All the Aussie muscle you could ever want: We light up the throbbing HSV R8 that Government Policy has murdered.

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This is not the story I intended to write. Sometimes, stories write themselves and this is one. It was intended to demonstrate that an Australian designed and built car could compete against the super cars of Europe in their own terms, and win. Instead we have learnt that our erstwhile opposition treasurer now thinks that he is in government, cutting funding to a large part of our manufacturing industry is a great place to start. Holden and Toyota are the only two auto makers left after Ford announced it was quitting Australia to become an importer instead.

Regardless of politics, what was to be the proclamation of the best car ever to be designed and built in our country is instead to be its obituary.

The great Aussie Muscle Car is dead, long live the Aussie Muscle Car (to be made in the USA or Korea, or Europe). People over use this phrase, but it is with a heavy heart that I write the story of the best car ever produced and designed in Australia, will probably be the last. I apologise in advance for the sombre tone but perhaps we can celebrate what we have while chiding our government on what is possibly the single worst decision ever to be made by either side of Australian politics.

LIKES:- astounding performance, killer interior, sensational audio system

DISLIKES:- there will be no more HSV Commodores

Outside:-

Delicious. The classy exterior of the stock standard Commodore has been given the HSV spit and polish. The stunning exterior gets a full body kit with a startling pair of taillights as its crowning glory replete with full LED illumination that has become the bling signiture of the HSV range. It’s all most people will ever see of them as the R8 leaves all in a cloud of dust.

New in the R8:

Side Blind Zone Alert (with Reverse Traffic Alert)

Electric Park Brake

Electric Power Steering

Passive Entry/Push Button Start (with Remote Start

*available with the automatic transmission)

Automatic Park Assist

Front & Rear Park Assist

“R8 SV Enhanced Option

HSV has also announced the introduction of a new “SV Enhanced” option to be available exclusively on its R8 models.

The “SV” option includes a power and torque upgrade to 340kW and 570Nm, achieved through the addition of some unique componentry to the LS3 engine including a Bi-Modal Air Intake system, high-flow headers and catalytic converters, a high-flow zip tube and a high-flow Bi-Modal exhaust system. Unique styling cues are provided in the form of a 20” SV Performance forged wheel in Satin Graphite, unique “pitch black” accents on the fender vents and mirror scalps and, for the sedan variant, a lo-line spoiler, also finished in distinctive Satin Graphite.

New “R8 SV” and “340” badges adorn the decklid. “The ClubSport range has formed the back-bone of much of the sales success HSV has enjoyed over the years”, said HSV’s Managing Director, Phil Harding. “Combine enhanced styling and a raft of new technologies with the availability, for the first time, of the 340kW SV Enhanced option on the R8 models, and we have every reason to be confident that ClubSport will continue to be a popular choice for HSV enthusiasts”, said Harding.”

The interior feels softer and more luxurious than previous models without losing any of the edginess that attracts well healed boy racers. It’s the sort of place for the man who has everything. I often mention the “Feel” a car, the one closeted deep inside.

Let me explain: All of us enjoy feeling special. We all know someone who has said: “last night? I don’t know what it was but it was gorgeous”. Some might even say “it made me feel like a movie star” and that is the kind of car we all want to be see in whether we admit it or not. Being inside the R8 feels that kind of special. The brochures give the specs and HSV’s view but even I was surprised at how deliciously driveable the R8 was. Obviously the manual is the business! Coupled to the superb 340KW LS3 6.2L V8, the clutch is light and the gears precise. With 6 speeds and 340KW, the V8 can chug around all day in 2nd gear but who would want to? It will sprint to 100 in a smidgen over 5 seconds.

Most impressive is the quality of the cabin which is punching way above its weight. Old HSV’s had very firm seats, which while supportive, felt like riding on leather covered bricks. They have power adjustment for good measure. Unlike the racing seats you might find in an Evo, the R8 feels more like a posh lounge chair on steroids.

The classy appointments now extend to a sound system which punches out some serious sound. Previous audio systems always sounded like someone had strangled the bass player but the HSV has Bose throughout which feels like being in a live concert. The MyLink means you can stream internet music as well but this is a problem on the open road. As we all know the coverage can be moody with frequent stretches of nothing at all. Caching is the answer and there are some very good apps for Iphone which will allow you to cache you playlist while on WiFi then play then back in the car. It takes money though and costs about $12 a month.

