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July 2005
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2005 Chevy Malibu LT Maxx

The Good:  Roomy interior. Flexible cargo space. Quiet and stable ride. Cleanly designed interior.  Double row of sunroofs. 

The Bad:  Exterior design bland. Steering is very light.  Tires screech taking 20 mph turns.

Download Apple QuickTime viewer here.  Walk around the exterior, view the interior, and hear acceleration noise levels with sunroof closed and open. Click Here

The Chevrolet division of GM is going through some of the most profound changes, introducing new models rapidly and trying to stay alive.  General Motors Corporation, the world's largest vehicle manufacturer, employs about 325,000 people globally.  Founded in 1908, GM has been the global automotive sales leader since 1931.  GM today has manufacturing operations in 32 countries and its vehicles are sold in 192 countries.  In 2003, GM sold nearly 8.6 million cars and trucks, about 15 percent of the global vehicle market.  Recent setbacks in the automotive market have hurt GM most, and now Chevy is offering Employee pricing to all customers in the US.  However we must remind GM that the quality of the products is the number one factor when buying a car, not how much of a discount you can give off MSRP.

            The Chevy Malibu Maxx 5-Door sedan was introduced in 2004 and is available in two styles, LS and LT.  The LS model starts off at a MSRP of $22,090 and offers a 200 horsepower V6 engine.  The LT model tested here adds some goodies to the basic package with side impact air bags, remote vehicle starter system, seats with a micro fiber inner cushion, a six way power drivers seat, and heated front seats, as well as a new rear spoiler and wiper.

From the B-pillar forward, the Malibu sedan and Malibu Maxx are identical.  Rearward of the B-pillar, the two differ substantially. The five-door Malibu Maxx rides on a wheelbase that is 6 inches (15.2 cm) longer than the Malibu sedan, while its overall length is a half-inch (1.3 cm) shorter. The result is a spacious interior for a car its size.

            The exterior design of the Malibu Maxx is not anything to write home to mom about.  The overall shape is dated with angles that reminded us of cars back in the 1980s.  The small 16-inch wheels and tall-walled tires with a large wheel gaps do not help either.  Even the tail pipe was not integrated into the back end of the car; rather it just hangs from below the bumper.  Perhaps this is why GM is lagging in sales? 

Overall fitment of each body panel is good with tight gaps and good build quality.  Crystalline headlamp lenses, integrated fog lamps, and chrome front and rear logo bars mix the old Chevy with the new.  A new exterior appearance package for the base Malibu includes new body colored side moldings, 15-inch alloy wheels, and a rear spoiler. 

            "Anyone who has driven the previous version of the Malibu will immediately notice a firmer, quieter, more linear feel in the ride and handling of the new generation," said Gene Stefanyshyn, vehicle line executive for the Malibu and Malibu Maxx.  Malibu's dynamic performance and refined composure starts with its foundation - the General Motors Epsilon global architecture. The Malibu and its Malibu Maxx stable-mate were the first North American applications of the Epsilon architecture, which also provides the foundation for the Saab 9-3, Opel Vectra and the Pontiac G6.

            Only the Malibu Maxx gets the new GM 3500 2.5 Liter overhead-valve V-6 as standard equipment, producing 200 horsepower and 220 lb.ft. of torque.  We averaged 8.6 seconds to sixty in our acceleration tests.  The engine is combined with a hydra-matic four speed electronic automatic transmission.  You can also change gears manually by way of a plus and minus switch located on the shift knob when the car is in L drive gear. This makes driving somewhat more enjoyable, and gives you more control of the car's engine speed.  The Malibu Maxx also features an independent front suspension with MacPherson struts and a four-link independent rear suspension.

            We found the Malibu Maxx to drive smoothly and confidently.  The expected soft cushy ride of American cars is replaced with a stable firmer ride.  This helps keep the Malibu under control in curves and on bumpy roads.  In fast corners we found the rubber on the Malibu to be inadequate, the tires screeched just way too soon compared with its competition.  Power delivery is not as smooth as its competitors with a hard pedal push required to get the car up to speed.  The engine is also loud under full throttle producing a high-pitched whine at redline which did not sound very confident. 

