It's a long way between the 1964 Chevy Malibu, which had the same ripping 327ci V8 that conquered Mt Panorama in the HK Monaro, and the 2.4-litre petrol Holden Malibu launched last week to fill the gap between the new VF Commodore and the smaller Cruze.
The Malibu name has adorned several incarnations of Chevrolets in the US and the latest version has been developed for the first time as a global car, aimed at more than 100 countries.
Australia is one of the first to get right-hand-drive versions, which is why the steering on the diesel model is hydraulic instead of electronic - the electric system hasn't yet been developed for RHD diesels.
Malibu has to appeal to the widest possible range of buyers in the broadest range of cultures and conditions. So it is a bit of a mixture: German diesel engine, Korean petrol engine, Japanese transmission, body designed by an Australian in Detroit and interior designed in the US.
In fairness, all of that has been tested and adapted to Australia and my first impressions are that it is a successful transition and one that will please dealers and customers alike.
The Malibu is a very good- looking car - a svelte outline patterned by aero-friendly ridges and contours, which results in a drag coefficient of less than 0.29. It does look best in light colours, though.
The sides are high and door frames thick, giving a feeling of solidity usually reserved for full-sized cars. The interior is slick and attractive, with a wide range of standard features to keep driver and passengers safe and entertained.
Just two levels of trim are available, the CD and the CDX.
I drove both and the differences are in trim and equipment levels only, as both drivelines are the same. As noted earlier, you can order your Malibu with a 2.4-litre petrol or 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine, with 123kW and 225Nm or 117kW and 350Nm respectively.
The petrol is quieter than some of its Japanese competitors, even when revving high, but it does feel that it's working hard pulling 1600kg around.
The diesel is about 75kg heavier and dishes up the usual diesel clatter on idle, but that big torque figure means it outperforms the petrol.
I got just over 9.l/100km for the petrol and 6.8 for a short run in the diesel. Malibu has a large fuel tank for its size (73 litres) so the range is excellent - 793km for petrol and 1074km for diesel.
Independent suspension and wide front and rear track provides a stable and comfortable ride that will suit most buyers.
The latest Holden starts at $28,490 for the CD and the better- equipped CDX is $31,990.
Unfortunately, Holden has priced the diesel at a thoroughly unreasonable $4000 extra. A $2500 premium would be a value proposition, but 14 per cent extra says they're not serious.
It's a pity, because the diesel is more responsive at town speeds.
Holden doesn't talk sales numbers, so I fished around for details. Looks like the company has ordered between 800 and 900 for the first shipment, to be shared around its 280-strong dealer network. If that's about six weeks' supply we can assume they're planning on reaching about 600 a month nationally, or about 60 in WA, which will make Malibu an important part of the product line.
- HOLDEN MALIBU*
Prices: CD $28,490; CDX $31,990Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel
Thirst: CD 6.4L/100km; CDX 6.5L/100km
Prices: CD $32,490; CDX $35,990
- All models have six-speed automatic transmissions