2014 Chevrolet Malibu review:

Mild-mannered Malibu hides modern tech

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The icons themselves can seem a bit of a jumble, with navigation, each audio source, telephone, configurations, and even weather, spread over three screens. However, the ability to set up icons as favorites, so that they populate the first screen, saves MyLink.

2014 Chevrolet Malibu
Chevy uses large, easy-to-read icons for menu screens in its MyLink infotainment interface. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

The Malibu includes full-featured voice command, as well. With an iOS device or USB drive plugged into the car's USB port, I could request music by artist name, album, or song title. Of course I could also place calls by contact name; and destination entry let me say an entire address string at once. However, I struggled to make the Malibu understand the street name Tehama, and eventually had to give up.

Augmenting Chevy's embedded voice command is Siri's Eyes Free feature. With my phone connected to the car via Bluetooth, I could hold down the voice command button on the steering wheel, longer than I would with the car's native voice command, and have it pass through to Siri. That feature came in handy when was using Bluetooth audio streaming to listen to music, as it let me request any song in my iPhone's library. As with most Bluetooth audio streaming, the interface didn't let me select music using the touch screen or Chevy's embedded voice command.

Music played through a Pioneer nine-speaker audio system, an upgrade courtesy of this car's Electronics and Entertainment package. The sound quality was good, especially with acoustic songs, but tracks with deep bass and strong highs caused distortion and panel rattle. The different frequencies weren't produced with the distinction of a really high-end audiophile system.

Chevy hasn't dropped the CD player in the Malibu, as it has in the Spark and Sonic. The USB port provides more digital music connections, and satellite radio is included. Chevy also integrates Pandora and Stitcher, each with their own icon, into MyLink. Android users can just push these icons to launch the apps on their phones, but I couldn't use the integration without first launching the apps on my iPhone.

Navigation worked well in the Malibu, with voice prompts reading out full street names. I liked that I could see the maps in plan and perspective views. The MyLink interface also let me view the map on half the screen, with upcoming turn or stereo information on the other half. While the route recalculation was quick, I found the system really pushed for its original route as I took alternate routes to destinations. That can be a little frustrating.

2014 Chevrolet Malibu
The Travel Guide destination feature shows write-ups for points-of-interest near the car's location. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

Among the destination entry options, Chevy includes one called Travel Guide. Tapping this icon brought up a list of nearby locations that could prove of interest to tourists. Each entry included a good description.

Missing from navigation was an online search tool. However, Chevy will be adding something it calls App Shop to its MyLink-equipped cars, along with built-in 4G connections, and I would expect online search within the year.

To make the in-cabin tech a little safer, the Electronics and Entertainment package also adds a rear view camera to aids in parking, although it lacks distance or trajectory lines. With the Advanced Safety package, side sensors are included which enable blind spot monitors and light up icons in the side mirrors when a car is traveling in the next lane over.

More intriguing was a forward-facing camera positioned in front of the rear-view mirror. This camera aids in lane departure and collision warnings. When I drifted over a lane line, the car beeped at me, and when I approached cars ahead too fast, the Malibu let me know with both an audible alert and red flashing lights on the windshield. For collision warning, I could set the sensitivity and even turn it off if I found it annoying. These systems are only alerts, and don't actually steer or brake the car, but the first time the collision warning gets you to stop before hitting another car, it will have paid for itself.

Mild-mannered mover
The driving character of the 2014 Chevrolet Malibu is not what I would call exciting, or even engaging, but it is just about perfect for a mid-size sedan. It was comfortable and easy to drive, never putting up a fight for what I wanted to do, and never threatening to get out of control. The power is enough for typical driving and it handles the turns with comfortable stability.

The fuel economy from the EPA tests looks good, but if you deal with a lot of stop-and-go traffic or hills, expect the average to come in significantly lower than estimated.

The exterior styling is a bit boring, but Chevy's MyLink infotainment system is a high point, and serves to give the Malibu an edge over the competition. Using a smartphone paradigm for the icon-based interface makes it feel familiar, and gives Chevy room to expand functionality in the future, although I can't confirm whether the company will update existing cars.

The driver alert features are also quite nice, although I would have liked adaptive cruise control as an option.

Tech specs
Model 2014 Chevrolet Malibu
Trim 2LT
Powertrain Direct injection 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, six-speed automatic transmission
EPA fuel economy 25 mpg city/36 mpg highway
Observed fuel economy 24.6 mpg
Navigation Optional, with live traffic
Bluetooth phone support Standard
Digital audio sources Internet radio, Bluetooth streaming, iOS integration, USB drive, satellite radio
Audio system Pioneer 250-watt nine-speaker system
Driver aids Collision warning, lane departure warning, blind spot monitor, rear view camera
Base price $22,965
Price as tested $30,125

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