Chevrolet redesigned the Malibu sedan for 2004 and moved it to General Motors' Epsilon global platform, which promised a high degree of structural stiffness. Developers sought to give the new sedan a European flair in ride and handling qualities. In addition to the four-door Malibu, an extended-length Malibu Maxx hatchback is offered; that model is listed separately in the cars.com Research section.
Malibu buyers get a choice of four-cylinder or 3.5-liter V-6 power. Joining the group for 2006 is an SS series that features unique exterior and interior appointments, a sport-tuned suspension, 18-inch wheels and a 240-horsepower, 3.9-liter V-6. An uplevel LTZ model also is offered in 2006, and a new front appearance package is available.
Thorax side-impact airbags and side curtain-type airbags are standard in the top-level LTZ, and both safety features are available in all other Malibu trims.
All Malibus but the SS have variable-assist electric power steering and a fully independent suspension; the SS features hydraulic power steering. Chevrolet offers a factory-installed remote starter that allows the driver to start the engine from up to 200 feet away.
This Malibu was the first Chevrolet model to display the company's next-generation family look. The automaker calls this "expressive styling," which blends corporate heritage with European influence. The car features a chrome front bar and a gold bow tie emblem. Other badging was eliminated for a cleaner appearance. Body-colored mirrors, rocker panels and side moldings are mounted on the LT sedan. The LTZ sedan sports a rear spoiler.
Compared with its predecessor, the current version has a slightly wider stance. Mounted on a 106.3-inch wheelbase, the Malibu is 188.3 inches long overall. Those dimensions are comparable to the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry's, two of the Malibu's foremost competitors. LS models ride 15-inch tires, the LT gets 16-inchers, and the new LTZ rides on 17-inch rubber. LTZ and SS models feature aluminum wheels.
Five occupants fit inside the Malibu, which has a flat-folding front passenger seat and a 60/40-split, folding rear seat. The trunk holds 15.4 cubic feet of cargo. A new four-spoke steering wheel is installed.
Adjustable brake and accelerator pedals are standard in the LTZ and optional in the LT sedan. UltraLux and leather-appointed seating, heated front seats, a six-way power driver's seat and automatic climate control are installed in the LTZ sedan.
Entertainment options include XM Satellite Radio. A driver information center integrated into the radio display permits the personalization of electrical features and can provide more than 15 warning messages. GM's OnStar communication system is optional.
Under the Hood
A 144-hp, 2.2-liter four-cylinder goes into LS and LT models. A 3.5-liter V-6 that develops 201 hp and 221 pounds-feet of torque is standard in the LTZ. Both engines drive a four-speed-automatic transmission. A new 3.9-liter V-6 that makes 240 hp goes into the SS sedan.
Antilock brakes with traction control are standard on V-6-equipped models. Side curtain-type airbags, which protect front and rear occupants, and seat-mounted side-impact airbags are standard in the LTZ and SS and available in other models.
The Malibu is devoid of unpleasant behavior, but don't expect surprises or excitement in this car. Performance is more than adequate with the V-6, and the automatic transmission functions neatly. Space is ample and the seats are sufficiently comfortable.