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Exclusive: Holden-crafted Malibu set for Shanghai

Fresh face: Holden had a hand in the facelifted Chevrolet Malibu that is revealed here in leaked pictures published by China’s Auto.ifeng.com.

China-only Chevrolet Malibu gets a makeover with an Australian accent

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Chevrolet logo31 Mar 2015

By RON HAMMERTON

ANOTHER China-specific car with Australian development input is set to make its debut on the Chevrolet stand at the Shanghai motor show on April 20.

The facelifted Chevrolet Malibu mid-sized sedan received a major chunk of its design and chassis engineering makeover at GM Holden’s Australian technical centre ahead of its imminent production debut at Shanghai GM’s Jingjiao plant in China.

Exclusive images of two camouflaged test mules undergoing road testing in Melbourne were published by GoAuto in August last year, with Holden telling us that the vehicles were part of a General Motors “work share program” in which various GM design and engineering branches contribute to new and revised models.

Australia is fast becoming the go-to centre for such remakes, with rival Ford Australia also heavily involved in reworking older models for the price-sensitive Chinese and Indian markets.

The debut of the Chinese Malibu – based on the current car – will follow this week’s unveiling of the all-new Chevrolet Malibu global version at the New York motor show.

The Yankee-designed car is likely to be also made in South Korea and exported to Australia under Holden badges as a competitor for the segment-leading Toyota Camry, Mazda6 and new Ford Mondeo.

The international Malibu sits on a new platform with a longer wheelbase. As teaser and spy pictures have shown, it gets sleeker coupe-like styling and a range of new technologies such as a superior new hybrid powertrain, exhaust heat recovery and the latest connectivity.

While the global Malibu has moved on, the Chinese version is a remake of the current car that made its debut in China in 2012 and sits on GM’s venerable Epsilon II architecture.

But as leaked pictures of the new Chinese Malibu (published by Auto.ifeng.com) indicate, the car gets a stylish new front fascia – now distinctively different from Detroit’s Malibu – and a redesigned rear that dispenses with the Camaro-style squared-off tail-lights in favour of smoother one-piece units.

The grille has a larger trapezoidal lower opening incorporating a Peugeot-style protruding black bumper that includes the numberplate mount.

The famous bow-tie badge sits in the upper grille that, while narrower than before, is not as narrow as the American model that now sports its badge on the bar in between the grille openings.

One element common to both models is chrome trim running along the lower edge of the upper air opening.

A slimmer headlight cluster is apparent on the Chinese car design, and while the leaked pictures are a little hard to decipher, the bonnet appears to have been reshaped with a dip in the middle and a lower leading edge.

New alloy wheels are included in the styling revamp, but the doors appear to be untouched – an indication that the wheelbase remains unchanged. Accordingly, any improvement in rear legroom is likely to be minimal.

As evidenced from the Australian testing, revisions will also include chassis changes, but the extent is likely to be confined to adjustments to better suit Chinese preferences.

Shanghai GM representatives are believed to have been in Melbourne last year to sign off on the new ride and handling settings on public roads in what is known in car industry jargon as “an engineering buy-off ride”.

According to Chinese media reports, the Malibu is likely to carry over its current powertrain line-up that includes a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine producing 134kW of power and 235Nm of torque, a 2.0-litre Ecotec naturally aspirated four with 112kW and 190Nm, and range-topping 2.4 litre SIDI with 136kW and 240Nm.

In China, the Malibu was ranked 32nd on the list of top-selling sedans in 2014, earning 125,547 sales. Toyota’s Camry came in 24th with 154,885 sales, while the Ford Mondeo was 38th with 109,806.

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