The name brings visions of California beaches, pounding surf and an unending parade
of glossy-skinned glitterati relishing their taste of the sun.
great thing about a familiar name can be its long-term repute. Take the auto named
for that trend-setting venue and you have the Malibu that graced millions of garages
during its heyday a few decades ago.
Chevy builds on this name recognition with a brand new, front-wheel-drive, midsize
sedan crafted on a new foundation and tweeked with an added sport hatch version.
This "uncluttered" '04 design replaces a somewhat average previous rendition,
reborn in the late '90s after a significant absence from vehicle showrooms.
at about $18,000 and $20,600 for base and LS models respectively, the new Malibu
fills the niche below the pricier Impala sedan, but options such as sliding sunroof,
leather seating, antilock brakes and rear spoiler could push the cost higher.
Standard are speed sensitive electric power steering with variable assist and
driver's info center, while heated front seats and GM's OnStar system remain options.
For those who despise cold, snowy mornings, a factory-installed remote starter
accessible for 200 feet is available on all models, an industry first says Chevy.
sportier, upscale Maxx -- in reality a functional hatchback -- has a longer wheelbase,
plus multiple level rear cargo tray for hauling odd-shaped items depending on
where it's positioned. (Think flats of spring flowers.) It adds XM satellite radio
and a DVD-based rear-seat entertainment system with infrared headphones.
front-drive, five-passenger base sedan is powered by a 145 horsepower, 2.2 liter
DOHC four-banger. LS, LT and Maxx models have the new GM 3500, 3.5 liter 200 HP
V-6. Although this Malibu is U.S.-built on GM's new, international "Epsilon"
platform also used for the European Saab 9-3, it seems more tailored to American
tastes. Call it a seasoned newcomer with a comfy, family-oriented ride.