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.
A four-cylinder engine and two V-6s are offered. For 2007, the smaller V-6 gains variable valve timing for an 8 percent power increase. It also nets a 2-mpg gain in city gas mileage. Other changes this year include standard side curtain airbags on all models (they were previously standard only on top-level Malibus), a passenger sensing system for the front airbags and available turn-by-turn directions with GM's OnStar service.
Trim levels include the base LS, as well as the LT and LTZ. A performance-oriented Malibu SS arrived in 2006, offering the group's most powerful engine, a 240-horsepower V-6. The Malibu SS also features unique exterior and interior appointments, a sport-tuned suspension and 18-inch alloy wheels.
All Malibus but the SS have variable-assist electric power steering and a fully independent suspension; the SS features hydraulic power steering for a more direct feel. 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 four-spoke steering wheel can include radio and cruise controls.
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; OnStar's Directions and Connections service includes turn-by-turn audio directions from an operator.
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 217 hp and 217 pounds-feet of torque is standard in the LTZ; in the 2006 Malibu, the engine made 201 hp and 221 pounds-feet of torque. Both engines drive a four-speed automatic transmission. A new 3.9-liter V-6 that makes 240 hp and 240 pounds-feet of torque goes into the SS sedan.
Antilock brakes with traction control are standard on V-6-equipped models. Side curtain airbags, which protect front and rear occupants, are standard across all Malibus. Seat-mounted side-impact airbags are standard in the LTZ and SS and available in other models.