The Chevrolet Malibu mid-size sedan received a welcome redesign in 2013, but with a slew of excellent contenders in the segment–including the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion, and Mazda 6–the 2014 Malibu received a surprising number of upgrades for a year-old car. This year’s changes are few, but the OnStar system now offers 4G LTE connectivity with the ability to create an in-car WiFi network.
Even with its long list of features and improved styling, the Malibu still falls just a little short of its competition.
In truth, the Malibu just wasn’t attractive as many of GM’s own vehicles, including the compact Cruze and larger Impala sedans. It’s since been updated to look the part with better grille design and a few tasteful chrome accents.
Inside, although Chevy has added more usefulness in seating and storage, not much has changed with respect the design; big square-ringed gauges sit behind a thick steering wheel at a lower vantage point, and the center console gets a perimeter of glossy grey plastic. There’s a large LCD screen front and center but also big, grabby knobs for major audio and climate functions.
Safety scores are now top-tier, with the Malibu earning Top Safety Pick+ status for last year though it loses the “+” this year. It also gets five stars overall in federal NCAP testing. Blind-spot monitors are a new option; rearview cameras and Bluetooth are still standard on LT and LTZ trims, but unavailable on the base Malibu LS.
The base Malibu LS comes standard with power windows, locks, and mirrors; air conditioning; an AM/FM/CD player; cruise control; keyless entry; tilt/telescope steering; steering-wheel controls; and 16-inch wheels. The LT and LTZ models get a 7.0-inch LCD touchscreen and Chevy’s new MyLink connectivity system, which allows drivers to stream Pandora internet radio and catch up with podcasts on Stitcher via Bluetooth streaming. Turbo LT models get 18-inch wheels; a power driver seat; steering-wheel audio controls; and remote start.
In the 2015 Malibu, there’s no more battery-assisted Eco model, but the remaining four-cylinder and turbo engines are fine choices. Acceleration is competitive, if not overly quick, with the base 196-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder and six-speed automatic; with stop/start, fuel economy checks in at 25 mpg city, 36 mpg highway. That’s good, but not at all class-leading compared to the new Nissan Altima’s class-leading 38-mpg highway rating, or the likes of the Kia Optima Hybrid, Ford Fusion Hybrid, or Toyota Camry Hybrid.
The turbo Malibu spools out 259 horsepower, and torque is up to 295 pound-feet this year, which may push its 0-60 mph time close to an even six seconds. The Malibu goes down a curvy road well, with a ride that’s tauter than in the past, but better damped than in 2013. Electric power steering does well in giving it a precise feel here, although dynamically it falls short of Fusion and Accord.
Chevy tried to address one of the biggest disappointments with the Malibu’s 2013 redesign, its rear-seat room. Last year the Malibu got thinner front seatbacks and a reshaped rear-seat bench to net 1.25 inches of additional rear knee room. Still, there’s not ample leg room for four adults inside, and the rear seat’s gains really are a wash, with lower and shorter cushioning cutting into comfort. The Malibu’s front seats are excellent, though, supportive and shaped ideally for long drives. Elsewhere inside, there’s a redesigned center console with a longer armrest, a pair of cupholders, and storage for two cellphones.