1997 Chevrolet Malibu Review

Pros & Cons

  • Amazing value, standard A/C, standard anti-lock brakes, available V6 engine
  • No traction control or integrated child seat available
List Price Estimate
$241 - $619

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Edmunds' Expert Review

Vehicle overview

Chevrolet is producing good cars and trucks. Witness the excellent values to be found in the Blazer, Camaro, Cavalier, and Lumina. With the introduction of the 1997 Malibu, it's hard to go wrong when visiting a Chevy dealer for a bread-and-butter sedan.

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 not ugly sheetmetal, and sold at a price that undercuts similarly equipped imports and domestics.

Two models are available. The base Malibu features a 2.4-liter twin-cam four-cylinder engine, the same one found under the hood of the Cavalier Z24. Gears are shifted automatically, and standard equipment includes four-wheel anti-lock 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.

While we haven't driven the Malibu at this writing, performance figures dictate that 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. Moving the switch from the steering column to the dashboard means 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 1997 federal standards for protection. 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, at this point. 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 the Malibu? The Malibu's standard second-gear start feature, does, however, help make up for the lack of traction control.

We're impressed by the new Malibu. Evidently, both Motor Trend and AAA are as well. Motor Trend named the Malibu Car of the Year for 1997, and AAA calls the Malibu the best car to buy in the $15,000 to $20,000 range. Great job, Chevrolet.

1997 Highlights

First year for new midsize sedan with classic name.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 1997 Chevrolet Malibu.

Trending topics in reviews

Most helpful consumer reviews

Could be cheaper to maintain
Would I do it again?,01/31/2009
Rebuilt transmission $2,500, replaced steering rack $800. Rear brake adjusters seem not to work well on this model which causes high front brake wear. Have put two sets of rotors on and many pads on front. Have replaced the water pump twice. Due to the way the water pump is driven from the timing chain. It has a long shaft. That is subject to a high side load on the front bearing from the oil pressure activated chain tensioner .Chevy dealer here wants $800 plus to do the repair. Spring rates on the front struts are high which causes the front shocks ride at a extended height that causes early front shock failure. Replaced 3 sets. The car now has 166k and still going
Love it!
Not one problem EVER! Love this car and wouldn't trade it for anything. Will be my Son's car next year, that is how much I think of this car.
35mpg v6 + reliable!
1 alternator and tires/brakes in 135,000 miles! Gets 35 mpg and the new cars with V4's can't do that! Great car. Too bad used American cars are worthless, but then again, why would I ever sell it?
She's a good car
I know lots of people have had problems with their Malibu's, but I've had nothing. The car was purchased new and has been driven in the mountains, cross country, in city commuting mode and more. Its never failed me. It's currently serving me well in the Canadian north, where it fires up every time, even in -40 weather (without being plugged in). It gets good gas mileage (~35mpg) if one goes easy on the highway, but in city traffic, the best I can usually muster is 22 mpg. Not good there! It's a comfortable roomy car, and would make for a good first auto for a new driver. It's safe, not too fast and they're cheap to get parts for (most of the time!) While I'm no Chevy fan, iIdo like this car.

Features & Specs

See all Used 1997 Chevrolet Malibu features & specs


NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver4 / 5
    Passenger4 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver1 / 5
    Passenger3 / 5
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    RolloverNot Rated
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of RolloverNot Rated
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Not Tested
  • Roof Strength Test
    Not Tested
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Not Tested
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test

More about the 1997 Chevrolet Malibu

Used 1997 Chevrolet Malibu Overview

The Used 1997 Chevrolet Malibu is offered in the following submodels: Malibu Sedan. Available styles include LS 4dr Sedan, and 4dr Sedan.

What's a good price on a Used 1997 Chevrolet Malibu?

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Which used 1997 Chevrolet Malibus are available in my area?

Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 1997 Chevrolet Malibu for sale near. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 1997 Chevrolet Malibu.

Can't find a used 1997 Chevrolet Malibus you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used Chevrolet Malibu for sale - 5 great deals out of 15 listings starting at $14,155.

Find a used Chevrolet for sale - 5 great deals out of 20 listings starting at $8,044.

Find a used certified pre-owned Chevrolet Malibu for sale - 10 great deals out of 23 listings starting at $17,447.

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Should I lease or buy a 1997 Chevrolet Malibu?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

Check out Chevrolet lease specials
Check out Chevrolet Malibu lease specials