The Chevrolet Malibu’s worldwide debut continues with the introduction of the Malibu Turbo here in the automaker's home market. The new bodystyle, introduced first as the Malibu Eco with a mild hybrid powerplant destined for the North American market only, now spreads its wings globally with GM's 2.0-liter Ecotec turbocharged four-cylinder.
A twin-scroll turbocharger is at the heart of this Malibu. Part of the new family of four-cylinder engines from the General, it uses techniques found in the Ecotec mill powering the new Cadillac ATS. The engine realizes a new smoothness from a modular balance shaft system amd tje end result is a silky mill whose noise is buried deep in the bowels, or in this case, the oil pan. Horsepower checks in with 259 ponies at 5,300 rpm. There is 260 lb-ft of torque, low and forever, coming on at 1,500 and remaining at peak power up to 5,800 rpm. The Malibu Turbo weighs in at a slightly portly 3,660 lbs. and it has EPA mileage stats of 21/30 mpg with a combined measurement of 24 mpg.
If you are a fan of the current Malibu Eco (previously the only other Malibu available here), then you will absolutely love the 2013 Malibu Turbo. Using the same two-stage face of Chevrolet, the Turbo features a power-domed hood with aero sculpture to slice through the wind. The sides are properly blinged out with just the amount of chrome that you would expect on a family sedan. From the rear, the ‘bu resembles what would be a four-door Camaro.
For a time, turbocharging was reserved for higher-end high-performance vehicles. But recently, with manufacturers finding twin-scroll religion, turbos are coming from all corners. In this competitive set alone, the little boosters are showing up in everything from the Kia Optima and Hyundai Sonata to two engines in the Ford Fusion.
A retuned suspension for the Malibu Turbo features the same MacPherson strut/multi-link setup with a few unique tweaks. Steering is quite good from an electric power assist rack and pinion setup that offered firm-for-a-family-car road feel and control
There are plenty of nice soft touch points inside, but one glaring faux pas is the inclusion of an awkwardly-set toggle switch on the top of the gear selector knob to allow drivers to manually sort through gears. It’s positioned just far enough back to be annoying. A more elegant and intuitive solution would be steering wheel-mounted paddles.
On the plus side, we were so surprised at how quiet the interior was—without the use of active noise cancellation. The General really did its homework in cutting down extraneous road noise from reaching inside, using tuned induction chambers and hanging the turbocharger off the leading (front) edge of the engine.
The net effect is a car that is fun to drive while at the same time, maintaining the appearance of a proper family sedan, albeit one that is capable of 155 mph.
Leftlane's bottom line
The 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Turbo brings new power, good handling and high fuel mileage to a mid-size family segment.
We think this wider lineup, which also includes a naturally-aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder, will make Chevrolet a credible midsize competitor once again.
2013 Chevrolet Malibu Turbo base price, $27,710.
Words and photos by Mark Elias.