Extensively redesigned, this is the eighth generation of Chevy's midsize sedan. The wheelbase is 4.5 in. shorter and the track over 2 in. wider, lending visual muscle to the otherwise conservative styling. Chevy claims a 20-percent chassis rigidity upgrade, as well as more room in the classy interior, despite reduced dimensions. There are three engine choices, all with direct fuel injection, led by the new 182-hp Ecotec 4-cylinder that's the heart of the eAssist Eco model. A mild gas/electric hybrid, the Eco is rated for 25 mpg city, 37 mpg highway, topping the Malibu charts. The Malibu delivers creamy ride quality with quiet operation, and a 259-bhp 2.0-liter turbo four is available to satisfy those with a need for speed.
R&T Overview:The Malibu is similar in size to the slightly larger Impala, but just because the two cars share the bowtie logo on their grilles doesn't mean they drive alike. The Malibu feels light on its feet, which is great for handling response, and a real trick considering the Malibu could stand to skip a few lunches. With this confident foundation, the standard stability control, traction control and 6-speed transmission programming make both the high-tech 2.4-liter four version and the roaring 3.6-liter V-6 model into “point-and-shoot” sedans. Although there is a manual-shift feature—a switch on the shift knob—the driveline works much smoother without using it. The Malibu's fastback styling intrudes slightly on rear head space, but comfort in front is top-notch.
With its coupe-like roof, sleek windshield and short rear deck, the 4-seat CC remains one of the best-looking cars on the market, offering what VW calls "expressive head-turning design for the cost of a traditional sedan." Seems like a fair assessment to us. And for 2012, the CC gets an interior makeover, highlighted by new sustainable-wood trim and an elegant dash clock centrally mounted over the stereo. Buyers have six CC models to choose from, ranging from the $28,515 Sport to the $40,090 VR6 4Motion Executive. The Sport has a 200-bhp 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder and a 6-speed manual transmission, whereas the Executive is fitted with the 280-bhp 3.6-liter VR6 and a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic. Front-drive and all-wheel-drive models are available.
The Ford Fiesta is a sub-compact, front-wheel drive, five-passenger car. Available in four and five-door bodystyles, the current benchmarks for the sub-compact segment are being tested by the Fiestas styling, comfort and luxury features, technology, and overall practicality.
The Fiesta is offered in three trims, S, SE, and a Titanium model. For 2014 there is the addition of the new ST trim to the hatchback lineup. Power comes from a 120-hp 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, mated to a five-speed manual transmission. An advanced six-speed PowerShift automatic transmission is optional. The ST gets a turbocharged, direct-injected version of the 1.6-liter that offers nearly 200-hp, mated to a six-speed manual transmission. Standard features on all models include air-conditioning, capless fuel filler system, power body-colored mirrors, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, aux audio input jack, electronic power-assisted steering and hill launch assist. Higher trim levels include cruise control, keyless entry, Ford's MyKey system, HD and satellite radio, alloy wheels, power windows, rearview camera with reverse park sensing, SYNC hands-free communications and entertainment system and SYNC with MyFord Touch. Standard safety features include AdvanceTrac electronic stability control, seven airbags including a driver knee airbag, tire pressure monitoring system, engine immobilizer and four-wheel anti-lock brakes.
For 2014, the Fiesta is a refresh with new interior and exterior styling, feature changes across the entire lineup and the addition of the ST performance hot hatch.
The lightest-duty Silverado 1500 pickup is available with three V-8 engines, all able to run on gasoline or 85-percent ethanol. The 1500 is by no means light-duty and can be configured with rear- or 4-wheel drive, three cab sizes to hold from three to six passengers, and towing equipment to pull more than five tons. Standard for 2012 is automatic trailer sway control, as well as new grilles and bumper caps. The basic Work Truck model comes with a raucous 4.3-liter V-6, which is not the most frugal in the lineup—that would be the midlevel 5.3-liter V-8 with the special dual-mode Hybrid model that gets 20 mpg city/23 mpg highway. The V-6 manages just 15 mpg city/20 highway, but it's priced near a subcompact car.