The leather has been sprinkled about with gay abandon and it makes you feel cocooned like a luxury car should. Even the back seat gets the same car and attention so should you fancy an airport run your guests will receive the same VIP treatment as we do in the full-priced seats. It’s soft to touch and for the most part the stitching lines up just as it should. The leather cover instrument cluster is a nice touch though it doesn’t extend over the whole dash board. I’d like to see a final special edition completely lined in leather and suede with a Band and Olufsen audio system. Holden might also look at the cheaper Chrysler 300 SRT 8 for inclusions like heated and cooled cup holders and electric steering wheel adjustment.

Because the HSV Commodores are at home on a track they up upgraded brakes and put extra beef in the engine, but at the end of the day it’s the cabin that you see each and every time you’re in the car even it’s a quick trip to the shops. It’s the bit a car maker has to get right if they are not going to be thought of as “making do”. Much of the success in the R8 is the sensational donor model they had to work with. Imagine a sports equipped Calais fitted with racing upgrades and price tag starts to make sense..

The drive, well, it drives the way it looks, fast and blingy. In sports mode it can be loose in the rear end in a beautifully controlled nuclear explosion. The (pushrod) engine is superb. Its low down grunty tones are enhanced with a gentle push on the “sports” button. It makes things sportier but more importantly it makes the bi-modal exhaust louder. The one fault with most Holden V8’s is they have muffled the beautiful sound so much that it’s almost inaudible. Needless to say the Sports setting is what most of us would use.

On a quiet section of private road I took the chance to switch to “PERF” which is the track mode for performance. It feels rather like a jet powered lounge room. It’s easy to light up the back wheel without meaning to and is best left to a professional unless you want to damage yourself.

The steering is sharp and the brakes precise. Everything feels alive as if you had pulled on an expensive running shoe soled with spent nuclear waste and bits of Usain Bolt. Normally such vehicles are impossible to drive sensibly especially in the city traffic but the ease of the clutch makes shift-em-yourself gears as smooth as an automatic and far more pleasurable.

Unlike modified special Holden V8’s of the past, you can drive the R8 around all day like a nanna in comfort and luxury, then light her up when the mood takes you. I did the La Perouse loop at night. For those who don’t know it, the La Pérouse point is a place where the “lads” hang out in the Evos and other small Jap turbos. At a set of lights nearby, a couple of (gorgeous) boys in an Evo pulled alongside. Inevitably they said “hey man wanna race?” I had just come that way and knew a police car lay in wait around the next corner so I said “yeah sure man”. Do people still speak like that? He roared off without us. As we came round the corner doing well under the speed limit we saw the rozzers having a quiet word with our racing chaps. I hated to do it to a couple of such obviously hot boys but needs must. I’d have happily helped them out of just about any other fix they found themselves in!

Finally, if you are tired from all the gear shifting you can ask the car to park itself when you arrive at your destination. It’s the first time I used automated parking in a manual and it worked beautifully. As with all of those fancy self-parking setups you have to control the brakes and accelerator.

Commodore SSV Redline Ute: Hairy Chested V8 Sex On Wheels

 

Holden VF SS V sedan and ute (5)Holden VF SS V sedan and ute (1)Holden VF SS V sedan and ute (4)Holden VF SS V sedan and ute (2)Commodore SS rebadged as Chev SSHolden VF Commodore Evoke sedan interior electronic park assist controls.Holden VF SS V sedan and ute (3)image98133_bimage98177_bVF Commodore Evoke UTE (4)VF Commodore Evoke UTE (6)VF Commodore Evoke UTE (7)VF Commodore Evoke UTE (8)VF Commodore Evoke UTE (3)

Likes: Classy inside and out, full of cool tech, fabulous sounding engine

Not so much: ute looks like the old model with a nose job

When Holden killed the Monaro off, again, they left themselves without 2 door muscle, or did they? A ute has 2 doors plus the added benefit of a big cargo hold. The ute’s possibilities are endless if only we can get over the fact that hot, sweaty, tool-belted tradies are usually seen driving them. Just imagine it: A hot sweaty bear-chested tradie with his tool belt full of tradie’s thingummies leaning against the tailgate pouring water down his rippled stomach on a hot steamy day. Suddenly, the Ute seems all shiny and new. One might even fool oneself into thinking driving a big butch Ute may attract the right kind of boy? Who knows, it may well do exactly that.

Think about it for a moment, the cargo area could just as easily fit picnic hampers and gingham table cloths as it does bags of cement and boxes of nails. The Commodore ute in SSV guise is cool and sexy and very very fast.

