The Holden Malibu is Holden’s competitor in the heavily competitive midsize car market, earlier on in the year I was able to review the CD and CDX versions back to back and while I found both to be reasonable cars I thought they were both let down by the 2.4L petrol 4 cylinder engine which I though was lacklustre and really not all that fuel efficient.
So the main question on my mind when I picked up the keys to the Malibu CDX diesel was could the diesel engine be the big thing that fixes my two main complaints I had with the petrol models.
Now while the Malibu’s looks aren’t over the top it doesn’t look like your average midsize car either. The Malibu is sold as a Chevrolet in every other market around the world but Holden have given it the Holden treatment at front and combine that with the muscular lines across the bonnet (which you really notice when viewing it from side on) give it a more up market look, The CDX has chrome surround fog lights and the extra chrome lifts the look just that little bit higher.
While Holden have managed to blend the Holden family face to the front walking around to the back and it’s all Chevrolet the Camaro inspired tail lights look exceptionally good specially LED versions on the CDX model, the high belt line on the rear quarter completes the look and is really my favourite part of the car.
On the inside the Malibu to me looks rather nice to me there is some hard plastics across the top of the dash but as I’ve said before that never worries me I don’t tend to fondle the top of dash on cars I’m driving.
Slip behind the wheel and you can’t miss it’s Chevrolet origins as the instrument panel pays homage the Camaro once more which I really did like in between the gauges is a colour multifunction screen which is used to display information from the on board computer.
The leather bound steering wheel is comfortable, not to thin and not to thick and has controls for the Cruise control, audio system and phone which means you virtually never need to take any of your hands off the wheel while driving.
The centre stack is dominated by the Holden Mylink system and I can’t say enough about how good I find this system especially in easy of operation, the sound from the 9 speaker sound system is not too bad.
The Bluetooth is so easy to use and took all of about 15 seconds for me to have my phone connected to the Mylink system and start live streaming music from it.
The dark grey trim around the centre stack give a great contrast to the darker plastics of the dash board, one thing that many people commented on was the lines across the dash that start at the door trim and runs from one side to the other. At night these lines are lit with ice blue lighting which one of my favourite parts on the interior.
There is plenty of storage places around the cabin including a rather nifty hidden away spot behind the touch screen, the 8 way electric adjustable leather seats on the CDX are comfortable and have a heating function to keep you warm on those cold mornings. One let down I did find was the seats where a little short and the seem on the seat was rather hard and stuck into the back of my legs.
Rear seat room is only average but my kids never complained about the lack of room, but when asked they said they would have liked more leg room.
The boot in the Malibu is rather big at 545 litres and gets even bigger when you take into account the 60/40 split fold rear seat.
On the road the Malibu doesn’t drive to too bad at all the diesel model does feel a touch heavily in the front then the petrol models but you don’t notice it that much.
The Holden engineers have done a decent job of sorting out the suspension tuning it to local conditions, The Malibu ride well and seemed to really soak up the bumps, it does handle most bumps well but at certain times you could feel slight imperfections in the roads.
I didn’t push the Malibu extremely hard through corners but power steering has a decent feel to it and is light at low speeds which is great for wheeling it around the suburban car parks lots of Malibu’s will see duty in.
Under the bonnet is what really had my interest and this Malibu is powered by a 2.0L 117kw 350nm turbo diesel, I will start by saying yes this engine is a massive improvement on the 2.4L 4 cylinder engine which I found rather lack lustre in performance.
The diesel has a bit of lag of the mark like most diesels but once you get going it performs a lot better then petrol engine. The Malibu does weight close to 1600kg so performance is not absolutely blistering but it will keep up with traffic. On freeway the diesel is wonderful while I found I had to plan my overtaking in the petrol model diesel in another story with enough torque tap to make over taking a breeze.
Big difference between the 2 engines is the fuel economy in bumper to bumper traffic I was averaging in the 9.7L/100kms. Once on the freeway the diesel engine comes into it’s own and even with 5 people on board I was recording figures in the high 4’s at times.
The 6 speed auto transmission is not bad it shifts seamlessly in normal every day driving, it is equip with a manual shift mode, but to be honest I never used it as I found it a pain. While most cars you move the shifter to the left to go into sports mode on the Malibu you move the shifter all the way down, so I did accidently shift it into manual shift mode by mistake.
The big reason I didn’t use the manual shift mode was the positioning of the up and down gear selection button, which is on top of the gear shifter using it so I basically used it once and didn’t bother using it again.
Safety wise the Malibu CDX scores full points from not only me but from ANCAP where they gave it a 5 Star Safety rating thanks to a wealth of safety features Holden has festooned on the Malibu such as 6 airbags, ABS, ESC, TCS, rear parking sensors and a rear view camera.
Over all I found the Malibu rather good, 5 Star Safety rating, has a long list of features, the interior looks good and well set out, comfortable to ride in and drive.
The Malibu CDX diesel would make a decent family car it has plenty of safety features, a long equipment list and the diesel engine offers great economy and decent performance.
Its main problem is it’s a victim of its own circumstance and the in fact it’s bigger brother Commodore is so well priced. Ticking the diesel option on the Malibu adds $4000 to the price which then puts it in the price range of the VF Commodore. Which even in the entry level Evoke guise offers you more room and technology, safety and is just down right better drive.
So certainly if you are looking for a family car and don’t car as big as a Commodore give the Malibu a look.
For more info on the Malibu check out Holden’s website www.holden.com.au