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1997 Chevrolet Malibu Sedan

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  • $15,470 original MSRP
Printable Version

1997 Chevrolet Malibu Sedan

Printable Version

1997 Chevrolet Malibu Sedan

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1997 Chevrolet Malibu

Source: New Car Test Drive

The best Chevy sedan yet.

by Paul A. Eisenstein

It was simple. Chevrolet didn't have a model to compete with the Ford Contour, Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima and Dodge Stratus. That's a big, lucrative market and a player the size of Chevrolet has to be in the game. Creating a model that could make the lineup was not an easy assignment. These are formidable competitors with good records. Chevrolet would have to hit the proverbial home run if it was to stay in this component of the mid-size game.

Going, going, gone. The Malibu easily clears the center field fence.

The Malibu comes in two competitively priced models. The base Malibu comes with a 150 horsepower, 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine. The LS uses a 3.1-liter V-6 rated at 155 horsepower. The V-6 is an option for the base car.

A comparably equipped four-cylinder Accord will be in the low $19,000 range, a V-6 Stratus around $20,000, a V-6 Contour also around $20,000, so the Malibu is priced right.

When speaking about target audience, Chevrolet talks of people in their mid-30s and 40s looking for quality, safety, reliability, durability, and practicality. That's a something-for-everybody philosophy that a little time behind the wheel reveals the Malibu does indeed offer.

Walkaround

The first thing you notice about the Malibu's shape is there's not much to notice. While certainly pleasant to look at, Chevrolet chose to go the safe route with a generic Japanese shape with no Chevrolet family look. And that's a positive, because Chevrolet's family look is not very distinctive. So while the Malibu's look is derivative, it's good derivative.

The Malibu stretches 190.4 inches bumper to bumper, which makes it a touch longer than most of the competition. The 107.0-inch wheelbase is virtually the same as the Accord, an inch less than the Stratus.

You may have noticed only five horsepower separates the four-cylinder engine from the V-6. So why bother with the larger engine? The answer is in the torque curves. The V-6 generates 30 lb-ft of torque more than the four-cylinder engine, and reaches that maximum output at 4000 rpm which is 400 rpm sooner. That means quicker response off the line, better acceleration for merging and passing and less downshifting on grades and hills. And speaking of shifting, it's all automatic. No manual transmission available for this front-drive family sedan. That's fine because few buyers in this market would likely opt for a five-speed transmission.

Since Malibu is the latest model from Chevrolet, it's only reasonable to assume it reflects Chevrolet's contemporary approach to doing things right. It does.

For example, standard exterior features include clearcoat paint that provides a high-gloss shine, hefty P215/60R touring radials on 15-inch wheels, 5-mph bumpers at each end, body-color door handles, body-color breakaway side mirrors, fog lamps (LS only) and reflector-optics headlamps.

In an effort to reduce wind noise to a minimum, Chevy engineers made the door handles flush with the door, hid the wipers at the base of the windshield, designed a special windshield seal and even went with a permanent spiral ground radio antenna that creates less wind noise.

Another reflection of new thinking is the Malibu's construction that uses a hydro-formed chassis for greater solidity and a net gauge hole body side process that uses four precisely placed location holes in the body to ensure dimensional accuracy of body panels when they are installed. Benefits to the owner range from less expensive crash repair to improved tire life from more accurate wheel alignment.

The Inside Story

If the exterior of the Malibu is a departure from traditional Chevrolet, the interior is a surprising 180 degrees from the traditional direction. The instrument cluster is under a gently arched dash, which flows smoothly to the right and slightly down to the right A-pillar. Directly beneath is a strip of wood containing a pair of vents. The usual controls for air conditioning and radio are stacked in a contrasting panel in the center. Granted, there's nothing unique in this arrangement, but it's so contemporary, so non-Chevrolet as to be remarkable. Steering column stalks have been simplified, with the left stalk controlling the lights only, the right stalk the wipers only. Overall, things are easy to find and operate.

The Malibu is billed as a five-passenger car. Two adults in the back seats will be happier than three, but three is tolerable in a pinch.

