2014 Chevrolet Malibu: Better Than Before, But Still Needs More
Despite looking similar to last year's car, the 2014 Chevrolet Malibu sports a number of significant changes, mostly to the suspension and rear seat, all to put the midsize sedan on more competitive footing. While not an all-new car, it's definitely improved, and our 8-car comparison test was the perfect venue to see if Chevy had succeeded in making it more competitive.
Chevrolet definitely improved the suspension. Not only does the Malibu have a comfortable ride on the highway and around town, it didn't embarrass itself on the twistier sections, either. It's a big step forward from last year's sloppy setup, and on par with the best of our midsize-sedan group. The 2.5-liter 4-cylinder in our test Malibu featured Chevrolet's new stop/start system, which shuts off the engine at stop lights, or when fully stopped in traffic. We were impressed that restarts don't interrupt any of the electrical systems in the car -- a similar system in the Ford Fusion cut electricity to the power socket during restarts. However, despite the stop/start system, our Malibu didn't seem particularly thrifty with fuel.
The rear seat is better, but it's still handily outclassed. Adults and lanky teens will still find the Malibu midsize sedan's rear seat lacking headroom and legroom, especially compared to the cavernous Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. The trunk is also on the small side, and there's no in-trunk release to lower the split rear seatbacks. It also had the longest distance from the ground to the trunk, known as liftover.
Nevertheless, there's still a lot to like here. The styling changes give the 2014 Malibu a face more like the handsome new Chevy Impala. Our $26,595 Malibu LT included a Premium Package, which added luxuries like a power driver's seat, moonroof, remote starting, and a rearview camera. The price made it the third least expensive of the group, but it gave up very little in equipment, making it a solid features-per-dollar value. Inside, the attractive and functional interior boasts big gauges and logical controls on the center stack. The big LCD touch screen uses easy-to-tap oversize icons, and connecting and using a Bluetooth phone was a snap. We particularly liked the clever hidden storage compartment and USB port behind the screen, perfect for recharging and hiding your cell phone. While we liked that the 2014 Malibu was one of the few midsize sedans with manual gear selection for its 6-speed automatic, we weren't fond of the awkward placement of the selection buttons on top of the shift handle. During our drive, the Malibu was one of the quietest cars in the test, happiest with the cruise control on and soaking up mile after mile of undemanding road.
So the 2014 Chevrolet Malibu is definitely a step forward from last year's car, and a more recommendable midsize sedan than before. If you love its looks, crave a comfortable and relatively quiet highway ride, it's worth a look. But the Malibu's tight rear seat and so-so fuel economy are easily trumped by other cars in our group.
If you're still looking around, check out the other seven cars included in our 2014 Midsize Sedan Comparison Test.