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2004 Chevrolet Malibu Maxx
Flexible and fleet, but maybe not so young at heart.
Bengt Halvorson
thecarconnection.com
3/29/2004

Over the past few years, a wagon-and-hatchback craze - and an emphasis on more innovatively packaged cars - has been hitting the industry. Chevy tries to stay away from both the "hatchback" and "wagon" terms, instead calling the Maxx an "extended sedan", but the 411 is that it's a five-door hatchback without the bowing roofline (and rear-headroom sacrifices). Most notably, the wheelbase is about six inches longer than the standard Malibu sedan, allowing for either more backseat legroom or more cargo space, depending on which way you configure it.

And that ability to reconfigure-"to the Maxx", as one ad-driven psyche might say - is one of the Maxx's most attractive features. Of course the rear seat can fold forward flat, but it can also slide forward and back seven inches to allow more space for large cargo pieces or for passenger comfort, and the rear seatback can also recline somewhat. Rear door openings are about four inches wider in the Maxx, allowing for easier entry/exit. And we didn't mention yet that the Maxx is a half-inch shorter than the Malibu sedan. Now that's efficiency.

The cargo area is as spacious as it looks, and the reconfigurable cargo cover helps get the most of it. We found we could flip the cargo cover over to the hard plastic side, where the recessed area allowed us to leave muddy boots from a hike to dry in place as we drove. Two side pockets with integral cargo nets keep smaller things from rattling around.

Comfortable, fashionable inside, but not fresh

And here's where it hurts, because I like the Maxx and its unique packaging. When it comes down to the finer details - the cosmetic details that can often make or break whether a shopper buys the car - GM misses the mark on several counts.

The interior is very attractive and tasteful, but in an inoffensive, traditionally Buick sense of nice - not the kind of interior theme you'd expect in an innovatively packaged, youthful activity wagon. Basically, it's appointed with a mix of matching tones of gray and/or beige plastic and faux-wood trim inserts. Competing models like the Mazda6 or VW Passat have a certain level of fashion and vibrance, and the look and feel of the interior is more of a selling point than ever. Attractive, well-coordinated colors and textures (except for the fake wood inserts) are used throughout, though we'll venture to say few would consider the interior exciting or youthful.

But everything fits together tightly, controls and switchgear felt substantial and had satisfying tactility; storage cubbies seem designed to last; cupholders are sturdy, and door panels feel secure, not flimsy. And we didn't notice a single rattle.

Overall, the car has an interesting and quite appealing silhouette that really grew on us, but we never warmed up to the conservative and awkward front and rear fascia treatment. Yes, a wide, chromed plastic bar stretches the length of the grille in front and an equivalent one graces the back end. To an opinionated 30-ish male friend, the keyword was "dorky." Really, the effect is questionable, and it seems both the front and especially the back end would look more tasteful if simple and clean.

It's not all crazy and new. If you've driven a front-wheel-drive GM vehicle in the past five years (perhaps as a rental), you'll find the Malibu's basic controls and road manners familiar. While this isn't a bad thing, it means that it has a very conservative feel.

The only engine offered on the Maxx is a 3.5-liter V-6. It's officially an all-new engine for this year; technically that's true, as a majority of the parts are revised, but actually it's the latest in GM's family of 60-degree pushrod V-6 designs to evolve since the late '70s.

While the V-6 might still be at the low end of its class in refinement, it's a very flexible and powerful engine, if not more so in real-world driving than those from Toyota and Honda. The actual passing power is really quite amazing, and it's also one of the most fuel efficient V-6s available.

Why not bring in the Gen Y buyers with a base Maxx version with four-cylinder, five-speed manual, no skyview roof, no power adjustable pedals or remote starter, some more rugged or sporty styling cues, simple upholstery, and only a few power accessories for about five grand less?

If the Maxx is aimed toward older folks, never mind, Chevy has the formula right. But if they're trying to reach out to younger, active people (those who are excited about the upcoming Nomad mini sport wagon?) who are on a budget, Chevy may be missing out.

FULL Review Here

 

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I disagree that gen Y'ers dont like this car, but Im not your usual gen Y'er. Check out my review of the car. I thought it was great.
 

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Originally posted by bigals87z28@Mar 29 2004, 09:15 PM
I disagree that gen Y'ers dont like this car, but Im not your usual gen Y'er. Check out my review of the car. I thought it was great.
i saw this car at the auto show, i was much more impressed with the feel once i got a chance to sit inside, i am also a gen y'er and i can actually see one of these in my near future. possibly as early as the end of next year. im already in the market for a 2000 malibu, as a temp car for the next six months, but us on these sites are different from the average gen y'ers, i can see how this car doesnt have much of a youthful vibe, but i dont think a gen y'er would not like the car, i just think they (we) look at other cars with other styles first. like a focus/cobalt/civic type cars.
 

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young people do NOT by new cars as they can not afford them. they buy used cars and modify them to suit their taste. there are very few people under the age of 25 that buy new cars.
 

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Why didn't GM just keep the styling and details (wheels, interior trim, etc..) of the Opel Signum and vectra instead of dumbing it down to look like the Malibu. Then the VW nuts would have considered it.
 

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Originally posted by ponchoman49@Mar 31 2004, 01:49 PM
Now if only Chevy would do something about that terrible seat material I would buy one in a heartbeat!
If you can afford to go with the LT, I think the leather/Ultralux faux-suede is really great. I'd like to see more of the Ultralux used.

But the lower trim level's seat materials don't quite look as good as the rest of the interior.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
As long as Chevy doesn't bring back that horrid crushed velvet material on the seats, I'll be happy. :p
 

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I find it interesting how the reviewer took time to point out his dislike for the chrome strip across the front of the Malibu. I agree the strip does not do much for me. But on the other hand minor issues of style the Maxx sounds like a winner and the materials are not a point of complaint but just precieved to be boring and lacking cool colors. Nice job Chevy.
 

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I agree that this is more aimed at Gen X than Y...

I don't really like the looks of it. But, I went with my mom car shopping and she wants to test drive the Maxx first because she loves the looks of it. Shes always had a station wagon since she started driving, so the attraction is by default, but she still likes the looks better than any other wagon on the market. I personally would like her to look into the Hemi Magnum, but thats out of her price range. The Maxx is a great car and should compete faily well with the lower end Magnums.
 

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Originally posted by GeMiNi THRaSHeR@Apr 2 2004, 03:17 AM
I agree that this is more aimed at Gen X than Y...
thats why an extreme or SS (only if its over 250hp) version should be made. need to offer something for all segments of the market, tuners to fleet to grocery getters.
 

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I'm 24 and other than the Corvette, the Malibu Maxx is really the only Chevy I like. Thats unless they bring out the Nomad!
 

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oh yeah. just looked through the specs on the maxx. pretty fantastic car. haven't driven one, but i've taken a close look at the dealership. even the LS is a well-equipped car. and while i like small cars because of the fuel economy, the maxx is incredibly fuel efficient. and yet reasonably roomy and powerful too. i think it'd be a maxx for me if i was buying tomorrow. colours are a little dull though... that's my only complaint. that and a lack of 5-speed. the maxx just looks like it should be AWD. some posters here have said the G6 AWD is a no-go, which is too bad. it'd be a great option for epsilon cars.
 
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