PERHAPS this is the most aptly named segment.
Without too much pigeonholing , the "mid-size" segment generally attracts most buyers that are middle aged, have little need for the middle seat in the back (or the whole rear seat for that matter), live in middle suburbia and like middle-of-the-road performance.
But Holden hopes to break some new ground with the new Malibu.
For starters the styling is groovier than the usual "vanilla" offerings in this segment, while the feature list is long and the interior design anything but bland.
The mid-size sedan is about to arrive in Holden showrooms, sandwiched between the just released large-size VF Commodore and small-size Cruze.
With a simple line-up formula of four models with two trim levels, Holden has positioned itself well to pick up private buyers along with the lucrative fleet market courtesy of two fuel-efficient four-cylinder engines.
And with a base model starting under $30 grand the Malibu is sure to raise some eyebrows.
Holden has taken its new offerings upmarket.
The Malibu cabin has some cool features, the most notable the horizontal lines which help create an ambience of space and the polished colour touch-screen.
One stand out is the feature which looks like an extension of the air vent, with strips running across the top of the passenger door across the dash.
Interior space is reasonable, with enough real estate to comfortably accommodate four adults. Fitting three burly blokes is a stretch.
Leg and knee room is okay in the back as long as the passengers up front don't slide too far back. Interestingly, in the US the Malibu was recently updated with smaller front seats to help make more space in the back.
Those being chauffeured have a restricted view of the world due to a high belt line and tapered roof (it's important to remember to duck too when getting in).
On the road
While it's not Australian built, the "global" GM car has received suspension and tuning changes specific for our roads.
The result is a good all-rounder which will please many shopping in this segment.
It's not a performance machine, yet people in this genre are not seeking a sports car.
They want reliability, quiet cabin, comfort and good economy - and the Malibu ticks all boxes.
Both the diesel and petrol are strong enough with smooth power delivery in metropolitan and country conditions while the steering has a direct and well-weighted feel.
As expected the diesel has more mid-range punch, yet it commands a $4000 premium. The petrol is no shrieking violet and Holden rightfully predicts this will be the volume seller.
The six-speed automatic offers well-timed changes and there is no real need to drop it into manual mode to make use of the awkward plus and minus buttons on top of the shifter to change cogs yourself.
What do you get?
Like the locally-produced Cruze and Commodore, Holden has built the Malibu on a solid foundation of features.
Standard kit includes 17-inch alloys, Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, an attractive 17cm colour touch-screen that incorporates apps for streaming music and podcasts, rear view camera and back parking sensors, electric park brake, nine speaker stereo with USB and MP3 player input, cruise control as well as 60-40 split fold rear seats (unlike the Commodore).
That all comes on the CD entry level grade.
Those wanting more kit can step up to the CDX for an additional $3500 and get leather trim, 18-inch alloys, dual zone climate controlled air-con, eight-way adjustable front heated seats, auto wipers and LED brake tail lamps.
On face value the Malibu looks bereft of storage places, but behind the flip-up touch-screen is a cool hidey hole for phones and other valuables.
Each door can accommodate a one-litre bottle, while there are two cup holders in the centre console and there are some handy nooks near the shifter for your phone for when it's plugged into the 12V charger. The boot not deep, restricted by a high floor while the width is hampered by goose-neck hinges.
The petrol is pretty good averaging 8.0 litres for every 100km, while the diesel achieves just above six. There shouldn't be any issue with insurance, and servicing costs are capped.
Malibu has some nice proportions, and the back view is especially good. It has impressive aerodynamic credentials, but have managed to balance that with sporty good looks.
The dual scoops in the bonnet remind us of the Grey Nicolls cricket bats from the '80s, and there is more than a hint of Camero about the rear end with a "pontoon" decklid.
What matters most
The good stuff: Cool interior features, smart storage space behind the touch-screen, taut looking rear end, Australian-specific fascia.
What we'd like to see: More boot space, better manual mode for the automatic - but then again most would never use it anyway.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year,100,000km warranty. Servicing is capped at $185 (petrol) or $335 (diesel) for the first four services over three years or 60,000km. Servicing is every 15,000km or nine months.
Model: Holden Malibu.
Details: Four-door five-seat mid-size front-wheel drive sedan.
Engines: 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 123kW @ 5800rpm and peak torque of 225Nm @ 4600rpm; 2.0-litre turbo diesel 117kW @ 4000rpm and 350Nm @ 1750Nm.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
Consumption: Petrol - 8.0 litres/100km; Diesel CD 6.4L/100m, CDX 6.5L/100km.
CO2: Petrol 192g/km; Diesel - CD 170g/km, CDX 172g/km.
Bottom line: Petrol - CD $28,490, CDX $31,990. Diesel - CD $32,490, CDX Diesel $35,990