What We Like:
The new front end design
There was something that was achingly uninspired in the front looks of the 2013 Malibu that it may just as well been the quintessential reason the sedan took a stumble in the market. Especially when looking at cross-town-rival Ford and its new Fusion, which many would agree is the current class-leader. This new look is different enough in such a way that it looks like an all-new model from the front, and is far more stylish than the old look. At least we like to think so.
The improved fuel economy
At an estimated 23 city / 35 highway, the 2014 Malibu improves city and highway mileage over last year’s model by 1 mpg each. As a result, the 2014 Malibu 2.5L should perform better than the Ford Fusion with its 2.5L Duratec This is thanks to an extensively updated 2.5L Ecotec engine with a new feature called Intake Valve Lift Control technology (iVLC), allowing the valves to open and close by varied amounts and at different times depending on power demand to provide greater fuel efficiency or power, depending on the amount of throttle applied.
The center console redesign
As it turns out, people weren’t fond of the linear forwards/backwards cup holder configuration. They couldn’t identify with which cup holder was the passenger’s and which belonged to the driver. Yes, really. So to ease the confusion of America’s masses — who seem to get smarter and smarter every day — the new center console layout features a staggered cup holder design, and a pair of integrated smart phone bins, as well. Oh, and lest we forget, the return of a manual handbrake!
The 2014 Malibu Turbo is very promising
With the 2014 Malibu also came a significant power bump for the turbocharged model, now at 295 lb-ft of torque. All of which is sent to the front wheels. Sounds border-line crazy, but Ken Kelzer, GM executive chief engineer, global full-size and midsize cars, reassured that the suspension tuning on the 2014 Malibu Turbo is calibrated well enough to keep the boosted middleweight in a straight line from a standstill, and won’t torque steer itself into a ditch. And with a promised sub-six-second 0-60 time, it actually leapfrogs the 323 horsepower Chevy Camaro V6 in acceleration off the line.
The extra rear knee room
One of the biggest complaints about the 2013 Malibu was that rear seat legroom was below the standards of the current midsize sedan segment. So with the refresh, GM made sure to address the issue. With an knee room increase of 1.25-inches, the 2014 Malibu also packages its rear seat more efficiently within the same wheelbase length of the outgoing model. This makes things in the second row far more tolerable, and much more in line with what’s found in the leaders of the segment, such as the Toyota Camry and Ford Fusion.
What We Dislike
No additional powertrain options
Despite the mechanical improvements, just the trio of Malibu powertrain options remain intact for the 2014 model year. This means that we still have the base Malibu with the improved 2.5L Ecotec, the unchanged eAssist powertrain of the Malibu Eco, and the punchier Malibu Turbo. There’s nothing to rival Ford’s 1.6L EcoBoost engine, which both comes with a manual transmission and achieves 37 mpg highway, or a true hybrid or even plug-in hybrid — which the Fusion also offers, and knocks it out of the park with its fuel economy ratings. Something tells us that General Motors is very well aware of this, but we’re going to have to wait a bit longer to see these types of engines offered in the Chevrolet Malibu.