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2014 Chevrolet Malibu Road Test Review by Bob Plunkett

2014 Chevrolet Malibu Road Test Review

By Bob Plunkett

Steering a course on California's serpentine route 33 through Wheeler Gorge to Ojai, we're snug in the cockpit of Chevrolet's 2014 Malibu, an affordable mid-size sedan scoring new upgrades for exterior styling, cabin accommodations and powertrain efficiencies.

The Malibu nameplate first appeared in Chevy's lineup more than three decades ago with Malibu Super Sport as a sporty coupe or sedan variation of mid-size Chevelle. Ultimately, the label accounted for multiple millions of car sales until its demise in 1983.

But Malibu returned to Chevrolet in 1997 in the format of a mid-size sedan with four doors and seats for five, two engine options and several trim designations with competitive price tags.

In the Chevy line for 2004, Malibu emerged as an entirely new car cast on GM's Epsilon platform. And in 2008 another generational iteration rolled out on GM's global mid-size platform which forged a strong structure and set up refined driving dynamics.

For 2013 the Malibu earned yet another redo inside and out -- a new front-wheel-drive platform, a sleek aerodynamic shell and an expanded-width passenger compartment dressed with fine materials and top-quality switchgear.

For 2014, Malibu's remake continues with a revised front-end appearance featuring Chevrolet's dual-port grille with black grille textures and chrome accents.

Malibu's cabin on 2014 models contains redesigned seats which yield more rear-seat space and greater comfort. The front seatbacks are sculpted to boost knee room for rear-seat riders, as new rear-seat cushions enhance comfort.

The most significant improvements for Malibu 2014 models concern powertrains, as the 2013 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine with hybrid 'eAssist' battery booster was replaced by a 2.5-liter Ecotec 4-cylinder plant with fuel-saving stop/start technology applied -- it shuts down the engine in certain conditions to reduce the fuel burn.

Now the standard plant for 2014 Malibu LS, LT and LTZ editions is this 2.5-liter cast aluminum 4-in-line with direct injection and intake valve lift control (iVLC) plus the new stop/start system.

Transaxle is an electronically controlled 6-speed automatic, the Hydra-Matic 6T45 by General Motors.

The 2.5-liter engine develops 196 hp at 6300 rpm and 186 lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm -- and the federal EPA sets fuel economy numbers for this Malibu powertrain at 25 mpg city and 36 mpg highway.

Optional engine for Malibu LT and LTZ -- badged as 3LT and 2LZ -- is a 2.0-liter Ecotec 4-pack fitted with a turbocharger (TC) and continuously variable valve timing (CVVT) apparatus. It runs up to 259 hp at 5300 rpm with 295 lb-ft of torque developing between 3000-4000 rpm.

Malibu's turbo plant links to a 6-speed electronically controlled automatic transaxle with Tapshift driver shift control, the Hydra-Matic 6T70. And it achieves EPA fuel economy scores of 21/30 mpg city/highway.

A fully independent suspension employs MacPherson struts up front with dual-path mountings plus a hollow stabilizer bar, and a multi-link rear suspension with aluminum steering knuckles and tubular stabilizer bar.

The rack-mounted steering system has electric power assistance, which eliminates a load of hydraulic equipment and contributes to the efficiency of Malibu's engine.

Brakes use a disc at every wheel linked to an anti-lock brake system (ABS) with electronic brake force distribution (EBD), corner brake control (CBC) plus a traction control system (TCS) and electronic skid controls (ESC).

Standard equipment for Malibu LS trim ranges from 16-inch alloy wheels and automatic headlights to a keyless entry system, air conditioning, power windows and power door locks, cloth fabric seat upholstery, tilting-telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, Bluetooth and OnStar connectivity plus a 6-speaker audio kit with satellite radio and CD/USB/iPod/MP3/AUX.

Top-trim Malibu LTZ features fine leather upholstery, front seats with 8-way power controls and heat elements, dual zone automatic climate system, color high-resolution Driver Information Center, auto-dimming rearview mirror, 18-inch alloy wheels, foglamps and remote vehicle starter.

Chevrolet marks prices for 2014 Malibu models from $22,070 to $29,850.

For more information on Chevrolet vehicles, click here.