2014 Chevrolet Malibu

INDIANAPOLIS — It’s a common complaint that cars are getting too expensive, but are they really?  As part of the Malibu’s 50th Anniversary coverage, we reached out to Chevrolet P.R. Manager Chad Lyons and the GM Heritage Center’s Jim Vehko for perspective.

According to Vehko, “A base Malibu 4-door sedan was $2,349 in 1964.  Today, a Malibu 4-door sedan is $22,140.  Considering (average) 1964 income of $6,000 and $50,054 in 2011 (last year available), a new Malibu was 39% of income in 1964 and 44% today.”

So, if we go with his numbers, a Malibu is 5% of income more expensive. But, you get much in a 2014 Malibu that you didn’t get standard in 1964.  Let’s start with radial tires, anti-lock brakes, air-conditioning, power windows, electronic stability control, and airbags.  Just the more crash-worthy body structure of the new model would justify the price difference.  We haven’t even talked about all of the options.
The standard powertrain for Malibu is a 196 horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, connected to a six-speed automatic transmission, delivering 25/36-MPG.  Just the fuel savings makes up the difference in price.  Our test car stepped up to the same 259 horsepower 2.0-liter turbo-four that’s found in the sporty Buick Regal GS.  The direct-injected engine turns in 21/30-MPG city/hwy.  If you want a hybrid, choose Malibu Eco with the 37-MPG eAssist system.  All models spent considerable time in GM’s wind tunnel to capture every MPG possible. 
Aerodynamics…  There’s something else nobody considered 50 years ago.  Nobody cared about fuel economy, and nobody got much of it.  Today, every surface is carefully sculpted to defy wind.  Every component is carefully selected to minimize weight and friction.
Unlike in the old days, Malibu has a chassis the equal of its powertrains.  Although it is now a front-drive sedan, it rides on a four-wheel independent suspension, stops with ABS disc brakes, and sports 18” wheels shod with meaty rubber to grip pavement.
Interior accommodations would have embarrassed a ’64 Cadillac.  Available heated leather seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and Camaro-inspired gauges are pretty sweet - as is MyLink infotainment that includes XM Satellite Radio, text-to-voice capability, Bluetooth calling/streaming audio, and Siri with Eyes-free mode to command your smartphone.  Safety is enhanced with Side Blind Zone Alert, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Departure, and Forward Collision Alert systems.  A rear camera and 10 standard airbags further enhance safety.
Even with all of the impressive features, Chevrolet quelled a few complaints for 2014.  Since the current-generation Malibu debuted two years ago, journalists and owners have griped about boring front styling, tight rear legroom, and numb suspension.  That’s all fixed.  Rear seat space is still a little tight, but re-shaped seats enhance legroom.  The front facia was updated and the car is noticeably more buttoned to the road. 
Malibu is no longer offered with a V8, or even a V6, but you don’t really need it.  The turbo-four is super smooth and has no problem hauling down Eisenhower’s Interstates or attacking their on-ramps.  Find any rough road you want and all you hear is a hushed rumble.  The seats are a bit flat, but Chevy could easily fix them.  There are roomier and more stylish mid-size cars, and Malibu isn’t everyone’s idea of stylish, but it is an historic value compared to its predecessors.
Base prices start at $22,140, but our Turbo test car came to $31,830.  That’s a significant portion more of one’s income than a base Malibu in 1964, but it’s still worth it.

— Casey Williams (MyCarData)