MODEL: Chevrolet Malibu LS
VEHICLE TYPE: Four-door sedan
MILEAGE: 20 city, 30 highway
The saying, “out of sight, out of mind” cannot be applied to the Chevrolet Malibu. Ever since driving one three years ago, I’ve been taunted by unresolved curiosity.
When I learned that the 3100 V-6 engine is now standard in both the 2000 Malibu Sedan and LS models, I scheduled the LS for another ride. Let me be quick to report my curiosity has been satisfied.
Curiosity Number One: Why has this car received 20 various awards from major publications? As I see it, the LS deserves recognition for a couple of reasons. The Malibu is a good-looking sedan with similar styling to some popular Asian cars. The designers used smooth aerodynamic lines with bumpers and door handles matching the body color. The lyrics in an old song seem to express this beauty’s appearance quite well: “It’s so easy on the eye.” Also, this midsize car has more than ample interior space. In addition to being easy to get in and out of, the trunk complete with cargo net has good capacity with split rear seatbacks for carrying oversize cargo.
Curiosity Number Two: What does the new engine do for the 2000 model? I found it to provide excellent acceleration. The 3100 V-6 engine is smooth, quiet I detected no vibration. The 170-horsepower engine now produces 190 foot-pounds of torque, 10 more than last year. This car also gets respectable fuel economy: 20 city, 30 highway.
One reason for the lack of vibration is the body structure method. Chevrolet people tell me the frame has more rigid support. They use a doors-off assembly process so they can check the quality while the vehicle goes down the assembly line. Because robots are used in this process, the entire car has better quality and consistency in its assembly. This method provides more accurate alignment throughout the vehicle, which in turn provides a precise fit for the doors and panels.
In addition to the Ford Contour and Dodge Stratus, the Malibu is competing with the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima, all of which are in a similar price range. My upscale Malibu LS tester has a $1,320 option package, bringing the total to $21,180.
The options include a rear-deck spoiler to complement the “easy on the eye” factor; some spoilers seem to add a touch of class. An electric sliding sunroof is included, but that I can do without, as a sunroof makes too much noise when it is open. However, the option that really grabs my attention is the leather bucket seats. Not only are they easy to keep clean, the six-way power seat adjusters allow me to feel comfortable behind the wheel.
The reason I object to the noise created by an open sunroof is the Malibu’s quiet interior makes it ideal for listening to the sound system. This system has automatic tone control and compensates the volume as the vehicle’s speed is increased. In addition to the AM/FM stereo, the system plays both cassettes and CDs. This enhancement is included as part of the preferred option package.
Other thoughtful features in the option package are carpeted floor mats, rear-window defogger, power door locks, cruise control, dual electric remote mirrors, dual reading lamps, and an express-down window on the driver’s door. Standard equipment includes a four-speed automatic transmission, air conditioning, daytime running lamps, battery saver, and four-wheel anti-lock brakes.
So my curiosity has been resolved. The only thing taunting me now is my test-drive week passed too quickly.