These days, SUVs are overtaking the new vehicle sales market. In 2019, SUVs were 47.4% of U.S. vehicle sales, versus 22.1% of car sales. But there are still cars that stand the test of time, cars that sell well now and have been selling well for generations. The best one of those is the Chevy Malibu. First introduced as a trim level of the Chevy Chevelle, the Malibu took over Chevrolet’s mid-size car offering as its own brand in 1978. After a brief pause, the Malibu came back as its own standalone car line in 1997. There is so much history to the Chevrolet Malibu, and the 2022 Chevrolet Malibu lives up to that hype.
This Is Where We Started
Chevrolet first used the Malibu name as the topline trim of their standard mid-size car, the Chevelle, from its inception in 1964. Interestingly, the Chevelle was the only all-new car introduced to the American market that model year. 1964 also brought us the first U.S. albums of the Rolling Stones and the Beatles and Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway. The average income in 1964 was $6,000, with the average cost of a new house being $13,064 and the average new car costing $3,500.
GM’s introduction of the Chevelle was a direct response to the American Motor Company’s Rambler and a direct competitor to the Ford Fairlane, introduced two years earlier. The Chevelle stood out in the market because it used GM’s “senior compact” A-platform, a body-on-frame construction that used a suspension setup similar to the manufacturer’s full-sized automobiles. This meant it had a smoother ride and more stability than other small cars of the time.
From its inception, the Malibu was the top line of the Chevelle. It was particularly popular with young drivers as a “hot rod” model. The Malibu trim was used across the Chevelle line, including the four-door sedan, the two-door Sport Coupe hardtop, the convertible, and the two-seat station wagon. Malibu was the Chevelle’s topline trim because of its patterned cloth and vinyl upholstery (all-vinyl in the convertibles and station wagons), deep-twist carpeting, and deluxe steering wheel, among other features.
After years of being the best-selling version of the Chevelle, the Malibu eventually took over Chevy’s midsize market offering as its own vehicle in 1978. This new Malibu was nearly a foot shorter and half a ton lighter than the Chevelle but still managed to increase legroom, headroom, and space in the trunk. There were two trims (Malibu and Malibu Classic) and three body types (station wagon, coupe, and sedan). The base of the Malibu was even the same as the El Camino.
Reintroduced in 1997, the Malibu was MotorTrend’s Car of the Year, with the magazine stating that the car’s styling, like its predecessor’s, was “tasteful and contemporary” instead of “flashy and pretentious.” They called the LS model “a certified raging bargain” thanks to perks, including an upgraded V-6 engine, cruise control, and remote keyless entry, and 15-inch aluminum wheels. MotorTrend went on to define the all-new ‘97 Malibu as “refined,” which is, as they say, a word rarely associated with mass-market offerings because it looked, felt, and drove like a much more expensive car, altogether.
In 2004, the Malibu line was expanded to include the Malibu Maxx, Chevy’s first mid-sized hatchback since the 1989 Corsica. Fast forward a few years, and 2008 brought a major redesign for the line, including a hybrid version. The wheelbase was extended for better handling, and there were more interior color options, as well as better interior materials, in general. Six engine options brought performance to suit everyone’s needs, and the critics lauded it with plenty of praise. Specifically, Kelley Blue Book named it the Best Redesign, and the 2008 Malibu was named North American Car of the Year at the International Auto Show in Detroit.
Now We’re Here
The 2022 Malibu is the last sedan, midsize or otherwise, still standing in the Chevy lineup. As Chevy says, it will “elevate your everyday drive” thanks to “head-turning style” and an “artfully crafted interior.” So let’s look at their definitions of style and interior. The 2022 Malibu comes in four trims, the LS, RS, LT, and Premier. While still a four-door sedan, the 2022 Malibu has a look inspired by stylish European coupes with sweeping lines to draw the eye forward. In addition, the Malibu Midnight and Sport editions come with blacked-out accents, including 19-inch black-painted aluminum wheels, black front and rear bowtie emblems, a blacked-out grille, and a black nameplate badge. Headroom in the 2022 Malibu is just over 39 inches and legroom is 41.5 inches, which is not much smaller than your average SUV or minivan.
All modes of the 2022 Malibu come with an 8” color touch-screen display and Chevy’s Infotainment 3 system. You can use it to access your maps and music wirelessly with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. An acoustic laminated windshield is standard on the 2022 Malibu, keeping out traffic and road noise to give you a quieter ride so you can hear those driving instructions and enjoy your playlists even more. A Bose premium 9-speaker audio system pumps up the jam even more on the Premier line.
Heated driver and front passenger seats are standard across the line, and the Premier even has heated rear outboard seats. In addition, a heated steering wheel is available on the LT model and Standard on the premier. If you’re really looking to amp up your interior, a leather package is available on the LT line, and leather accents are standard on the Premier. Ambient lighting is also a luxury perk on the Premer line.
When it comes to power and performance, the standard engine is a 1.5-liter Turbo 4-cylinder. This engine comes with 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. The Premier trim comes with a 2.0-liter Turbo 4-cylinder. This upgrade comes with 90 additional horses for a total of 250 hp and an additional 76 pound-feet of torque for a total of 260 lb-ft. While the 1.5-liter is no slacker, if you do a lot of highway driving and merging, you’ll appreciate the extra oomph in the 2.0-liter.
Even on the base LS line, you can add a driver confidence package that includes:
- Rear Park Assist
- Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Zone Alert
- Forward Collision Alert
- Automatic Emergency Braking
- Front Pedestrian Braking
- Rear Cross Traffic Alert
- Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning
Adaptive Cruise Control is even available on the Premier line, ensuring you don’t just keep a constant speed on the highway but, more usefully, a constant distance from the vehicle in front of you. The Premier also offers Automatic Parking Assist to make parallel parking a breeze.
Just as Chevrolet has led the American car industry since 1911, the Malibu name has been synonymous with American sedans for generations. The Malibu started as a trim, and it still continues today as a standalone model. It’s even the only one currently made by one of the major U.S. automakers. Inside, you’ll find all the tech you expect – and some you don’t, like sound-dampening glass and not needing a cord to connect your smartphone. The 2022 Malibu also has a full suite of available safety features. On the outside, you’ll find clean lines and an exterior that’s modern without being overly fussy, perfect for driving from the office to a night out on the town. There’s a reason the Malibu was the best-selling Chevelle trim for years, and why it was made into the successful standalone sedan model it is now.