposed to carry a civility penalty, be a sort of transportation hair shirt, with a hard ride, small size or high price, or a combination thereof. But the 2013 Malibu Eco 2SA puts that one to rest with a pillow and a warm fuzzy comforter.
Actually, it’s those inside the Malibu Eco who are getting the pillow and comforter treatment. We were continuously impressed by how smoothly it rode and how quiet the powertrain was and how little highway noise came into the cabin. And this for a Chevy.
The all-new Chevrolet Malibu is an early release for the 2013 model year, the Eco model being the first to arrive. What makes the Malibu an Eco is primarily an engine with eAssist, a technology originally introduced on the 2012 Buick LaCrosse and then added to the Buick Regal. The Malibu is the first application for Chevrolet.
GM’s eAssist technology is what its name might suggests, a “mild hybrid,” a relatively small 2.4-liter gasoline engine with a tall final drive for efficient cruising, with an electric motor to provide extra grunt for acceleration. Auto stop-start ability, which turns off the engine when the car is stopped, such as at a traffic light, helps improve fuel economy. The engine restarts when the brake pedal is released. The engine also cuts off the gas during deceleration to save even more fuel.
The engine itself, with direct injection and variable valve timing, is rated at 182 horsepower and 172 lb-ft of torque. The electric assist motor (also used for starting the engine) has a 79 lb-ft rating at 1000 rpm with 20 horsepower from 1570 to 3180 rpm.
The result is, well, moderately sprightly acceleration. Chevrolet claims about 8.7 seconds for zero-to-60 mph. The sound when the hammer is down, however, has an unusual electro-mechanical sound, as if the electric motor sounds are coming through the extensive sound insulation and abatement more than the engine’s. Chevrolet claims it’s the quietest Chevy ever. We’re inclined to agree.
The result is the most fuel efficient Chevrolet Malibu ever, with an EPA fuel economy estimate of 25/37/29 city/highway/combined.