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Holden Malibu CD Automatic diesel 2013 review


Perhaps I misjudged the lazy beachside parallel of Holden's new mid-size entrant. Maybe I was anaesthetised to Holden's previous attempts at this segment, particularly the mind-numbing nothingness and barely acceptable build quality of the Epica.

Like the Epica - suitably nicknamed Epitaph - the Malibu is made in Korea. It has nothing to do with California's average beachfront but is similar to the equally average Chevrolet Malibu sedan. Thankfully, Holden has Australianised the Chevrolet with significant changes in cabin room, suspension tuning and drivetrain.

It gets the powertrain from Opel and at this point, the Malibu is starting to look like a real mid-size contender. But then the body styling creeps up and warms you like an old cardigan, proving that Mitsubishi and Toyota don't hold the licence for bland.


The $32,490 tag for the Malibu CD automatic diesel is line-ball with rival offerings. It buys a big car - only 82mm shorter than the Commodore - with relatively low ownership costs thanks to capped-price service, a 12-month roadside assist package and the frugal diesel consumption. But three-year resale is low at 40 per cent.

Features rate well and aim at occupant convenience - touch screen, Bluetooth and Gracenote, smartphone integration - and economy. But the $34,990 Commodore Evoke auto may be a better buy.


In profile and under certain light I'm reminded - scarred may be more accurate - by the 2008 Chrysler Sebring. There's function in the Malibu but it's no dance partner you'd be happy to twirl.

At least it is roomy with excellent rear-seat leg and headroom, though the 545-litre boot is relatively small given there's no spare wheel (it's optional). Square-rimmed dash gauges and centre console look dated - and are shared with GM products including the GMC SUVs - but are easy to use. Touch screen is excellent but electric park button is hidden.


Under the bonnet it's all Opel. The German-built engine is the same as the Opel Insignia as is the six-speed automatic transmission. Holden passed on the similarly-sized Cruze/Captiva 2-litre diesel-engine from Italy.

The drivetrain and chassis stuff is conventional though the diesel has hydraulic-assist power steering where the petrol-fuelled Malibu gets electric assist. Better is the MyLink media unit with Pandora and Stitcher apps, Gracenote and Bluetooth that provide audio streaming and smart phone integration.


Malibu follows the rivals with a five-star crash rating and all the necessary electronic brake and chassis nannies. There's rear park sensors, a reverse camera, six airbags, heated mirrors, auto headlights but no spare wheel.


Getting the engine from Germany and the transmission from Japan sounds like the ingredients for a top-notch car. They aren't. The engine shows promise but is a bit apathetic and not as bubbly as the VM unit in the Cruze. Performance is adequate and - unusually for a diesel - feels weak at low revs and doesn't start any enthusiasm until 2000rpm.

It performs well at 2000-3000rpm and will close in on the claimed 6.4 L/100km fuel use. The steering feels too light and overgeared but is positive and with the taut body and well-tuned suspension, even induced a smile from me.

The manual shifter for the auto is on top of the gear knob - an unorthodox location that isn't worth the extra brain neurons to master, though it may benefit the petrol model. I liked the ride comfort and the space but the car feels a bit dated against some rivals.


It's worth a look. Roomy dimensions and frugal engine are attractive but an extra $2500 buys a u-beaut Commodore designed in the current century.

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Range and Specs

CD 2.4L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $7,995 – 12,990 2013 Holden Malibu 2013 CD Pricing and Specs
CDX 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $9,913 – 15,000 2013 Holden Malibu 2013 CDX Pricing and Specs
Neil Dowling
Contributing Journalist


Pricing Guide


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