Brakes are good and stopped the car with confidence each time we hit them.  Something you will notice immediately upon driving the Malibu is the light steering.  At slow speeds there is no feedback at all, with the wheel feeling like you can spin it multiple times in either direction with just one finger.  At faster speeds it does harden up more but still lacks communication with the road.  One thing that is better is that the steering is more accurate than previous generation GM cars.

            We were surprised to learn that the Malibu Maxx received the J.D. Power award for highest ranked entry midsize car in initial quality.  It has also received a five star rating for frontal crash safety and side impact crashes.  These two awards should make sales of the Malibu Maxx increase along with the current employee discount price plan. 

            The interior of the Malibu Maxx is bright and airy with loads of windows.  The small third side window as well as the rear hatch glass and the two extra sunroofs up top makes this a very open and bright interior.  We did not like the grey color of the interior, since we think that it just does not make any human feel good, like a cloudy day would make you feel.  The large amount of hard plastic used everywhere was a downer but the simple and spacious design layout of the Malibu was nice.  Door panels and the upper dash use a foam-like plastic that simply does not look good.  The overuse of cheap plastic, as on the center armrest was noticeable.  Open the armrest cover and you can wiggle it any way you like due to the hinge being plastic as well.  The places where one is most likely to touch is where Chevrolet used soft feeling plastic or real metal as in the interior door handles.  Roof panels have a textured fabric which was a nice touch but again we find loads of plastic surrounding the sunroofs, something that looked a bit overkill. 

            Seating surfaces are comfortable, with suede like inner lining called Ultra Lux.  This is basically micro fiber cloth, and it added a nice soft touch to an otherwise slippery interior.  The rear seats do a nice job at acrobatics as well.  They fold down and also slide back and forth for extra cargo room should you need it.  The seatbacks also recline a bit.  This all makes for a nice roomy rear cabin with a tall roofline.  The front passenger seat also folds flat down to accommodate very long items.  The optional rear seat wireless headphones with individual station selection controls were very thoughtful.  Also available is a DVD video system for the back with a screen that is down low rather than up on the roof. 

The Malibu Maxx features a standard fixed-rear glass skylight that provides a spacious, open atmosphere over each rear seat.  Both driver- and passenger-side rear occupants have the option of opening or closing a retractable shade to control the amount of light coming through each skylight.  The main front cabin sunroof tilts and slides but it does not feature a one touch button.  The sunroof also created a lot of wind noise when open rendering it pretty much useless. 

The Malibu Maxx's rear cargo area features a standard power outlet and a multi-functional cargo panel with four positions for two-tier loading. The cargo panel also can be positioned as a table for picnics or tailgate parties. Hooks on the cargo panel help secure smaller items, and cargo nets on each side of the cargo area, also unique to the Malibu Maxx, help keep items from sliding around.

            In the drivers seat most items are within reach though not as ergonomic as say a VW would be.  Powered window switches are on the driver's door.  The Malibu Maxx features powered rearview mirrors as well as a powered drivers seat bottom.  We would have liked the entire driver's seat to be fully powered in this price category.  Power gas and brake pedals are another cool feature along with a tilt and telescoping steering wheel.  Many car manufacturers leave out the telescoping part of this important equation.  The parking brake is in the driver's foot well operated by foot, keeping room for other things in the central console.  The steering wheel and shift knob are both leather wrapped.  This was particularly helpful and we would not have liked the Malibu Maxx were it not for this small feature.

The automatic ventilation system is easy to use with just two dials and a simple temperature setting.  The system worked well but was loud in higher fan settings.  The vents themselves are designed nicely but their range of movement is limited.  The single disc stereo with XM satellite radio worked easily however the speakers were not of very good quality.  It features automatic volume control to increase volume as you drive faster.  I suppose this helps keep the extra noise from getting to you ears at highway speeds. 

The overall appearance of the center stack was not appealing to us.  The area is done is too much plastic and even the buttons do not feel good to the touch.  Steering wheel controls for stereo system such as seeking up and down, change band, changing between memory set stations, volume, mute, and source, as well as cruise control were easy to master.  One item lacking was a scan button on the stereo system.  While the center console is a improvement, it is not great.

            We did love the remote starting system that was integrated into the keypad.  The Malibu can be started from a very large distance enabling you to set the automatic climate control to a temperature setting and have it start well before you arrive at the vehicle.  Automatic headlamps also are a great feature to have, which is standard in the Maxx LT.

