All the best-selling midsize sedans in the United States have been redesigned in the past few years, and with the debut of the 2014 Chevrolet Malibu, this model has now seen two substantial upgrades in consecutive model years.

The all-new Malibu arrived for the 2013 model year and was instantly met with withering criticism and consumer disdain. The reasons and theories behind the 2013 Malibu's stumble vary, depending on whom you ask, and are now largely irrelevant unless you're a car buyer thinking of saving a little money and grabbing a leftover new one or a certified pre-owned used one.

As a result of the Malibu's pratfall in the midsize sedan marketplace, Chevrolet rushed a do-over through the General Motors project-approval system in order to make the car more competitive. As a result -- from our perspective -- you're gonna want the 2014 Chevrolet Malibu instead.

    

Exterior

Styling was not one of the problems with last year's Malibu. Nevertheless, Chevrolet has redesigned the car's front end in order to achieve what it calls a more cohesive look across its range of sedans. Whether you think the new Malibu is appealing is up to you. What we'll say is that unless you upgrade to a model with larger wheels, the 2014 Malibu still looks like it needs to go on a diet.

    

Interior

One of the major criticisms aimed at last year's Malibu addressed tight rear-seat room, especially because the old 2012 Malibu was so accommodating in this regard. So, for the 2014 Malibu, Chevrolet has revised both the front- and rear-seat designs in order to carve out an additional 1.25 inches of rear-seat legroom.

The changes include reshaped front-seat backs that are dished to give an adult passenger's knees more clearance. The rear-seat cushions are also shaped differently, allowing the occupant to sit deeper in the car. The result is that somebody 6 feet tall can now ride in a Malibu without complaining too much. It's still cramped, more so than in some compact cars, but rear-seat space should no longer be a reason to cross a Malibu off of a midsize sedan shopping list.

Additional changes for the new 2014 Malibu's interior include a redesigned center console equipped with a longer center-console armrest and new black and gray simulated-wood trim for the LT and LTZ models.

    

Mechanicals

Chevrolet has quietly discontinued the Malibu Eco, a mild-hybrid model that could not operate solely on electric power like most other hybrids can. The reason is that the 2014 Malibu gets a new standard 4-cylinder engine that is almost as fuel-efficient as the Malibu Eco.

Generating 196 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque, the new 2.5-liter 4-cylinder features direct fuel injection and automatic stop/start technology that shuts the engine off while the car is idling in traffic or at an intersection. Thanks to an Environmental Protection Agency-rated 25 miles per gallon in the city and 36 mpg on the highway, Chevrolet claims a 14 percent fuel-economy improvement over the previous 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine. The new engine loses one hp and 5 lb-ft of torque compared to last year, however.

Don't worry too much about that, though, because Chevrolet has simultaneously revised the 6-speed automatic transmission's shift points to deliver greater refinement and an improved feeling of performance. If that doesn't do the trick, you can always get a 2014 Chevrolet Malibu equipped with the available turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, which is massaged to generate 14 percent more torque this year. Power ratings for this engine, which is included for Malibu 3LT and 2LTZ models, measure 259 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque.

Chevy didn't stop with engine and transmission upgrades for the 2014 Malibu. Additionally, the chassis and suspension are retuned to improve the car's ride, handling, body roll and weight-transfer characteristics. The electric steering and brake-pedal calibrations are also tweaked in order to make the 2014 Malibu a much better daily driver.

    

Features

The 2014 Chevy Malibu has a redesigned center console this year, one that includes a longer armrest along with two phone slots that are designed to make it easier to carry drinks and devices at the same time. The air-conditioning systems in the Malibu LS and LT models are also equipped with a new humidity sensor for 2014, and Chevrolet installed new infotainment and safety systems, which are discussed in greater detail below.

    

Technology

Buy a 2014 Malibu equipped with the optional MyLink infotainment system, and if you have an iPhone running iOS 6 or iOS 7, you can take advantage of Siri Eyes Free technology to make calls, play music from your iTunes library and more. The 2014 version of MyLink also supplies iPhone users with new text-to-voice capability that reads text messages over the car's audio system. Drivers can reply using programmed preset messages such as: "I'm driving right now, fool. Don't you know it's dangerous to text and drive?"

    

Safety

Chevrolet has also upgraded the Malibu's optional Safety Package for the 2014 model year, adding side blind-zone alert and rear cross-traffic alert features to the existing forward-collision alert and lane-departure warning systems. At $890, this upgrade is a bargain, and Chevrolet offers it on most versions of the 2014 Malibu. Trouble is, you also need to buy leather seats and other upgrades before Chevy will let you get the safety tech.

Conclusions

With the 2014 Malibu, Chevrolet now has a credible competitor in the midsize sedan segment. The rear-seat space still isn't what it should be, but thanks to a 5-star crash-test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, reasonable pricing, improved driving dynamics and fuel-economy ratings and a number of additional enhancements, family-sedan buyers really ought to give the Malibu consideration.

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