Rolling In the Malibu: A Look Back at Chevy Greatness

This year, Chevrolet is highlighting its Malibu as the premier midsize family sedan. In its 30 plus year career, the Malibu has been a consistent win for its safety features and has taken home Car of Year Award on multiple occasions.

The 2016 Malibu was favored at this year’s New York Auto show by critics and fans alike. If one thing has been made clear throughout its history it’s that the Chevy Malibu has been an impressive ride in the past and still continues to be. Everyone from Chevrolet dealerships to teen Chevy drivers have reason to celebrate the 2016 Malibu.  

The Age of the Malibu

1964 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu SS

When you think of Malibu in the 1960’s, what comes to mind? Sunshine, surf and rock and roll, right?

Back then, Southern California’s car culture was almost as important as surf culture was. The Beach Boys exposed that scene to rest of America with songs like “409” celebrating Chevy’s high performance engines.

In 1964, Chevrolet introduced the very first Malibu. Like its namesake city, it was fun, youthful and happening. Though the Chevy Malibu was a rear wheel drive vehicle, it offered 300 horsepower in a small block V8 and you wouldn’t have expected it, but the Malibu premiered as a small family sedan. For the times and especially for a family vehicle, it was quite audacious but no one could deny that it was certainly fun to drive.  

It was also wildly popular.  Within its first year, it sold over 200,000 units!

Brothers in Arms

Malibu logo

With muscle cars everywhere in the mid to late 60’s, Chevy didn’t want to miss out. Born from the Malibu came the Chevelle and SS. Introduced as Malibu’s muscle car brothers, though the Malibu was the top line Chevelle, the SS would come to forever mean legendary horsepower for every Chevy to wear its badge.  

To be expected, Chevy increased the Malibu’s horsepower over the next model years and also offered more of a range in styles. Two door hardtop, two door convertible and a four door sedan configurations were now available.  

For its second generation, 1968-1972, little changed and why would it? With its growing popularity and demand from consumers, Chevy was tapped into a part of America that was buying into the Malibu lifestyle.

As the Malibu was rising to become Chevy’s premium sedan, they decided to add a wagon to its line-up. Chevy also lowered the wheelbase on the coupes and convertibles as well as lengthening them for the sedans and wagons. Minor updates allowed it to still be a smaller vehicle with a lot of energy.  

Third Generation: Nascar Ready

The third generation Malibu belonged to Nascar. Starting in 1973 and lasting till about 77, the Malibu would see changes to become more aerodynamic. Offering a host of engine choices, from a big block 396 cubic inch V8 to a small block 350, this generation ended up in Nascar’s winner circle not once, not twice but 25 times.  

It was also during this generation that the Malibu became the entry level Chevelle and the SS package would be offered in all designs. With these changes, Malibu acquired a total of 25 wins in Nascar.   

The Fourth Generation Malibu came out in 1978. It answered the demands of the people who wanted to have better fuel economy. While it was still being offered as a coupe, sedan or wagon, it was smaller in size than its predecessors. This generation would last until 1983 when the Malibu was discontinued.  

….wait, but…what?

A Brand New Generation

1997 Chevrolet Malibu. (10/11/2011)

After a brief hiatus Chevy decided to return the Malibu in 1997 as a brand new car. After 30 years of providing fun, sunny Malibu weather to everyday American drives, its re-introduction was met with fame and praise. Those who had grown up driving the Malibu from the 60’s were excited to see its return.

New Drivers, New Expectations

While it was gone, the American market for sedans had changed. This was a new generation and expectations were different. New focuses on safety and image were emerging. During its absence, other sedans had been taking its place but the 1997 Malibu showed up and reclaimed its spot as the favorite. The reviews were showing that it had indeed been missed and people were glad to see it back on the market.  

1997: Car of the Year

Chevrolet had a lot to be proud of in 1997 as the Malibu was awarded Motor Trend’s Car of the Year. There was no question whether bringing the Malibu back was the right choice. The only question following that was how to keep this momentum going. Chevy had it figured out.  

Still growing and maturing, the Sixth Generation started offering more advanced features. This was both a generation and a customer that knew what it was looking for in a sedan. With improved technology, and efficient performances, Chevy sought to improve the riding and handling.   

Bring Back the Power

Chevy brought back the SS, which offered 240 horsepower with 2.9L V6 engine, and introduced the Malibu Maxx, a 5 door extended sedan.  The Maxx had such features like more cargo room with sliding and reclining rear seats.  Indeed this was a changed Malibu.

Lucky Number Seven

2008 malibu

The Seventh Generation received critical acclaim again when it was voted North American Car of the Year award in 2008.  

Its model was now based off a global platform with updates to its exterior including a brand new grill which would become the new face for Chevrolet, as well as two signature rounded tail lights.  

Green With Envy

In 2009 Chevy introduced the Malibu Hybrid. Featuring an electric motor that shuts the gasoline engine off when idling, it boasts a 2.4L ecotec with a 4 cylinder engine and 4 speed manual transmission.  

Offering other features like keyless entry, automatic climate control and satellite radio, it was clear Chevy had clued into exactly who was buying their new Hybrid.  

In 2010, the Malibu was GM’s top selling passenger car at nearly 200,000 units sold.  


Producing for global market for the first time in 2013, GM announced the Malibu Eco into the world market.  Designed for 100 markets in six continents, the Malibu continues to meet success all over the world.  

Offering two different engines: a powerful 197 horsepower 2.5L 4-cylinder ecotec engine in a 6 speed automatic transmission and a second even more powerful option at 259 horsepower 2.0L Ecotec turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. Both engines give strong performance and have excellent fuel economy.  

Teen Tracker

2016 Malibu

In 2015 the Chevy Malibu sought to stay relevant by appealing to both parent and teen drivers.  

This new 2016 model year Malibu includes a feature developed for teen drivers and is aptly called Teen Driver. It works by entering a special PIN code in the onboard computer system from which the parents will be able to track distance, speed and any safety features that may have been activated while the teen was driving, ie; airbags, anti-lock brakes.  

Teen Driver also helps to increase safety with features set to remind driver of seatbelts, warn of speeding when predetermined speed is set. In the very competitive segment of family sedans, this system is putting the Malibu above the rest.

With all the successes that Chevrolet has encountered with the Malibu from 1964 and since its return to the stage in 1997, it is no wonder that it continues to grow, impress and win with car dealers, shows and audiences.  


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