MT Then and Now: 1997, 2004, 2008, 2013 Chevrolet Malibu
The bland 1997 Chevrolet Malibu went through some teething pains when it was first introduced, no doubt something the automaker is hoping to avoid with the incoming 2013 Malibu, definitely not a car we’d label bland. The new Malibu’s changes are more than just skin deep, but even the design details suggest the 2013 model is more ambitious than that late-1990s Chevrolet.
In a long-term test of a 1997 Chevrolet Malibu, editors were impressed at the combination of the car’s competence matched to an unbeatable price. After a year, though, we did find a few faults.
Interestingly, some who responded to our owner survey explained that they purchased the ’97 Malibu because they’d owned a previous-generation Malibu, a rear-wheel-drive car that shares nothing in common with the front-wheel-drive midsize sedan. Seat comfort was an issue on the 1997 model. With GM so proud of the seats on the upcoming 2013 Malibu that an entire press release was devoted to the thrones this week, we’re don’t expect front seat interior comfort to be an issue.
A review of the redesigned 2004 Malibu sedan took the same “competitive but not superior” tone used on the 1997 Malibu. The 2004 car’s nimble, quiet chassis “at least matches those of premium Asian brands,” we wrote.
“New cars like the Nissan Altima and Mazda 6 have cranked up this segment’s low design volume,” we wrote in the 2004 Malibu First Drive. “Unfortunately, the Malibu wears uninspired sheetmetal more befitting a work truck.”
The 2008 redesign brought a noticeably more modern approach to the Chevrolet midsize sedan.
“The shift from Malibu/Maxx to its ’08 successor represents the greatest design turnaround in GM’s history, and one of Bob Lutz’s biggest successes during his second tenure at the company,” we wrote in the 2013 Malibu First Look.
We were so intrigued by the 2008 Malibu that we took it on a 11,306-mile road test across the U.S. That car hasn’t aged well in comparison to the rest of the midsize sedan market, but the 2013 Malibu has a chance to finally succeed on merits like the quality of the car, not how many thousands of dollars in incentives Malibu drivers can get.