The Malibu is a bargain only because the vehicle is assembled with cheap materials!!
I have similar problems as with most Malibu owners. Here is my shopping list of problems:
1. Hazard lights/turn signals shorted out. Recalled and fixed.
2. Excessive play on the right tie rod end. Repaired under manuf. warr.
3. Blower vent doors automatically switch from open to the close position and vice versa. Repaired under manuf. warr.
4. The control for blower fan speed 1 and 2 shorted due to a bad resistor. Repaired.
5. "Piston slap" at cold starts (although many say this is common in Malibus, that doesn't make it normal!)
6. Replaced left strut mount and seat as a result of suspension noises over bumps.
7. Everyone's favorite, warped rotors.
Rotors and pads replaced.
8. The right side strut mount is now worn out. Same symptoms as the left strut mount. Needs to repaired.
9. Engine surging at 65-75 mph highway. Verdict still out on this one.
My concern is with #9. Has any Malibu owners with '97-'03 model years experienced any engine surges while driving? To describe it in more detail, when this does occur, there is a series of surges (maybe 1-4 times) that takes the RPM up 300-400 RPM suddenly (without the driver voluntarily applying more gas) and goes back to about 2000-2300 RPM afterward (normal RPM for 65-75 mph speeds). But most of all this occurs intermittently. When it surges, it surges in series and you'll know it!! If not, you wouldn't notice it for a week or a few weeks. I drive about 500 miles a week, so one can certainly understand my concern.
On this problem I have my suspicions on what the problem could be. It could be the result of faulty oxygen sensor or temperature sensor causing data feedback problems, engine management (computer) issues, water pump seals are going bad, or torque converter. I've checked and eliminated most if not all of the obvious problem areas such as oil levels, dirty injectors, dirty air filter, water vapors in the gas tank. If anyone has any answer for this I'd definitely like to hear what you have to say.
If you don't mind all this crap, the car is PERFECT.
The acceleration is good off the line and in merging situations.
It feels safe inside and is very roomy.
Trunk space is more than adequate.
Gas mileage is not too bad for a V6 at 27-28 MPG combined.
A/C is a little weak, but decent when on settings 3 and up.
Luckily I've been fortunate to not experience gasket leaks, coolant leaks, coolant sludge, engine stalls, transmission failures, "red hot" (literally) CD players as with some people.
The level of quality on this vehicle just completely overshadows its positive points. A true shame... what could have been for this car had there been a more concerted effort to focus on reliability and durability.
My suggestion... go with the Camry, Accord, or Altima. For me... I personally prefer the Honda.
Thanks for reading.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No
Review Date: 13th July, 2004