A truly progressive take on the family car, incorporating the best of hatchback, station wagon, minivan, and sedan characteristics. Versatile, reasonably-sized. Good standard 4-cylinder power. Built on European Epsilon front-wheel-drive platform. 4-link independent rear suspension.
Price for a 2004 Chevrolet Malibu Maxx in the US ranges from $22,225 for the base LS to $24,725 for the LT.
The Inside Story:
The 5-door Maxx rides on a wheelbase that is 6-inches longer than the 2004 Malibu sedan, yet its overall length is a half-inch shorter. The result is a cavernous interior for a car this size. Independently adjustable 60/40 split/folding/reclining rear seat also slides forward and aft nearly 7-inches. A rear-seat skylight and an adjustable storage shelf that also can be a picnic table are just a few of the standard features that make the interior so versatile.
Under the Hood:
The standard engine is GM's Ecotec 2.2 liter twin-cam 4-cylinder unit, delivering 145 hp. Optional is GM's updated 3500 3.5-liter, overhead-valve V-6, with 200 horsepower. Plenty of torque but the smaller engine is more technically advanced.
Not much choice here. You get GM's Hydra-Matic 4T45-E 4-speed electronic automatic, and that's it. A 5-speed automatic would be much preferred, especially with the 4-cylinder engine.
Bumper-to-bumper and powertrain warranties are both good for 3 years or 36,000 miles.
Should You Buy a 2004 Malibu Maxx?:
We've long complained that the average mid-size family sedan is really an old-fashioned concept, sacrificing space and comfort for tradition. Now, as if to prove the point, comes the 2004 Chevrolet Malibu Maxx. It's a crossover but probably should be called the common-sense vehicle. Note that, while slightly shorter than the Malibu sedan, Maxx's longer wheelbase opens up the interior, making it spacious and allowing for an amazingly adaptable rear seat. A hatch-type rear provides a larger, more accessible cargo area. The extended roofline means that rear door openings can be high and wide, something that will be appreciated by anyone who's tried squeezing into the average modern sedan. With the European-designed front-wheel-drive chassis plus a decent engine choice, you've got the best mid-size family car package on the market. We haven't had cars this intelligent in decades.