2005 Chevy Malibu
Roomy interior. Flexible cargo space. Quiet and stable ride. Cleanly
designed interior. Double row of sunroofs.
Exterior design bland. Steering is very light. Tires screech taking 20 mph
Apple QuickTime viewer here. Walk around the exterior, view the interior, and hear
acceleration noise levels with sunroof closed and open.
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
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
"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
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
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.
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.
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