A European-sourced diesel engine adds an interesting twist to the Korean-built Holden Malibu. Does this entry-level CD model do the business?
Base price: $45,400.
Powertrain and performance: 2.0-litre turbo diesel four, 117kW/350Nm, 6-speed automatic, front-drive, Combined economy 6.4 litres per 100km.
Vital statistics: 4865mm long, 1465mm high, luggage capacity 545 litres, fuel tank 73 litres, 17-inch alloy wheels. .
We like: Value for money, strong diesel, comfortable ride on 17-inch wheels.
We don’t like: Unrefined powerplant, not a driver’s car, cheesy cabin styling.
How it rates: 7/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? You could easily argue that nothing says ‘fleet car’ more clearly than this: a Holden Malibu in entry-level CD specification, with a clattery diesel engine under the bonnet. However, that’s not to say the Malibu CD diesel is an uninteresting machine. It’s a car focused on comfort and space, and the 2.0-litre diesel-engine option is actually an Opel unit from Europe.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? As we’ve said previously in a test of the Malibu CDX, the 2.4-litre petrol-engine option is refined but underwhelming. The 2.0-litre diesel engine is impressive in terms of performance but brings major opportunity cost in terms of noise, vibration and harshness (NVH). Which is a shame because one of the Malibu’s big selling points is refinement. Can’t win, right? But on balance, the diesel is worth the $2500 premium over the equivalent petrol model even if you’re not doing major kilometres each year, because it’s so effortless and it does add character to what is otherwise a fairly middle-of-the-road sedan. The extra weight of the diesel engine does not help the handling cause, but then the Malibu is not that kind of car. The steering is good, thanks to some extra calibration work from Holden’s engineers in Australia (Malibu hails from Korea, of course). But the chassis is pretty soft and the car is optimised for a comfortable ride above all else – which it achieves, without succumbing to excessive floating on undulating surfaces. The CD diesel is a pretty good long-haul machine.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? Much of Malibu’s styling is influenced by one of its main markets: middle America. So there’s an odd mix of Camaro-style square dials with cheesy fake chrome and even some garish blue mood lighting at night. It’s a bit much and lacks coherence. However, the basic equipment package is impressive for an entry-level model. You still get Holden’s excellent MyLink touch screen, which has a really responsive feel to it and includes smartphone applications such as Pandora and Stitcher. The large screen also acts as the display for the (standard) reversing camera. This is a generously sized car – moving more from medium to large size in terms of passenger and luggage space, with a generous (if not entirely comfortable) rear seat and 545 litre boot. Which is more than that in a Commodore.
SHOULD I BUY ONE? It’s probably more likely that your fleet manager will have bought one for you, to be honest. Malibu is not an exciting car, to look at (especially in CD guise, with its tiny 17-inch wheels) or to drive. It’s all about comfort and refinement. So if you can live with the dichotomy of that with the strong but strangely noisy diesel engine, this particular model might just be the business-focused Malibu at its best.
EQUIPMENT CHECKLISTAir conditioning: Climate Audio: CD, iPod compatible, MyLink smartphone applications Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/No Blind spot warning: No Bluetooth: Yes Cruise control: Yes Driver footrest: Yes Gas discharge headlights: No Head-up display: No Heated/ventilated seats: No Keyless entry/start: Yes/Yes Lane guidance: No Leather upholstery: No Parking radar: Rear with camera Power boot or tailgate: No Power seat adjustment/memory: No Remote audio controls: Yes Satellite navigation: Yes Seat height adjustment: Yes Self-parking technology: No Split/folding rear seats: 60/40 Steering reach adjustment: Yes Stop-start: No Trip computer: Yes
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