1998 Chevrolet Malibu LS 3.1L V6 155-hp from North America
Not such a bad choice, but see if you can verify its maintenance history before buying one
Brakes had to be worked on soon after I bought this car, but given its mileage at 74k I expected it'd need something soon. The brake warning light came on anyway, sometimes so many times at a time. The accompanying chime along with this repetitiveness was so annoying I about wanted to run it into a tree. It hasn't come on too much lately, although once in a while it still does. Resetting the parking brake helps keep it off.
Taillights were a huge nuisance at first. Around 77k they kept going out on me. Had them worked on several times, the last time being the entire wiring harness of one side was replaced. So far they work fine except one bulb quit...again. Given this hassle that got me pulled over once as BOTH sides quit working, I started a habit of checking them regularly, like once a month. I have a few spare bulbs in the glove box just in case.
Water pump replaced at 77k. Cost: about $177.
Fuel filter replaced at 81k. Poor gas mileage was the reason for this replacement. But it didn't help improve mileage anyway. About $40 down the drain. The original filter was clogged up, though.
Transmission seal on front passenger side leaked at 84k. Got it replaced for $190. The tranny shifted erratically up to this point, but afterwards it's been fine.
Gas mileage for this car with the 3.1L V6 was estimated at 20-27 city-highway, respectively, more or less. But can I claim this? Heck no, it's been terrible in town (around 16 MPG) but very good on the highway (around 27), although I got to average 30 once from a few hours going mostly straight at 70 MPH from Wichita to Oklahoma City last year. The fuel filter change and another thing or two done in hopes of improving gas mileage only served to drain my wallet. I'm pretty much resigned to living with this pig.
I have keyless with this car, a feature I'd never had before and I love it. But, lo and behold, for several months now I can't use it or the switch inside to operate the power lock on the driver's door. I have to use my key or manually handle the inside switch. Oh, the keyless and power locks all still work fine--just can't use it on my door only--and I can still open the trunk remotely. Was told it's an actuator switch at the local Chevy dealer and was quoted $160 for this job. My car won't totally fall apart or disintegrate if I don't proceed with this repair, so I've decided it can wait indefinitely.
I had all the work mentioned here except for the water pump replacement done at the Chevy service department (had the water pump job done at a local shop).
Tires, sized as issued by GM (P215/60R15), were new when I bought it. They're still fine, but the left rear seems to have a slow leak. Tends to run low from short trips so I need to re-air it after every trip. If I'm gonna get new tires, I hope to switch to a different size (P205/65R15) because it looks better on this car.
Overall, save for excessive fuel consumption in town, it hasn't been a very bad car. I've been fairly pleased with it.
One thing I really like about this car is its output. Very quick at times, zoom-zoom-zoom. Very roomy too, seems it was well cared for by the previous owner. Don't know if she (I think it's a lady as the papers carried over still shows her name) had had any of the problems mentioned here in this website, but I suspect she had to deal with bad wiring at one point. The odometer looks so dim I have to take off my sunglasses to see what it says. Ditto for the a/c or rear defogger on/off switches.
I like the Malibu's jellybean shape. This reminds me of another car I'd rather have, a 1992-96 Toyota Camry. I'd go for a Camry, but couldn't find one as decent as this Malibu in my price range.
I don't like the driver's seat very much; the lumbar support is fixed and not adjustable at all, much to my disappointment. Maybe I'd feel the same way about the other seats, but this is moot anyway as I'm single and no one else drives this car.
I like this Malibu okay; I don't love it as much as my old car, a '92 Olds Achieva S 4dr with 2.3L 4-cyl and automatic. The Achieva was so reliable it was practically a Toyota dressed in GM's clothing. I kept this car for over 11 years--the longest I'd ever owned any vehicle--and it had almost 200k when I sold it. The sweet car got to where it needed so much work that, being an old GM car with a typically low resale value, it wasn't worth pouring anymore money into it.
Would I buy another Malibu like this? Somewhat likely, yes; but not very likely that I'll keep this lovely pig for a very long time like I had the Achieva. :-)
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 19th May, 2006
Hi again, I'm the owner who posted this review. Anyway, the car is a 1998 model, NOT 1997.
I have a ’97 Olds Cutlass with 3.1L engine. It gets 20-22 mpg for my “city” driving. Maybe you are doing a little too much zoom-zoom-zoom.
It's me again, the original poster of this review (the car's still okay at this point, btw). To the owner of the ’97 Olds Cutlass with 3.1L engine that gets 20-22 mpg for “city” driving: no, I'm not in the habit of burning my tires from every stop. I know better than to do that, what with gas being too close to $3 a gallon in my area. Funny thing, though: my Malibu averaged 21 mpg last year in Tulsa for a couple days. Maybe it's the city's drive-around space; Tulsa is about 4x bigger than the town I live in. P.S. I wish my car is a Cutlass instead since it's an Oldsmobile and I like the Cutlass wheels better. Happy motoring.