2014 Chevrolet Malibu
We called the redesigned 2013 Chevrolet Malibu “a consistent disappointment” during 2013 Car of the Year testing. Jonny Lieberman went so far as to call the midsize sedan “not so much a car as it is a collection of things I hate about rentals.” We’ve heard GM was fast-tracking a refresh to address the sub-par 2013 Malibu, and now we have the first official details on the restyled and more efficient 2014 Chevrolet Malibu.
One aspect of the 2013 Malibu we didn’t mind was its exterior styling, but it’s hard to argue with Chevrolet’s decision to make the 2014 Malibu appear like a smaller Impala. While no one will confuse the 2014 Malibu’s interior with that of the 2014 Impala, the midsizer now has 1.25 inches more rear-seat knee room thanks to reshaped front seatbacks, and Chevrolet claims the rear seat — one we called “rock hard” on the 2013 Malibu at COTY testing — is more comfortable. The rear seat cushion is about half an inch slimmer to let passengers sit deeper in the seats. The 2014 Malibu’s center console is now longer, and we hope the Malibu’s neat hidden storage compartment behind the dash’s touch screen has been retained.
Engine stop-start technology is now included on every 2014 Chevrolet Malibu, which should give dealers (and advertisers) something to brag about. Of course, electric accessories including the climate control, power windows, and sound system are powered by an auxiliary battery when the engine has stopped. Fuel economy on the 2014 Chevrolet Malibu with a 2.5-liter I-4 has improved to an estimated 23/35 mpg city/highway, up from the 2013 model’s 22/34 mpg. For comparison, the 2013 Toyota Camry is rated 25/35 mpg, while the 2013 Ford Fusion with the 1.6-liter EcoBoost I-4 and a six-speed automatic is good for 23/36 mpg, or 24/37 mpg with engine stop-start technology. The automatic-transmission 2014 Fusion will make use of a new 1.5-liter EcoBoost engine, meaning its fuel economy numbers might improve. The class leaders are still higher, with the 2013 Nissan Altima at 27/38 mpg and the automatic-transmission 2014 Mazda6 at 26/38 mpg.
Fuel economy improvements sound great, but how will the 2014 Malibu perform on the road? We called the 2013 Malibu’s 2.5-liter I-4 thrashy and found the six-speed automatic’s tuning left a lot to be desired. Chevrolet promises the Malibu’s transmission has revised shift points and quicker shifts, which should provide a better driving experience. The car’s 2.5-liter I-4 now makes an SAE-certified 196 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque. The real powertrain story for enthusiasts forced to consider a sensible midsize sedan is the Malibu Turbo, which now makes a sizable 295 lb-ft of torque. Along with the car’s 259 hp, the 2014 Malibu Turbo’s output now matches that of the revised 2014 Buick Regal GS and should help it compete with the turbocharged Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima variants.
The 2014 Malibu makes use of retuned suspension and braking systems, and Chevrolet says that “higher-effort calibrations for 2014″ have allowed engineers to improve the steering feel, too. Blind spot monitoring and Rear Cross Traffic Alert systems are now available on the 2014 Malibu, which goes on sale this fall.
Malibu sales are down 11.9 percent through the first four months of 2013, but we’re guessing that figure would be even more severe if retail sales were separated from fleet sales. The decision to speed up development of the 2013 Malibu may not have worked in Chevrolet’s favor, but the 2014 refresh is the automaker’s chance to make up lost ground.
Motor Trend stuck a 2013 Malibu in last place in a recent six-car midsize sedan comparison, where the Chevrolet posted the second-slowest 0-60 mph time and the worst observed mileage of the group. The 2014 Chevrolet Malibu’s improvements might just make it a mid-pack contender, but GM fans looking for a high-quality sedan may still want to consider the larger and more expensive Impala. Just how good will the 2014 Malibu feel on the road? We can’t wait to find out.
|2014 Chevrolet Malibu|
|BASE PRICE||$22,500 (est)|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINES||2.5L/196-hp/186-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve 4-cyl; 2.0L/259-hp/295-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|CURB WEIGHT||3400-3700 lb (est)|
|LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT||191.5 x 73.0 x 57.6 in (est)|
|0-60 MPH||6.3-8.4 sec (MT est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||21-23 / 30-35 mpg (est)|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY||147-160 / 96-112 kW-hrs/100 miles (est)|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||0.71-0.80 lb/mile (est)|
|ON SALE IN U.S.||Fall 2013|
By Zach Gale