            Our Malibu was also tested for the more prominent fuel efficiency required of all cars due to higher gas prices.  The window sticker states that 22 miles per gallon city and 30 miles per gallon highway should be achieved.  However we averaged a low 22.6 miles per gallon in mixed driving, maybe the EPA did not get it right after all. 

            The Malibu offers many safety features, such as dual stage frontal airbags, head curtain side-impact air bags with seat mounted thorax side air bags as well.  Anti-lock brakes with traction control on the LS and LT models are standard.  OnStar is available with automatic crash notification so you can get the right kind of medical help faster.  This combined with the great results in crash tests and J.D. Power rankings makes this a very good leap forward for Chevy. 

The Malibu Maxx offers with a long list of features that would be extra in many other cars.  The large interior volume and the much improved handling over previous Chevy sedans makes it a sound vehicle for daily commutes.  When you combine the many safety features and the high crash test ratings, and the current low employee discount pricing as of July 2005, it's hard not to consider the Malibu Maxx for your next car.

 

PRICING INVOICE RETAIL
Base Pricing $19,640 $21,465
Destination Charge 625 625
1SB Option Pkg LS MAXX   -  Includes Cargo Net (ex MAXX), F&R Floor Mats, Power Adjustable Pedals, AM/FM Stereo w/CD & Automatic Tone Control, Keyless Remote Control Entry System & Speed Control.
LS Includes All Models Equipment Plus F&R Head Curtain & Front Side Impact Air Bag Restraint System, Remote Control Engine Start, Power Driver's Seat Adjuster & Rear Audio Controls (LS MAXX).
LT Includes LS Equipment Plus Garage Door Opener, Inside Automatic Day/Night Mirror, XM Radio Feature, Power Sun Roof & Compass (After 4-19-05).
1,143 1,270
CF5  Sun Roof, Power 1652 725
UE1  OnStar 625 695
AP3  Engine Start, Remote Control 135 150
U32  Entertainment System, Rear 895 995
B37  Floor Mats, F&R 72 80
UC6  Radio, AM/FM Stereo w/6-Disc CD Changer in Dash 270 300
U2K  Radio Equipment, XM Feature 292 325
AY0  Restraint System, F&R Head Curtain & Front Side Impact Air Bag 620 690
KA1  Seats, Heated 246 275

 