The Malibu comes standard with daylight running lights, which come on only when the ignition is turned on, the parking brake released and the shift lever not in Park. A light sensor automatically turns on the head lights to full intensity and turns on all other exterior lights when it gets dark. When it gets light enough, the process is reversed.

Chevrolet says it went into the real world to find what potential Malibu customers wanted, and then reacted. One example is a glovebox pivot system that maximizes access while minimizing intrusion of the door. The glovebox handle is on the left side, closer to the driver. The ignition switch is on the instrument panel, not the steering column. There are front and rear cup holders, including one at the left side of the instrument panel that can do double duty as a storage bin.

Other Features: custom cloth on the buckets in the LS, tilt steering wheel, air conditioning, premium sound systems including one with remote cassette and CD, remote trunk release, power windows (LS) and side window defrosters.

On the safety side, there are dual air bags, side intrusion protection, standard ABS and a safety cage surrounding the passenger compartment. There is a theft deterrent system and the LS has a keyless remote entry system.

Ride & Drive

By tradition, a family sedan is a modest vehicle of four doors with little aspiration other than providing reliable, economic transportation. But in recent years, family sedans have been aspiring to more. And this is a Chevy with a touch of soul.

As promised, it gets going quickly and pulls strongly, well past the legal limit. Shifting is seamless. A powertrain control module keeps tabs on temperature, altitude and throttle position, then adjusts the transmission shift points for smooth or quick shifting depending on conditions.

Visibility is good in every direction with just a little blockage at the C-pillars. Seat position is good, the cushions supportive and the steering wheel and pedal relationship works well for short and tall people.

The handling -- independent suspension all-around -- is vastly improved over past Chevy sedans. The ride is solid with little body roll and the steering is responsive and not over-assisted.

Our test driving included some rolling, twisting, climbing, two-lane xroads in California, and we were pleased at how Chevy's homework -- both technical and human factors -- has paid off. The Malibu was quiet, comfortable and totally confident feeling.

Final Word

The Malibu was so good it narrowly missed becoming the 1997 North American Car of the Year, an award given by a collection of automotive journalists at newspapers and magazines around the country. The reason was that although as good as it is, it is not a breakthrough, not significantly better than the others in its class.

It was a fair assessment. But the new Malibu is an excellent family sedan. It's the best Chevy sedan yet, and should be on the shopping list of every family sedan buyer.

Order our 200+ page magazine of reviews. Send $8.00 (S&H included) to New Car Test Drive, 2145 Crooks Rd. Suite 200, Troy, MI 48084

Printable Version

1997 Chevrolet Malibu Sedan

Safety Ratings help

What do the Safety Ratings mean?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) performs independent crash testing of new vehicles and then assigns them a score based on their performance. The overall crash test rating is based on how a vehicle performs in the following tests:

Driver Crash Grade:

Measures the chance of a serious injury to a crash test dummy that is placed in a driver's seat and driven into a fixed barrier at 35 MPH. A five-star rating means there is 10 percent or less chance of injury.

Passenger Crash Grade:

Similar to the driver crash grade, only now the focus is on the passenger.

Rollover Resistance:

Simulates an emergency lane change to measure the likelihood of a vehicle rolling over. A five-star rating means there is 10 percent or less risk of rollover.

Side Impact Crash Test - Front:

Focuses on the front side of a vehicle. It simulates crashes that can occur in intersections by striking a 3,015-pound weight against the side of a vehicle at 38.5 MPH. A five-star rating means there is 5 percent or less chance of injury.

Side Impact Crash Test - Rear:

Similar to the front side impact test only now the focus is on the rear passenger.

Driver Crash Grade
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Passenger Crash Grade
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Side Impact Crash Test - Front
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Side Impact Crash Test - Rear
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Safety Features & Equipment

