The new Commodore is here – but it faces an uphill battle to win over hearts and minds.
We drove the first four-cylinder Commodore in thirty years.
Opinions were divided when Holden announced the new Commodore would come from overseas – many swore off buying what was for years the iconic anchor of the Holden range.
However, the new Commodore launches in very similar circumstances to the original VB model.
In the 70s, in the middle of rapidly rising fuel prices, the bosses at Holden got on the blower to their German cousins to rifle through their catalogue to find a car more palatable to the realities facing drivers than the lumbering Kingswood of the time.
During development of the original Commodore, the Holden team spent big money to engineer the car for Australian conditions finally sending the first cars down the line in 1978 – forty years ago. Despite budget constraints, those cars went on to become the best selling cars in Australia, winning applause from critics for its driving style.
Of course, that Commodore didn’t have to compete against a host of family SUVs, or the sheer amount of choice that faces drivers today looking to buy their next car; so the new car has to standout in a room that has become chock full. Thankfully, it does.
Hitting the road in the entry model LT, the turbo four cylinder packs a punch that is slightly unexpected when you put your foot down. Working in tandem with the nine-speed automatic to shift gears seamlessly, the car feels well weighted when it gets going.
For those looking to compare it to the entry models of the VF Commodores, despite having two less cylinders, the pace is similar but the new Commodore feels lighter on its feet, able to handle and manoeuvre more easily than the chunky bodied predecessor.
To wit, the 0-100km/h time is quoted at 6.9 seconds which, for perspective, is streets faster than the entry model Evoke of the previous car – thanks to the extra gears to play with and the sophisticated new engines.
The steering is light yet engaging, handling well around town and when you take it up to highway speeds. As a result of extensive research and development from the Holden team, the Commodore sits plush on the road, cushioned from all but the most severe ruts and gouges in the tarmac.
Is it ever going to match the blisteringly wild performance of the former SS-V Redline models? No, but as an evolution of the work-a-day Commodore that has graced the driveways and car parks of Australia, the new model has evolved into a more sophisticated package on the road.
The new Commodore has a lot to live up to.
It certainly doesn’t look like a ‘traditional’ Commodore – the final VF models muscled its way down a road with chunky lines built upon the ‘full size’ legacy stemming from the VN models of the late 80s.
The new Commodore slots back into its original category forty years ago of a mid-size vehicle, but thanks to the engineers tinkering, you get more legroom and knee room than in the VF – despite sitting on a shorter wheelbase overall. So smaller to park, but larger to sit in: I think that’s called a win-win.
The headroom in the rear seats has been shaved in the new design, but unless you’re on the way to a Marge Simpson lookalike contest, the chances you’ll be scraping the roof lining will be minimal.
The liftback may not project the image of the traditional sedan, but Holden claims that it matches the storage space of the outgoing Commodore – and it’s certainly easier to load thanks to the long loading space and high opening boot. The Sportwagon variants which were awesomely practical, remain so, and these are a great alternative to SUVs for families looking for a bigger car.
Convenience wise, the new car jumps back into the middle of the pack with Apple Carplay/Android Auto compatible multimedia system, as well as keyless entry, remote and push button start and dual zone climate control.
Splash out for the Calais V, RSV and VXR models and you get your hands on goodies like wireless phone charging, satellite navigation, hands free powered tailgate for sportwagon models and adaptive cruise control, but in the entry model there’s more than enough standard gear in the LT to suit families.
On the safety front, autonomous emergency braking, forward collision alert, lane departure warning and lane keep assist are all standard across the range, in addition to rear view camera, front and rear park assist, automatic headlamps and full suite of airbags (dual front, side and curtain.)
With the heritage of the previous Commodore, there has been much chest beating over the death of the V8, rear-wheel drive model that was the poster boy for rev-heads across the country. That vocal minority may not approve of the new car, but very few people need a tyre shredding, race ready monster snarling in their garage – most people want an engaging, sophisticated vehicle complete with convenience and safety features, and the new Commodore fills that need perfectly. The new Holden Acadia comes standard with 5 year/unlimited kilometre factory warranty.