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2006 Chevrolet Malibu and Malibu Maxx

New Car Review of the 2006 Chevrolet Malibu and Malibu Maxx

Base MSRP Range: $16,365 - $22,865

Base Invoice Range: $15,465 - $21,607

MSRP As Tested: Not Available

Versions: LS, LT, LTZ and SS.

Vehicle Category: Mid-Size Sedan

Engine Location: Front Engine

Drive Wheels: Front-Wheel Drive .

Standard Engine: 2.2-liter, Dual Overhead Cam, 16-valves, I-4,144 - horsepower at 5600 rpm and 155 lb-ft torque at 4000 rpm.

Fuel Economy (city/hwy): 24/32

Optional Engine: 3.5-liter, Overhead Valve, 24-valves, V-6, 201 - at 5400 rpm and 221 lb-ft torque at 3200 rpm.

Fuel Economy (city/hwy): 22/32.

Optional Engine: 3.6-liter, Overhead Valve, 24-valves, V-6, 240 - horsepower at 5800 rpm and 240 lb-ft torque at 2800 rpm.

Fuel Economy (city/hwy): 19/26.

Transmission: 4-speed automatic.

Standard Safety Features: Dual-stage frontal air bags for the driver and front passenger, Head curtain front, rear and side-impact air bag, Three-point safety belts for all occupants, "> Anti-lock four-wheel brakes, Daytime running lights.

Competition: Buick Century, Chrysler Sebring, Dodge Stratus, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Mazda6, Mercury Milan, Mitsubishi Galant, Nissan Altima, Pontiac Grand Prix, Suzuki Verona, Toyota Camry, Volkswagen Passat.


Like options? The 2006 Chevrolet Malibu and Malibu Maxx have an abundance of them. A total of seven trim levels - the LS, LT, LTZ and SS are all sedans, and the Maxx LT, Maxx LTZ and Maxx SS are hatchbacks - mean a wide price range, from $17,365 to $24,065 MSRP.

The updated shape gives the Malibu added appeal this year; the sedan taking on hints of the Impala and Monte Carlo, subtly suggesting there’s more oomph under the hood for 2006 than in past years. The Maxx, meanwhile, has the youthful design of the Volkswagen Golf with sophistication reminiscent of the Audi A3. Hover the Maxx is not built nearly as well as any product from Volkswagen.

The interior design provides a spacious feel, and is very flexible with its many options and features. However, there’s a certain air of “blah,” and cheapness, which puts the Malibu at a distinct disadvantage to similarly-priced vehicles. However, the Maxx’s option of a DVD system and all those versatile options do still make it a great choice for families.


Three engines are offered this year: a 2.2-liter four-cylinder, a 3.5-liter V6, and a 3.9-liter V6. The LS and LT sedans carry the ECOTEC I-4, a 16-valve Dual Overhead Cam (DOHC) that puts out a respectable 144 horsepower at 5,600 RPM, and 155 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,000 RPM.

Optional on the LT and standard on the LTZ, Maxx LT and Maxx LTZ is the Single Overhead Cam (SOHC) 3.5-liter V6, complete with 201 horsepower at (5,400 RPM), and 220 lb.-ft. of torque (at 3,200 RPM.) Then there’s Chevy’s famous “SS.” Both the SS sedan and hatchback put out a hefty 240 horses (at 6,000 RPM), and 241 lb.-ft. of torque (at 2,800 RPM.) Both the 3.5 and 3.9-liter V6 engines have a dual-path variable intake manifold that keeps that engine torquing through a wide ranger of engine speeds.

All versions come with a four-speed automatic transmission, complete with overdrive and Electronic Range Selector. The SS is also an automatic, but has Chevy’s “Tap-up/Tap-Down” manual shifting capabilities.

Brakes on the LS and LT are disc in the front and drum in the rear; upgrade to four-wheel antilock disc brakes with Traction Control (standard on every other model). Electronic cruise control is standard on every model.


