1999 Chevrolet Malibu Review

1999 Chevrolet Malibu - Reasonably priced competitive


The Chevrolet Malibu sedan should seriously worry Japanese automakers because it shows General Motors can offer a reasonably priced, competitive rival in the big-number midsize auto market.

GM wasn't afraid to do things very efficiently with the front-drive Malibu. For instance, the ignition switch has a European-style location just to the left of the radio on the dashboard--not on the steering column. Another nice touch is a gearshift handle angled toward the driver that makes it easier to use.

The Malibu has a golden 1960s Chevy name. But it looks much like the costlier Nissan Maxima. And it generally performs like an efficient foreign four-door--although it's not as refined as, say, a Toyota Camry. It has about the same 107.5-inch wheelbase of the older Chevy Lumina sedan, but is larger inside despite being nearly a foot shorter.

So what's it like to drive the rigidly built, nicely painted Malibu? It's fun. Acceleration is lively, and steering and handling are sharp. The ride from the supple, all-independent suspension is comfortable. The easily modulated brake pedal has a nice feel and stopping distances are commendably short.

The base Malibu lists for $15,950, while the high-line LS model stickers at $18,910. This is a fairly new Chevy, so the only thing new for 1999 is Bronzemist Metallic paint, which goes well with the car's smooth lines.

Even the base four-cylinder Malibu is well-equipped. Standard items include a four-speed automatic, air conditioning, anti-lock brakes, sports sedan gauges AM/FM radio, outside mirrors, remote trunk opener, intermittent wipers, tilt column and battery rundown protection.

The LS adds a V-6, remote keyless entry, cruise control, AM/FM/cassette, split folding rear seat, and power driver's seat, windows, mirrors and door locks.

Major options include a $650-$690 power sunroof and $595 leather upholstery for the LS, which really gives the interior a European look.

The base model's 2.4-liter, dual-overhead-camshaft four-cylinder has 150 horsepower and provides strong acceleration, although it's noisy under full throttle. The 3.1-liter pushrod V-6 also produces 150 horsepower--but more torque for quicker throttle response.

The V-6 is quieter and smoother than the four-cylinder, but sounds more raspy than multivalve, overhead-camshaft V-6s in comparable imports. It's a $595 option for the base Malibu, but the four-cylinder should be fine for many Malibu buyers.

Fuel economy is an estimated 22 m.p.g. in the city and 30 on highways with the four-cylinder, and 20 and 29 with the V-6.

The automatic shifts crisply and conveniently stays in passing gear until nearly 80 m.p.h. with the V-6.

Four 6-footers easily fit in the highly functional interior, which has high-grade materials and is quiet except for some tire noise. The cockpit has supportive front seats, easily gripped door handles and large, high-mounted controls. The controls have a plastic feel but work smoothly. A cupholder pops from the dash to the left of the steering wheel so a front-seat passenger can't accidentally spill a drink from it. And there are a good number of storage areas.

The rear seat area, which has sturdy cupholders, is impressively large. But the center of the back seat is too hard for a third passenger on anything but short trips. A high rear parcel shelf makes it impossible to see through the rear window when backing up, and the plastic rear bumper looks as if it can be easily scratched.

The large trunk has a low opening for easy cargo loading, and the neat-looking engine compartment has conveniently located fluid filler areas.

The substantial Malibu offers much value for the money, and its functional design makes it reminiscent of popular mainstream Chevy sedans of the past.

Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

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