Midsize car; Built in USA
  • 4-door sedan
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,400 – $3,800*

1997 Chevrolet Malibu

1998 Chevrolet Malibu LS

1997 Chevrolet Malibu interior

2000 Chevrolet Malibu

2000 Chevrolet Malibu

  • Standard antilock braking
  • Build quality
  • Cargo room
  • Fuel economy (4-cylinder)
  • Passenger room
  • Ride
  • Engine noise (4-cylinder)
  • Steering feel

Offering an admirable blend of utility, driving fun, and features, Malibu is an intermediate-sized sedan that warrants serious consideration.


Brand-new for 1997, Chevrolet’s midsize Malibu shared its basic structure with the Oldsmobile Cutlass, which was redesigned that same year. Borrowing its breezy name for a Chevrolet model that finally faded away after 1983, roughly replacing the Corsica, Malibu fit between the subcompact Cavalier and the midsize Lumina in both dimensions and price. Wheelbase was nearly three inches longer than Cavalier’s, and just a fraction shorter than the Lumina. Overall, the Malibu measured 10 inches longer than a Cavalier but 10.5 inches shorter than the Lumina. Inside, Malibu offered slightly more front head room than either of its Chevrolet mates. The biggest difference came in rear leg room, with Malibu delivering 3.5 inches more than Cavalier and nearly 1.5 inches more than the otherwise-larger Lumina. Base and LS trim levels went on sale, each seating five. Base Malibus got a standard 150-horsepower, dual-overhead-camshaft 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine. A 155-horsepower, 3.1-liter V6 was optional in the base model and standard in the LS edition. Both got a 4-speed automatic transmission with a floor-mounted shift lever. Standard equipment included dual airbags, antilock brakes, air conditioning, power steering, a tilt steering wheel, tachometer, and daytime running lights.The LS sedan added cruise control, remote keyless entry, split folding rear seat, alloy wheels. Each of those items was optional on the base Malibu.Traction control was not available, but the transmission offered a second-gear-start feature for better traction on slippery surfaces. Rivals included the Honda Accord, Dodge Stratus, Toyota Camry, and Nissan Altima.

Yearly Updates

1998 Malibu
Changes were few for 1998, led by the addition of optional leather upholstery for the LS sedan. Base Malibus wore new aluminum wheels and could have an optional 6-way power seat.
1999 Malibu
Headlamps and taillamps now illuminated to full brightness automatically when sensors detected darkness for more than 20 seconds. A thicker windshield this year was said to cut down on road noise.
2000 Malibu
Malibu earned a modest facelift this season and lost its 4-cylinder engine. Both base and LS sedans now contained a V6, which gained 15 horsepower. A rear spoiler now was optional on the LS. So were gold exterior badges.
2001 Malibu
For 2001, power door locks and a rear defogger became standard on the base model as well as the LS. LS models gained seatback map pockets, while all Malibus added Radio Data System functions to cassette and CD audio systems. Remote keyless entry now remembered programmed audio selections for each keyfob.
2002 Malibu
A CD player and floormats are standard on the base model.
2003 Malibu
Antilock brakes moved to the option list on base models. Malibu was redesigned for 2004.


transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

Until 2000, base-model Malibus used a 150-horsepower, 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine. The Malibu LS got a 3.1-liter V6 that made 155 horsepower, but the biggest difference is in torque output. The V6 engine gained 15 horsepower in 2000. A 4-speed automatic transmission was installed on all Malibus.

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.4/146
Engine HP 150
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 155
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic



ohv V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.1/191
Engine HP 155-170
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 180-190
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic



Road Test

Acceleration is good with the 4-cylinder engine–more than sufficient for most owners. On the downside, the four gets loud when accelerating hard. A Malibu with the substantially smoother V6 is stronger off the line and around town, but does not feel markedly more energetic at highway speeds. The automatic transmission shifts without jarring, but does not always downshift promptly to furnish suitable passing power. A 4-cylinder Malibu averaged 22.5 mpg in a mix of city and expressway driving. A Malibu V6 returned about 19 mpg.

Malibu feels agile, maneuverable, and secure, but charging down a freeway off-ramp produces substantial body lean, as well as tire scrubbing. Malibus ride comfortably and stably on the highway. But there’s a lot of suspension and tire thumping over ruts and potholes. Wind noise is tolerable, but the level of engine and tire noise yields less-than-serene cruising. Braking power is adequate, with good pedal modulation and moderate nosedive in hard braking.

Malibu is spacious for its size. Front head room is generous. Leg room is more than adequate all around. Rear head room is sufficient for folks under 6 feet tall. Front bucket seats are firm and nicely contoured, but the rear bench is harder and flatter than it should be. Malibu’s dashboard is a gently curved model of efficiency.

A tasteful blend of fabrics, plastics, and padded surfaces gives Malibu the feel of a more-expensive automobile. Interior storage space ranks above average and trunk space is generous, helped by a flat floor, huge opening, and near-bumper-level sill to ease loading. Thin roof pillars and large outside mirrors offer good visibility. However, the rear parcel shelf is high enough to block the driver’s view of the trunk while backing up.


Model Tested: 2002 Chevrolet Malibu LS

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 5
Fuel Economy - 5
Ride Quality - 5
Steering/Handling - 5
Quietness - 4


Controls/Materials - 7
Room/Comfort Front - 5
Room/Comfort Rear - 4
Cargo Room - 6


Value - 8

Total: 54


4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
107.0 190.4 69.4 56.4
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
17.0 15.0 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
39.4 37.6 41.9 38.0
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1999 Malibu 4-door sedan


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
Front Passenger Injury - 4

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - 2
Rear Passenger Injury - 4


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision 77
Injury 90
Theft 48

Trouble Spots

Description: The key reminder continues to sound after the key is removed from the ignition accompanied by power door locks not working due to a problem in the lock cylinder. (1997-99)
Description: The power door locks fail, but still work manually, due to a rubber part breaking on the actuator arm inside the door. (1997)
Engine noise
Description: Ticking on cold startup may be due to excessive piston pin to bore clearance. (1997-98)
Engine temperature
Description: Overheating and coolant loss may be due to rough surface on radiator filler neck. Neck should be sanded smooth and cap replaced. (1999-2000)
Description: Because of the way it is routed, a passenger can accidentally disconnect the antenna so the cable must be rerouted. (1997-99)
Description: The leather on the bucket seat back wears prematurely and the company will replace the seat cover and install extra padding under warranty. (1997-99)
Suspension noise
Description: Noises from the front end (clunks, rattles, squeaks) may require replacement of the lower control arms or rack-and-pinion assembly or both. (1997-98)
Suspension noise
Description: Suspension support insulators are available to correct popping noises from rear suspension. (1997-2000)
Description: On white cars, the door handles turn yellow from the lock-cylinder grease staining them. The company will replace the cylinders under warranty and there is a colorless grease available for service. (1997-99)

Recall History

Description: If airbag deploys, module could separate from instrument panel, striking and injuring occupant.
Description: A buildup of snow or ice restricts the movement of the passenger-side windshield-wiper arm, the pivot housing can crack and the wipers will not operate.
Description: Fuel-fill fitting is improperly secured to fuel tank and could leak an excessive amount of fuel, especially after refueling or when tank is more than half full.
Description: Headlights may not meet light-intensity requirements.
Description: In hot ambient conditions, accelerator pedal arm may not return to idle position when gas pedal is released.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.