Standard on every Malibu are dual-stage driver and front-passenger airbags. These will deploy at different intensity levels, depending on the severity of the collision. Both LTZ and SS models add seat-mounted, torso-protecting airbags, as well as head-curtain airbags for all outboard passengers (additional airbags are optional on all other models). There are also three-point safety belts for all occupants, and the front belts have pretensioners.

Those with small children will be glad to know every Malibu also comes with the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system. An anti-theft system is also standard.

Like most late-model Chevys, the Malibu’s “Driver Information System” will notify the driver of any problems, from low windshield wiper solution to a major engine problem.

Chevy’s well-publicized OnStar system is optional on all models, and standard on the SS. Opt for this feature and one year of the “Safe And Secure” plan is included. This is a great addition; as even if a collision occurs and the driver is unconscious, a signal is sent to the OnStar center upon airbag deployment, which notifies emergency services, and helps guide occupants through what they should do following a collision.

If the keys get locked in the car, OnStar can unlock the doors with a simple phone call. Engine problems can be remotely diagnosed through OnStar, as well; there’s also 24-hour roadside service.

Ride and Handling

Cornering is highly unpredictable, as are the steering wheel and brake pedal. We found the Maxx did not go where we expected it to when steering through turns - a very unpleasant feeling.

The ride is, at best, rental-car quality. It is spongy without much road feel. This means that it is more difficult to interpret the car’s stability while driving, because the ride dampens the feel of the road so much you can’t tell what the vehicle is doing. Because of this drivers will find they don’t’ have a lot of confidence in the Malibu at higher speeds - it feels like the car will break loose from the driver’s control when it is turned into a corner at any speed over 15 MPH.

The ride and handling of the Malibu is inferior to Honda and Toyota’s, and especially the Nissan Altima and the, slightly-smaller, Mazda3. All of these cars handle better, are more predictable, and have much better interiors.

Despite a number of deficiencies with the Maxx it is worth test driving. As every driver’s preferences differ it is important to try as many competing vehicles within a class, and price range, as possible before buying.


All Malibus offer seating for five, and a front center console that lifts up to reveal plenty of storage space with an outlet to recharge a cell phone. Two cupholders are located in both the front and rear passenger areas. But despite those conveniences there is barely a place to put a cell phone - short sighted given that most Americans now use cell phones.

Air conditioning is standard on all models, with the LTZ and SS models also adding automatic climate control to the mix. Power door locks, outside mirrors and windows are all standard, but those who want an LS with floor mats can forget about it; none are available. Indeed, floor mats are only offered as an option on the LT, coming standard on all other models.

An instrument panel, thankfully, is standard, although it is analog on all but the SS models (which features special gauges accented with chrome trim.) This isn’t necessarily a bad thing - it is, after all, completely functional. And style-wise, it matches well with the black, hard-plastic interior. Overall the interior looks, and smells, cheap.

Convenience features abound, with lots of optional goodies. Standard features include a tilt steering wheel, variable-intermittent windshield wipers, map lights (standard front, optional rear), cruise control, a digital clock, an outside temperature gauge, visor mirrors and a rear window defogger. A remote, keyless-entry system is, surprisingly, standard on all models.

The standard seat covering is cloth and owners have the choice of either “cashmere” or “titanium” colors, with leather optional on the higher-priced models (Ultra-Lux leather on the SS.)

Front seats are buckets, and the driver’s seat is power height-adjustable. There’s also a fold-flat passenger seat and split-folding rear seats, which extend the rear cargo space.

The four-speaker AM/FM/CD sound system is, well, adequate; it gets the job done, but it’s no Bose. LS sedan owners can upgrade to the system that is standard on all other models, and sounds much better. It has six speakers and automatic volume and tone control. Optional on all other models, with the exception of the LS, is a 6-speaker system featuring an in-dash six-CD changer with Theftlock. XM Satellite radio is also optional, except on the LS sedan).

Standard features unique to the Maxx versions are the rear armrest, which includes dual cup holders and a storage compartment, and the rear-seat skylight, with dual retractable shades. A sunroof is optional on all Malibu sedans.

