Introduced for 2004, the Malibu and Malibu Maxx have minor changes for 2005. The Maxx gets a rear spoiler and rear washer/wiper as optional equipment on the LS and standard on the LT, while the base sedan gets an Exterior Appearance Package including body-colour side mouldings, 15-inch alloy wheels and rear spoiler. Both models get side-impact airbags as standard equipment on the LT and optional on others; heated cloth seats are available on the LS.

The Malibu rests on the global Epsilon platform, which it shares with the Saab 9-3 and Opel Vectra. The Maxx – the jury’s still out as to whether it’s a hatchback or a true wagon – has a wheelbase that’s 152 mm longer than the sedan, although the car’s overall length is 13 mm shorter. That rear suspension placement allows for a clever sliding rear seat, which can be moved forward or backward to optimize passenger legroom or cargo space, depending on which is taking preference. A rear DVD entertainment system is also available.

Two engines are available: a 2.2-litre four-cylinder on the base Malibu, and a 3.5-litre V6 on all other sedans, and all Maxx lines. Both engines hook to a 4-speed automatic.

The sedan comes in a base model, which includes power mirrors, 15-inch steel wheels, variable intermittent wipers, manual air conditioning, floor mats, tilt and telescopic wheel, power windows, cloth seats, power driver’s height adjuster, 60/40 folding rear seat, CD player with four speakers, disc/drum brakes with optional ABS, and electric power steering.

The sedan and Maxx come in LS trim and add fifteen-inch aluminum wheels (the Maxx gets 16-inch), cruise control, six speakers, four-wheel disc brakes, keyless entry, power-adjustable pedals and traction control.

Both models also come in LT trim, which adds a remote starter, heated mirrors, a spoiler (on the sedan), 16-inch aluminum wheels, automatic climate control, leather-wrapped wheel with audio controls, UltraLux and leather-accent heated seats, six-way power driver’s seat, rear-seat audio controls (on the Maxx), OnStar, and side and curtain airbags.

The Malibu provides a good, solid, comfortable ride that’s surprisingly quiet. Its electric-assist steering isn’t as precise as that of some competitors, with a vague spot on-centre. Along with the large wheel, the impression is more rear-wheel than front-wheel, with no discernable torque steer.

The chunky exterior styling is GM-corporate bland, and the interior, while handsome, doesn’t break any new ground. But the seats are comfortable, and the Maxx’s rear slider is one of those ideas that makes you wonder why no one thought of it sooner. All controls are unobstructed and backlit, as all controls should be. Fit and finish is among the best of Chevrolet’s offerings, and while the four-cylinder seems destined for fleet sales, the V6 takes both models up to speed nicely, with decent handling and excellent brakes to back it up.

The Malibu is built in Kansas City, Kansas.

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