2013 HOLDEN MALIBU CDX REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Medium sedan
Price: $31,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 123kW/225Nm 4cyl petrol | 6spd automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 8.0 l/100km | tested: 8.8 l/100km
Now enter the stylish Malibu sedan.
It's the Chevrolet version - essentially - of the very capable Opel Insignia (all sitting on GM’s Epsilon II platform). In Europe, the Insignia is regarded as something of a driver's car. So how does it fare here?
Available as a sedan with automatic transmission only and with either petrol or diesel power, the Malibu has the style to put Holden back in the game, is reasonably well-equipped and it undercuts the Camry on price.
TMR drove the petrol-powered Malibu CDX model to see how it stacks up.
Quality: The Malibu interior looks like a VF Commodore that's shrunk in the wash.
But while the medium Holden is quite well equipped, and the visual similarities with the Commodore are apparent, interior quality doesn’t quite meet the high standards of the VF.
The Malibu however is much cheaper - it's one of the value buys in the medium segment - and while the fit inside is good, you can see where the money is saved in some of the interior plastics.
There is a lot going on in this interior, and it doesn't have the integrated and more robust feel of the Camry (again the latter costs more).
It can also sound a bit 'drummy' inside (like it's hollow), but, it's quiet and comfortable and there is little intrusion from noise outside.
Comfort: The front seats offer great lumbar support, but the base is perhaps a little flat, something which is noticeable after a few long journeys.
The dual-zone climate control works well, as do the heated front seats but there are no air-vents for rear seat passengers.
The rear seat itself will hold two adults in comfort but legroom is surprisingly short. If those adults are tall, they simply will not fit in the back. The Malibu has a very generous boot for a medium-sized car, but back-seat space has suffered as a result.
The excellent My Link touch screen is identical in operation to the VF Commodore unit, but the screen is slightly smaller at seven inches.
Malibu CDX also gets rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlamps and keyless-entry with push-button start.
Storage: The boot is a highlight of the Malibu, giving it genuine ‘family car’ status complete with folding rear seats.
Elsewhere, there’s map pockets, sunglasses holder, deep centre-console bin and a glovebox that’s perhaps a little on the small side.
The Malibu’s storage party-piece is the ‘hidden’ compartment behind the 7-inch touch screen. A sliding release switch prompts the screen to slide out and up, giving access to a useful storage compartment.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The four-cylinder petrol engine will happily lug the Malibu CDX around town, but a few more kiloWatts would be nice elsewhere.
The power output would be fine in a smaller car, but we found it lacking for the medium sized sedan. If you have to find a sudden burst of speed, the Malibu can be a bit slow to respond.
While the six-speed automatic transmission operates smoothly, there is no ‘sport’ mode, and manual shifting is done via a rocker switch mounted atop the shifter.
So before you attempt a mountain pass with the Malibu, its best to learn which way the rocker switch goes for upshifts and downshifts without taking your eyes off the road, or you could easily find yourself in the wrong gear.
Refinement: It wasn’t until we took the Malibu for a drive down the freeway that it started to score points for refinement.
The CDX is quite the capable cruiser, happily rolling along with the cruise control set and without constantly down-changing as we were expecting.
The interior is certainly quiet enough while on the move, even when you call upon some more go from the four-cylinder petrol engine.
There’s little wind noise and minimal tyre noise from the 18-inch rubber.
Ride and Handling: Holden invested time and effort into the Malibu’s suspension to tune it for local conditions. You may have heard that before, but in this instance it’s hard to argue with the results.
We tested the Malibu over some typical Australian back roads, guaranteed to show up any weaknesses in ride or handling, and the medium Holden surprised us quite a bit.
The ride quality is very good, and the handling is more than up to the task of matching the engine’s power output.
In fact, it’s fair to say that ride quality is better than just ‘very good’.
Braking: At 1610kg, the Malibu CDX is approaching Commodore territory in the weight category. The brakes are up to the task of arresting that weight, but that’s about it.
We found the pedal softened a little after heavy work, and the pedal feel itself is a bit numb.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars: this model scored 35.47 out of 37
Safety features: Airbags include driver & passenger (dual), head for second row seats, side for first row occupants (front), head for first row seats (front).
Active safety systems include traction control, electronic brake distribution, and brake assist.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: 3 years / 100,000km
Service costs: Capped-price servicing is included, which covers up to four services at a maximum of $185 each in the first three years or 60,000km of ownership.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Suzuki Kizashi Sport Touring CVT ($32,490 drive-away) - With it’s entry-level Touring model, the Kizashi more than matches the Malibu with its new drive-away pricing.
It also scores bonus points for offering a manual transmission ($29,990 drive-away) more power from its identically sized 2.4 litre four-cylinder petrol engine and marginally better fuel economy. (see Kizashi reviews)
Mazda6 Sport Sedan ($33,460) - The cheapest Mazda6 is almost $1500 more expensive than the up-spec CDX Malibu. That said, it offers a good dollop more power from its 2.5 litre petrol engine, exceptional fuel economy and is a very good drive.
While one of the best handling cars in the segment, the Mondeo has slightly less power from its 2.3 litre four-cylinder petrol engine than the Malibu, and fuel economy suffers as a result.
The Mondeo is a quality car, but you’ll get more kit for your money in the Malibu CDX.
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs, unless stated otherwise.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Malibu CDX petrol is well-equipped and, compromised rear legroom aside, it’s certainly big enough for a modern family (and has a very useful boot).
It's only eight centimetres smaller than a Commodore (barely two inches).
There are some performance compromises though with the petrol engine. We'd suggest you might consider spending the extra $500 for the entry-level CD diesel model, at $32,490 plus on-roads.
While you’ll have to do without some of the CDX’s equipment, the diesel engine offers a better and more dynamic driving experience.
Engine aside, the Holden Malibu CDX petrol offers pretty good value for money.