Friday, April 4, 2014

Chevy Malibu: A midsize that matters gets better

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews also can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website – via the “GALLERY: Reviews of new cars” link at

Sacramento, California – OK, pay attention.  A go-to midsize passenger car has been extensively reworked for the 2014 model year.

You can call it the new ’Bu, or the 2014 Chevrolet Malibu 2LT sedan in my case.  There is plenty to like in this Chevy, but I think you have to begin with the starting price – a most alluring $25,215.

Yes, that’s the kicker.  Most folks might look at this car and think $30,000, but they likely start reaching for their checkbooks at 25-grand, especially when taking in the numerous perks that are part of the deal.

Let’s start with the exterior skin, a very nice upgrade from the previous version.

Designers tweaked the front end with a more prominent, lowered grille, throwing in some very nice-looking black and chrome accents in the process.  This gives the Malibu a more sporty look, as opposed to an “I need to run to the store, hon” four-door errand runner.

In the interest of full disclosure, my Malibu tester was dressed up with extras that bumped the bottom line on the sticker to more than $30,000.  But I can state straight up: I would have been happy with the standard offerings, period.

And those are plentiful: eight-way power/lumbar seating in the cockpit, leather wraps on the steering wheel and shifter, power features to the max, steering wheel controls, a full run of high-tech audio connections and some very cool blue ambient lighting.

Another bonus: Roomier in the back seats.  My volunteer passengers couldn’t stop talking about this.

On the roll, the 2.5-liter. 196-horsepower, four-cylinder engine was spirited enough to handle even the heavy lifting on city streets and dicey freeways.  Handling was one-hand easy.  Cockpit noise was minimal.

The suspension was a bump-absorbing all-star.  My time on roads needing repair was made easy in this tester.

The fuel-saving stop/start engine technology was not always seamless.  I sometimes got a little bit of a jolt sitting at a traffic light, or starting forward after a standing stop.  This was not what I’d call a deal-breaker, however.

My patience was likely boosted by the budget-pleasing fuel mileage ratings of 25 miles per gallon in the city and 36 mpg on the highway.

One thing I’d advise prospective 2014 Malibu buyers: Take a close look at the standard safety and security features on the sticker.  It’s a very lengthy and impressive list for a car in this price range.

Looking for an affordable, American-made midsize sedan stuffed with much more than you’d expect from a car priced in the 20s?  This ’Bu might be for you.

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