I have to give Chevrolet credit. The company knows how to adapt quickly.
The 2013 Malibu didn’t live up to a lot of expectations. Rather than just try to distract potential buyers with a few new options, GM authorized a minor makeover for 2014. And just for the record, I like it. In fact, I like the entire new Malibu package.
While many of us connect the Malibu from the 60s and 70s with muscle cars, the reality is that most Malibus lived a far more sedate life. They were family cars. They hauled people around in relative style and comfort. And that’s exactly what the 2014 Malibu will do.
There are three things that impress me. First, it’s the mileage. Get the 2.5 liter engine and Chevrolet rates this American mid-sized sedan at 25 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. That’s darn impressive. Of course this isn’t a thundering V8 with massive horsepower. The 2.5 has 196 horsepower. It’s enough to get you up to speed and down the road. Frankly, that’s all most people are after.
One of the ways it pulls off the higher mileage is with Stop/Start Technology. Pull up to a stop light and when you come to a complete stop, the engine will shut off. The idea is that you don’t waste gas idling. When the light changes, you take your foot off the brake and the engine starts back up instantly. By the time you hit the gas, it’s ready to move. This isn’t the first time I’ve driven a car with this feature, but it’s the least expensive version. I still have some long term reservations. How well will the system work after eight or ten years? How much will it cost to replace the starter that goes through a massive number of cycles? What happens if the engine gets slightly out of tune and sputters when you try to pull away? Fortunately, those are questions likely to be answered by the car’s second or third owners. My gut says the first 150,000 miles will go just fine.
The next thing that impresses me is the interior. It’s not all-out luxury, but it doesn’t look cheap. I liked the white stitching on the portion of the dash that covers the instrument cluster. I like the design of the center display. One piddly complaint is that I’ve never been a big fan of the way Chevy puts the controls for the display on the left stalk. It just seems awkward to this right hander. The Malibu’s trim pieces have a nice looking finish. Seats are comfortable. Not sporty, but they’ll fit a wide variety of bodies. The rear leg room is not great, about two inches less than a 2014 Toyota Camry. But again, I have to give Chevrolet credit. They resculpted the back seat and made it feel better than last year. It’s a shame because the Malibu has a massive trunk. Maybe they could shrink that and give a few more inches to the back seat. I can’t say I’m impressed with the MyLink infotainment system. At one point it froze completely on me. I wouldn’t say it’s bad, just not great.
I like the outside. The quickie redesign gave the car a new nose that improved the styling. The reality is that the Malibu is a better looking car than some of its competitors.
OK, now for the final item that impressed me. The price. My test car was a Malibu 2LT. Fully loaded with plenty of options and nice leather seating brought the sticker up to $29,900. Frankly, that’s darn impressive. If you want to even cheaper, the base model starts around $23,000. But for just a few thousand more you can get a car that looks and drives great with plenty of style.
Not bad for a quickie redesign.