The VF is a different beast altogether from the car it replaced regardless of how similar the sheet metal looks. The nose is all VF with side vents looking decidedly Aston Martin-ish. But from the windscreen back it is almost the same as the VE. Larger 19” wheels look particularly aggressive without making the ride feel slightly worse than sitting on a pile of broken bricks. This isn’t one of those cars where it is form over function. The European look is a very heavy makeover of the previous VE Commodore but is much more than just a pretty new frock. Holden tested the VF at the Nürburgring, Germany’s famous racetrack and it did very well indeed. The thought of an Australian designed and built car giving the Nürburgring a thorough seeing to should have us all bursting with pride. The racetrack is usually the home of hot Mercs, BMWs, Porsches and Audis with some Italians thrown in for good measure.

The sharper handling (strut front, independent multilink rear) shares suspension tuning with other members of the Commodore range. The ride is also common across the range so no longer do the uber sporty models jar fillings loose and the base models wallow like a blancmange. There is a comfortable amount of body roll but anyone wanting a track day will be the type to get a couple of chaps to fiddle about in her gusset. They’ll add bracing, map the engine and strengthen the struts in order to tempt 20 or 30 KW from the ironwork up front. In my experience it ruins your fuel consumption and your ride for the sake of a few hours a year. What comes out of the factory feels pretty good without the fiddling.

New in the VF is electric power steering and Holden has done a bang up job. I’ve not driven anything under $120,000 with as much feel and finesse. It’s nice to drive something so sure footed that was made here. Holden is sending this little gem across the pond to big daddy GM in the USA making the point all the more picante. GM love the Commodore so much they are getting them by the ton to sell in the USA as Chevy SS. It says a lot about our designers. The slight body-roll doesn’t seem to affect the steering overly but even with the nannies switched on the rear can become a little wayward. Experienced drivers use this liveliness to help steer but the rest of us might need to use a bit of caution.

The Brembo brakes are brilliant with no sign of fading in normal use though it must be said I have not had the pleasure of thrashing that gorgeous V8 round the racetrack. The handling is superb even with the lively rear end.

Most impressive is the classy cabin. There are acres of leather, comfy seats, stunning audio and brilliant quality designed to provide a real home-grown alternative to an expensive import that usually gives much less. The quantum leap from the last model shows that a carmaker can move like the wind when they have to. Holden saw Ford’s Falcon sales being decimated and pondered the future of its own big car and found it wanting. Holden started from scratch redesigning the look and feel with particular care taken on the quality of material used and the way it’s been put together. Everything about the interior design points to a car which costs a more but the Commodore range is now less expensive than before.

One slightly worrying is the suede panels which adorn the top models and looks to be high maintenance. Once dirty, the lighter colours will look shabby but all that can be replaced if you can be bothered. It is the little things like that which age an interior.

Finally, Holden stuffed the Commodores chock-full tech such as:

Sensor key, electric self-releasing park brake, Hill Start Assist, Blind Spot Alert, reversing alert, rear camera and My Link to name but a few. Adding to this the fact that Holden has reduced the prices by up to ten grand (on the top Caprice). There is no other car sold here which can touch Commodore for the price and value. Anything imported is going to cost you another $100,000 at least. Where else will you find a large V8 coupe with room for a special friend as well as bags of luggage space?

Would I buy one? Yes I would, and it’s worth every centime. I’d shell out more shekels for the hard rear cover and bars, and perhaps even option up the wheels.

Engine/trans: 270kW/530Nm 6.0 litre V8/6spd manual ($2200 adds 6spd auto)
Fuel consumption listed: 11.8 l/100km (up to E85 compatible)

PRICING (excludes on-road costs)

Recommended retail prices, excluding dealer delivery and government charges:

Ute (auto)

$35,490 (Omega)

$32,990

- $2,500

SV6 (manual)

$38,490

$32,990

-$5,500

SS (manual)

$42,490

$38,990

-$3,500

SS-V (manual)

$47,490

$42,490

-$5,000

SS-V Redline (manual)

$49,990

$48,490

-$1,500

Automatic transmission adds $2,200 including GST
Prestige paint adds $550 including GST

VF Ute Factory Fit Option Pricing (includes GST)

Holden Ute
Blind Spot Alert and Reverse Traffic Alert- $350
Satnav – $750
Soft rear cover – $490

SV6
Satnav – $750
Leather seats – $1,000

SS
Satnav – $750

VACC Statement: Holden

 

VACC, which represents more than 5,000 businesses in the repair, service and retail sector of the automotive industry in Victoria, is disappointed that GM Holden will cease production in Australia in 2017.  The retail automotive industry has been a staunch supporter of automotive manufacturing and VACC had previously called on the Federal Government to continue its financial assistance for Holden.

