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by Tim Beissmann

Holden will consider introducing a ‘light-hybrid’ version of the Malibu that could give the all-new medium sedan a fuel efficiency advantage over a number of its key competitors.

General Motors unveiled the first details of the Chevrolet Malibu Eco overnight, claiming better highway fuel consumption figures than the Volkswagen Passat diesel and Toyota Camry Hybrid (based on official US data).

Incorporating a lithium-ion battery, stop/start, an electric motor/generator and brake energy recuperation, GM estimates the Malibu Eco will use fuel at a rate of 26mpg (9.0 litres/100km) in the city and 38mpg (6.2 litres/100km) on the highway.

While official figures have not been released, the Malibu Eco is expected to use around 7.5 litres/100km on the combined cycle. Efficiency like that would put it ahead of some of the most popular petrol-powered medium-sized vehicles in Australia, including the standard Toyota Camry, Ford Mondeo, Mazda6 and Subaru Liberty.

Holden’s Kate Lonsdale said it was too early to comment on specific powertrains with the Australian launch of the rebadged Holden Malibu still around 12 months away, but said Holden would definitely consider the car and decide if it was right for our market.

Ms Lonsdale admitted fuel efficiency would be one of the focuses of the new sedan, which will slot into Holden’s range between the Cruze and Commodore at the end of 2012. “With all our cars we are constantly looking to improve fuel economy,” she said.

The Malibu Eco will be the first model from the all-new range to launch in the US. It will go on sale in the first quarter of 2012, a few months ahead of the other conventional petrol-powered variants.

The Malibu Eco is powered by a 134kW 2.4-litre direct-injection four-cylinder petrol engine. A six-speed automatic transmission sends power to the front wheels. As a light hybrid, it does not have the ability to drive in electric-only mode.

The Eco model features a number of weight-saving components, including an aluminium bonnet and rear bumper beam, and lightweight interior materials that save 58kg compared with the standard car. Low-rolling resistance 17-inch tyres are also fitted standard.

An Eco gauge in the instrument cluster continuously responds to driving behaviour and encourages fuel efficient driving techniques.

More details of the 2012 Holden Malibu will be revealed closer to the vehicle’s launch in the fourth quarter of next year.




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