What's New for 1999
The 1999 Malibu is identical to the 1998 model, except for the addition of Medium Bronzemist Metallic to the paint chart.
Chevrolet is producing good cars and trucks. Witness the excellent values to be found in the Blazer, Camaro, Cavalier and Lumina. The Malibu is more of a good thing. In fact, this is probably the best family car produced by any domestic automaker today.
Consumer clinics determined much of the Malibu's design. Engineers used a nearly identical methodology when concocting the recipe for the successful Lumina. What consumers have demanded is a tight, solid, roomy, fun-to-drive mid-sized sedan. Guess what? Chevrolet delivers, and delivers big. The Malibu is all of these things and more, wrapped in unobtrusive but attractive sheetmetal and sold at a price that undercuts similarly equipped imports and domestics, including stablemate Lumina.
Two models are available. The base Malibu features a 2.4-liter twin-cam four-cylinder engine, which is the same motor found under the hood of the Cavalier Z24. Gears are shifted automatically, and standard equipment includes four-wheel antilock brakes, four-wheel independent suspension, battery rundown protection, theft deterrent system, tachometer, air conditioning, rear seat heat ducts, tilt steering wheel and remote trunk release. Step up to LS trim, and you leave the showroom in a fully loaded car. The LS includes a 3.1-liter V6 engine, aluminum wheels, fog lights, remote keyless entry, power driver's seat, power windows and door locks, cruise control, uplevel stereo and a trunk cargo net.
This Chevy goes, slows and turns corners well enough to be entertaining. Interior design elements include a handy left-handed cupholder, backlighting for major controls and switches throughout the interior and heating and air conditioning ducts located on the A-pillar to help direct air flow to rear seat passengers. Also notable is the dash-mounted ignition switch because the driver doesn't have to crane his neck around to find the ignition slot.
Safety concerns are covered by the Malibu. Dual airbags, four-wheel antilock brakes and child safe rear door locks are standard. According to Chevrolet, side-impact door beams exceed federal standards for protection, though federal side-impact crash tests indicate that occupants may actually be rather vulnerable in this car. Maintaining the Malibu has been made easy with platinum-tipped spark plugs that last 100,000 miles, engine coolant designed to last five years or 150,000 miles and transmission fluid that never has to be changed or checked.
Our list of gripes is short. The fake wood in the LS is unnecessary. We also want to find an integrated child safety seat on the options list in the future. And why can buyers get traction control on the Cavalier but not on the Malibu? The list of improvements for 1999 is nearly non-existent, and doesn't address our gripes. Solar-Ray tinted glass is standard and new colors called Sunset Gold and Medium Bronzemist have been added to the paint palette.
The Malibu impresses us. It's one of the few domestic models that can go toe-to-toe with the imports on comfort and features, while beating them on price.