All Roads Lead to Malibu
The first Malibu joined Chevrolet’s lineup in 1964 as the top-line version of the Chevrolet Chevelle. Since then more than 8.5 million Malibus have been built during its 40 years of production, and the model has been through many iterations during its storied history. The latest generation debuted as a 2016 model at the 2015 New York Auto Show. Since then Chevrolet has been making incremental changes to the long-running nameplate, including refreshing the exterior styling in 2019 as well as creating a sporty Malibu RS trim. Let’s take a quick look at the evolution of this stalwart American sedan through the years.
1st Generation: 1964 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu
The Malibu debuted in 1964 as the top variant of the Chevrolet Chevelle lineup, offering a combination of a sporty design and a high level of standard equipment. The new model was popular right off the bat, with a total of 200,000 sales in the first year. The Malibu was offered in four different body styles from 1964 through 1967: 2-door hardtop, 2-door convertible, 4-door sedan and station wagon.
1st Generation: 1964 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu SS Convertible
In 1964 the Malibu SS was also offered as both a coupe and a convertible, powered by a 300-horsepower version of Chevy’s 327-cubic-inch small-block V8 engine. For 1965, horsepower increased to 350 for the 327 in the Malibu SS. The Malibu SS Z16 package was also offered, for the coupe only, with the first big-block engine for Malibu: a 375-horsepower 396 cubic-inch V8. The Malibu SS was short-lived when it was replaced by the Chevelle SS396 for the 1966 model year.
2nd Generation: 1968 Chevrolet Malibu
Redesigned for 1968, Malibu received a new fastback style that included a sharp rake to the front end, a longer hood and a shorter rear deck. The front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout continued but the 2- and 4-door versions used different wheelbases. Coupe, convertible, sedan and wagon versions were all offered.
3rd Generation: 1973 Chevrolet Malibu
The third-generation Malibu debuted as a 1973 model and continued through the 1977 model year. The convertible was dropped, but Malibu continued to be offered in coupe, sedan and wagon versions. The Malibu SS package was offered on all body styles, including the wagon. For the 1974 model year, the Malibu became the entry-level Chevelle. The design was aerodynamic and successful on the NASCAR circuit, with 25 total wins between Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison, Darrell Waltrip and Benny Parsons.
4th Generation: 1978 Chevrolet Malibu
A new Malibu debuted for 1978, and in response to demands for improved fuel economy it was smaller and lighter than its predecessor. It was still a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive configuration and was offered in coupe, sedan and station wagon configurations, but it was downsized to improve fuel efficiency. The new, smaller Malibu was offered for five years before being discontinued after the 1983 model year.
5th Generation: 1997 Chevrolet Malibu
Shortly before the new millennium, Malibu was reimagined for the 1997 model year and returned as a front-wheel-drive, midsize 4-door sedan, powered by either a 150-horsepower 4-cylinder engine or a 155-horsepower V6 engine. Motor Trend magazine named the 1997 Chevrolet Malibu Car of the Year.
6th Generation: 2004 Chevrolet Malibu Sedan
The sixth-generation Malibu debuted for the 2004 model year as a 4-door sedan and added an extended 5-door version dubbed the Malibu Maxx. The new Malibu was the first U.S. model to utilize General Motors’ global Epsilon platform, which was also used for the Saab 9-3. The goal was to improve the ride and handling of the new Malibu; it was described as having more European manners with a firmer, quieter, more linear feel than the previous model.
6th Generation: 2004 Chevrolet Malibu Maxx
The Malibu Maxx joined the lineup for 2004 to offer more versatility with its 5-door hatchback design. All Malibu models added electric power steering with variable power assist, and a driver information center integrated into the radio display.
6th Generation: 2006 Chevrolet Malibu SS
The Malibu SS returned for 2006, available as both the Malibu SS sedan and the Malibu Maxx SS. Both versions were powered by a new 3.9-liter V6 engine with variable valve timing and variable intake technology to produce 240 horsepower. The Malibu SS added new front and rear fascias, a blacked-out grille, projector beam fog lights, a rear spoiler, dual chrome tipped exhaust, monochromatic trim and 18-inch wheels. Inside, the SS received sport seats, a 3-spoke leather wrapped steering wheel and leather-covered shift knob.
7th Generation: 2008 Chevrolet Malibu
The 2008 Chevrolet Malibu was the seventh generation of the nameplate, and was named as the 2008 North American Car of the Year. The new Malibu was based on General Motor’s global midsize platform, and the exterior design featured a new grille that was the global face of Chevrolet, including signature Chevrolet twin round taillights.
7th Generation: 2009 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid
A hybrid joined the family for 2009, with an electric motor/generator combined with a 2.4-liter Ecotec 4-cylinder engine and a 4-speed automatic transmission. The first Malibu Hybrid shut off the gasoline engine when the vehicle came to a stop to reduce fuel consumption while idling. Malibu was the top-selling General Motors passenger car for 2010, selling almost 200,000 units.
8th Generation: 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco
Malibu was redesigned again for the 2013 model year as the first global midsize car from General Motors, designated for 100 markets on six continents. The new fuel-efficient yet potent 197-horsepower 2.5-liter Ecotec 4-cylinder engine was mated with a 6-speed automatic to lead the powertrain lineup. A new 2.0-liter Ecotec turbocharged 4-cylinder rated at 259 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque debuted as well. The Malibu Eco included the eAssist system that stored power in an air-cooled lithium-ion battery to provide electrical boost in certain driving conditions to optimize engine and transmission operation.
9th Generation: 2016 Chevrolet Malibu
The ninth generation 2016 Chevrolet Malibu debuted at the 2015 New York Auto Show, with a sleek new exterior design intended to catch the attention of midsize sedan buyers. The new Malibu is 300 pounds lighter than the previous generation, with a wheelbase stretched nearly 4 inches to offer more interior space and improved fuel efficiency. A 160-horsepower 1.5-liter turbo or 250-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo are the engine choices for the non-hybrid Malibu.
9th Generation: 2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid
The 2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid uses technology from the 2016 Chevrolet Volt propulsion system, and has EPA fuel economy ratings of 49 mpg city / 43 mpg highway / 46 mpg combined. The Malibu Hybrid teams a 1.8-liter turbo engine with a two-motor electric drive unit for a total combined output of 182 horsepower.
9th Generation: 2019 Chevrolet Malibu
In 2019 Chevrolet gave the Malibu fresh styling, a range of upgraded features and introduced the Malibu RS, which stands out with a black sport grille, black bowtie emblems, a rear spoiler, dual exhaust and 18-inch machined wheels. Up front, the 2019 Malibu received a new front fascia with larger grille and new headlights that sweep back from the upper edges of the top grille. At the rear, taillights are a new version of Chevrolet’s dual-element design, and a new rear valance that pushes the dual exhaust outlets closer to the corners of the car. The Malibu LT and Premier trims add LED daytime running lights as well as LED taillights.
9th Generation: 2021 Chevrolet Malibu
For 2021, Chevrolet offers Malibu in five trim levels: L, LS, RS, LT and Premier. The standard engine for Malibu L, LS, RS and LT is a turbocharged 1.5-liter unit producing 163 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. combined with a continuously variable transmission delivering power to the front wheels. The Malibu Premier derives power from a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine producing 250 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque combined with a 9-speed automatic transmission. Malibu Hybrid is no longer offered.