COMPARISON DATA

  2006 Chevrolet Malibu Maxx
LT 4dr Hatchback (3.5L 6cyl 4A)
2005 Dodge Magnum
SE Rwd 4dr Wagon (2.7L 6cyl 4A)
2005 Mazda MAZDA6
s Sport 4dr Sport Wagon (3.0L 6cyl 5M)
2005 Volkswagen Passat
GL 1.8T Fwd 4dr Wagon (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 5A)
2005 Toyota Prius
4dr Hatchback (1.5L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT)
Manufacturer Info Malibu Maxx Magnum MAZDA6 Passat Prius
MSRP $20,965 $22,020 $24,025 $24,145 $20,975
Invoice $19,393 $20,488 $22,158 $22,116 $19,314
Base Engine Type & Cylinders V6 V6 V6 inline 4 inline 4
Base Engine Displacement 3.5 liters 2.7 liters 3.0 liters 1.8 liters 1.5 liters
Horsepower 200 hp @ 5400 rpm 190 hp @ 6400 rpm 220 hp @ 6300 rpm 170 hp @ 5900 rpm 76 hp @ 5000 rpm
Torque 220 ft-lbs. @ 3200 rpm 190 ft-lbs. @ 4000 rpm 192 ft-lbs. @ 5000 rpm 166 ft-lbs. @ 1950 rpm 82 ft-lbs. @ 4200 rpm
Driven Wheels front wheel drive rear wheel drive front wheel drive front wheel drive front wheel drive
Independent Suspension four-wheel four-wheel four-wheel front front
Stabilizer Bars front and rear front and rear front and rear front and rear front and rear
Tires P215/60R16
all season
P215/65TR17
all season
P215/50VR17
all season
P195/65HR15
all season
P185/65R15
all season
Wheels alloy rims
16 x 6.5 in.
steel rims
17 x 7.0 in.
alloy rims
17 x 7.0 in.
steel rims
15 x 6.0 in.
alloy rims
15 x 6.0 in.
Sunroof power glass - Optional Not Available power glass - Optional Not Available Not Available
Rear Sunroof fixed glass Not Available Not Available Not Available Not Available
Driver Seat Power Adjustable 2 8 - Optional 8 Not Available Not Available
Rear Seat Folding split folding split folding split folding split folding split folding
Rear Heat rear ventilation ducts rear ventilation ducts rear ventilation ducts rear ventilation ducts Not Available
Outside Driver Mirror Adjustment power power power power power
Outside Passenger Mirror Adjustment power power power power power
Cruise Control cruise control cruise control cruise control cruise control cruise control
Power Steering electric speed-proportional power steering power steering speed-proportional power steering power steering electric power steering
Steering Adjustment tilt and telescopic tilt and telescopic tilt and telescopic tilt and telescopic tilt-adjustable
Air Filtration Not Available Not Available interior air filtration interior air filtration interior air filtration
Picnic Table Standard Not Available Not Available Not Available Not Available
Brakes - Front ventilated disc ventilated disc ventilated disc ventilated disc ventilated disc
Brakes - Rear disc disc disc disc drum
Braking Assist Not Available Optional Not Available Optional Standard
Anti - Lock Brakes 4-wheel ABS 4-wheel ABS - Optional 4-wheel ABS 4-wheel ABS 4-wheel ABS
Traction Control Standard Optional Standard Standard Standard
Stability Control Not Available Not Available Not Available Optional Optional
De-powered Air Bags Standard Standard Standard Standard Standard
Head Air Bag front and rear - Optional front and rear - Optional front and rear front and rear front and rear - Optional
Side Air Bag dual front and dual rear - Optional Not Available dual front dual front dual front - Optional
Seatbelt Pretensioners front Being Researched front front and rear front and rear
Rear Center Seatbelt Type 3-point belt 3-point belt 3-point belt 3-point belt 3-point belt
Headlight Auto Delay Standard Not Available Standard Not Available Not Available
TV Optional Not Available Not Available Not Available Not Available
Turning Circle 38 ft. 38.9 ft. 38.7 ft. 37.4 ft. 34.1 ft.
Max. Cargo Capacity 41 cu. ft. 72 cu. ft.   57 cu. ft. 16 cu. ft.
Max. Towing Capacity 1000 lbs. 1000 lbs.   Not Published Not Published
EPA Mileage Estimates Malibu Maxx Magnum MAZDA6 Passat Prius
City 22 mpg. 21 mpg. 19 mpg. 21 mpg. 60 mpg.
Highway 30 mpg. 28 mpg. 26 mpg. 30 mpg. 51 mpg.
Length 187.8 in. 197.7 in. 187.8 in. 184.3 in. 175 in.
Width 69.8 in. 74.1 in. 70.1 in. 68.7 in. 67.9 in.
Height 58.1 in. 58.4 in. 57.3 in. 59 in. 58.1 in.
Weight 3476 lbs. 3847 lbs. 3404 lbs. 3424 lbs. 2890 lbs.
Wheel Base 112.3 in. 120 in. 105.3 in. 106.4 in. 106.3 in.
Ground Clearance 6.1 in. 5.6 in. 5.1 in. 5.8 in. 4.9 in.
Interior Malibu Maxx Magnum MAZDA6 Passat Prius
Front Headroom 39.4 in. 38.4 in. 38.7 in. 39.7 in. 39.1 in.
Rear Headroom 39.4 in. 38.1 in. 38.6 in. 39.7 in. 37.1 in.
Front Shoulder Room 56.7 in. 58.7 in. 56.1 in. 55.8 in. 55.3 in.
Rear Shoulder Room 55.5 in. 57.6 in. 54.9 in. 54.6 in. 53 in.
Front Hip Room 53.5 in. 56.2 in. 54.7 in. Not Published 51 in.
Rear Hip Room 52.4 in. 55.5 in. 54.1 in. Not Published 51.6 in.
Front Leg Room 41.9 in. 41.8 in. 42.3 in. 41.5 in. 41.9 in.
Rear Leg Room 41 in. 40.2 in. 36.5 in. 35.3 in. 38.6 in.
Maximum Luggage Capacity 22.8 cu.ft. 27.2 cu.ft. 33.7 cu.ft. 39 cu.ft. 16.1 cu.ft.

 

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