2014 Chevrolet Malibu First Drive

2014 Chevrolet Malibu

There’s no question General Motors needs the 2014 Chevrolet Malibu to be an outright hit. There’s also no question that the 2013 Malibu wasn’t exactly that. An oddly staggered roll-out, lukewarm reception from critics, and fuel economy figures that trailed competitors didn't do the first new Malibu in six years any favors.

Chris Perry, Chevrolet’s vice president of marketing, maintains the 2013 Malibu was “competitive,” but a quick peek at the sales volumes suggests that’s an optimistic take, at best. Although the Chevy outsold the Hyundai Sonata/ Kia Optima twins in 2012, along with the Volkswagen Passat, it was absolutely trounced by its chief rivals, including the Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry, and the Honda Accord.

What to do? The old GM mentality would be to simply shrug, say “oh well,” slap ever-increasing spiffs on the hood in order to move inventories, and largely ignore the car until the next product cycle. Instead, the new GM worked to address some of the criticism by updating the Malibu for the 2014 model year.

Nip/Tuck

While most of the 2014 Chevrolet Malibu’s exterior sheetmetal is unchanged, it receives a very minor facelift. A new front fascia, which sports a wider split grille that’s vaguely reminiscent of the new 2014 Impala, is the only exterior update, and helps tie the Malibu in with Chevy’s latest design language.

As such, that means the 2014 Chevrolet Malibu isn’t physically larger than before. At 191.5 inches long, the Malibu is one of the longest midsize sedans on the market, but the 2013 model was criticized for lacking rear-seat knee- and legroom. A new scalloped front seatback provides an extra 1.25 inches of kneeroom, but rear-seat legroom remains in the middle of the midsize pack at 36.8 inches.

Other interior upgrades are slight. Cabin materials and design haven’t changed much since last year, but dash trim is now a grayish agathis-like pattern instead of last year’s IKEA-grade faux wood. The center console was also redesigned to provide a few small cubbies sized perfectly for holding cell phones. On that note, Chevrolet’s familiar MyLink infotainment system, which is standard on 2014 Chevrolet Malibu LT and LTZ models, now incorporates both text-to-speech functionality and iPhone Siri integration. Lane departure and forward collision alerts were previously available on the Malibu, but both blind-spot detection and rear cross-path detection systems are new for 2014.

Rebuilding The Base Engine

The most drastic change on the 2014 Chevrolet Malibu lies with its base engine, although a cursory glance at specifications wouldn’t suggest that. Like the 2013 Malibu, the 2014 Chevrolet Malibu’s standard engine offering is a direct-injection 2.5-liter DOHC four-cylinder, but it now boasts the same two-stage valve lift system used in the 2014 Impala’s 2.5-liter four-cylinder.

The even bigger news is that the 2.5-liter I-4 is now paired with a new start-stop system, which shuts the engine down for up to two minutes when the vehicle comes to a complete stop. A large 12-volt lead-acid AGM battery underhood helps provide electrical power while the engine isn’t running, while a smaller AGM battery located in the trunk helps stabilize the system when the engine is being restarted.

Unlike other start/stop systems, however, the 2014 Chevrolet Malibu doesn’t allow the driver to have much say in whether or not the system is activated. Don’t bother looking for a switch to deactivate the start/stop system – there isn’t one. According to Malibu chief engineer Todd Pawlik, this is possible because the new system is seamlessly blended into the car’s operation. “If you seamlessly integrate start/stop into the car, the customer will never need or want to turn it off, “ he claims. “They’ll only want to turn it off if it isn’t doing what it’s supposed to.”

The two key elements in smoothing the start-stop system are a revised six-speed automatic transmission and a new dual-solenoid starter. In addition to new calibration and hardware changes, the 6T45 transmission features an auxiliary transmission fluid pump, which pressurizes the front clutches in order to quell lag time upon restarting the engine. Meanwhile, control of the starter motor’s rotation and engagement are independent of one another. This allows the starter to be smoothly re-start the engine over a wider range of speeds, which helps smooth re-starts triggered during the engine’s shut-down process (e.g. rolling stops).

