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2014 Holden Malibu CDX review (video)

Over the years we’ve seen quite a few different mid-sized Holdens come and go, but none look as striking or drive as good as the 2014 Holden Malibu CDX. We’ve just road tested the 2.0-litre turbo-diesel model, and, for $35,990, it presents quite the package.

2014 Holden Malibu CDX front side

The Malibu might be new to Australia, however, it has been on sale in the US for the past 18 months. And while the US-built models are made at home, the models we receive are built in Korea.

The front-wheel drive Malibu is based on General Motors’s Epsilon II platform; a platform that is also used by the current Opel Insignia (recently sold in Australia), and the Saab 9-5.

The model we’re reviewing is the 117kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder variant. The only other engine option is a 123kW/225Nm 2.4-litre petrol four-cylinder. All Malibus are equipped with a conventional six-speed automatic transmission as standard.

Prices for petrol models start from $28,490 for the base model Malibu CD, through to $31,990 for the Malibu CDX – diesel adds a $4000 premium across both models.

2014 Holden Malibu CDX – THE SPECS

Engine: 2.0-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder
Output: 117kW@4000rpm / 350Nm@1750rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Drive type: Front-wheel drive
Wheels: F: 18×8.0, 245/45  R: 18×8.0, 245/45
ANCAP: Five stars (scored 35.47 out of 37)
Kerb weight: 1684kg

Power-to-weight: 14.39:1 (kg:kw)
Official fuel economy: 6.4L/100km
Economy during test: 6.4L/100km
Fuel capacity/Type: 73L/diesel
Power efficiency: 18.28kW:L/100km
0-100km/h as tested: 9.3 seconds
Priced from: $35,990 ($36,540 as tested)

2014 Holden Malibu CDX rear

2014 Holden Malibu CDX – THE PACKAGE

Step inside the Malibu and you’re greeted by an interior that’s well different to most of Holden’s current products. The layout is somewhat futuristic, but is dominated by a lot of plastic surfaces. There is cool blue illumination that wraps around the dash, for those who like a little ambiance in their car.

As far as comfort goes, the Malibu offers plenty of space for the front occupants, and a well-padded pair of seats. Things are a bit tight in the rear as far as leg and headroom go, leaving the mid-sizer to feel more like the smaller Holden Cruze.

The leather upholstery in the CDX feels nice to touch, and looks the part too. The heated seats also work a treat, warming things up a notch when its a bit nippy.

2014 Holden Malibu CDX front seats

Standard kit is something to brag about. The base model CD comes with climate control, a reverse camera, Bluetooth connectivity, push-button start, cruise control, electronic park brake, and a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system that features Holden’s MyLink operating system.

Stepping into the CDX model (as tested) adds a few more luxuries, such as leather trim, dual-zone climate control, fog lights, heated and power front seats, and rain-sensing wipers.

If you’re looking for a vehicle with plenty of storage, the Malibu offers lots of it. There are two cup holders in the centre console, large door bins, and a generous glove box. One cool feature is a flip-up screen in the centre console. Simply slide the latch and it opens up a deep storage cavity. Its coolness is tarnished by the way it operates; it takes quite a push to shut it, much like a cheap cassette player (does anyone even remember cassettes?).

The Malibu’s switchgear, buttons, and rotary dials feel good, are well marked out, and are easy to navigate. The steering wheel feels good to hold, with on-wheel controls for things such as phone, stereo, and cruise control.

2014 Holden Malibu CDX driver view

2014 Holden Malibu CDX – THE DRIVE

The Malibu on sale in Australia sees a custom suspension tuned suit our rugged country. The car feels sturdy and confident both around the city and on the open road. It’d be unfair to label the Malibu a city car, as it’s more than happy to travel up and down the freeway.

When driven actively, the Malibu presents a hint of understeer and a slightly disconnected steerling feel, but overall it isn’t shy of a bend or two. It feels most at home up and around big sweeping highway bends, sitting flat and composed.

The turbo-diesel engine responds well with minimal turbo-lag. We managed to use just 6.4L/100km during our combined driving test (the official average is also 6.4L/100km). Combine those figures with its 73-litre fuel tank and it’s possible to see 1000km from a single tank.

With peak torque available from 1750rpm the 2.0-litre turbo-diesel provides good low-down acceleration, and a punchy mid-range. Stomp the pedal from a complete stop and there’s a slight hesitation before things build, motoring on to a decent 0-100km/h time of 8.6 seconds.

Diesel models are equipped with hydraulic steering units, while petrol models receive an electro-mechanical system. The steering feels light off centre, but becomes more weighted as you begin to shuffle it through your hands. The steering meshes well with the Malibu’s suspension to provide a good on-road feel.

The six-speed self-shifter is smooth in operation and takes advantage of the turbo-diesel engine’s meaty torque curve. Kick down is responsive, leaping into the right gear to match your input.

Manual-mode fans will find the plus and minus gear selection buttons, awkwardly mounted on top of the gear selector, annoying. The buttons sit in an unnatural position and almost instantly discourage you from using the mode. You often find yourself simply swapping back to ‘drive’ to save the hassle.

Under repeated hard braking, the Malibu’s brake pedal tends to go a bit spongey, but it pulls up time and time again without major fuss.

2014 Holden Malibu CDX boot

2014 Holden Malibu CDX – THE VIDEO

2014 Holden Malibu CDX – THE VERDICT

If you didn’t like the Malibu’s predecessor, the Epica, don’t hold it against this new model. The Malibu CDX offers up a rather seek looking mid-size sedan, equipped with some very cool standard kit.

It’s effortless at chewing up kilometres, and while there are some refinement issues inside the cabin, it doesn’t draw away from its overall appeal.

PROS:
– Attractive styling; that Camaro-esque rear end
– Smooth power delivery
– Decent fuel economy even when driven actively

CONS:
– Rear legroom
– Questionable cabin quality in some areas
– Steering too light off centre
– Quite heavy (1684kg) for this segment

2014 Holden Malibu CDX PerformanceDrive

2014 Holden Malibu CDX – THE COMPETITORS

Honda Accord Euro
2.4-litre four-cylinder – 148kW-230Nm – 8.9L/100km – 1605kg – from $30,340

Kia Optima Platinum
2.4-litre four-cylinder – 148kW-250Nm – 7.9L/100km – 1551kg – from $39,290

Mazda6 Touring
3.0-litre turbo-diesel – 129kW-420Nm – 5.4L/100km – 1541kg – from $40,350

Toyota Camry Atara SX
2.5-litre four-cylinder – 135kW-235Nm – 7.8L/100km – 1495kg – from $35,990

Josh was one of the original co-founders of PerformanceDrive. His expertise is car culture and aftermarket performance. He was the editor at Hot4s Magazine for a few years, and has since worked at Fast Fours, Zoom, and as a journalist for The Project Group.

  • Daniel

    The Honda and Kia from $95,900? Haha, just a small error.

  • RossM

    I haven’t driven one of these, but I did take a seat in one at a Holden dealer and was surprised how nice it was for the price. People need to let go of the old Daewoo connection with Holden and realise that the cars they are selling sourced from Asia are ‘GM world platforms’ engineered all over the world. After all this cars underpinnings are the same as the European Opel Insignia and SAAB 9-5.