The full-size family sedan has a new champion
The fact that we'd even consider the 2014 Chevrolet Impala speaks volumes about how much the new Impala has improved over its predecessor. This full-size sedan has gone from a rental-fleet special to arguably best-in-class in a single model change.
Listing everything we like about the Chevrolet Impala would take up too much space, so we'll just hit the highlights. First, its sharp edged styling is proud of its full-size lines without overdoing it. The interior is spacious and comfortable, with state-of-the-art tech features like collision warning and active cruise control available. The back seat, of course, is huge, as is the trunk.
The Chevrolet Impala, like other full-size sedans, is definitely on the premium side in this market. The Impala we piloted for our family-sedan comparison test cost more than $40,000. But that's still in the ballpark of many of the SUVs we drove, and you can get into an Impala for less than $30,000 if you're willing to get a 4-cylinder engine and skip some of the gadgets. And, let's face it, no sedan has the utility of an SUV. On the other hand, some people just don't like SUVs. If that describes you, and you are looking for a premium driving experience, then look no further.
Key Family Car Strength
Perhaps our favorite thing about the Impala is its value. Premium features abound, such as the optional active cruise control, and the LTZ comes loaded with pretty much everything you're going to want. Even when fully loaded -- and there's a lot to load up -- the Impala's price stays in the low $40,000. Comparatively speaking, it's a lot of family car, for not a lot of money.
Key Family Car Weakness
Rear visibility. The Impala sports a very high deck behind the rear seats. That, coupled with thick pillars and a small window, limit the rear visibility when parking or maneuvering through traffic. You can price up to a backup camera and sensors to help when parking, and the available blind-spot monitor is certainly helpful when backing up, but you won't escape the slightly claustrophobic feeling when you look in your rearview mirror. Besides, those are options, and without them Impala drivers are severely handicapped.
The 2014 Chevrolet Impala comes in three different trim levels, with a hybrid version available on two of them. The base LS model costs $27,670, comes with a 195-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, air conditioning, a USB port, and few options. An Impala LS Eco costs $29,945 and adds a very mild hybrid to the mix, increasing fuel economy slightly. Most buyers will go for the midrange LT trim. Here, you get your choice of the 4-cylinder for $29,920, or the 305-horsepower V6 engine for $30,895. LT models add MyLink, aluminum-alloy wheels, and dual-zone automatic climate control to the standard equipment list. The options list for LT models is much more extensive, with a backup camera, blind-spot detection, navigation, and an upgraded audio system available. The LT Eco model costs $31,920. The top trim LTZ adds even more, again allowing you to choose the $34,690 4-cylinder or $36,715 V6 version, but with most of the things that were optional on the LT included as standard equipment. LTZ models can also be equipped with active cruise control. All prices include an $810 destination charge.
People buy big sedans because they're, well, big. As a family car, the Chevy Impala uses its bigness better than the Toyota Avalon, the other full-size sedan in our test. It's easier to install a booster or infant seat in the rear than it is in the Avalon, for example, thanks lower anchors that are slightly easier to reach, although the upper tethers are hard to attach under the sloping rear glass. The low roofline makes it hard to maneuver when installing a seat, but once it's in place there's good room for front-seat passengers. The Impala is wide enough that there's room for a third rear seater between two car seats, although the high center hump can make things uncomfortable. There's no rear-seat entertainment system in the Impala, but there is a 120-volt outlet to charge whatever entertainment you bring yourself.
Cargo and Storage
If you own an Impala and ever get into tight financial straits, you can just furnish the huge trunk and rent it out. OK, maybe not, but the trunk's high lid and large opening make it easy to use. Press the release, and the trunk lid lifts all the way up, not because it's motorized, but because it's just sprung right. You can easily fit a stroller plus tons of groceries back there, and if you need more space, the rear seatback folds in a 60/40 split.
The Impala's interior is also user friendly. There are storage compartments everywhere, and not just the usual cupholders/center console/glovebox setup. For example, behind the navigation screen is a hidden compartment, perfect for cell phones, wallets, or whatever else you want to keep handy, but out of sight. The doors even house special compartments for an umbrella. It's the kind of clever use of space we normally associate with Honda, but more and more, with Chevy, too.
On the Road
Full-size American sedans are big, wallowing, mushy-driving barges, right? Wrong. The Impala's highway ride strikes a good balance between control and comfort, erring on the side of the latter, but not to the point where there'll be any seasickness. The 3.6-liter V6 engine pulls strongly, and while not exactly fast, the Impala is quicker than you might think. At speed, the quiet Impala lets you enjoy the excellent audio system, and the various driver aids in our test car -- blind spot detection, collision warning, and so on -- all worked as designed, and without intruding. We've come to appreciate GM's MyLink setup, with its big on-screen icons derived from smartphones. We do wish the screen responded to inputs a bit more quickly though.
Big sedans are still a strong choice for family cars, and this is the best in its class.
More 2014 Chevy Impala
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