THE $28,890 base Malibu brings 17-inch alloys – an inch bigger than Camry’s – with cruise, multi-function steering wheel, rear camera with sensors, colour touchscreen with Bluetooth phone/media and smartphone app integration. Climate control, nine-speaker audio (Camry gets six) and keyless entry/start seal the deal. 17/20 TOYOTA’S default mid-sizer is slightly pricier at $30,490.
With seven airbags, it’s a driver’s knee airbag up on Malibu and also brings a full-size steel spare rather than a tyre sealant/compressor kit. Elsewhere, it matches its rival’s reversing camera, trip computer, steering wheel controls, Bluetooth phone/media-streaming and auto lights. 16/20
THE Holden’s wheelbase is 38mm shorter than the Toyota’s, which means a fraction less rear legroom, but its boot is big at 545L (30 more than Camry’s). Cloth trim is expected at this price point and Holden’s looks hardwearing, but, like the plastics, switchgear and general ambience, it’s not the most premium-feeling. 15/20 CURRENT Camry brings a leap in interior quality, which wasn’t too difficult in the context of the low-rent previous model. The design is appealing enough, but, like its rival, it’s all cloth and plastic inside, including the steering wheel. Seat comfort is good, however, mixing great long-distance support with well-sorted ergonomics. 16/20
MALIBU’S 2.4-litre four is surprisingly sweet, if a bit less potent than Camry’s. Its 123kW/225Nm outputs are slightly down on those of its rival, and at 1583kg the Holden is more than 100kg heavier. Powering the front wheels via a six-speed auto, it ‘boasts’ a 0-100km/h time of 10.2sec and 8.0L/100km economy. 14/20 CAMRY might be gruntier, but the 133kW/231Nm 2.5-litre four’s delivery isn’t exactly sparkling. It powers the 1465kg sedan to 100km/h in a claimed 9.3sec, while official economy is 7.8L/100km. Both cars drink 91RON, though Holden says premium may bring a performance boost. Big tanks – 70L (Camry) and 73L – mean plenty of range. 15/20
THIS pair shares struts up front and multi-links at the rear. The Malibu’s well-sorted suspension is welcome, as is its overall ride polish on 225/55R17s. Although they’re bigger than those on the Camry’s, the actual sidewall height is very close, giving them the pliancy to work with Holden’s well-judged springs and dampers. 16/20 THE seventh-generation Camry might have failed to shake its ‘cardigan wearer’ image, but loyal buyers are at least treated to an absorbent ride and a quiet, refined cabin, making the Toyota a terrific Australian touring car.
An agreeable steer at seven-tenths, it loses some of its polish if you press on. 16/20
INTERESTINGLY, while the petrol Malibu runs electromechanical power steering, the diesel gets a hydraulic system. In this company, it’s like-for-like, and Holden’s steering gives little away to Toyota’s electric set-up – neither are fabulous. Malibu’s handling is amenable, which is more than we can say of the Camry. 15/20 IT’S something of a tradition that Camrys are dull to drive, and the current iteration is a stickler. It’s a shame because in many other areas the Toyota sedan has taken a step up.
But in others – such as exterior styling – it has stayed in familiar territory. The Camry ultimately handles the way it looks – dull yet dependable. 13/20
THERE are much better mid-sizers, which is why we chose the price leaders of the Camry and Malibu line-ups. They’re cheap family cars, with reasonable equipment. In the Toyota’s case, though, looking up the range makes some sense because the excellent Hybrid is just $34,990, with far superior performance and economy to the base car.
The equivalent, of sorts, in the Malibu range is the turbo-diesel, but it’s not nearly as green and is getting a bit pricey at $33K. Both the Toyota and the Holden come with three-year/100,000km warranties, which is less than best-practice, and have almost identical three-year Redbook resale figures – a none-too-great 50 percent. However, the Malibu holds an advantage with its nine-month service interval, compared with just six for the Toyota, and snags the medal.