2014 Mid-Size Sedan Comparison. Click image to enlarge
Originally published March 24, 2014
Review by Jacob Black, Jonathan Yarkony, Peter Bleakney, Steven Bochenek and Jeff Wilson; photos by Jeff Wilson and Justin Couture
Introduction, Jacob Black
The mid-size family sedan segment remains one of the most important in the automotive industry. The segment is one of the key verticals for most manufacturers, and anyone worth their salt has a hand in this game – almost always with a competitive and value-packed effort.
This month, we rounded up seven of the best efforts all within $3,200 of each other. The cheapest was $34,190, the most expensive $37,370 (all prices cited with destination in). That’s one of the closest price spreads we’ve had in an Autos.ca test.
The sales-leading Ford Fusion is here – this time with the brand new 1.5L EcoBoost engine, and so are the venerable Honda Accord and Toyota’s stalwart Camry, both in V6 trim. Nissan is here with the Altima, also rocking a V6. Chevrolet put up their 2.0L turbocharged Malibu and Kia answers with a 2.0L turbo in the Optima. Rounding out the group for this comparison is an Autos.ca Top Pick and AJAC Canadian Car of the Year Mazda6 with the only engine on offer, a 2.5L four-banger.
Missing is the Hyundai Sonata (an all-new model is debuting at April’s New York Auto Show), the Chrysler 200 (new models won’t be on fleet until late spring/early summer, but a First Drive will be coming later this week) and the Volkswagen Passat TDI (it got stuck in Halifax).
Between them, we had seven of the top-ten selling mid-size sedans for the year so far. The Fusion leads the bunch at 1,768, followed closely by Accord (1,653) and Camry (1,413). Of our bunch, the Nissan Altima is next (and fifth overall) with 1,089 while the bottom three of the top 10 overall are Optima (974), Malibu (533) and Mazda6 (269).
Don’t let those sales numbers fool you, though, this was no runaway victory for anyone – this was a very, very close race. So do the results of our test match the sales rankings?
7th Place: 2014 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ, Peter Bleakney
The Chevrolet Malibu LTZ wasn’t finding a whole lotta’ love here, not least because it had the highest as-tested price ($37,370) and posted the second-worst fuel consumption numbers. Oh dear.
But let’s look at the good stuff. Of the three turbocharged four-cylinder engines in this group, the Malibu’s direct-injection EcoTec 2.0L was the strongest and smoothest. Indeed, it was largely absent of the four-pot boominess generally associated with modern blown fours. It was Senior Editor Yarkony’s fave mill of the day.
Tweaked for 2014, the 2.0L makes the same 256 hp as in 2013 but gets an additional 35 lb-ft of torque for a substantial peak of 295 lb-ft at 3,000 rpm. So in the haul-ass department, the ‘Bu showed our Fusion’s pretty face its plain derriere.
The six-speed automatic transmission was decently behaved too, but as with most cars these days it is programmed for maximum fuel efficiency. So it upshifts early and resolutely hangs on to taller gears for as long as possible. Downshifts are not exactly forthcoming either. If you wish to select your own cogs, there is a rocker switch atop the gear selector that, like Vegemite, you will try only once. Steve Bochenek noted: “The manual shift button feels like you’re calling for an elevator.”
The Malibu is first and foremost a credible long distance cruiser. The cabin is hushed and the ride is smooth. Additionally, the front seats seemed to be designed for the long haul. Too bad about the cabin aesthetics. In this company, it looked overwrought and cheap. The fake wood was particularly offensive, and the audio was deemed just okay. At least the controls are legible and easy to fathom. Inside the big hoop of a centre console is a large and crisp LCD screen that houses MyLink which proves to be one of the better interfaces.
I noticed a weird distortion in the rearview mirror that managed to make the Fusion look like a startled guppy.
The Malibu’s backseat accommodations got lowest score in this group due to relatively tight legroom and shoulder room. On the plus side, the trunk was deemed the largest and easiest to access, and the rear seats scored best for child seat installation due to ease of installation and centre position Isofix fasteners – something no other car here had.
For 2014 the Malibu gets a new front fascia that matches that of the Impala. Apparently it’s not enough to lift this Chevy out of the styling doldrums as it got the lowest score for exterior appearance.
It’s hard to fairly assess a car’s handling on winter tires, so the squirrelly behavior we experienced would likely be quelled on its regular footwear. That said it’s obvious the Malibu is a cruiser with no real athletic pretentions.
As Jeff Wilson put it, “In isolation, I think most of us would agree that the Malibu isn’t a bad car.” Problem is, this ain’t isolation.
Pricing: 2014 Malibu LTZ Sedan
Base Price (Lowest trim): $24,995
Base Price: $34,715
Options: Colour-touch navigation with MyLink – $795, all-weather floor mats – $160
A/C Tax: $100
Freight and PDI: $1,600
Price as Tested: $37,370