While you could fairly criticize Toyota for being somewhat predictable in the styling of each successive generation of Camry (why take risks when you’re winning?), the same can’t be said for
Chevrolet with its mid-sized Malibu. Like Forrest Gump’s metaphoric box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.
This generation, new for 2013, isn’t the huge improvement over its predecessor that the outgoing model was. In fairness, some of that is because that two-generations-ago car was, to be charitable, awkward-looking, while last year’s car was actually quite handsome.
the mid-size sedan segment the Malibu competes in is where the money’s made in the U.S. marketplace, and it’s important here too. Freshly updated competitors (Accord, Fusion, 6) and the lukewarm
response received by this car since its launch have prompted General Motors to make some emergency revisions for the 2014 model year that I’ll note as we go along.
While this latest Malibu’s front end is merely evolutionary (2014 bringing an enlarged and repositioned, Impala-like grille), things have changed appreciably from the mid-point back. Not only does the rear now bear a deliberate resemblance to the Camaro (complete with quad tail-lamps, LEDs on the top LTZ model), but Chevy has chopped a substantial 11.4 cm out of the ‘Bu’s wheelbase, which is now the same as its Buick Regal sibling.
This shortening goes against the current trend in the North American mid-size sedan market of longer wheelbases and greater rear-seat space. If your offspring includes future NBA players, shop carefully.
Intended from the start to be a global product, I’d speculate that the change not only suits international markets better, but it also prevents the Malibu from stepping on the toes of the 2014 Impala, which switched to the longer-wheelbase version of the Malibu’s “Epsilon II” platform for 2014. Interestingly, the Malibu’s overall length has shrunk by less than a centimetre, while an almost 7 cm gain in beam means that the Malibu and Impala are now the same width.
The previous Malibu’s interior was a styling standout for the Chevy brand (particularly in the striking optional two-tone scheme), while the new one is a bit more subdued. Material quality and construction are noticeably improved, however, and the new indirect ambient lighting accents look great at night. Honest-to-God buttons and knobs operate the audio and climate systems – thank you, Chevrolet. Oddly, all of the windows have auto-down, but auto-up is only standard on the top LTZ model, and then only for the driver.
2014’s revisions find a proper handbrake replacing the ’13 model’s electric parking brake (hooray!) and a pair of cup and phone holders occupy where a rolltop-style cup/cubby currently sits in the centre console.
Not only is it a modern and pleasant place to conduct business, it’s a quiet place, my impression being that the Malibu’s wind and road noise levels are the equal of any of the major players in its segment.
Unfortunately, outward visibility is compromised somewhat by a combination of the Malibu’s tall trunk (a common fault in modern sedans), wide d-pillars, and thick windshield pillars. At least, at 462 litres, that trunk is among the segment’s largest in volume.
The 2.5 has plenty of power for everyday driving, and is impressively smooth and quiet the majority of the time. There’s a little bit of clatter at idle, audible outside the car – a characteristic of direct-injection – and like most four-cylinders it get vocal when given the cane, however it’s far from objectionable. This may be GM’s best mainstream four-cylinder ever.
The European origins of the Malibu’s platform are evident; it feels solidly built, and a good family-car ride/handling balance has been struck here; a non-turbo Malibu will neither offend nor astonish anyone, being both comfortable and competent. It’s a recipe that’s sold millions of Camrys. Read the full story at www.hmhid.com web.