Based on published figures, reading lots of reviews and my own biased opinions, Chevy is in for a tough ride if it expects its new Malibu to do well in the very competitive midsize field.
Here’s why: The new car is probably better than the present Malibu, but it’s not up to its competitors in either mileage or performance. It does have a better interior cabin and better steering and handling.
Chevy released the car in its mild-hybrid Eco form first, probably because the other two promised engines weren’t ready. These will likely be a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder (190 hp), due next summer, and a 2-liter turbo similar to what’s in Buick’s Regal (220-270 hp).
So the new Malibu Eco gets something called eAssist, a mild hybrid wherein an electric motor (15 hp) replaces the alternator to assist the gas engine (182 hp) and permit it to run slower, thus getting better mileage. But, “even with all its fancy hardware, the Malibu Eco’s estimated 25/37 mpg city/highway rating gets trampled in a segment chock full of hybrids.” The new Camry Hybrid gets 43/39 mpg for about the same price. See our take on that car here.
And the performance isn’t all that great either, although the car has been widely praised for its steering response. Where the Malibu could well attract new buyers is with its interior, which is much better than the current car’s. Reportedly, it’s very quiet and fitted out with good seats (though with less room in back), good materials and lots of standard equipment.
I think GM has clearly lost the race in designing the car’s exterior—which simply doesn’t compare to the offerings from Kia or Hyundai. We’ll see what Ford comes up with in its new Fusion and Hybrid. Even the Altima looks better.
The company seems to be following the pattern it took with the Cruze, making the car on a global platform—permitting lower design costs and more consistent tooling across its plants and making worldwide production easier and cheaper, achieving greater scale.
That makes sense if you take the corporate point of view. If you take the buyer’s point of view, who cares about economies of scale if you don’t get a more outstanding car for the money?
GM may be missing the forest for the trees on this one.
GM saw that the competition was eating its lunch in the midsize segment. So it rushed the Eco into production. Was that a mistake?