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Chevrolet Malibu Buyers Appreciate Gas-Saving Stop-Start Tech

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Stop-start engine technology is used widely in cars in Europe, but until recently very few automakers have applied it to vehicles sold in the U.S.

For the most part, that's because the benefits aren't shown up in EPA testing. But a few automakers are also worried that customers may not be accepting of the gas-saving technology.

Chevrolet needn't have worried with the Malibu, which utilizes stop-start on the base 196-horsepower 2.5-liter engine.

According to Wards Auto, the media and customers alike have reacted positively to the technology. It could encourage Chevy, like Ford and its recent desire to apply start-stop to many of its vehicles, to spread the tech across other models in its range.

Stop-start was introduced as one of several detail changes to the 2014 Malibu over the 2013 model. It features a new nose and more interior space, as well as the gas-saving system.

Chevy says it offers many of the benefits of a mild hybrid system without having to drag a heavy battery around--though the Malibu with stop-start does feature a second 12v battery in the rear, powering accessories while the engine is off.

In fact, it's enough that Chevy has killed off the Malibu Eco mild hybrid--since the 2.5-liter Malibu with stop-start achieves the same 25 mpg city, 36 highway and 29 combined as the hybrid did, but pricing is several thousand dollars cheaper.

The main benefit of offering stop-start on the base Malibu is that a wider range of customers will benefit--arguably doing more to save gas than offering a much more expensive hybrid that fewer will buy in the first place.

It also gives Chevy a jump over competitors, brand marketing manager John Hahn told Wards--since Chevy offers it on "a mainstream engine that has been purchased by 90% of our buyers", while other automakers tend to offer it on top-end models, such as Mazda with its i-ELOOP Mazda6.

The tech could eventually expand to models like the Impala. In addition, Chevy intends to further extend its use of natural gas dual-fuel vehicles--and a CNG Malibu could be on the way.

By making gas-saving technologies available on mainstream models, Chevy is making real strides towards improving the fuel efficiency of its range.

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