Review and photos by Haney Louka

2005 Malibu Maxx LT
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Whether this car interests or bores you is a reflection of how pragmatic your approach to car shopping is. Does your heart-rate beat a little faster when you hit the gas, or are you more concerned about the increased fuel consumption during acceleration?

The Maxx version of Chevy’s bread-and-butter Malibu sedan undoubtedly earned its moniker in reference to the added utility that it affords its driver and passengers. Rather than the standard three-box shadow that its more pedestrian sedan sibling casts, the Maxx is a part-wagon, part-hatchback affair. While it’s not the most aesthetically pleasing shape to be sure, it answers in a unique way the question of how to maximize utility and versatility in a car-sized package.

$26,495 gets buyers in the door of the Malibu Maxx LS. Standard equipment includes a 200-hp V-6, air conditioning, anti-lock brakes, traction control, a unique rear skylight, six-speaker CD audio, 16-inch alloy wheels, tilt and telescoping wheel, and power locks and windows.

Step up to the Maxx LT and 31,805 loonies will leave your wallet. The list of standard goodies grows to include a rear spoiler, fog lights, a body kit, automatic climate control, remote starter, side and head curtain airbags, OnStar, and leather trim on the otherwise suede-like seats.

2005 Malibu Maxx LT
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Despite being badged an LS, our tester was an LT and had a couple of extras: the $1,445 DVD entertainment system and $1,065 power glass sunroof for a total price of $35,315 including A/C tax and destination.

Now that may seem like a lot of dough for a Malibu, but since the General has a penchant for offering hefty incentives, one could be reasonably confident that the price on the sticker isn’t representative of what buyers dish out before they drive off the lot.

While the base Malibu sedan can be ordered with a 2.2-litre Ecotec four-banger, all Maxx models come with the General’s 3.5-litre pushrod V-6 with two valves per cylinder. It’s the same engine found under the hood of the G6 sedan and GM’s new family of “sport crossover vehicles” – the Chevy Uplander et al.

2005 Malibu Maxx LT
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The six-pot produces 200 hp at 5,400 rpm and 220 lb-ft of torque at 3,200 rpm. Power hits the pavement at the front wheels and is managed by a four-speed automatic transmission – a familiar recipe for anybody that’s seen a GM sedan in the past two decades.

And that’s where the surprise is – despite the dated technology that comprises the Malibu’s running gear, it does its job quite well. Where the same engine in a van is overwhelmed by the weight it’s lugging around, the torquey unit moves the Malibu with considerable ease. And because it has a broad torque curve, four gears are enough for the transmission even though that’s one less than most competitors offer with their overhead cam engines.

2005 Malibu Maxx LT
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Another perk of this powertrain: the Maxx consumed only 7.6 litres per 100 km on the highway and 10.5 in the city during its time with me. That’s pretty close to the published figures of 6.7 and 10.5, considering that the highway loop used in official testing carries an average speed of only 77 km/h, with a top speed of 97 km/h.

The Maxx also had fine manners on the road. It covered the kilometres in a refined (although somewhat noisy) manner, thanks to its solid Epsilon platform which it shares with the Saab 9-3 and Pontiac G6.

2005 Malibu Maxx LT

2005 Malibu Maxx LT
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It should be known, though, that while the Malibu does its job well, it is still an appliance for use by those for whom driving is one of life’s necessities and not an enjoyable pastime. The sounds coming from under the hood don’t exactly encourage spirited driving, and the steering is over-boosted and lacks feel.

The utility-sans-emotion motif inherent in the Malibu’s driving manners is carried through to its interior. While functional, it does little to get its owners excited about being behind the wheel. It’s a comfortable highway cruiser, to be sure, with decent seats and a roomy interior.

But visually, the interior is awash in acres of grey and black plastic with only a few examples of metallic brightwork that seem like an afterthought.

2005 Malibu Maxx LT
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Nonetheless, controls are well placed, including the cruise and redundant stereo controls mounted on the wheel. The automatic climate control does its job effectively and the stereo and DVD system provide crisp sound that kept the family entertained. My only quibble about the DVD player? It folds up from the rear of the centre console, which is a great idea. It would be nice, though, to be able to swivel that screen in case a single passenger on one side wanted a clearer view.

2005 Malibu Maxx LT
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Passengers are what the Malibu is all about. The rear bench slides fore and aft to allow people to vary the proportion of passenger space to cargo space. Riding on a wheelbase that’s 152 mm longer than the Malibu sedan’s, the Maxx affords its rear passengers a cavernous 1,042 mm of legroom.

Ahead of the Maxx’s large liftgate resides 646 litres of cargo space, more than 200 better than in the trunk of the sedan. Once the split rear bench is folded, there are 1161 litres of stuff space. The cargo hold incorporates an odd removable parcel shelf that can sit on one or two levels on ledges that are moulded into the interior panels.

2005 Malibu Maxx LT
Click image to enlarge

It’s appealing in concept, but the shelf often got in the way since it stayed horizontal when the liftgate was opened rather than going up with the door.

The Malibu impressed me with how well it goes about its business. Is the Malibu Maxx for you? It’s a solid, refined ride that’s high on versatility and low on drama – the perfect choice for the pragmatic car shopper.

Shopping around

Extra utility in a mid-sized car is difficult to find in today’s market, which is why the Maxx is appealing. Other models (with base prices) to consider:

  • Dodge Magnum ($27,995)

  • Mazda6 Sport ($25,495)
  • Saab 9-2X ($28,950)
  • Subaru Legacy Wagon ($28,995)
  • Volvo V50 ($31,495)

Technical Data: 2005 Chevrolet Malibu Maxx

Base price (LS) $26,495
Base price (LT) $31,805
Options $2,510 – Preferred equipment group 1SA ($1,445) and glass sunroof ($1,065)
Freight $900
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $35,315
Type 4-door, 5-passenger mid-size hatchback
Layout transverse front engine/front-wheel drive
Engine 3.5-litre overhead-valve V-6, 2 valves per cylinder
Horsepower 200 @ 5,400 rpm
Torque 220 @ 3,200 rpm
Transmission four-speed automatic
Tires 215/60R-16
Curb weight 1,577 kg (3,476 lb.)
Wheelbase 2,852 mm (112.3 in.)
Length 4,770 mm (187.8 in.)
Width 1,773 mm (69.8 in.)
Height 1,476 mm (58.1 in.)
Cargo capacity Seats up: 646 litres (22.8 cu. ft.)
  Seats folded: 1161 litres (41 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 10.5 L/100 km (27 mpg) (Imperial)
  Hwy: 6.7 L/100 km (42 mpg) (Imperial)
Warranty Basic: 3 yrs/60,000 km

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