Conservative in its shape, the new Holden Malibu will appeal to buyers looking for value in a family car

Conservative in its shape, the new Holden Malibu will appeal to buyers looking for value in a family car

Here’s a radical thought: if Holden was to build the Malibu in Australia, put Commodore badges on it and add a bit more pep to the engines it might sell up a storm.

Australian car buyers have made it clear they no longer want large family cars, now preferring medium SUVs or small cars. The Holden Malibu, which is sold as a family car by Chevrolet in the USA, is a size down on the Commodore and may have turned out to be exactly what Aussies are looking for in the second decade of the 21st century.

Named after the famous California beachside suburb on the west coast of the USA, the Holden Malibu comes in two trim levels, CD and CDX. The entry level Malibu CD has 17-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, automatic headlamps, powered height-adjustable seats and an electric park brake.


Malibu CDX moves up to 18-inch wheels, front foglamps, chrome highlights on the body, and LED rear lights. It has leather covered seats, the fronts are heated, with eight-way power adjustment; leather wrapped steering wheel; automatic wipers and dual-zone climate control.

Coming out of the Chevrolet design centre in the United States, the Malibu had extensive input from downunder, with Australian Mike Simcoe, GM’s Executive Director Design, overseeing the operation. Interestingly, the new Chevrolet Camaro is also a product that benefited a lot from the Holden design team. Note the similarity between the Camaro rear lights and those of the Malibu.

Holden Malibu exterior design manager, Justin Thompson, led work on the new VF Commodore and says the Malibu shares design highlights with the Holden Commodore. “The rear of the Malibu was the first iteration of VF styling as we began to work on the VE replacement,” said Thompson.


The interior styling of the Malibu was the work of a team led by Yan Huang from Holden, while she was working in the United States. She is currently interior design manager for GM’s global advanced vehicles.

All of which means that Australia is alive and healthy in the GM engineering and styling world, something that bodes well for the future of the automotive industry here.

The Holden Malibu can be specified with either a 2.4-litre petrol engine or 2.0-litre turbo-diesel, both are teamed with a six-speed automatic transmission that has manual overrides if the driver feels the need to choose their own ratios.

New Holden Malibu comes with a seven-inch colour touch screen to access Holden’s MyLink app-based infotainment system for music and satellite navigation use. It also has steering wheel controls. Bluetooth streaming is there if you want to use your own devices.

Reversing camera and rear park assist will be the most used of Malibu’s safety features. It has a strong suite of other items, including stability control, brake assist and six airbags. It has been crash tested by Australasian NCAP and achieved five stars.

We reviewed both engine options during our two-week road test period with the new Holden Malibu. Sensor key and push button start give it a thoroughly modern feel the moment you approach it.

We found that the turbo-diesel took some time to get into its stride off the mark, exhibiting more lag than is the norm these days. This can be frustrating to driver who have come to love the response of Holden engines over the years. In comparison, the 2.4-litre petrol unit positively sprinted from standstill and was much more flexible in its feel.

Importantly, the Holden Malibu rides and handles like an Australian car thanks to engineering input from Holden vehicle dynamics engineers based at the Lang Lang proving ground south west of Melbourne.

Road and engine noise were kept at bay from the passenger cabin in both cases, occupants held in well sculpted, comfortable, leather clad seats. Instruments and gauges were well positioned and the touch screen image was as clear as a bell.

Generous shoulder space and head room area feature of the front seats. Rear seat legroom proved marginal if there were taller occupants up front, unless they were prepared to give up a notch to three in their own legroom. Perhaps the idea of fitting Commodore badges on the Malibu would be scuppered for this reason alone.

Soft interior surfaces give the feeling of prestige, there’s plenty of storage for personal items and cup holders, the largest to take a one-litre container. These are important factors in a family car and the designers should be complimented for their attention to detail.

The boot is huge, a real plus in a front-drive car compared to one with a differential under the floor. Score one for the Malibu in the comparo with the Commodore – that is, if you’re not the sort of driver who loves the added control provided by a rear-wheel-drive car.

Holden Malibu is a little smaller than a Commodore, a smidgen larger than a Cruze. Will it get squeezed out of potential buyers’ minds because of this? Only time will tell, but in the early days Malibu is generating a reasonable amount of showroom traffic and certainly deserves to succeed.


CD 2.4-litre petrol four-door sedan: $28,490 (automatic)
CD 2.0-litre turbo-diesel four-door sedan: $32,490 (automatic)
CDX 2.4-litre petrol four-door sedan: $31,990 (automatic)
CDX 2.0-litre turbo-diesel four-door sedan: $35,990 (automatic)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Holden dealer for drive away prices.

SPECIFICATIONS (Holden Malibu CD 2.4-litre four-door sedan)

Capacity: 2.384 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Head Design: DOHC, four valves per cylinder
Compression Ratio: 10.4:1
Bore/Stroke: 88.0 x 98.0 mm
Maximum Power: 123 kW @ 5800 rpm
Maximum Torque: 225 Nm @ 4600 rpm

Manual Transmission: Not offered
Automatic Transmission: Six-speed
Final Drive Ratio: 3.23:1

Length: 4865 mm
Wheelbase: 2737 mm
Width: 1855 mm
Height: 1465 mm
Turning Circle: 11.0 metres
Kerb Mass: 1608 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 73 litres
Towing Ability: 1200 kg
Boot Capacity: 545 litre

Front Suspension: MacPherson strut, coil springs, gas damper, anti-roll bar
Rear Suspension: Multi-link, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Front Brakes: Ventilated disc
Rear Brakes: Disc

0-100 km/h Acceleration: Not available

Type: Petrol 91RON
Combined Cycle (ADR 81/02): 8.0 L/100km

Greenhouse Rating: 6.5/10
Air Pollution Rating: 8.5/10

Three years/100,000 km

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
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