2003 Chevrolet Malibu Base Sedan 3.1 V6 from North America


Not bad if you get a good one.


This car developed an engine vibration about two weeks after it was picked up from the dealer. It is most noticeable with the engine at warm idle, the transmission in drive and with a load on the engine such as the having the air conditioner or the rear window defroster turned on. Dealer service department stated that the car is operating within design of General Motors and industry standards. I guess General Motors has developed a new design, the vibrating car.

The pulsating brakes started acting normal after 300 miles. It may have been corrosion on the rotors or high spots that wore down. I had the same problem with my 2000 Malibu which was finally cured with new front rotors and brake pads at 6300 miles. There is a factory service bulletin that covers this problem. GM keeps adding new model years to the bulletin. Don't let the dealer service department give you a song and dance.

General Comments:

Fit and finish is okay except for sloppy application of sealant around the trunk lip adjacent to the weather stripping and some slight bumper misalignment.

The instrument panel is easy to read and controls are positioned logically and easy to reach. It would be nice if car manufacturers made a instrument panel top that does not create glare on the inside of the windshield. Maybe they should include polarized sunglasses as standard equipment.

The engine has plenty of zip and the transmission shifts points are barely noticeable. This car handles better than my 2000 Malibu which had a vague feel at high speeds and a front end with a too low ground clearance. But it did not vibrate.

Fortunately I leased my last two GM cars. Considering some of the problems I have read about it was the right thing to do. I would never buy a GM front wheel drive car or lease one for a period longer than the warranty. It's like rolling dice. You bet your money and you take a chance. An expensive chance.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know

Review Date: 4th February, 2003

2003 Chevrolet Malibu LS 3.1L V6 from North America


Good performance, price, and quality; but brakes need improvement


After taking delivery of the car there were 2 minor defects.

1 - Driver Side heater vent had fins that were not attached to the spine of the vent to allow you to control the direction of airflow. 2 of these fins popped loose and were stuck, jamming the spine in the vent that controlled the rest of the fins. I could turn it left or right, but not change the direction up or down.

Solution - Dealer ordered new vent insert, which arrived within a week and will be replaced this weekend.

2 - The fluorescent orange shifter indicator that shows whether toy are in Park, Reverse, Neutral, Drive, etc. is loose. This is also a minor inconvenience since the actual shifter lever lines up with the proper gear indicators. I can still tell which gear I am in by looking at the shifter lever, so there's no safety issue.

Solution - Dealer will fix the shifter indicator when I bring my car in to have the vent replaced.

* Also worthy of note is that the brakes started out pulsing as if a rotor was warped, but after driving a few hundred miles this smoothed out substantially and is now barely noticeable. I'm guessing that this was simply a wear-in phase for the front pads and rotors.

General Comments:

Fit and finish of the body and interior is very good. No noises from the doors, trunk, hood or sunroof when opening and closing. Back doors do seem to bump into the leather seats though when closed.

Some interior parts are molded plastic, but they do not feel or look flimsy or cheap.

When driving, the gauge cluster is easy to read and all controls are easy to reach.

The ride is quiet, smooth and almost completely free of vibrations. Road noise is low and you can only hear the engine if you really hit the throttle hard. Under normal driving conditions the car is very quiet. At idle in my garage I can barely hear it running and there is very little noise from the serpentine belt.

I am used to driving an Eclipse GS Turbo 5-speed with a lower center of gravity, firmer suspension, larger anti-sway bars, performance tires and aggressive shoch \ strut valving. In comparison, I think the Malibu handles well in turns because it has a little body roll, but still feels stable and under control.

I am used to leather bucket seats in my Eclipse and the Malibu's front seats are more like split bench seats. Still, the leather seating is comfortable, but could definitely use better lumbar \ lateral support.

Map \ reading light is hidden behind the rear-view mirror, which provides a good amount of light without any glare in the driver's eyes.

Transmission shifts up a little early, but will downshift just as quickly when needed.

Mileage on the highway is more like a 4 cylinder than a v6.

One thing I thoroughly dislike about this car is that the brakes feel very under-powered and more pressure than average is needed to stop the car, especially when an abrupt stop is required. Perhaps 4 wheel disc or larger front rotors \ pads will improve this situation. I hope GM beefs-up the brakes this because some drivers may get into accidents because of under-estimating the pressure they need to apply to stop effectively.

All things considered, it looks and feels well made, rides and handles well, has good power and torque (170 HP for 2003), is priced reasonably and is comfortable. The brakes are the only drawback that I think should be changed for the next model year. From reading reviews of past model years, it appears that the 2003 model is much improved.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 25th October, 2002

21st Dec 2002, 19:14

You might (and I do stress... MIGHT) be one of the lucky ones. I look forward to seeing comments from you again in a few months after "the little things" become "big things".

10th Jan 2003, 13:23

**** Owner's 90 day Update ****

I have had the car for 90 days and just made my first oil change at 3500 miles. The car is still doing great.

The brakes are providing more stopping power now that they have broken in. I still think they are a little underpowered for this size car, but they are much improved since my original review.

The engine has become a little more 'throaty' when under moderate to heavy throttle. However, it is still very quiet at idle and under normal driving conditions.

Now that it has around 4500 miles on it I've been getting braver with the throttle when I need to accelerate or pass. Having owned a 1994 Eclipse GS-Turbo 5-Speed, I know what good acceleration feels like. While the Malibu is heavier and actually has slightly less power and torque than my Eclipse, it impressed me when under wide open throttle. It does well for a car this size with a 3.1Liter V-6.

Power Comparison Info

Malibu: 170HP, 190Torque

Eclipse Turbo: 195HP, 205Torque.

There are no more defects to report, minor or major. I am still pleased with this car so far and I would still recommend it.

I will post another update after 6 months, and another after 1 year.

6th Jul 2004, 15:21

Brake is the biggest problem I have had the car for 1.5 year. The car was vibrating at speed of 60km/h due to rusty brake rotor (poor dealer's PDI) when I delivered the car. The front brake pads was gone at 30K km. As other reviewers' comment, the braking is way underpowered. Has to pushed very hard on it to stop the car.

11th Dec 2004, 20:57

I agree with the person above, about the underpowered brakes... also, it seems to have excess pedal travel... we had an 02 or 03 while our 03 was in the shop (rental) but I didn't check to see if it had the same pedal travel that ours does..

Can anyone tell me how far their pedal travels? I can push moderately hard at a stop, and send it to the floor... and in normal stopping it drops about 4-6in.