Chevrolet announced it will launch the Eco version of its new Malibu first, then will launch conventional 2.5-liter models. Both go on sale in the first quarter of 2012 as '13 models. While conventional Malibus get the new 2.5-liter four, the Eco, like Buick's Regal and LaCrosse with eAssist, continue with the 2.4-liter four, coupled to a mild hybrid system with a lithium-ion battery. Chevy expects 26/38 mpg fuel mileage, which is 1 mpg better on the highway cycle compared with the similar Buick Regal, thanks to better aerodynamics.
The Malibu Eco has active grill shutters, but little else to distinguish it from the Malibu LS, LT and LTZ. It's "Chevrolet's most efficient midsize sedan, ever," says GM North American President Mark Reuss. The Malibu Eco's highway mileage will exceed that of the Toyota Camry and Nissan Altima hybrid at 35 mpg, and the Ford Fusion hybrid at 36 mpg, though those full hybrids get better city mileage, at 31 mpg and 41 mpg, respectively.
Hopefully this time around, Chevy will get a warmer reception for the Eco, as the first-generation Malibu Hybrid failed to sell in significant numbers. A major reason was because of its minimal fuel economy advantage over the standard four-cylinder model with the 6-speed automatic, eking out a mere 2 miles per gallon better in the city, with no change in highway mpg. Compared to its predecessor, the Eco gets 2 mpg better in the city, and a significant 6 mpg better on the highway.