Braking & Traction

4-Wheel ABS Std

Passenger Restraint

Driver Air Bag Std
Passenger Air Bag Std
Child Safety Locks Std

Road Visibility

Daytime Running Lights Std
Intermittent Wipers Std

Security

Anti-theft System Std
Printable Version

1997 Chevrolet Malibu Sedan

Original Warranty  help
Original Warranty
An original warranty is the warranty associated with a vehicle when it is brand new. In addition to the original warranty, select items, like tires, are typically covered by respective manufacturers. Also, an act of Federal law sometimes provides protection for certain components, like emissions equipment.
The original warranty is often broken down into multiple sections, including:
Basic Warranty:
Typically covers everything except for parts that wear out through normal use of the vehicle. Examples of non-covered items are brake pads, wiper blades and filters.
Drivetrain Warranty:
This warranty covers items the basic warranty does not protect. Wear and tear items such as hoses will not be covered, but key items like the engine, transmission, drive axles and driveshaft often will be.
Roadside Assistance:
The level of service differs greatly with this warranty, but many manufacturers offer a toll-free number that helps provide assistance in case you run out of gas, get a flat tire or lock your keys in the car.
Corrosion Warranty:
This warranty focuses on protecting you from holes caused by rust or corrosion in your vehicle's sheet metal.
Please check the owner's manual, visit a local dealership or look at the manufacturer's website to learn more about the specifics of the warranties that apply to a vehicle.

Basic 3 Years/36,000 Miles No Deductible
Roadside Assistance Courtesy Care Roadside Assistance Program

Chevrolet Certified Pre-Owned Warranty  help
Certified Pre-Owned Warranty
To be eligible for Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) status, vehicles generally must be recent models with relatively low mileage. CPO vehicles must also pass a detailed inspection, outlined by the manufacturer, which is measured by the number of inspected points.
Warranty coverage can vary from one manufacturer to the next. While most certified pre-owned programs transfer and extend the existing new car warranty terms, others offer a warranty that simply represents an additional year and mileage value. Always check with the manufacturer for the specific warranties they offer.
Common features and benefits of Certified Pre-Owned warranties include:
Age/Mileage Eligibility
To even be considered for certification, a car must be a recent model year and have limited mileage. The exact requirements are established by individual manufacturers.
Lease Term Certified
Some manufacturers offer certified pre-owned cars for lease. The length of the lease is often shorter than a new car lease, but it will cost you less.
Point Inspection
These inspections entail a comprehensive vehicle test to ensure that all parts are in excellent working order. The point inspection list is simply a numbered list of exactly what parts of the car are examined. While many inspections range from a 70- to 150-point checklist, most are very similar and are performed using strict guidelines. Ask your local dealer about specific details.
Return/Exchange Program
Some manufacturers offer a very limited return or exchange period. Find out if you will get the sales tax and licensing/registration fees back should you return or exchange the car.
Roadside Assistance
Most certified pre-owned programs offer free roadside service in case your car breaks down while still under warranty.
Special Financing
Reduced-rate loans are available through many certified pre-owned programs. Manufacturer-backed inspections and warranties help eliminate the risks involved with buying pre-owned, so buyers who qualify can take advantage of the great offers.
Transferable Warranty
When a new car warranty transfers with the certification of the car and remains eligible for the next owner, it is known as a transferable warranty. Once the original transferable warranty expires, an extended warranty takes effect.
Warranty Deductible
This is the amount for which you are responsible when repair work is performed under the warranty. Some manufacturers require a deductible while others don't, so always ask.

2-Year/24,000-Mile1 CPO Scheduled Maintenance Plan.

12-Month/12,000-Mile2 Bumper-to-Bumper Limited Warranty.

5-year/100,000-Mile3 Powertrain Limited Warranty.

1Covers only scheduled oil changes with filter, tire rotations and 27 point inspections, according to your vehicle's recommended maintenance schedule for up to 2 years or 24,000 miles, whichever comes first. Does not include air filters. Maximum of 4 service events. See participating dealer for other restrictions and complete details.

2Whichever comes first from date of purchase. See participating dealer for limited warranty details.

3Whichever comes first from original in-service date. See participating dealers for limited warranty details.
Age/Mileage Eligibility 2009-2014 model year / Under 75,000 miles
Lease Term Certified No
Point Inspection 172-Point Vehicle Inspection and Reconditioning
Download checklist
Return/Exchange Program 3-Day 150-Mile Satisfaction Guarantee
Roadside Assistance Yes
Transferrable Warranty Yes
Warranty Deductible $0

Learn more about certified pre-owned vehicles

Printable Version

1997 Chevrolet Malibu Sedan

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