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By Jim Flammang
April 15, 2002
Vehicle Overview Conservative in appearance, Chevrolets mainstay, bread-and-butter midsize Malibu sedan accounts for plenty of sales each year. The total dipped a little in 2000 to 207,376 units, but that figure still makes the Malibu a major player in the market.
A CD player and floormats are newly standard for 2002, and LATCH child-seat tethers go into the rear positions. New 15-inch alloy wheels go on the step-up LS sedan and are optional on the base Malibu. For appealing sounds on the road, a 100-watt, two-channel subwoofer audio system is now standard in the LS model. Stereo systems with cassette and/or CD players incorporate the Radio Data System (RDS), which displays weather and traffic emergency warnings. The RDS also allows station selection based on the desired type of programming.
Exterior Like most midsize automobiles, the Malibu comes only as a four-door sedan. Mounted on a 107-inch wheelbase, the Malibu is 190.4 inches long overall just an inch or so longer than the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, two of the Malibus foremost competitors. Standard tires are 15 inches in diameter, with cast aluminum wheels on the LS sedan. All Malibus have a four-wheel-independent suspension.
Interior With a five-passenger capacity, front bucket seats are standard; a front bench is not available. The spacious three-place rear seat offers nearly as much room as some full-size sedans. A split rear seatback on the LS sedan folds to expand trunk capacity beyond its already-spacious 17.3 cubic feet. A wide, low trunk opening permits easy loading.
Standard equipment includes air conditioning, programmable power door locks, an electric rear-window defogger, CD player, tachometer, tilt steering wheel and remote trunk release. Extras on the LS sedan include cruise control, power windows and mirrors, remote keyless entry and fog lamps. Custom cloth front bucket seats in the LS have six-way power adjustment on the drivers side.
Under the Hood A 3.1-liter V-6 engine develops 170 horsepower and drives a four-speed-automatic transmission. Antilock brakes are standard, but side-impact airbags are not available.
Driving Impressions The Malibu appeals to drivers most concerned with practical merits and overall value. This midsize car offers plenty of each, but little in the way of luxury or roadgoing excitement. Just about everything falls at least into the acceptable category, including performance, while interior space ranks as ample. Buyers who dont need to be stimulated by lush sheet metal might find the Malibu appealing, especially when its price is compared to that of an equivalent Ford Taurus, Honda Accord or Toyota Camry.