Review
Comment

Review: 2014 Chevrolet Malibu

Par for the course, but nothing spectacular- Reliable and competent, GM family sedan benefits from performance and interior upgrades

HIGHLIGHTS
ENGINE
2.4L I-4 FWD
POWER
182hp @ 6,200RPM
CURB WEIGHT
Not Available
TORQUE
171 lb.-ft. @ 4,900RPM
FUEL TANK CAPACITY
60.0L
ECONOMY
NA
BASE PRICE
$0
PRICE AS TESTED
NA

The Toronto Star for Wheels.ca

While driving home from test-driving the 2014 Chevrolet Malibu, I chanced upon a radio interview about golfer Matt Kuchar.

Kuchar isn?t great at any one aspect of the game, the guest expert opined. But he?s good at every part of it. He doesn?t win many tournaments, but he?s usually found lurking among the top-10 finishers.

?Bingo,? I thought. ?That?s the Malibu.?

The 2014 version of Chevy?s mid-size sedan gets you where you want to go in commendable comfort and quiet.

It has placid road manners. It corners accurately and navigates Ontario?s countless and treacherous potholes with minimal distress. It moves through traffic without fuss and accelerates to highway speed at a reasonable clip. Apart from some cheap-looking plastic inserts, the interior is quite nice, too.

If you?re seeking useful, reliable transportation ? the word ?competent? implanted itself in my brain as I drove it ? the Malibu is a good choice.

But if you lust for transportation that will knock your socks off, punch your heart into overdrive or inspire you to brag to your neighbours about your new wheels, you?d be advised to look elsewhere.

I should clarify that I?m talking about the Malibu 1LT sedan ? at $26,795 before options, the second-lowest of six models in the line-up. It?s also the most popular, accounting for about half of all Malibu sales.

The 1LT, like three other models, comes only with the new 196-horsepower version of the cast-aluminium, 2.5-litre, four-cylinder Ecotec engine, and standard fuel-saving stop/start technology (a first for GM in North America), which automatically shuts down the engine at most complete stops and restarts it when the driver releases the brake pedal.

A 2.0-litre turbo power plant provides more oomph, but it?s available only on two models ? the $30,215 2LT and line-topping $34,715 3LZ. They combine for just 20 per cent of Malibu sales, so I?ll focus mainly on the 2.5-litre.

The Malibu is an important vehicle for Chevrolet, representing 15 per cent of the brand?s total car sales, and playing in an ultra-competitive, high-volume league against the impressive likes of Mazda6, Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Kia Optima and Hyundai Sonata.

So there was no hesitation at Chevrolet when the redesigned 2013 Malibu racked up disappointing sales: The response, quick as a jig, was a substantial refresh for 2014.

?Consumer comments didn?t sit well,? says Shane Peever, brand manager for Chevrolet cars and crossovers. The speedy alterations for 2014 ?show how much we listen to our consumer base, and how we react.?

The changes are substantial. Clearly, General Motors couldn?t wait to address problems with such a crucial product.

Most important is the direct-injection Ecotec engine with stop/start. It replaces both the previous 2.5-litre and the mild-hybrid Ecoboost motor, which was optional in last year?s version and required sophisticated controls and a hefty battery pack. The new power train is cheaper, lighter and delivers up to 5-per-cent better fuel economy, GM says.

The stop-start system is noticeable, but not obtrusive, when the engine restarts. It comes, however, with many parameters. For example, the engine won?t shut off if it, the transmission, or the ambient air is too cold; the air-conditioner or heater is on full blast; the car is making repeated stops from low speed; or the auxiliary battery that runs the system is depleted. As well, the engine won?t stay off longer than two minutes in this mode.

The engine also features intake variable valve lift, which varies the amount of air entering the combustion chamber according to the load being placed on the engine.

Other performance upgrades ? some handed down from Malibu?s bigger sibling, the Impala ? include retuned steering for a heavier feel on the highway, longer-lasting brake rotors and improved brake feel, and enhancements in the suspension and six-speed automatic transmission.

On the esthetics side, the 2014 Malibu got a more aggressive Impala-like front end, simplified interior, improved connectivity and safety packages, rear-seat re-sculpting to expand knee room by about 3.2 centimetres, and, aided by reverting from an electronic to manual parking brake, more space for limbs and gadgets around the front console.

All of this works fine and represents a substantial improvement from 2013. But there?s simply nothing distinctive about the Malibu.

Perhaps that?s why it?s popular as basic family transportation, and why the two lowest-end models, the 1LT and the $24,995 base LS, make up 70 per cent of the cars sold.

As I wrote this review, Kuchar, the golfer, messed up my comparison: After finishing in the top 10 in six of his first seven tournaments this year, and well down in the seventh, he finally won one in dramatic fashion, chipping in from a sand-trap on the final hole.

Don?t expect anything so spectacular from the Malibu.

2014 Chevrolet Malibu 1LT

Price: $26,795 base, $29,085 as tested
Engine: 2.5-litre, 4-cylinder Ecotec
Power/torque: 196 hp/186 ft.-lb.
Fuel economy L/100 km: 8.0 city, 5.6 hwy., 6.8 combined
Competition: Mazda6, Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Kia Optima, Hyundai Sonata
What?s best: Reliable, no fuss transportation. Very quiet cabin
What?s worst: Lack of personality.
Most interesting: A first for GM: fuel-saving stop/start technology is standard with the 2.5-L engine, but not with the 2.0-L turbo.

  • Review: 2014 Chevrolet Malibu MAILMASTER Subject: Gorrie-Chev Malibu pix-april 26-2 of 2 On 2014-04-21, at 11:40 AM, Peter Gorrie wrote: Second batch of four pix of 2014 Chevrolet Malibu for Gorrie review, to run April 26. Shot by Peter Gorrie Gorrie-Malibu-3.jpg Gorrie-Malibu-4.jpg
  • Review: 2014 Chevrolet Malibu MAILMASTER __Subject: Gorrie-Chev Malibu pix-april 26-2 of 2 On 2014-04-21, at 11:40 AM, Peter Gorrie wrote: Second batch of four pix of 2014 Chevrolet Malibu for Gorrie review, to run April 26. Shot by Peter Gorrie Gorrie-Malibu-3.jpg Gorrie-Malibu-4.jpg
  • Review: 2014 Chevrolet Malibu MAILMASTER __Subject: Gorrie-Chev Malibu pix-april 26-1 of 2 On 2014-04-21, at 11:36 AM, Peter Gorrie wrote: First two of four pix of 2014 Chevrolet Malibu for Gorrie review, to run April 26. Shot by Peter Gorrie Gorrie-Malibu-1.jpg Gorrie-Malibu-2.jpg
  • Review: 2014 Chevrolet Malibu MAILMASTER Subject: Gorrie-Chev Malibu pix-april 26-1 of 2 On 2014-04-21, at 11:36 AM, Peter Gorrie wrote: First two of four pix of 2014 Chevrolet Malibu for Gorrie review, to run April 26. Shot by Peter Gorrie Gorrie-Malibu-1.jpg Gorrie-Malibu-2.jpg

Show Comments