Holden’s Malibu good looking, refined and good value
Holden’s Malibu was designed in USA to take on the world. In Australia, it competes in the both bustling and high talented mid-car segment and could be shopped against everything including the impressive new Hyundai Sonata and to a lesser extent, the Ford Mondeo.
Two specification levels are offered locally: the base CD and the CDX version as tested. Buyers can choose between a 2 litre turbo diesel or a 2.4 litre petrol, both of which are mated to a six-speed automatic.
What we like:
- Refinement levels
- Predictable handling
- Value for money
- Distinctive but attractive styling
Not so much:
- Hard, uncomfortable seats
- Slow to react traction control
- No front parking sensors
- Poor quality reversing camera
Price and Equipment
Holden is playing the value card with all Malibu models. The base CD starts from $28,890 and all models feature standard equipment that includes: climate control, Holden’s renowned MyLink infotainment system with Siri derived voice control and internet based apps. The range topping CDX starts from $32,390 and adds: dual-zone climate control, leather trim with heated front seats that also feature eight-way electric adjustment, satellite navigation, 18 inch wheels, front fog lights and chrome exterior embellishments.
Metallic paint adds another $550, and a diesel motor another $4,000.
All models have been awarded a five star ANCAP safety rating.
There’s something that’s a little old school Americana about the Malibu’s interior, particularly the instrumentation cluster with its square dials with rounded corners and the sweeping dash design. The dashboard and front doors also have a strip of blue lights to add to the interior ambience. All of these endow the mid-size Holden with a unique and endearing character.
Some interior plastics feel a little cheap, especially compared to those in the new Hyundai Sonata. However, passengers do get to enjoy the use of the seven-inch touchscreen, which displays everything from climate control settings, satellite navigation information through to one’s choice of on board entertainment that could be the radio, a web-based application, a iPod or streaming music via Bluetooth from a smartphone.
MyLink can also read text messages without the driver taking their hands off the wheel and the Siri-based voice control is generally very receptive, especially when entering an address into the sat nav on the move. The MyLink system in the Malibu is shared in virtually all models across the Holden range including the Trax, Cruze, Commodore, Caprice and even the Colorado7.
Although MyLink is an effective piece of technology, the satellite navigation system in our test car was underwhelming. On one occasion it simply couldn’t find a suburban Melbourne street which has been established for nearly 40 years and on another, it frequently requested that yours truly completed an illegal U-turn.
Interior storage was also a little disappointing-the centre console was small, and struggled to swallow a latest generation smart phone, yet contained the car’s USB and power ports. Niftily, the head unit can be raised to reveal an illuminated cubby hole, yet this doesn’t offer any sort of connectivity for portable devices.
Yours truly found the bases of the front seats hard and uncomfortable, they managed to be both overtly firm and unsupportive and one felt that they were very much sitting on the chairs rather than in them. At the back, the rear pew was slightly more comfortable and supportive, and there is satisfactory head, leg and shoulder room for three, although the rear compartment didn’t feel as spacious as those in the new Hyundai and the outgoing Ford Mondeo.
The boot is a large, useable space at 545 litres.
Engine and Transmission
Malibu’s 2.4 litre petrol engine develops 123kW @ 5800rpm and 225Nm @ 4600rpm. Power delivery is quiet, smooth if a little sedate. While proceedings are normally very hushed, the powerplant requires a firm prod of accelerator to call on extra power-when needing to quickly overtake, for instance-when this occurs, the engine can whine in protest, as it works in the higher portion of the rev range.
The six-speed automatic shifts in a generally refined manner, although it did have a tendency to unnecessarily “hunt” for gears.
Average fuel economy during test period was around 10.7 litres per 100 kilometres on a combined cycle.
On The Road
On the road, the Malibu is a pleasant and unruffled cruiser. The ride quality is very comfortable and never became overly flustered with road surface irregularities. The steering is also well weighted, if a touch light.
Handling is satisfactory too, providing safe and predictable turn-In and cornering without being overly sporty.
A let down of the driving-or more precisely parking-experience was the reversing camera. Although camera images were projected onto the large 7inch screen, pictures were too dark, grainy and often difficult to interpret at night. Similarly, parking guidance lines were not apparent.
Moreover, it is a little unusual that Holden has omitted front parking sensors, even in the CDX variant. Inclusion of such a money saving device would have demonstrated Holden’s gumption in pitching the Malibu as a value for money vehicle.
Holden’s Malibu is fitted with Electronic Stability Control (ESC) incorporating: anti-lock braking system (ABS), brake assist (BA), electronic braking distribution (EBD) and traction control system (TCS). We found the traction control system a little too slow to reign in unintentional tyre chirping, even on dry tarmac.
Passive safety encompasses: dual front, side and full length curtain airbags.
Servicing and Warranty
All Holdens are covered by a three year/100,000 kilometre warranty. Holden also offers a capped price servicing programme, which stipulates that Malibu services are capped at $229 per every 15,000 service.
Holden Malibu CDX Specs
Make and model: Holden Malibu CDX
Engine type: 2384cc four-cylinder petrol, double overhead cam with variable valve timing
Power: 123kW @ 5800rpm
Torque: 225Nm @ 4600rpm
Transmission: six-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Fuel consumption: 8 litres per 100 kilometres
Dimensions: 4865mm long, 1855 mm wide, 1465mm high and 2737mm wheelbase
Suspension: Front: MacPherson strut Rear: Multi-link
Steering: Electric rack and pinion steering
Country of Origin: Korea
Options: Metallic paint-$550