Along with some cosmetic updates both inside and out, the 2014 Malibu benefits from a more powerful 2.5-liter I-4, a torque increase for the turbocharged 2.0-liter I-4, increased rear legroom, and soft-touch materials within the cabin...
The Malibu name has been on Chevrolet intermediate/mid-size sedans intermittently since 1964, but the badge has been affixed to a front-wheel-drive, mid-size Chevy since 1999. An all-new Malibu went on sale last year, but slow sales and marginal reviews prompted Chevy to whip up an update for the 2014 model year.
The 2013 Malibu wasn't a horrid car, but dated styling, an uncomfortable rear seat, and ho-hum fuel-economy figures won it few friends -- especially in the cutthroat mid-size-sedan segment. Revisions made for 2014 are relatively minor but designed to address some of the Malibu's most frequent criticisms.
First, there's the exterior styling. Although the Malibu was a handsome enough vehicle, it didn't quite fit in with Chevrolet's most recent design language. Little has changed for 2014, but a new front clip incorporates a larger grille and redesigned lower air intakes. These mild changes make the 2014 Malibu look more like the new 2014 Impala and less like the aging Chevy Cruze. Interior styling is largely unchanged, but there are more soft-touch materials than before. More importantly, rear-seat passengers have 1.25 inches of additional legroom, along with a redesigned bench seat that's reportedly more comfortable. In addition to the previously available rearview camera, the 2014 Malibu is also now available with blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic detection -- good thing, as both features are increasingly available in the car's competitors.
Chevrolet has also fiddled with two of the Malibu's three engine choices. The standard engine remains a 2.5-liter four-cylinder, but it's now bundled with variable valve timing and an automatic stop/start system, which shuts down the engine when the vehicle comes to a stop. Those amendments help fuel economy, as the 2014 Malibu earns a provisional fuel-economy rating of 23/35 mpg city/highway -- not far from the 25/36 mpg rating attached to the 2014 Malibu Eco, which pairs a 182-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder with a "mild" hybrid system. Chevrolet continues to offer a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder as an option in the 2014 Malibu; it's still rated at 259 hp, but torque has risen to 295 lb-ft.
We've yet to have a turn behind the wheel, but Chevrolet promises that the 2014 Malibu's ride and handling have improved by way of new twin-tube dampers, and its revised electric power steering now offers more feel. Further, Chevy says it has tweaked the six-speed automatic to deliver smoother, quicker shifts.
These revisions won't reinvent the Malibu, but will they make it more competitive than it was before? That remains to be seen. In terms of power and fuel economy, the 2014 Malibu comes in around mid-pack, but if Chevrolet is able to deliver refinement with attractive pricing, the 2014 Malibu could very well be everything the 2013 Malibu was not.
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