By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 7.1
Just one year after an all-new Malibu was launched to take on the hotly contested midsize-sedan market, Chevrolet has moved quickly to already update the car due to its lukewarm reception. It's not that the Malibu was a bad sedan, it just didn't shine among great ones like the Honda Accord, Ford Fusion and Nissan Altima. This segment has never been more competitive, and only a few can be the cream of the crop. For 2014, the Chevy Malibu aims to rise with sleeker design, a roomier back seat, and improved suspension. While still not the sportiest or most stylish sedan out there, the Malibu deserves kudos for its quiet ride and a variety of powertrains that includes a turbo engine and a fuel-saving mild hybrid.
If you are looking for an unpretentious family sedan that is laudably quiet and comfortable, the Malibu deserves a test drive.
The Chevy Malibu is a sedan in need of an X factor. While competent overall, it doesn't have the beauty of the Ford Fusion or Kia Optima, the 40-plus mpg fuel economy of the Camry Hybrid or Volkswagen Passat diesel, or the sheer does-everything-right finesse of the Honda Accord or Nissan Altima.
2014 Malibu models with the standard gasoline engine get fuel-saving start-stop technology to cut down on idling, and turbo models' torque has been increased to 295 lb-ft. The sedan's front end design has been tweaked, while rear-seat kneeroom has grown. Suspension and chassis tweaks aim for a smoother ride.
Driving Impressions Chevy's Malibu is notably quiet and composed. Those two traits are among its best, and they remain true whichever of the three powertrains you choose. The standard 4-cylinder offers a...sufficient 196 horsepower. Modifications now offer slightly higher fuel economy reaching an estimated 35 mpg on the highway. A new start-stop feature for this engine enhances efficiency in city driving by cutting power instead of idling at stoplights. Turbocharged Malibus now make a hearty 295 lb-ft of torque for better overall performance. Instead of offering a full hybrid, the Malibu Eco offers GM's eAssist, which consists of a lithium-ion battery and small motor-generator. The system uses a start-stop feature like the one implemented for the standard engine, in addition to a motor-generator that supplies 15 extra horsepower during heavy acceleration. Intriguing as the system may be, fuel economy tops out at 36 mpg, barely beyond the standard powertrain and below that of several competitors.
BLIND ZONE ALERT
This safety feature has finally made its way to the Malibu, and it can save your bacon on crowded roads. The system works by constantly monitoring the rear side zones where other vehicles often can't be seen. When detected, an icon alerts the driver to the danger of changing lanes.
MYLINK INFOTAINMENT SYSTEM
Chevrolet's MyLink infotainment system features one of the most user-friendly multimedia interfaces on the market. MyLink's various features, including smartphone integration for Pandora and Stitcher, Bluetooth streaming audio and a comprehensive Gracenote database for simple music related voice-commands, are clearly displayed on a large 7-inch touch screen that flips open to reveal a hidden storage compartment.
The Malibu's 5-passenger cabin has an airy, upscale feel in which available leather seating and soft-touch surfaces complement metallic silver trim and chrome accents. For 2014, Chevy has increased rear-passenger kneeroom by redesigning the front seatbacks. The front seats themselves are adequately comfortable, with the driver's seat offering 8-way power adjustability and 4-way power-operated lumbar support. Though appealing in appearance, the placements of chrome accents are not ideal, as they create considerable glare on sunny days. At over 16 cubic feet, trunk space is impressive (Eco models have about three cubic feet less).Exterior
In addition to gaining suspension enhancements derived from the Impala full-size sedan, the 2014 Malibu's front end aesthetics have also been influenced by its bigger brother. The Malibu's grille is now more prominent, and the windswept headlight housings frame headlights that resemble eagles' eyes. At the rear, the Malibu features two pairs of red taillight housings that have a familial resemblance to those of recent Camaros. Top-trim LTZ versions feature sporty dual stainless-steel exhaust tips.
The 2014 Malibu comes in three major trims: LS, LT and LTZ, with the Eco eAssist model within the mid-trim LT grouping. On the least-expensive end, LS models come with features such as 6-speaker audio with AM/FM/CD/satellite radio, cruise control, remote keyless entry, and Bluetooth phone connectivity. Stepping up to LT trims brings a 7-inch touch-screen with MyLink, a USB port for audio devices, Bluetooth audio streaming and a power driver's seat. Top-line LTZ versions enhance comfort with a power passenger seat, heated front seats and leather upholstery. All 2014 Malibus have 10 airbags and a 6-month trial of GM's OnStar safety and communications system with automatic crash response.
Depending on trim level, you can equip Chevy's midsize sedan with navigation, a power sunroof, a backup camera and leather seating. The Advanced Safety Package includes blind-spot monitoring, forward-collision alert, lane-departure warning, and a rear cross-traffic alert. Those seeking a premium audio system can opt for a 9-speaker Pioneer setup.
The Chevy Malibu offers a trio of engine choices: 1. The base 2.5-liter Ecotec 4-cylinder that has been enhanced for 2014 with variable intake valve actuation and auto start-stop for better fuel economy. 2. A powerful 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder. 3. The 2.4-liter 4-cylinder paired with GM's eAssist system found in Eco model. The Malibu's lone transmission offering is a 6-speed automatic with a manual-shift mode. All models are front-wheel drive. On Eco models, the compact eAssist battery resides behind the rear seats. The 15-horsepower electric motor assists the 182 horsepower engine, though it is not capable of independently driving the front wheels like a traditional hybrid. All versions of the Malibu can run on regular unleaded, though premium is recommended for the turbo model.
182 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm
172 lb-ft of torque @ 4,900 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/36 mpg
186 lb-ft of torque
EPA city/highway fuel economy, estimated: 23/35 mpg
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4
259 horsepower @ 5,300 rpm
295 lb-ft of torque
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/30 mpg
The 2014 Malibu midsize sedan has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price starting just under $23,000 for a base model and around $26,000 for a mid-level version. Load up a high-end LTZ, and you can reach the mid-$30,000 mark. At its base price, the Malibu is in line with rivals such as the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion and Hyundai Sonata. The all-wheel-drive Subaru Legacy starts a few hundred below for a model equipped with an automatic transmission, while a base Chrysler 200 and Dodge Avenger can be had for under $21,000. Before buying, be sure to check the Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for their Chevy Malibu. Resale value is not a strong point for the Malibu. Its long-term value is predicted to drop noticeably quicker than that of segment leaders such as the Honda Accord and Ford Fusion.