The Chevy Malibu, which first appeared in 1964, has grown and improved immensely throughout its lifetime. Now, in its 50th year, it is offered with a standard 2.5L four-cylinder engine and also features stop/start technology, numerous safety features, and plenty of comfort and connectivity - a far cry from its predecessor. It has gained about 14 percent fuel economy in the city (25 mpg) and 6 percent highway (36 mph) since the 2013 model alone, and delivers 65 percent more horsepower than the '64 Malibu's 3.2L six-cylinder.
When it debuted in 1964, dubbed Chevy's first "intermediate" car, it was one of the first midsize cars in the United States. Up until then, most car companies only offered full-size models, including Chevrolet's Impala, Chevy II (Nova), Corvette, and Corvair. It adopted its name from the Los Angeles, California, area which was considered the center of beach culture in its time, and was regarded as the top-trim line for the intermediate platform, flanked by the Chevelle (entry-level) and the El Camino.
Since the Malibu has now entered its eighth generation, perhaps it's time to slow down and take a look back at where it all began and how we got to where we are in 2014. Let's start at the top.
Generation 1 - 1964-1967
It's obvious that Chevrolet did not quite understand what it was getting into when it released the Malibu, which was originally delivered to the public as a premium family sedan. Consumers quickly realized its potential to be included in the reign of muscle cars of the era, so it was soon offered with an SS trim. Though it took a backseat to the popularity of the Chevelle SS in 1966, the Malibu continued to thrive as a premium model, especially popular with suburban consumers who desired roominess and efficiency.
Generation 2 - 1968-1972
Styling changed and adapted for the Malibu's second generation, but it retained its intermediate platform. A 112-inch wheelbase for coupes and convertibles and 116-inch for sedans and wagons was just slightly shorter than the previous generations, but still managed to shift the dimensions of the car. As was the case throughout the first generation, each model year had distinctive styling differences.
Generation 3 - 1973-1977
While the new frame at the beginning of the third generation retained the previous wheelbases, the Malibu stretched about five inches in length and one in width to accommodate new federal crash standards. The Laguna model, inspired by European design, rose above the Malibu just briefly before being overtaken again.
Generation 4 - 1978-1983
When Chevrolet decided to discontinue the Chevelle in 1977, the Malibu took its place as the reigning downsized-midsize car. It was about a foot shorter and 500 pounds lighter, and also offered a choice between a V-6 and V-8 engine. A police car package was also offered, before the car was discontinued in 1983.
Generation 5 - 1997-2003
In 1997, the Chevy Malibu was reborn in a whole new light. After a fourteen year hiatus, it now came equipped with four- and six-cylinder power plants and was front-wheel drive. It was met with wide acceptance and was named Motor Trend Car of the Year for 1997.
Generation 6 - 2004-2007
With upgraded technology, efficiency, and performance for the start of the sixth generation, the Malibu moved up to General Motor's award-winning global architecture for the 2004 model year and the Malibu SS returned with a 240 horsepower 3.9L V-6. Another variation of the Malibu, the Malibu Maxx, was offered as a five-door extended sedan featuring expanded cargo room and creature comforts such as the ability to slide the rear seat a full seven inches and recline the rear seat.
Generation 7 - 2008-2012
Becoming even more refined for the seventh generation; refinement, performance, efficiency, and safety were expanded on. Head curtain side air bags became a standard safety feature, and the Malibu was voted 2008's North American Car of the Year at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan.
Generation 8 - 2013-2014
A fresh design for 2013 has been followed by even further enhancement for 2014 including greater efficiency, new connectivity features, further comfort enhancements, and a brand-new front fascia. As aforementioned, the new Malibu is the first in its segment to offer standard stop/start technology and is available with a 2.0L turbo-charged engine capable of producing 259 horsepower.
Just to put it all in perspective, here are a few comparisons between the 1964 and 2014 models. It's incredible just how far the Chevy Malibu has come.
- In 1964, the Malibu featured body-on-frame construction, while the 2014 model is body-frame integral.
- The Malibu has evolved from being a rear-wheel drive automobile in 1964 (allowing it to be accepted in the muscle car era) to emerging as a front-wheel drive car today.
- The wheelbase of the car has shortened from 115 inches when it was all-new to 107.8 inches on the newest model, while the overall length of the car has gone from 193.9 inches to 191.5 inches. The width has shortened just 1.6 inches from 74.6 to 73.
- A 2,870 pound curb weight in 1964 has increased drastically due to creature comforts and safety features and now sits at 3393 pounds.
- Originally, a 3.2L inline-six with single-barrel carburetor sat under the hood, but that has since been replaced with a direct fuel-injected 2.5L inline-four. Additionally, the '64's valvetrain was a cam-in-block with pushrods and the '14 has dual overhead cams with variable valve timing and variable valve lift control.
- Base horsepower ratings have mounted from 120 to 196 in the Malibu's 50 years.
- Once equipped with a standard 3-speed manual transmission (or optional 2-speed automatic) a standard 6-speed automatic is the only transmission available.
- Brakes have been upgraded from four-wheel drum to four-wheel disc with anti-lock braking system, and steering has gone from recirculating ball (non-assisted) or an optional power-assist, to electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion.
- Standard wheel size has increased from 14 x 6.5 inches to 16 x 7.5 inches.
- Obvious upgrades have been made over time such as the switch for air conditioning from optional to standard, the upgrade from AM radio to Chevrolet MyLink, the replacement of optional safety belts with 10 standard air bags, and the addition of StabiliTrak stability control technology.