In the automotive world, the midsize sedan segment is one of the most competitive, because the stakes are high when it comes to vehicle sales. Any manufacturer who wants to play in this category has to have a car that can go up against the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Nissan Altima. Add up the sales from 2013, and the total for those three alone is over a million cars. This is a hugely important, high-volume segment, one in which Chevrolet would like a bigger piece of the sales pie.

To achieve that, the Chevrolet Malibu has been significantly refreshed for 2014. This was about a year after an all-new Malibu had already been introduced, but the sedan wasn't received quite as well as Chevrolet had hoped. The solution was to make some changes, so for 2014, the Malibu receives new styling, more rear-seat space and a better ride.

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Our long-term Malibu is the 1LT trim level, equipped with a 2.5-liter inline-4 and a 6-speed automatic. This trim level is closer to the base model LS than it is to the topline 2LTZ, but ours still came to the offices of Kelley Blue Book nicely equipped. In addition to plenty of safety equipment, such as a tire-pressure monitoring system, stability control and traction control, there are handy features like a 7-inch touch screen; Chevrolet MyLink, which makes it easier to connect your smartphone apps to the car's infotainment system; power, heated outside mirrors; and Duralife brake rotors, designed to last longer than other rotors. The LT1 also added features including remote start, rearview camera and power adjustable driver's seat. The as-tested price for our Malibu? $27,095.

Fuel Economy Focus

The new Malibu has an even stronger focus on fuel economy than before -- stop/start technology is now standard with the base engine. That engine also uses variable valve lift control and direct injection to improve efficiency. That combination gives the Malibu excellent fuel economy, EPA rated at 25 mpg city, 36 mpg highway -- a number that is identical to that of the eAssist-equipped Malibu, which was discontinued earlier in the 2014 model year. The stop/start technology looks interesting, too. The system that controls engine shutoff looks at factors such as how fast the vehicle is traveling, plus whether or not the air conditioner is being used, to determine when it makes the most sense to shut off the engine. There are also times when it won't shut it off, such as in stop-and-go traffic. And an extra battery, located near the trunk, makes sure the climate control keeps going even when the engine is shut off. 

On paper, it looks like Chevrolet has achieved something really impressive by getting the same fuel economy out of its gas engine without the assistance of a mild hybrid. We will be spending the next several months getting to know the new Malibu, during which time we will find out if the stop/start system is as good as it sounds. We are also looking forward to having the opportunity to find out how the new Malibu stacks up against sedans like the Camry, Accord, Fusion and Altima.

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