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General Motors announced this week that its forthcoming Chevy Malibu Eco will be priced to start at $25,995―including a $760 destination charge. The Malibu Eco will be rated 37 on the highway and 25 mpg in the city, for a combined EPA rating of about 29 mpg when it hits dealerships in the first quarter of next year.
Essentially an overhaul of the original Malibu hybrid―whose inexpensive but relatively ineffective mild hybrid system failed to catch on with consumers before it was discontinued in 2009―the Malibu Eco employs the same Belt Alternator Starter (BAS) concept, rebranded as eAssist. The difference is that this time around, GM’s second-generation BAS system will provide far more significant fuel savings at a comparatively small price premium.
To achieve that, eAssist, which first debuted on the Buick LaCrosse earlier this year, uses regenerative breaking to charge a 0.5-kWh lithium-ion battery. The new mild hybrid system will feature a more powerful electric motor, a 4-cylinder gas engine and a computer-controlled stop-start system.
Power numbers for the Malibu Eco put it at 182-horsepower, with the non-eAssist model coming in at 190-horsepower. Pricing for that model―which will come out later next year and was delayed because its 2.5-liter gas engine isn’t ready―has not yet been announced, though the 169-horsepower base 2012 Malibu started at just under $22,000. For 2013, the entire Malibu lineup will be getting a redesign, meaning that prices for the full range of models are likely to be updated.
The Malibu Eco could face some stiff competition on the price front from other fuel-saving mid-size sedans. For 2012, Toyota not only updated the 41-mpg Camry hybrid, it also cut its starting price to $25,900―more than $1,000 less than the 2011 model and nearly $100 cheaper than the Malibu Eco. If the two cars got similar fuel economy those prices would be extremely competitive. But since the Malibu Eco is a mild hybrid where the Camry is a full hybrid, the Malibu will likely be at least 10-mpg less efficient than the Camry when its final EPA ratings are released.