The Quiet Korean American Australian: Malibu CDX

Malibu profileHolden’s battle to find a worthy midsize car is almost legendary, with one entrant, the Epica, very quickly not finding enough homes in Australia to become anything other than a massive disappointment. The latest knight to take a crack at the crown is the Korean built, Aussie engineered, American named Malibu.
A Wheel Thing was given the CDX for a week and came away reasonably impressed. The engine fitted was a German sourced 2.0L diesel and throwing out the proverbial stump pulling torque expected, in this case 350Nm. What it also came with was an abundance of diesel chatter, a feeling of missing out on refinement and the question of why. Bolted up to a six speed automatic transmission there was no question of ability, moreso the disappointing coarseness overall. The gearbox itself showed a readiness to find gears, especially coming down Malibu dashthe winding Old Bathurst Road in Sydney’s west, dropping down to fifth or fourth as the occasion required. Given its head, the combination would easily chirp the front driven wheels before the traction control kicked in and a bite of the tarmac was taken with the big Malibu (it’s almost the same size overall as the VF Commodore!) rapidly seeing freeway speed. The steering is light and quick, perhaps too light for those used to a heavier feel through the tiller, however I never found it lacking in feel or feedback. Holden’s engineers had heavy input to the suspension and steering, with neither losing composure across a variety of road surfaces; torque steer was barely noticeable which is astounding given the grunt the Malibu has through the driving wheels and the ride was rarely jiggly, sitting flat through sweeping turns and responding quickly to undulating roads. On the freeway and not under load it is quiet enough with minimal wind roar and road noise coming into the cabin.
Malibu noseThe exterior is a mixed blessing; the familial resemblance to Malibu CDX rearbig brother VF at the rear (and, of course, the American cousins) is clear whilst the front both resembles the Epica and Opel Insignia and lacks any real cut through in presence. In profile it’s handsome in one respect but is somewhat busy in the rear door window line, with a trapezoidal shape sweeping into a aerodynamically useful yet somehow visually out of place cut line.
The interior seems inspired by a melding of Jaguar and church, with a double flying buttress dash design (akin, in a way, to the lovely XJ) in front of driver and passenger framing a tall arch holding radio/satnav/aircon (which swings up to reveal a hidden storage
compartment at the touch of a button) in the centre. The buttresses feature strakes which are highlighted at night by deep blue LED backlighting. The driver gets standard GM dials, the centre looks vaguely Opel-ish with an overabundance of Malibu interiorbuttons (although a stylish touch is the spacing of the larger ones) inside a dark metallic grey plastic. The MyLink system is also included on the CDX ( seats were also of the same archlike profile on the squab; doing a fair job in the comfort and support stakes. Being Commodore sized the boot is large enough to swallow an elephant and have room left over.
It’s possible that Holden may, finally, have found a solid mid sized competitor; however it’s up against the Mazda6, Toyota Camry, Ford’s aging Mondeo and the sweet Kia Optima. A nose job and some diesel fettling (there is a petrol engine available) would go a long way to increasing its battle worthiness in a very tight segment with pricing starting from $28490 for the petrol CD up to a touch under $36K for the CDX diesel. for more information

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