The bright spot of the new Malibu is its 4 cylinder engine & 6 speed automatic transaxle. The 2.5 liter Ecotec engine delivers 196hp and is very smooth throughout its power band. There’s a turbo powerplant available with 60 more horses but it’ll cost you at the pump. Fuel economy has been improved, now giving 25 city/29 highway in base form. One unique feature that I’m not completely sold on is the auto stop. The 2014 Chevy Malibu is the first American midsize car that will shut off the engine when you come to a stop in traffic. It automatically restarts when you release the brake. The system is non-selectable and the computer determines when its more efficient to shut down. I noticed it would tend to shut down mostly after a moderate to hard stop.
There’s a noticeable lurch as the engine comes back to life so don’t expect fast acceleration off the line. The system includes an auxiliary battery to keep the accessories powered when the alternator is not turning, and it has a twin solenoid starter motor for faster starts. Normally when you’re idling the spinning engine turns the transmission oil pump to keep fluid flowing; the auto-stop function features an electric oil pump for the transaxle to keep the gears juiced up for an instant start. The idea here is that if you have a long commute in stop-and-go traffic you won’t waste fuel when idling. Gas mileage has been improved slightly but I don’t feel its significant enough to justify the auto-stop feature. It just adds extra components and more wear and tear on everything.
Malibu rides on a choice of 16 to 18 inch wheels depending on the trim level; this LTZ had a smooth quiet ride more fitting for a luxury cruiser. The electric steering assist doesn’t do a great job of providing good road feel. I would have to agree with Car and Driver’s assessment of Malibu’s ride being competent but not compelling.