These revisions don’t increase the 2.5-liter’s power – it’s still rated at 196 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque – but they do increase fuel economy. While the 2013 Malibu 2.5 earned EPA marks of 22 mpg city and 34 highway, the 2014 Malibu with the 2.5-liter is rated at 25 mpg city/ 36 mpg highway, besting all base engines in the segment save for the Honda Accord and Nissan Altima.

Turbo Continues, Hybrid Disappears

Buyers seeking a little more power can still opt for the familiar 259-hp, turbocharged four-cylinder, which is available on the 2014 Malibu LT and LTZ. Unlike the 2.5-liter four-cylinder, the turbocharged 2.0-liter doesn’t receive a new six-speed automatic, nor is it available with the new start/stop system.

Buyers won’t, however, be able to order a 2014 Chevrolet Malibu with a hybrid drivetrain of any sort. Although GM once indicated it would offer its eAssist mild hybrid system in the 2014 Malibu, it revealed yesterday that it’s reversed course. That’s hardly surprising, considering the new 2014 Malibu 2.5 delivers identical fuel economy numbers as the 2013 Malibu Eco with eAssist. Seeing as the 2.5-liter/start-stop combination is far less expensive to manufacture and sell, the decision is a no-brainer.

Does this mean e-Assist is dead? Not so, say GM representatives, who claim the automaker is already working on a next-generation version of the mild-hybrid driveline. Whether that new driveline will appear in this iteration of the Malibu or not remains to be seen, as GM officials aren’t commenting on either timing or potential applications for the new system.

Polish Leads To Poise

During a drive between Plymouth and Pinckney, Michigan, we spent most of our time piloting 2014 Malibus equipped with the revamped 2.5-liter I-4. The four-cylinder provided decent power for hustling the Malibu over the hilly terrain we encountered. The revised six-speed automatic is certainly a boon, as it is both smoother and quicker to respond to throttle inputs with a downshift than the previous transmission. The engine still sounds a bit buzzy in the upper portion of its rev range, but no vibration or harshness is physically transmitted into the cabin.

Our prior experiences with GM’s eAssist systems led us to be skeptical of the promise of a seamless start-stop system in the Malibu. We’re now serving our hats as entrees. The 2014 Malibu’s start/stop system is far more polished than many others on the market. The irritating jerkiness frequently encountered during rolling or partial stops never once reared its head. We also like how the 2014 Malibu powers its electric power steering during an engine stop; a minor detail, but it means inadvertent bumps of the steering wheel at a stop light won’t prompt the engine to immediately fire up.

Speaking of the electric power steering, we previously criticized the system for feeling too light and overboosted. A recalibrated rack doesn’t provide any additional feel or feedback – par for this segment, really – but it does feel more weighted, Like before, the 2014 Malibu feels firm and balanced, and the revised dampers do help curb the float that previously plagued the car.

These revisions don’t reinvent the Malibu, but they certainly help polish the 2014 Chevrolet Malibu into something we can finally consider a competitive midsize sedan.

