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I've had a lot of personal experience with these [E90] Corollas/Prizms, all of them belonging to various family members. Two 1992 Prizm sedans that belong to my aunt, a 1992 Corolla Wagon that belonged to my mother, and a 1990 Corolla Wagon that belongs to my uncle. One of the things that I've always noticed about these cars is how overly sensitive the gas pedals are. You really have to be careful when pulling away from stops not to violently lurch the car forward. Yes, these little 4-bangers don't have much power, but the majority of the oomph they do have feels like it's in that first quarter inch due to the way they regulated the pedal. My guess is that they did this to make the cars feel faster than they actually are. An overly sensitive pedal sounds like such a little thing, but it makes for quite an unpleasant and on-your-toes (no pun intended) driving experience until you've gotten used to the car. I totally know what you mean about the sound of the doors. I pay a lot of attention to things like that. Even 20-year-old astronomically high-mileage Japanese cars will make a lovely tight sounding *clump* when you shut them. Yet for some reason you can hardly find an American car over 15 years old that doesn't rattle and clang, or make some sort of metal-on-metal noise as opposed to the cushioning soft rubber noise that the Japanese cars have. As you said, it's the little things.
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I just realized something interesting when reading that article you linked to... the engine in question is the 3.1 liter (and 3.8 liter as well). GM put those engines in pretty much *everything* in the 90s and early-00s. So the question that comes to my mind is what makes this incarnation of Malibu so much worse than the Century, Rendezvous, LeSabre, Park Avenue, Regal, Riviera, Camaro, Impala, Lumina, Monte Carlo, Venture, Alero, Cutlass, Silhouette, Aztek, Grand Am, Grand Prix, Montana, Trans Sport, Eighty-Eight, Ninety-Eight, Intrigue, Bonneville, Firebird, and Grand Prix? Since most of them have the same engine(s), and therefore the same manifold issue, doesn't that make every single one of them criminally terrible "demon cars" like the detestable 'bu? I'm not being sarcastic here, just curious. Do explain. I sure hope that's not the case, because I happen to have one of those models, a Monte Carlo with the 3.1 liter engine, as my daily driver at the moment. To the best of my knowledge my soul has not been consumed yet. Though in that case I think the interior of the car will rattle itself into oblivion before any of the mechanicals fail. GM interiors of the period WERE criminally terrible, that I will certainly give you.
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Come on now guys... why are you all judging an entire make and model based on one single example? You are exaggerating immensely... the Malibu is by no means a "truly terribly car". Every automaker has lemons, David's unfortunate example is clearly one of them. I've never had a Malibu personally, but I have had quite a diverse experience with my own cars- at various times I've had a Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Mercury Grand Marquis, Dodge 600 Turbo convertible, Chevrolet Monte Carlo to name some. Not to mention the countless Toyotas and Hondas of my family members that I've had long-term hands on experience with. Let me tell you... they all have their issues. I'm not going to say that the American cars are as well built or reliable as the Japanese ones because generally they're not, at least the older ones (i.e. pre-2005). But they are also not unutterably awful like you are making them out to be. The Malibu is boring. VERY boring. But they are generally solid. Key word there is generally, because as you can see there are exceptions to everything. You know what a "truly terrible car" is? A 1973 Malibu. Back then you couldn't even be 100 percent sure your car could would start reliably a week after you drove it off the lot, and you could watch it rust before your eyes. Plus, as you are all very eager to point out here on Car Lust, the driving experience of a 70s car is not far off from piloting and ocean liner. I just find it irritating that people are so quick to criticize American cars that they fail to see how far they've come. The Malibu is better than the Corsica that came before it, and the Chevette that came before that, and the Vega that came before that. Drive one back to back with a Camry and the only difference you'll notice is the logo on the steering wheel. Don't get me wrong, I like Japanese cars just as much as any of you American-car-haters here, my father just bought a used Honda Accord it's pretty much perfect in every category, and very enjoyable to drive (especially for a family sedan). But American cars are not that far off anymore. Just don't make such broad generalizations like you have with this Malibu. "Perfect" is certainly not the right word to describe the Malibu, but neither is "terrible". Provided of course you are not talking about the lemon in this story, in which case it is terrible...
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Dec 1, 2009