Used 1998 Chevrolet Malibu Review
Edmunds expert review
What's new for 1998
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 midsized 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.
Two models are available. The base Malibu features a 2.4-liter twin-cam four-cylinder engine, which is the same one 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. 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 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 the Malibu? The list of improvements for 1998 is a short one, and doesn't address our gripes. A sunroof is newly optional, and LS models can be equipped with leather seating. Aluminum wheels get an enhanced appearance this year.
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 last year AAA lcalled the Malibu the best car to buy in the $15,000 to $20,000 range. Great job, Chevrolet.
Edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.