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The new refreshed Chevy Malibu. (GM)
General Motors is giving its Chevrolet Malibu an emergency makeover less than two years after introducing the model because of its sluggish sales and reception that has caused it to fall behind its rivals from Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Ford.

The 2014 Malibu, on sale this fall, gets a changed front-end, a bit more room inside and slightly more fuel efficient four-cylinder engine. The moves, about all the company can do in such a short window of time, address some of the most glaring criticisms from the automotive media since the car debuted in 2012.

Although it was a big improvement over the previous Malibu, the current one seemed lackluster when compared to some of the latest midsize family sedans.

But it's unlikely that it will be able to do much to move the sales needle. The Malibu has suffered from an interior and ride that does not stack up well against new rivals, especially the Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. The "Malibu" name is also seen as a handicap to the car, luring customers away from more popular mid-sized sedans.

GM's own testing, according to GM executives who spoke on background, of the product revealed that even when people who owned import models liked the Malibu, they rejected it when they were later told it was a "Chevy Malibu."

The Malibu, one of GM's best-selling cars overall but also one traditionally dependent on rental fleet sales to achieve that status, was extensively redesigned for release in early 2012 as a 2013 model.
A freshening just 18 months after introduction is unusual in an industry where such changes typically occur every three years. GM President Mark Reuss acknowledged that the Malibu was designed and "locked in" before GM went through bankruptcy in 2009 and new management was brought in to the company.

The front grille is shaped differently and sits lower than before, giving the Malibu a sportier look that is more in line with that of the Impala. The interior gets subtle improvements to make it more comfortable and practical, such as a longer center armrest and revised console between the front seats, which now has two cupholders and slots for a pair of cell phones. GM also added 1.25 inches of rear legroom by carving out the back of the front seats and re-sculpting the rear seat cushions so occupants sit lower in them.

The 2014 Chevrolet Malibu's suspension benefits from changes inspired by the 2014 Impala, designed to give a smoother, more controlled ride. The base 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine gains start-stop technology, which shuts down the engine during temporary stops to improve fuel economy in city driving by up to 5 percent.

Revisions to the 2.5-liter engine and six-speed transmission aim to give the 2014 Malibu added power at lower speeds, a welcome improvement considering the tepid acceleration we experienced during a test drive of the 2013 Malibu.

The optional 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder has been recalibrated to produce significantly more torque, up by 35 foot-pounds over the previous engine. This 14-percent bump should noticeably improve acceleration at lower speeds.

A third engine option, a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with electric assist, continues unchanged. This so-called "mild-hybrid" system uses an electric motor and battery pack to improve fuel economy. It's more affordable than other full hybrid systems but lacks an electric-only mode like in Toyota Prius, for example.

The steering and brakes on the 2014 Malibu have also been tweaked to give better feel. New blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert systems have been added to the Malibu's already impressive list of safety features. It received top safety scores from the National Highway Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The 2014 Chevrolet Malibu goes on sale this fall. Pricing hasn't been announced, but it should be very close to that of the current model, which starts at $22,805.

In the first four months of 2013, Malibu sales have dropped nearly 12 percent, and the car stands in fifth place among midsize sedans. Dealer inventories are high, and it has been the most heavily discounted sedan in the category.

Automakers on Monday will announce U.S. sales results for May.

AOL Autos writer Matthew de Paula contributed to this report.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 10 Comments
      Holley's Store
      • 2 Years Ago
      Same old car different clothes. Sorry no.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Car Crash Compilation video 2013 http://goo.gl/LMn47
      jOkEy SmUrf aLLsTaRz
      • 2 Years Ago
      So, lemme get this straight...they just refreshed this Malibu to look like the Malibu before the last refresh? What the heck is going on?
      davidvipervette
      • 2 Years Ago
      Needs an optional 6 cylinder engine to compete with the likes of Honda.
      junglejack
      • 2 Years Ago
      tepid acceleration? ask the fellow driving a v8 Cherokee who tried to pass my 2.5 L Malibu in the acceleration lane if he would call it "tepid acceleration"
        Alfonso T. Alvarez
        • 2 Years Ago
        @junglejack
        These writers are so removed from reality it is simply ludicrous! A mid-size car with a 196 HP engine does not have 'tepid' acceleration in any way, shape or form. It is time for this kind of ignorant writing to disappear - sorry, we all don't get to drive 300 to 400 HP vehicles on a regular basis. I have several vehicles with four cylinders, all with less than 196 HP, and NONE of them are slow at all in the real world! Heck, one is the older version of this with the 169 HP 2.4L with the six speed and it is actually very peppy!
      Cynthia
      • 2 Years Ago
      HEY GM, BRING BACK PONTIAC!
      • 2 Years Ago
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        • 2 Years Ago
        Yeah it's called porn
      RED SKULL
      • 1 Year Ago
      Yes ! Bring back the Pontiac it was a very respectable automobile.