Salvatore Toto
i have the ltz 2014.. and is a great car for my family and i.. 
BMW guy from SMF
I travel weekly for work and drive mid-size rental cars like the Malibu all the time - my comments:Ford Fusion, even the older version, it drives like a smaller car with crisp handling, good brakes and comfortable interior.  First choice when I step up to the rental car counter!Toyota Camry and Avalon are just tarted up interiors and exteriors of an older version.  They drive ok, but completely lack passion - in other words, boring.Honda Accord is very similar to the Fusion - nice interior, smooth engine and transmission, good brakes, car I would own.Mazda 6 - good at most driving events, nice interior, but missing something that I would want in a car to own ... and I cannot quite put a finger on it (which maybe others feel the same as they don't sell too well).Kia/Hyundai - good design, good driving cars - but sometimes I feel like if you could peel back a layer of the exterior and there would be an old Mitsubishi Lancer.Malibu - ok design, ok engine, ok brakes, lousy interior.  The two that I have driven recently had interesting smells emulating from somewhere in the carpet/dash area (a chemical odor that made me drive with the windows open most of the time).  Sharp plastic and pinch points on the door and center console area - hokie looking gauges and radio design, that lime-green lighting with rubbery plastic knobs remind me of an old Pontiac 6000 (even though Pontiac used orange, the feeling was similar).  Ok to drive for a day in Seattle, NEVER on a long trip.
jmccool6969
Now if they would ditch the rear end and get rid of round gages in the square holes, it would at least look the part.
94q45t
Do the GM engineers ever drive, really live with, competitive vehicles. I rent cars almost every week, and most are in this segment. The old (2013) Malibu was nice enough in a vacuum, but the Fusion, aside from being pretty, is massively better at driving dynamics - at least the sort useful over freeways and city driving. I cannot see how a mile or two per gallon will overcome the driving experience deficit. Sounds like the suspension has not been touched. Subjectively, the Malibu just feels more fragile than the Fusion and it reeks FLEET CAR! whereas the Fusion, any model, comes across as a desirable vehicle to own.Love GM's confidence in start stop, but I had a rental car once fail in the ECM at 11:30pm in an industrial park. Neither the rental company 800 number nor the manufacturer (not mentioned because they did recall the model for this problem) 800 number knew how to help. This left me with a  4 mile walk along a freeway access road at midnight to get back to my hotel with no ride for the morning meetings.Note to GM (and others): I WILL NOT BUY ANY CAR THAT DOES NOT HAVE A WAY TO DEFEAT ELECTRONIC SYSTEMS, and at least offer a limp home mode. In the case of the 2014 Malibu, what happens when the battery dies, and you jump start the car to get it to a garage?
Carl Engeb
Ho Hum more GM Chevy garbage.  nice un finished edges, poor feeling crap.  GM, why are they still trying to be a car company?  Leave the business to REAL car companys from GERMANY.
Matt Simmons
I bet the new Malibu takes the old Impalas place in rental fleet sales. Now, about that new Impala...
SSGuy69
If anything the staggered roll out when it was first introduced with an unconventional drive train only available is what hobbled the Malibu from selling well.

