Bank Negara Malaysia said fourth-quarter growth was underpinned by strong expansions in manufacturing and services, helping to exceed forecasts of 4.8% growth.
The economy expanded 5.6% in 2012.
Bank Negara warned that domestic demand may soften as the government cuts back on fiscal largesse but says this will be offset by improving global economic conditions.
It said that growth momentum will remain on a "steady trajectory".
Malaysia's economy has come under pressure amid rising domestic debt, a swollen fiscal deficit and a shrinking current account surplus.
The government has slashed fuel and other subsidies and said it will impose a 6% goods and services tax by 2015 as part of fiscal reforms. It targets the economy to grow in a range of 5% and 5.5% this year.