As a single-vehicle family that’s driven a minivan for the past 10 years, we were intrigued yet apprehensive when given the opportunity to test out the redesigned 2014 Chevrolet Impala for a week this fall. We’d reluctantly given up the better gas mileage of our last sedan for the roominess and passenger-hauling capacity of a minivan. And, I wondered if a sedan could truly work for our busy family with two active elementary school-aged kids and as of this fall, our first middle-schooler.
Not Your Grandpa’s Impala
The 2014 Impala is a complete redesign that includes a new exterior design, 10 standard air bags, fuel economy of 19 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway, plus forward collision alert, lane departure warning and side blind-zone alert. The design has won many awards, including best in show recently at the Miami Auto Show. Available features include an eight-inch touch screen display with Chevrolet MyLink, a rear camera system, and rear park assist. As a parent, I appreciate the extra safety features, and as Technology TravelingMom, I love to see how 21st century technology is being incorporated in today’s automobiles to make them smarter, safer – and a lot more fun to drive.
Along with the usual hustle and bustle of the first few weeks of school, soccer and other kid activities, the Impala arrived on the same day that my husband’s mother passed away after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. So we were truly able to give the car a thorough test in a variety of drives around town to practices and games, along with carrying our family to and from the visitation and funeral.
Even the Kids Were Charmed
My kids were completely enamored by the 2014 Impala, especially the ease of getting in and out the rear seat without having to wait for a sliding door to open, the rear console that flips up to allow a middle passenger or flips down to give some space and a physical division between an older and younger sister, the power sunroof with second row skylight, and the cup holders and power outlets (especially the two 12 volt outlets that let them charge their tablets).
I especially enjoyed some of the little features, like the built-in umbrella storage in the doors and the built-in storage inside the touchscreen console that also included a USB port for easy device access and storage. The Impala drives beautifully and I had forgotten how easily a car handles around curves and corners compared to a minivan. As a relatively short (5’2”) woman, I worried that I would ‘feel’ short in a car and that climbing down and in – as opposed to up and in – would be difficult. What I found however, was that the power seat settings (and the ability to save drivers’ seat settings) made the Impala comfortable for both me and my 6’ tall husband to get into and out of and as each of us drove the vehicle. In fact, it was odd to climb back up and into my minivan after a week of driving the Impala – the van felt big and clunky compared to the smooth driving and handling of the Impala.
Some of our other favorite things about the 2014 Impala included:
- The steering wheel controls that allow the driver to control everything from the audio system to climate controls without taking her hands off the wheel.
- The key fob and keyless controls that allow you to access and start the car without even taking the key fob out of your pocket. A sensor won’t allow you to lock the key fob in the vehicle, and won’t allow the vehicle to start unless that actual fob is present in the vehicle.
- I didn’t have need to use them during the warm temps we had while testing out the 2014 Impala, but I was intrigued by the heated steering wheel, as well as ventilated driver and passenger seats.
- My husband loved the fact that the Impala is a roomy sedan – that looks like a sports car. He was excited to be seen on the road in it, versus the minivan we usually drive.
- The trunk was roomy enough to hold everything we normally keep in the rear cargo area of our minivan (four outdoor chairs and an extra booster seat) with plenty of room to spare. I was amazed by how big the trunk of the Impala was, especially since the passenger area offers plenty of leg room.
- I loved all of the tech available on this vehicle – everything from wirelessly linking my phone to the car to being able to see calculations for things like fuel consumption and miles until empty at a quick glance.
A Bit of MPG Relief
My absolute most favorite thing about the Impala, hands-down, was the gas mileage. We drove the car for a week, both in-town and on the highway – to soccer practices and games, after-school activities, Back-to-School Night at the middle school, downtown to my middle daughter’s MRI and CT scan at the children’s hospital, across town to the funeral home several times, and more – and used less than a half tank of gas in total.
A Lot to Learn
The features that come on the 2014 Chevy Impala (both standard and optional) are definitely very impressive – but I found there to be a bit of a learning curve. I sat and skimmed through the owners manuals but still had to figure out a few things through trial and error because there was just so much to learn that I couldn’t remember it all right away. Plus one week really wasn’t enough time to truly learn all of the nuances to the various systems.
One thing to note is that while the childproofing features are very useful – if you have the child safety locks turned on, they will not only lock the rear windows, but also the rear doors. So if an adult happens to join a child in the backseat while the car is parked, you can open the rear doors from the outside to get in, but won’t be able to get back out. You either have to get someone’s attention to open the doors from the outside or you’ll have to send said child over the seat into the front to turn the child safety locks back off (which also requires power to the car to be turned on).
The key fob is not just a tool to open the doors – it’s an integral part of the vehicle’s system that provides theft deterrence and keyless start and entry. It’s also an expensive item to replace if ever necessary (because of the sensors involved) and although the fob won’t let you lock it inside the vehicle, it doesn’t protect against absent-mindedness in terms of misplacing or losing it outside of the vehicle. Spending the extra money up-front to purchase a second key fob (especially if there are two adult drivers in the household) is probably a good idea.
Sedan versus Minivan
Yes, our family of five does fit into the 2014 Impala, much better than I’d expected. The three kids easily fit into the backseat together when necessary, even with one of them still riding in a (backless) booster seat. And even when two of them were balancing giant potted plants on their laps, after their grandmother’s funeral.
However, even though we did truly love the Impala – when it really comes down to it, I don’t think we’d be able to completely replace our minivan with a sedan. With three kids, we need the extra space to be able to add in those sixth and seventh passengers if we need to carpool or bring the girls’ friends with us anywhere we go. However, having the Impala for a week did show us how incredibly useful it would be to have a sedan as a second vehicle, especially since most of our driving is in town and doesn’t always involve all five of us riding in the vehicle. There are plenty of times when I’m running one kid somewhere at a time or just in the car on my own running errands. The benefits of the gas mileage plus all of the features we loved about the Impala make it a car I’d love to drive. And our oldest daughter is only a few years away from learning to drive; I don’t really think a minivan is an ideal vehicle for a student driver to practice in.
What We Loved
Keyless entry and start
Headrests that adjust forward and backward for comfort
Heated steering wheel and heated and cooled seats
Roomy sedan that looks sporty
Large trunk that held all our stuff
Storage behind the touch screen
Great gas mileage – EPA-estimated 29 MPG for highway and 19 MPG for city (varies by model and engine type)
A kitchen sink full of technology: Hands free, MyLink, navigation, rear view camera, USB ports, Bluetooth
‘Driver information cluster’ that displays feedback and information right in the driver’s field of vision
What You Need to Know
While roomy, a sedan can be better second car than a primary car for five passengers
Base price: $33,880, or about $500 per month to purchase; the price of the model we drove was $39,145
The advanced technology means there’s a lot to learn on this car
The 2014 Impala comes with 2-year Scheduled Maintenance warranty coverage, as well as a 5-year/100,000 mile Drivetrain warranty and 3-year/36,000 mile Basic and Corrosion coverages
The Impala comes with a 6-month subscription to OnStar and a free 3-month trial of SiriusXM Satellite Radio
Testing out the 2014 Impala has shown our family that we do really need to consider purchasing a second vehicle, preferably a sedan, to give us more flexibility and cost savings – not to mention helping the environment by not having to take the gas-guzzling minivan on those trips where it isn’t absolutely necessary.
Thank you to Chevrolet for providing the 2014 Impala (along with a full tank of gas) for my family to drive and test out for a week!