Unless a family has mutant kids over 6 feet, the gripe over the back seat room seems to be overblown.  At 5'11", I sat back there and it's totally doable; not the most spacious but definitely not cramped.IMO The dash and interior have some character over the generic dowdiness of the Altima and Camry and clunky staggered layout of the Accord's dashboard.
Save for the Hyundai Sonata and Mazda 6, this is one of the best looking rides in the mid size segment for sure.  
Wilberto WRenn
wont hurt needs more trunk room about 3.5 inches would do and led tail lights
Chase Tyler Anderson
looks nice but it kinda looks like a Hyundai..
David Pettit
Not a revision that is obvious or a game changer. The previous generation was much prettier. If GM wants to make inroads, improve quality and value.
Mark Roman
Great, 21 photos of the front fascia but not one from the hind side.
damaje199
I like the sharper look to the freshened front end, but wish they would have changed the dash design which reminds me of some of the dashboards of the early 90s buicks, oldsmobiles and chevys.  Do we really  need to emulate the early 90s skylarks, luminas or cutlass supremes?
KJ Newman
i like it, but i would like it more if the bottom grille was a bit smaller in length
Christian Davenport
I know where theyre made, doesnt make them American brands
John Lopez
The Nissan Altima and Honda Accord have been made in the USA for decades. Just saying.
John Lopez
There is a premium look the Accord has that this model is lacking imho.
Rick Mente
I honestly hope not. It seems that anything the "bow-tie" touches automatically becomes...trashier.
Barry Petrie
Looks like GM has been looking at the Toyota Avalon for inspiration.
Vinnie82
I agree with most of the other comments. Also the Malibu was undercut by its own design. When you got a "NEW" Malibu after the last one was selling well and replace it with a copy of the Corporate cousin's older model Buick Century, then you should not be in the car making business. Having said that, there are design flaws from the outside to the inside, it was as if the engineers were not on the same page. The grill look should have had a more wide open stance. The tail likes with the plastic showing it being joined together looked tacky and cheap. The interiors center stack looked like a add on last minute with the silver plastic trim. Those lines where the ambiance lighting should have had wood grain or something that looked expensive. The back seating area is so tight for such a big car, that they flunked the space design. A newer model cant come soon enough.By the way, I refuse to name the other cars because this is not about them but about the Malibu and its short comings.
Walter Losey
Yeah I like it better. In two years I'll probably be upgrading from my Cruze. So far I like this malibu, the new impala and the Buick regal.
Richard Macintyre
have they corrected the fit and finish issues? Last test report I read on a Malibu said the deck lid was chaffing the bumper fascia and the author said GM is in danger if they think they can slip back into their rental car habits. Given they were bailed out and got it together for a little while, one has to wonder if they just specialize in ineptitude.
Jim Olson
P.S. Whoever is putting the bodyside moldings on at the factory needs to obtain a leveling device - and quickly!
Jim Olson
The Impala's aren't much better. Very generic and plastic in appearance (which they are!).... but there should have been an attempt to give some sort of jewel-like finish.
Warren Newcombe
Unbelievably my good friend Taff married a sheep that he met through petsaremorethanfriends.com, but I fail to see what that has to do with either Chevy or Malibu either!
Chris Prather
Nope.
Samuel Sayeg
It looks and drives better than the Camry and accord
Wardono Basuki
It looks great to be honest. Way better than its German counterparts.
Manuel Mendoza
Crap
Dammy Onafowokan
Handsome car.....but I'd rather have a Mazda 6
Whatnow
Still not a fan of the rear end, but the revised front fascia does help quite a bit, especially when viewing the car in person. The revised 2.5 liter and transmission did make a deference as I took it for a test drive this weekend. Two dealers in my area had only the 1LS and 1LT trim available, but even in that lower trim, the Malibu drives much better than the Camry, and feels as well put together as the new Accord. It's not the sexiest car in the class, but it delivers. 
Christian Davenport
Handsome. Doesnt scream "look at me i gots money". I like the Camaro-esque rear tail lights. Def for a more restrained taste and its American, NOT Japanese or Korean for once...
Darin Wright
If I was looking for a mid size car I would take this over an accord or Camry an day.
Roy E Grimm
Another subpar Chevrolet, unfortunately. Let the new Impala designers scrap this car and start fresh!
btc909
The problem with previous Malibu's back seats were the distance from the B pillar to the front edge of the back seat.Either way this name needs to be dropped.  This is destined to be a rental queen which equals garbage resale value.
Jim Olson
Get rid of those cheapy looking taillights and MAYBE.........
Sam Chatham
No.
Tim Lucas
This is certainly as pretty as a Camry or Accord, but the stunning Ford Fusion and Mazda6 are lightyears ahead.
Devin Colbert
That dash makes me want to vomit.
Doug Maxwell
Does look a "tad" better.
Andrew Stanley
Needs back seat room.
Brian Hochmuth
Nope. Need emergency styling and adrenaline to save this boring-mobile.
Lane Morrow
@Carl Engeb Come now Carl.  You must know that German cars enjoy visiting their dealerships much more often than American cars and when they do, you're usually light in the wallet by 3 or 4 digits.
Carl Engeb
@Wardono Basuki HAHAHAHAHA, it's Chevy, means it isn't up to par to any GERMAN standards.  cheap, ill fitted junk
Carl Engeb
@Lane Morrow @Carl Engeb My current GTI at 87K miles if flawless, and FUN comfortable, high quality interior fit and finish all around FUN FUN FUN, drive one, then you never go back to a Chevy!  My previous Jetta GLX VR6 only went 316,000 miles of pure leather fun!  stick and brakes every 100,000 miles !! Curretn GTI 87K original brakes still, decades ago my company GM junkers had brakes every 20K miles !!1 Holy crap what garbage!  All the same highway drives!  GM, still junk after all those BILLIONS!  go away GM, leave the car mfg to car people namely GERMANS!  Seats that support with no backaches like GM garbage GTI supportive firm seats Leather heated hold you in place with electric lumbar for perfection.  If it ain't GERMAN it ain't a car.  simple

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