Road test: Holden Malibu is perfect for financially savvy
VALUE takes precedence at some point in life.
That's when you start complaining about paying 20 cents for a sachet of sauce, wading through catalogues and restricting dinners out to Tuesdays.
And this is the customer Holden wants for its new Malibu.
We have seen a few mid-sizers before wear the Holden badge, including the Apollo, Vectra and Epica, but the Malibu appears to be best positioned to make its sales mark courtesy of a simple line-up in two trims.
Holden has conceded the Malibu won't topple the segment-leading Toyota Camry, yet is confident of gaining a foothold in a genre where the brand has been missing in recent years.
On offer are two specification levels, CD and CDX.
The latter gets man-made leather and a few other trinkets, but going with entry-level CD is not bereft of niceties.
Most eye-catching is the colour 17cm touch-screen which raises the tone of the predominantly black cabin.
Interior designers have used horizontal lines across the dash to create a feeling of additional space.
Everything is easy to find and use, and navigating your way through the various touch-screen menus is simple and quick.
We liked the driver's instrument set-up, including the ability to quickly toggle through the trip computer and also make use of the digital speedometer.
Four adults are best suited to the cabin, as three across the back seat is a squeeze. We managed three kids, two in child seats, but it was tight.
Leg room in the rear can also be compromised if those in the front are much taller than 185cm.
On the road
This four-cylinder pairing is honest and hard working.
The diesel delivers the most responsive acceleration response and possesses a handy turn of speed when required - but it does sound agricultural at start-up, although smoothes out once underway.
Summonsing the petrol's power does take more driver effort and any request for rapid acceleration is met with some clunky shifts from the six speed auto as it sings high into the rev range.
Tackle bends with too much vigour and the Malibu will quickly enter understeer, but to be fair, that takes a lot of effort. When driven with linear use of the throttle and smooth steering it remains comfortable and reliable on the highway and around town.
What do you get?
Holden put heavy emphasis on standard features, and the CD variant doesn't disappoint with 17-inch alloys, Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, rear view camera and back parking sensors, electric park brake, along with a nine speaker stereo with USB and MP3 input via the centre console along with cruise control.
Connect your smartphone (Apple devices must be plugged in to the USB) and you can make use of the Pandora music and Stitcher podcasts apps.
It's awesome technology and best of all it is free, giving you access to a swag of music and information, and doesn't chew up too much data in the process.
For an additional $3500 the CDX gets leather trim, 18-inch alloys, dual zone climate controlled air con, eight-way adjustable front heated seats, auto wipers and LED brake tail lamps.
Our stint in the diesel saw some outstanding results, actually achieving less than the official average courtesy of some highway trips.
We managed 6.2 litres for every 100km, which delivered a range of more than 1300km.
As expected, the petrol was about two litres per 100km thirstier. There's ample peace of mind for ongoing costs, with servicing prices capped for the first three years while Holden also has an impressive dealership spread across Australia.
When first introduced to the Malibu we thought the boot was small, but it managed to swallow the family's needs (including obligatory scooters and bike) for a weekend away.
The boot opening is narrow so bulky items may need some Tetris-like packing.
It has two cup holders in the centre console, handy pockets in each door, along with a brilliant space behind the touch-screen for valuables.
One trump card the Malibu has over its bigger Commodore brother is the seats have a 60-40 split fold functionality, great for flat-pack furniture or sporting equipment.
The boot has some Commodore-like lines with the floating pontoon styling.
Aerodynamics were front of mind when the Malibu was designed, including the tapered roof line and sharp lines, but there are enough interesting proportions to garner interest. Still sitting on the safe side of the fence in terms of design, the badge turns heads as many get the Malibu confused with the new VF Commodore.
Holden wanted a good value proposition and it's hard to disagree with the Malibu. It has a strong specification list for the price-tag, accompanied by a modern cabin.
For those seeking cheap ongoing costs it's hard to beat. Impressive economy figures and capped price servicing tick the primary boxes.
It doesn't have the performance prowess some drivers are chasing, but there is the Commodore for those who like more mumbo and rear-wheel drive appeal.
What matters most
The good stuff: Outstanding economy from the diesel, specification list, easy to drive, smart storage options.
What we'd like to see: Paddle shifters instead of the gear shift buttons, more firepower from the petrol - but that would sacrifice economy.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year, 100,000km warranty. Servicing is capped at $185 (petrol) or $335 (diesel) for the first four services over three years or 60,000km. Servicing is every 15,000km or nine months.
Model: Holden Malibu.
Details: Four-door five-seat mid-size front-wheel drive sedan.
Engines: 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 123kW @ 5800rpm and peak torque of 225Nm @ 4600rpm; 2.0-litre turbo diesel 117kW @ 4000rpm and 350Nm @ 1750Nm.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
Consumption: Petrol - 8.0 litres/100km; Diesel CD 6.4L/100km, CDX 6.5L/100km.
CO2: Petrol 192g/km; Diesel - CD 170g/km, CDX 172g/km.
Bottom line: Petrol - CD $28,490, CDX $31,990. Diesel - CD $32,490, CDX Diesel $35,990.