VACC, the peak automotive industry body in Victoria, is disappointed to learn that GM Holden will cease production in Australia in 2017.

“Holden is an iconic brand and has manufactured wonderful Australian cars for nearly 70 years. This would have been a very difficult decision to make,” VACC Executive Director, David Purchase, said.

“It’s a huge blow to the State and National economies and we trust the 1,600 workers in South Australia and 1,300 workers in Victoria losing their jobs will receive all the assistance they need to transition to new employment.

“The news from General Motors is not wholly unexpected, but this announcement comes at a time when the Productivity Commission is reviewing automotive manufacturing in this country. The last few days of media speculation and public political comment have overshadowed the review process and potentially scuttled the interim report, due for release next week,” Mr Purchase said.

VACC says car buyers should not be put off by Holden’s announcement. Among VACC’s more than 5,000 members are new and used car dealers, many of them Holden dealers.

“History shows us that when Mitsubishi and Ford announced they were ceasing car making in Australia, the popularity of the brands did not diminish.  We expect Holden’s VF Commodore and Cruze, in particular, to be just as appealing to car buyers this week, as they were last week. The Holden range includes many great cars and buyers should not be concerned about buying a Holden, the availability of parts, servicing or the brand’s resale value,” said Mr Purchase.

VACC has also reiterated its call for State and Federal Governments to review the whole automotive industry. In support of its national association, the Australian Motor Industry Federation, VACC has repeated its call for a considered approach to how the entire automotive industry will look in the future.

“We are pleased to hear that Holden will retain sales, parts distribution centres and its design studio in Australia after 2017. What we need now is for all automotive industry parties, including the retail sector, to be involved in mapping out a sustainable industry for the future,” Mr Purchase said.

Holden to leave Australia. I have no words.

For Release: Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, 10:00 p.m. EST
GM to Transition to a National Sales Company
in Australia and New Zealand
Company to cease manufacturing in Australia by 2017
DETROIT – As part of its ongoing actions to decisively address the performance of
its global operations, General Motors today announced it would transition to a
national sales company in Australia and New Zealand. The company also said it
would discontinue vehicle and engine manufacturing and significantly reduce its
engineering operations in Australia by the end of 2017.
“We are completely dedicated to strengthening our global operations while meeting
the needs of our customers,” said GM Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson. “The
decision to end manufacturing in Australia reflects the perfect storm of negative
influences the automotive industry faces in the country, including the sustained
strength of the Australian dollar, high cost of production, small domestic market
and arguably the most competitive and fragmented auto market in the world.”
As a result of the company’s actions, approximately 2,900 positions will be
impacted over the next four years. This will comprise 1,600 from the Elizabeth
vehicle manufacturing plant and approximately 1,300 from Holden’s Victorian
workforce.
Holden will continue to have a significant presence in Australia beyond 2017,
comprising a national sales company, a national parts distribution centre and a
global design studio.
GM Holden Chairman and Managing Director Mike Devereux said an important
priority over the next four years would be to ensure the best possible transition for
workers in South Australia and Victoria.
“This has been a difficult decision given Holden’s long and proud history of building
vehicles in Australia,” said Devereux. “We are dedicated to working with our teams,
unions and the local communities, along with the federal and state governments, to
support our people.”
The sale and service of Holden vehicles will be unaffected by this announcement
and will continue through the extensive network of Holden dealers across Australia
and New Zealand. Warranty terms and spare parts availability will remain
unchanged.
“GM remains committed to the automotive industry in Australia and New Zealand.
We recognize the need for change and understand the government’s point of view.
Moving forward, our business model will change significantly however, GM Holden
will remain an integral part of its communities and an important employer both
directly and through our dealers,” Devereux said.
Since 2001, the Australian dollar has risen from US$0.50 to as high as US$1.10 and
from as low as 47 to as high as 79 on the Trade Weighted Index. The Australian
automotive industry is heavily trade exposed. The appreciation of the currency
alone means that at the Australian dollar’s peak, making things in Australia was 65
percent more expensive compared to just a decade earlier.
With the decision to discontinue vehicle and engine manufacturing in Australia by
the end of 2017, GM expects to record pre-tax charges of $400 million to $600
million in the fourth quarter of 2013. The charges would consist of approximately
$300 million to $500 million for non-cash asset impairment charges including
property, plant and equipment and approximately $100 million for cash payment of
exit-related costs including certain employee severance related costs. Additional
charges are expected to be incurred through 2017 for incremental future cash
payments of employee severance once negotiations of the amount are completed
with the employees’ union. The asset impairment charges will be considered special
for EBIT-adjusted reporting purposes.
General Motors Co. (NYSE:GM, TSX: GMM) and its partners produce vehicles in 30
countries, and the company has leadership positions in the world’s largest and fastestgrowing
automotive markets. GM, its subsidiaries and joint venture entities sell vehicles
under the Chevrolet, Cadillac, Baojun, Buick, GMC, Holden, Jiefang, Opel, Vauxhall and
Wuling brands. More information on the company and its subsidiaries, including OnStar, a
global leader in vehicle safety, security and information services, can be found at
http://www.gm.com
###

