Chevrolet has redesigned its midsize, front-wheel-drive Malibu sedan for 2004 and moved it to GM’s Epsilon global platform, which promises a high degree of structural stiffness. According to Chevrolet, this helps the new sedan exhibit a European flair in ride and handling qualities. In addition to the four-door Malibu, an extended-length five-door Malibu Maxx hatchback will be available in the 2004 model year.
The previous Malibu was unabashedly conservative in style. It was powered by a 170-horsepower, 3.1-liter V-6 engine and a four-speed-automatic transmission. The Malibu debuted in 1997 and took the name of a well-known model from the automaker’s past. Despite its undramatic nature, Chevrolet’s mainstay bread-and-butter Malibu sedan accounted for substantial sales each year.
Buyers of the 2004 Malibu get a choice of four-cylinder or V-6 power. Three trim levels are available: base, LS and LT. All Malibus have variable-assist electric power steering and a fully independent suspension. Chevrolet offers a factory-installed remote starter that allows the driver to start the engine from up to 200 feet away; it’s said to be the first such feature in this vehicle segment. Production of the 2004 Malibu is scheduled to begin in the third quarter of 2003.
The Malibu is the first Chevrolet model to display the company’s next-generation family look. The automaker calls it expressive styling, which blends corporate heritage with European influence and starts with a chrome front bar and gold bowtie emblem. Other badging has been eliminated for a cleaner appearance.
Compared to its predecessor, the 2004 version has a slightly wider stance. Mounted on a 106.3-inch wheelbase, the Malibu is 188.3 inches long overall. Those dimensions are slightly smaller than the previous model and comparable to the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, two of the Malibu’s foremost competitors. Its height and width have increased just a bit. Base and LS models ride 15-inch tires, and the LT gets 16-inchers. The LS model sports aluminum wheels.
Five occupants fit inside the Malibu, which has a fold-flat front passenger seat and a fold-down 60/40-split rear seat. Heated leather seats with Ultra Lux inserts are optional. The trunk holds 15.4 cubic feet of cargo.
A “personalized fit package” allows drivers of all sizes to tailor the position of the seat, steering wheel and pedals for their own comfort. The group includes a power driver’s seat height adjuster, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, and adjustable brake and accelerator pedals. These pedals are standard in the LS and LT and optional in the base model. The headliners in the LS and LT sedans contain reading lights for front and rear passengers.
Four levels of radio equipment, including an XM Satellite Radio system, are available. A driver information center that is integrated into the radio display permits the personalization of electrical features and provides more than 15 warning messages. GM’s OnStar communication system is optional.
Under the Hood
Two engines are available in Malibu models. A 145-hp, 2.2-liter four-cylinder goes into the base model. A 3.5-liter V-6 that develops 200 hp and 220 pounds-feet of torque is optional in the base sedan and standard in the LS and LT models. Both engines drive a four-speed-automatic transmission.
Antilock brakes are standard on the LS and LT and optional on the base model. Side curtain-type airbags that protect front and rear occupants are optional.