Back in the day, every model year meant a new face, or even a whole new body, making it easier to tell one model year to the next. It’s not that way now, where year two of a new model usually means nothing more than a new color. Chevrolet did something more like the good old days with the 2014 Chevrolet Malibu.
The 2013 Chevy Malibu marked the start of a new generation for the mid-size sedan, and flying into the teeth of one of the hottest automotive segments, the Malibu came up somewhere short in the pizzazz department. There was nothing really bad about it, but coming up against the striking designs from even the Koreans—the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima—not to mention the Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion and others—Chevrolet’s 2013 Malibu had been left at the gate.
The old Chevrolet of recent years would have soldiered on with the first year design, regardless of effect, but the Chevy of today got to work and came up with a new front end design in a mere 18 months. In automotive manufacturing terms, that’s the day before yesterday. To get a new design, even just the front clip, into production means assuring that the new shape was at least as safe as the former, making the new dies for the body stamping presses, getting suppliers on board, not to mention getting the suits to sign off on it to begin with.
But that’s what Chevrolet did.
The result was a quasi-new face for the 2014 Chevrolet Malibu, the makeover retaining the Chevrolet family grille, marked with the crossbar with the Chevrolet bowtie centered in the middle. However, the lower part of the new Malibu’s grille opening has been dramatically enlarged and the upper part reduced to little more than a slit, while the hood drops lower along the front edge.
Chevrolet also brought an all-new engine online for the Malibu. The new four-cylinder Ecotec 2.5L has variable intake valve lift control DOHC engine with direct injection is the 2014 Malibu’s standard engine. Variable intake valve actuation aids efficiency and helps reduce emissions, while also fattening up low-rpm torque. As a result, the 2014 Malibu with the base engine will feel gutsier around town and at lower speeds.
The 2.5-liter engine will also come with auto stop/start technology which shuts off the engine while the car is stopped, as at a traffic light. The engine automatically starts again when the driver’s foot is lifted off the brake. The Malibu has an auxiliary battery to power electric accessories including climate control, power windows and radio when the engine starts up again. Auto start/stop is estimated to save five percent in fuel economy.
The Malibu’s new 2.5-liter four is rated at 196 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque. Chevy engineers also recalibrated transmission shift points and designed in quicker shifts.
The optional 2.0-liter turbocharged four was worked over to provide a 14 percent increase in power, peaking at 259 horsepower, and raising torque to a best-in-class 296 lb-ft, even up against six-cylinder engines. Chevy claims the increases come solely from engine calibrations and tuning.
The 2014 Malibu adds rebound springs inside the struts which enable closer calibration of the shock absorbers. Also part of the new Impala, it results in a smoother overall ride and improves body roll control and weight transfer during acceleration or turning.
Without increasing overall size or wheelbase—no changes were made to the exterior aft of the A-pillar—the Malibu picked up a valuable 1.25 inches in rear leg room. The backs of the front seatbacks were carved out by a half inch to improve rear-seat knee room, and new seat cushion shaping and revised cushion material allow passengers to sit deeper in the rear seats.
A significant new option includes side Blind Zone Alert and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. These safety features were even envisioned back in the day of annual model changes, when the future—say, the year 2000—would have flying cars that drove themselves. The latter is coming, actually, though we’ll wait for George Jetson’s, or lack thereof. In the meantime, we’ll have to make do with a new engine for the 2014 Chevrolet Malibu and a new face to recognize it.
Photos copyright General Motors.