The rear hatchback window in the Maxx -- which can be opened from the driver’s seat -- looks directly down onto the cargo area, revealing to the world every bit of the driver’s junk. But Chevy has a rather brilliant solution for hiding stuff and creating more space: a multi-use cargo panel. Adjustable to three height positions, the panel makes a shelf-like two-tired trunk. A fourth position creates a tabletop that Chevy says is convenient for picnics and tailgating. The panel also has grocery bag hooks to keep things in place. The panel can be dropped down to the bottom of the cargo area to move it out of the way. While the cargo panel/shelf is rigid, it is not very sturdy: We don’t suggest throwing several 12-packs on it when it is up.

Other unique Maxx features are the 12-volt power outlet in the cargo area, and the option of a DVD entertainment system. A 7-inch screen folds up from the rear of the front-center console. It also plays CDs. It has video game jacks, rear audio controls, a remote control and two sets of wireless headphones. It even comes with batteries for the headphones. This is a great, fairly-prides option at $995 - a must-have for families with children or those who love road trips.


Both models have been given a better look for 2006, although the distinctive Maxx model is certainly the most fun. It has its own niche, wedged both in size and appointments between the VW Golf and Audi’s luxuriously-appointed A3.

there’s room for a bit of individualization with nine color choices. A rear spoiler makes a huge difference in the vehicle’s styling making it look as sporty as those two “X”s would suggest. Dual-exhaust chrome tips give the SS models a distinct look in the rear, especially when paired with the crystalline-look taillight covers.

Wheels range in size from: the LS’s 15-inch bolt-on covers (which are admittedly not bad-looking); 16-inch painted wheels (LT and Maxx LT); 16-inch chromed wheels (optional on the LT and Maxx LT, included in the Luxury and Convenience Packages); 17-inch bright chromed aluminum wheels (LTZ and Maxx LTZ); and the 18-inch ultra-bright aluminum wheels (SS models). Wheels start at 205/65 R15s, and move up to 225/50 R17s with the LTZ models.


Many people have a “love-it or leave-it” attitude toward GM and their products. Despite that the 2006 Malibu has moved away from its painfully-boring economy car past, it still hasn’t caught up to the competition. The shape of the Maxx is a bit more appealing, and in a world that demands lots of options, GM has scored big. So many things can be added on. Just remember that those additions add up quickly and competitors’ products are often packaged with the same features as standard. With a bit of thought and careful consideration, one can create a custom car that suits their needs without breaking the bank - flexibility is key here. Buy only what you need, and what will help maintain the vehicle’s resale value.

Be sure to check out the latest incentives GM offers before hitting the dealerships - waiting a few weeks to purchase a car could save thousands of dollars. But you may not even have to wait, as incentives abound.

Pros: Maxx is better than it was -- but then all automakers are improving their products, so Maxx falls short of the competition.

Cons: Poorly constructed, noisy, rather ugly design, outdated styling. Standard drum brakes require upgrading. The entire vehicle feels like a compromise.

Ratings (1-10)

  • Style: 9
  • Performance: 9
  • Price: 9
  • Handling: 9
  • Ride: 9
  • Comfort: 8
  • Quality: 9
  • Overall: 9

More Data

Where Built: USA

Major Options: Luxury and Convenience Package, Front Seat Package. OnStar assistance system, Power sunroof, Power-adjustable pedals, Upgraded sound system, Rear radio controls, Satellite radio, DVD entertainment system, Rear spoiler, Performance tires,.

Seating: 5.

Number of Rows: 2.

Length in Inches: 187.8 - 188.3

Warranties: 3 years/36,000 miles Bumper to bumper, 5 years/60,000 miles Extended powertrain, 6 years/100,000 miles Corrosion protection, 3 years/36,000 miles Roadside assistance.

Weight in Pounds: 3174 lbs. - 3458 lbs.

Cargo Capacity in Pounds: Not available.

Gross Maximum Vehicle Weight in Pounds: Not available.

Towing Capacity in Pounds: Not Available.

Gas Tank Capacity in Gallons: 16.3

Destination Charge: $625