- The 2014 Chevrolet Malibu gets an all-new stop-start system standard for all models with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder.
- The Malibu's eAssist mild-hybrid system is gone, although the car's Eco badge remains for all Malibus with the new stop-start technology.
- Other changes for the 2014 Malibu include a new front end, suspension and steering improvements, a revised center console and extra knee room for rear-seat passengers.
PLYMOUTH, Michigan — The tweaking continues as Chevrolet tries to find the market-positioning sweet spot for its latest-generation Malibu midsize sedan, which was redesigned just last year but failed to catch fire in a segment where other redesigned rivals are soaring.
For customers now considering a 2014 Malibu, though, the Chevy's early stumble ends up accelerating the roll out of some significant improvements. One of the improvements is a base car that — thanks to the addition of what probably is the cleverest automatic stop-start system currently available — delivers the same combined fuel economy as the former Malibu Eco hybrid model. And does so for significantly less money.
In a 2014 lineup that's now pared to two engine choices, Chevrolet still is going to use the Eco badge for all 2014 Malibus equipped with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder and its fuel-saving, standard-equipment stop-start system. So customers will get the same combined fuel economy, 29 mpg, as the former Malibu Eco that used the mild-hybrid eAssist technology.
But the 2014 Malibu LS with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder and the stop-start system can be had for as little as $22,965 including the $895 destination charge. The 2013 Malibu Eco that needed eAssist to achieve the same combined fuel economy rating cost $25,795 (including $810 destination), although the Eco model did include a higher level of other content. On an equipment-adjusted basis, Chevrolet sources said 2014 Malibu Eco model delivers the same fuel economy rating for about $1,000 less than the 2013 Malibu Eco.
The official Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy ratings for the 2014 Malibu Eco are 25 mpg in the city and 36 mpg highway. The former Eco model using the eAssist system did deliver a 1-mpg better rating on the highway, but its combined fuel economy rating was the same 29 mpg as the 2014 Malibu Eco generates.
Chevrolet officials at a media drive here for the 2014 Malibu said they expect 85-90 percent of all Malibus sold will be the Eco model, which is available in either LS, 1LT/2LT or 1LTZ trims, while the Malibu 3LT and 2LTZ trims come with a revised version of the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder available in the 2013 Malibu.
The 2014 Malibu Eco's revisions make it essentially equal to or better than rivals with similar-sized engines. The 2014 Honda Accord with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder and continuously variable automatic transmission, for instance, is rated at 30 mpg combined (27 city/36 highway). The 2014 Ford Fusion with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder and six-speed automatic transmission is rated at 26 mpg combined (22 mpg city/36 mpg highway).
Chevrolet didn't stop with the 2014 Malibu's fuel economy upgrade. Revised front styling lends more resemblance to the all-new Chevrolet Impala full-size sedan and a redesigned center console that improves the armrest and eliminates the electronic parking brake by incorporating a traditional brake lever. Also, the backs of the front seats are scalloped to provide rear-seat passengers with 1.25 inches more knee room.
Engineers also revised the 2014 Malibu's suspension with a new front strut design similar to the Impala's and upgraded calibration for the car's electric-assist power steering.
Edmunds says: Equaling the former hybrid Malibu's fuel economy for markedly less money should help the 2014 Malibu Eco look more competitive to those shopping for a new family sedan.