I bought my Malibu in 2003 when the transmission in my old Grand Prix started to go. It was a rental previously, and I knew this going in. I will say though, despite it's faults, I have a hard time saying the car is complete junk, because my kids (ages 9-11) rode in it when they were babies. I will start with what I believe to be the minor faults, but they can cost:
1. 15 inch tires are getting hard to come by now, and being FWD, it eats up tires quick, if not rotated properly.
2. It only uses the front disc brakes for stopping, thus eats brake pads fast. The drums are only used for parking brake.
That said, I will now go into the more expensive repairs I have had:
1. Fuel pump went out 5 years ago, driving down the road.
2. The starter has a safety switch, that will go bad in time, and require replacement, unless yu know how to bypass it, which I did.
3. The biggest....the head gaskets from the factory, are junk and a ticking time bomb. He manifold gaskets are plastic and will crack in time. You will start to lose oil and coolant once they do. I overheated the car 2 winters ago, causing the heads to warp, which required mill work, than changed the gaskets with Fel-Pro gaskets, use regular coolant, and since than, the car drives almost like new. It was a complete PITA to get the top half off and put back together. Just beware that if you have one, and are approaching 150k miles, you have a time bomb on your hands. I recommend flushing the cooling system, to help slow down erosion of the gaskets. Total time and money, we spent 4 days, and around $400 to fix.
4. The fan sensor, which turns the electric fan on and off, went bad, which caused my overheating problem. Would have cost $500 for a new one, but rigged a wire and toggle switch, and it now works. I just have to remember to shut it off, or I will have a dead battery.
Interior: Not much, very basic, which I like. Over the years, the arm rest on the drivers door has developed a hole, a couple holes in the driver seat, and the headliner is starting to droop some.
All in all, I would have to say that through it all, I should have considered more when buying a car, but I can't complain 100%, because after some work and money put in it, it still runs. Would I recommend it to anyone else? No, especially for anyone wanting a car that lasts a while. The only reason we put money into it, is because we couldn't afford to buy a new vehicle. After the first of the year, the Malibu will be retired to a local driving car only, and one used for a backup, as I will hopefully have a new vehicle.
The 2002 Malibu is extremely normal. It's practical, a bit faster than you might think, but its boring looks keep it in the "grandma car" category.
-Practical size. Not to big on the outside, plenty of space on the inside.
-Reluctantly fast. At first I thought I was driving a slow car since I got it from my grandmother, but it's actually pretty quick compared to these new eco-friendly 4-cylinder sedans with a million gears that won't let you touch 4,000rpm. If you coax it, it'll move.
-Looks. It's not ugly, it's just boring. Silver lining: cops won't notice you.
-Lots of little repairs. Annoying things like the indicator keeps clicking for no reason.
-V6 engine. Not strictly speaking fast, but it'll downshift and put you back in your seat if you give it some encouragement. Solid at high speed, will do over 100mph without making you nervous.
-Plenty of small storage in the cabin
-Seems to be good on tires
-Cops won't notice
-Holds its value relatively well
-Pleasant engine sound
-Surprisingly good road feedback for such soft suspension.
-Indicator clicking noise sometimes won't stop for 5 minutes or more. Repair is over $500 because they have to take the dash apart
-Air conditioning is not very cold. It also keeps turning off randomly. The fans keep going, but all of a sudden it's ambient air coming through, not cold and you have to push the button again.
-Soft handling, understeer in the corners
-Incredibly boring to look at
-Cheap interior plastics, very GM quality.
-Sound system is cheap
-Has power, but always seems reluctant to use it. You generally have to hit the gas pretty hard and wait a second for it to wake up and kick in.
-Gas mileage isn't great, but can be improved with gentle driving.
If anyone has issues with it not starting refer to GM service tech bulletin no 01-08-49-020
concerning the ignition lock cylinder/switch replacement revision dated December 2001. I am so sick of this problem, have contacted GM since they seem to have issues with ignitions, they need to look at this model. According to the local dealer, no recalls never took place. Fear that if it does start and I go somewhere will shut off while on road.
I love the car for its looks only as it sits in the yard.
I bought this car used from Hertz (at 24,000 miles) in 2003, and 11 years later it's at 152,000.
I've used it for lots of city driving in San Francisco (those hills and traffic are hard on a car), highway driving, and trips on rough roads in the Sierra. Engine is still going strong, and I haven't had to spend much on repairs. The biggest (and scariest) problem was a fuel pump failure while I was on the road. The anti-theft system can be annoying when it won't let you start (has happened to me about 4 times over the years), but all you need to do is wait it out for 10 minutes.
Extremely comfortable driver's seat, good visibility all around, great trunk capacity, strong engine that can handle uphill driving without a struggle, easy to handle on mountain roads, reliable performance. This car was a great value, and I'll miss it very much when I finally need to move on.
I sure hope that Chevrolet has abandoned the touchy anti-theft system by now.
We had a 2002 Malibu that we originally bought in 2007.
Never had any major issues with it and because of high mileage hubby put on it driving 90 miles back and forth to work, we decided to look for another car.
We found a 2002 Malibu (this one is loaded) with 80,000 miles on it and promptly bought it.
My husband is a back yard mechanic of sorts (built a '66 Chevy II from the ground up into a pro-street car) and so he does regular maintenance on it and changes the oil religiously and tune ups and such.
Sure, we've had to change the brakes on both our vehicles, but that is the norm.
Great, great car.
Comfort, ability to get up to speed quickly if needed, gas mileage, design, very few mechanical problems.
Enough room for trips with our dog and all the gifts we bring back.
Just a wonderful vehicle.
Other than asking for the impossible-50 mpg-I have no suggestions for improvements.