2013 HOLDEN MALIBU REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Midsized family sedan
Engine/Trans: 117kW/350Nm 2.0 4cyl diesel | 6spd auto
Price: $32,490 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.4l/100km | tested: 9.5l/100km
When the Epica disappeared into the horizon (to no small amount of cheering), Holden needed a mid-sized car to plug the gap.
It found the Opel/Vauxhall Insignia cum Chevrolet Malibu. But midsize? Hardly, make no mistake, the Holden Malibu is big.
At only 82mm shorter than a Commodore, it’s at the large end of the medium segment.
But the Cruze is a big small car and the Commodore a big big car, so why not a larger-than-most big medium car?
Time to take the Malibu CD diesel for a spin to find out.
Quality: Saying that the Malibu’s cabin is better than the Epica is no real compliment. But, in terms of aesthetics, the Malibu interior is tastefully styled, and the subtle blue LED lighting works well at night.
The plastics however are hard to the touch, and there’s not much in this interior that has anything approaching a premium feel.
Even the plastic steering wheel in the CD model we drove feels a bit 'sticky' in hand. Opting for the CDX nets a leather-wrapped steering wheel which is far nicer (there’s one good reason for spending a bit more).
While the gloss-grey centre console looks good, the interior ambience falls short of the better interiors in this segment (like the Mazda6 and even Mondeo).
Comfort: The seats in the Malibu are adequately padded (though shaped a little flat) and the textured cloth prevents you sliding around in the wide seats.
Legroom in the rear is decent, except for the middle seat.
We have to question why the floorpan has a huge hump in the rear (as if there's or driveshaft to make way for). All it does is make the middle seat extremely uncomfortable.
Equipment: Holden’s MyLink is employed in the Malibu, so Pandora and Stitcher music apps are included, plus slick voice control and Bluetooth. But the touch screen makes a lot of the buttons underneath superfluous. Removing them would eliminate a lot of the centre-stack clutter.
The sound system is quite good and the “Knight Rider” style graphic representing volume changes is nifty.
Storage: The Malibu has some pretty clever storage spaces. There’s a hidden storage bin behind the seven-inch touch-screen, plus a pocket on the side of the centre console can house a mobile phone while charging.
One-litre bottles can be stored in each of the four doors, and two cup holders feature in both the console and rear seat armrest.
The boot is a handy size at 545 litres, a full 49 litres bigger than Commodore’s boot.
ON THE ROAD
It teams well with the smooth six-speed auto which shifts decisively and generally has the right gear underfoot.
However, taking control of gears manually calls for the use of an odd 'rocker' switch on top of the gear lever; it hardly inspires driver involvement.
With a 73-litre tank, the Malibu diesel will theoretically go around 1100km between fills, though driven around town that figure drops to around 750km per tank.
We managed, under harder driving, 9.5 l/100km against the claimed 6.4 l/100km.
Refinement: Compared to the current crop of diesels, the Malibu’s is at the more agricultural end of the scale. It’s a bit intrusive under hard acceleration and at idle there’s plenty of chatter to tell you it’s an oiler.
Road noise is acceptable however, as is wind noise - but while it's reasonably quiet inside, the Malibu is hardly the last word in refinement.
Ride and Handling: Running on 17-inch wheels, the ride is decent, though it can get a little jiggly over the rough stuff. It doesn’t crash or thump though, but there’s a fair bit of lean when cornering.
The steering is fairly muted in feel and its springy nature means it wants to self-centre even without torque steer. A driver’s car? Perhaps look to the Mondeo or Mazda6.
Braking: With ventilated discs front and rear, it has all the necessary gear, but it can feel a little spongy under very hard braking. Despite this, it does haul up quickly and the pedal is well-weighted.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars – the Malibu scored 35.47 points out of a possible 37.
Safety features: Six airbags, seatbelt pretensioners, collapsible pedals, electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes with brake assist and brake-force distribution and three child-seat anchor points.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Holden’s current fleet carries a three-year, 100,000km warranty.
Service costs: Holden’s capped services mean the first four services (three years or 60,000km) remain at $335 for the diesel Malibu.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY RATING: 3/5
Mazda6 Touring diesel ($40,350) – Yes, it’s a lot more expensive but the 6's interior alone shows where the money goes. It is a superior drive in nearly every way, but you pay for it: you'll need to weigh-up the $8k premium on the 6. (see Mazda6 reviews)
Skoda Octavia 77TDI ($27,790) – It’s a bit smaller, the Octavia, but it’s a cracking drive and is priced extremely well. A superior build and drivetrain, plus that price advantage, makes the Czech mid-sizer worth a very close look (see Octavia reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
That said, there is nothing wrong with the way the diesel goes about things (a little coarseness aside), nor the comfortable seats.
With just a bit more refinement, a better quality feel to the of interior materials, and it would be right up there. But, at its price, in this segment of some very good cars, the Malibu’s 'cons' outweigh its 'pros' as a purchase.
We’d rather you spend your money on the homegrown product and stick a Commodore in your garage instead. Surely you can find another 82mm in there…
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
- Malibu CD Petrol - $28,490
- Malibu CD Diesel - $32,490
- Malibu CDX Petrol - $31,990
- Malibu CDX Diesel - $35,990