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Shanghai show: GM plays cuckoo with new Malibu

Stop-start Malibu: This image of the new Chevrolet Malibu had on false start on GM's website.

Holden’s Epica-replacing Malibu mid-sizer officially leaked ahead of China debut

15 Apr 2011

GM HOLDEN’S all-new mid-size Malibu sedan has broken official cover via the General Motors media website after it was inadvertently revealed there before being removed and then replaced yesterday.

The first complete image of General Motors’ redesigned global medium sedan, which will be a belated replacement for the underwhelming Epica when it goes on sale in Australia in the first half of next year, follows the release of tail-light and dashboard teaser shots ahead of its world debut at next week’s Shanghai motor show in China.

Appearing to look a lot like Ford’s successful new North American Taurus large sedan in the single front three-quarter action shot seen here, the new Malibu mid-sizer will replace Chevrolet’s – and GM’s – top-selling model in the US last year, when nearly 200,000 examples were sold.

While the Chevrolet version’s stacked ‘bowtie’ grille will be replaced by a Holden-specific front-end, Australia’s Malibu will feature the same multi-element headlights, well-sculpted rear haunches with a distinct Coke bottle kink and Corvette-style dual-round tail-lights.

Similarly, the Malibu’s high-tech interior also appears to be a big advance on the all but discontinued Epica’s, featuring a large central touch-screen that flips up to reveal an in-dash storage compartment.

However, the redesigned sedan not only brings a complete styling overhaul but an all-new chassis that promises vastly improved dynamics over both the Malibu it replaces Stateside and its Australian predecessor, which dates back to Daewoo’s 1997 Leganza/Magnus.

No technical details have been provided ahead of its global premiere in Shanghai, which will be accompanied by a live webcast at 10.30am AEST on April 19, but the Malibu will bridge the small size gap between Holden’s Adelaide-made Cruze and Commodore sedans.

13 center imageLeft: Previous teaser pictures of the Chevrolet Malibu.

Chevrolet – the GM brand via which the Malibu will continue to be sold in the US – has revealed its new mid-sizer will be powered by “a global family of fuel-efficient and powerful four-cylinder engines, along with six-speed transmissions that also contribute to efficient performance.

“The Malibu was designed to stand out in all markets around the globe, while its European-inspired driving characteristics were engineered to challenge the best in its class,” said Chevrolet.

The first mid-size Chevrolet model to be sold globally, the Malibu will be sold in almost 100 countries on six continents and built in at least four locations, including China and two US facilities.

Under the new Malibu, which will come to Australia from GM Korea (formerly GM Daewoo), is the same Epsilon II global platform that underpins America’s Buick Regal and LaCrosse, the new Saab 9-5 and Europe’s Opel/Vauxhall Insignia, which also goes on sale in Australia as part of a born-again Opel line-up in 2012.

Available in sedan, hatch and wagon body styles, the highly regarded Insignia should also donate the Malibu sedan’s four-cylinder engines.

In Europe, the front- and all-wheel drive Insignia is available with 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engines, a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel and a Holden-sourced 2.8-litre turbo-petrol V6, all matched with six-speed transmissions.

The Malibu could also inherit a range of Insignia technologies offered in Europe, including an electric park brake, satellite-navigation, a FlexRide variable suspension damping system, rain-sensing wipers, tyre pressure monitoring, intelligent headlights with washers, heated/leather power seats, dual-zone climate-control and alloy wheels sizes of up to 19-inch.

All four variants within the European Insignia range come standard with six airbags, electronic stability/traction control and active front head restraints.

Holden confirmed late last month that the Malibu nameplate would also be employed in Australia.

“The Malibu will play an important role within the Holden line-up, providing a spacious and efficient four-cylinder alternative for Australian customers,” said GM Holden chairman and managing director Mike Devereux.

“Malibu will bridge the gap between our incredibly successful Cruze small car and Australia’s favourite car, the best-selling Commodore.

“It will be a standout on the road, with striking styling in the same vein as recent additions to the GM portfolio, including the new-generation Barina and Cruze hatch.

“Like the Holden Cruze, Malibu will surprise customers with its array of clever technologies and features.” The Malibu will be just one of three all-new Holden models to be released here in the next year, including this year’s Australian-designed Cruze hatchback and next year’s redesigned Colorado ute.

As in Europe, the Malibu will provide GM with a legitimate rival for premium Japanese and German mid-sizers in Australia, where Ford has sold 1961 examples of the Mondeo so far this year to become the nation’s second most popular sub-$60,000 mid-sizer, while Holden has sold only 262 Epicas.

Officially, the Epica – which has struggled to attract more than a few hundred sales per month since its 2007 launch here – continues to be officially available in four all-automatic model grades powered by either 2.5-litre six-cylinder petrol or 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel enginesLast year, Holden sold just 1842 Epicas, accounting for just three per cent of a mainstream mid-size vehicle market that is dominated by Toyota’s Australian-made Camry, which attracted more than 25,000 sales, many of which went to fleet customers.

Apart from the Malibu, GM will also use Auto Shanghai 2011, which opens to the public on April 21, to display more than 25 production and concept vehicles, including the Buick Envision SUV concept and Baojun 630 – the first model from SAIC-GM-Wuling’s new Baojun passenger vehicle brand in China.

Making its Chinese debut will be the Cadillac CTS Coupe, facelifted Chevrolet Captiva SUV and a new pick-up from FAW-GM, GM’s light-duty truck joint-venture, to be built at FAW-GM’s new plant in Changchun.

President and managing director of the GM China Group, Kevin Wale, a former Holden executive said GM was proud to be participating in this year’s leading auto show in China.

“We are introducing a range of compelling designs and new products as well as our latest technology for the future,” he said.

“This will give the people of China a good indication of where GM is headed in our company’s largest global market.”

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