• Stop/start technology increases fuel economy and reduces cost of ownership
  • 97 percent of recent Malibu buyers have opted for this fuel-saving technology
  • Americans burn 3.8 million gallons of fuel each day while idling

Stop/start technology is becoming a mainstream feature, and General Motors is leading the way in the midsize-sedan segment with the 2015 Chevrolet Malibu. The Malibu's standard application combats the ill effects of vehicle idling.

According to a study published by Sustainable America, the average American spends 16 minutes each day idling in traffic. That adds up to approximately 4 days a year that each driver burns fuel without actually going anywhere. 

To that end, 97 percent of 2014 and 2015 Malibu buyers opted for the 2.5-liter base engine with standard stop/start capability, making it the single largest rollout of the fuel-saving technology in the U.S. by an American automotive manufacturer.

What Does Stop/Start Do? 

The stop/start feature is designed to minimize fuel consumption by automatically shutting off the engine when the car comes to a stop at a red light or in standstill traffic. When the driver takes his or her foot off the brake, the engine restarts almost instantaneously, and the car is again ready to be driven forward.

"Chevrolet will continue to bring innovative technologies across our product lineup, and stop/start is one of many ways we are helping customers save at the gas pump," said Steve Majoros, director of Chevrolet cars.

Does it Really Work?

The big question is: How much of an advantage does start/stop offer in terms of fuel economy? In conjunction with Chevrolet's new valve-lift-control feature and a re-engineered 6-speed automatic transmission, Malibu owners can expect a 14 percent gain in city fuel economy, bringing the Environmental Protection Agency estimate to 25 miles per gallon.

Perhaps an even bigger question is how this new technology will impact the Malibu's drivability. (AutoTrader editors have not driven the Malibu equipped with start/stop technology). 

In general, we're not big fans of start/stop, because it seems to be jarring and intrusive, even in pricey brands such as BMW. Some drivers have also suggested that the feature makes them less confident when trying to make a left turn against on-coming traffic at a busy intersection.

Nissan says that they're studying the technology but have no current plans for widespread adoption in Nissan cars. We suspect that Nissan knows one of the main reasons that people pick Nissan vehicles is because of the way they drive (Nissan vehicles generally feel sportier than other popular vehicle brands); ruin that experience, and they risk losing customers. Besides, the Nissan Altima already gets 38 mpg on the highway by using a fuel-efficient 4-cylinder engine and a continuously variable transmission. Given that, is start/stop really necessary?

Toyota's has already adopted the technology globally. The automaker claims to use start/stop technologies in many of its vehicles and "...in many markets based on specific market conditions and tastes." Our translation: Start/stop isn't right for every car in every part of the world. They're probably right, but Toyota does use a form of start/stop in its hybrid vehicles.

With obvious benefits to cost of ownership, worldwide sales of vehicles with stop/start technology are projected to rise from 8.8 million in 2013 to 55.4 million in 2022. That's an increase of more than 500 percent.

What it means to you: Start/stop technology is yet another way to reduce fuel consumption and minimize a vehicle's cost of ownership. This standard feature could make the Chevy Malibu a more attractive choice in the midsize-sedan segment, or it could make it fall even further behind rivals such as the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry? Time will tell. 

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Jessica Shea Choksey is an automotive journalist and former writer/reporter for the PBS/Discovery Channel television series "MotorWeek." She began her career in journalism as an editor for numerous magazines and publications mainly outside of the automotive field. Jessica currently resides with her family, in Southern California.

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