A Malibu replacement is likely for 2004, but for the 2003 model year the front-wheel-drive midsize sedan gets only a couple of new body colors. In addition, the seat bolster material in the LS sedan has been revised.
The four-door Malibu is unabashedly conservative in style. It uses a 170-horsepower, 3.1-liter V-6 engine and a four-speed-automatic transmission. The sedan debuted in 1997 and took the name of a model from Chevrolets past. Despite its undramatic nature, Chevrolets mainstay bread-and-butter midsize Malibu sedan accounts for plenty of sales each year. The automaker advises that its Malibu has been among the top 10 best-selling cars for each of the past four years.
Like most midsize automobiles, the Malibu comes only as a sedan in base and LS trims. 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. Its standard tires measure 15 inches in diameter, with cast-aluminum wheels on the LS sedan. All Malibus have a four-wheel-independent suspension.
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 down 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, a CD player, a tachometer, a tilt steering wheel and a remote trunk release. The LS sedan also includes 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.
Cassette and CD player stereo systems 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.
Under the Hood
A 3.1-liter V-6 engine develops 170 hp and drives a four-speed-automatic transmission.
Antilock brakes are standard on the LS and optional on the base model. Side-impact airbags are not available.
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 road-going excitement. Nearly everything about the Malibu, including its performance, falls at least into the acceptable category, while interior space ranks as ample. Buyers who dont need to be stimulated by lush sheet metal may find the Malibu appealing, especially when its price is compared to that of an equivalent Ford Taurus, Honda Accord or Toyota Camry.