Malibu CD Diesel: Pleasing or Pointless?

Holden Malibu (6)

We drove the top spec Malibu recently and it must be said that it felt a little flat. The diesel promises economy, and it’s just as well. The CD cabin lacks the leather of the top model so feels somewhat less comfortable and cosy. The leather dressed the cheap plastics of the interior but I hadn’t realised how disappointing the cabin would be without that dressing. There is still the keyless entry/start/stop and there are still many appointments in an attempt to compensate for the interior. It isn’t enough to tempt more than a modest stampede of a mere 224 buyers last month. It’s not Holden’s lowest volume seller though. The electric Volt sold just 4, no that’s not a typo, and the Colorado 7 SUV sold 93.

I mention this because Australia is among the most brand saturated markets in the world. A savvy buyer with shekels to spend is going to demand value for money. He will also want good looks, a comfy place to sit, and loads of stuff thrown in. Safety features have become ubiquitous, so it’s what you can see, feel, and touch that will make the final decision for you. For the same money you can have Honda’s superb, but slightly aging Accord Euro, Fords hugely under-rated Mondeo, or Mazda’s odd looking 6, to name but a few. Buyers will stand these offerings side by side and they will judge, and they will not be kind, after all it is their hard won cash at stake. A buyer doing this will compare smoothness and economy of the engine, the quality and looks of the exterior, the feel and build of the interior with the list of that which is standard for the price.

Malibu’s 2.0L diesel puts out modest 117KW which, while adequate, won’t set the world on fire. Our combined fuel figure of 7L/100k wasn’t much more than the claimed consumptions figures which was a refreshing change. The power plant feels willing and able but then most modern diesels do. It’s a noisy little blighter though and sounds quite rattly and harsh in an industrial kind of way. Behind the wheel, the auto changes into 2nd almost immediately, robbing the engine of revs and power. It’s incredibly annoying in city traffic and the only way to hold the change is to use manual mode as there is no “sports” option. The change button sits on top of the gear selector but sit in such a way as to be uncomfortable to use.

The CD diesel has the same vague feeling-less steering as the CDX, the same ride, and the same dullness to the drive. It’s not something you can put your finger on but sampling any of the other cars I mentioned would out it all into perspective. And a buyer looking at the Malibu will be doing exactly that.

Let’s talk about the cabin for a moment, but only a moment. The quality of the plastic, and there is an awful lot of it, is the same as the CDX we drove and reviewed (full story here) a few weeks ago. Apart from there being a lot of it, it feel cheap and the design of the cabin feels a little old fashioned but not in a “retro” kind of way. If feels frantic and “bitsy” with poor build and fit not helping the poor design. The main difference is the fabric (instead of leather) seating as we mentioned, so would you pay $36,414 for it? Remember the Honda Euro with it drop-dead gorgeous looks starts at $29,990 and runs to $46,658.

I have a theory which is this:

Malubu was developed by Americans, who are not known for handling or interiors, built by Koreans who are not known for lively steering or an engaging drive, and looks and feels far too close to the Epica which it replaced.

The CD starts at $29,990 drive away for the petrol version or $36,414 for the diesel. (CDX $36,467-$40,597) but I’m afraid there is much better around for a similar price. If you want real luxury and brilliant handling with a list of features longer than your arm you’d find an extra 10 grand for the Mondeo Titanium.

The Malibu drive is disappointing, the looks not my cup of tea, and the cabin is bathed in cheap plastic. I’d go for the Cruze if I had to have a Holden and couldn’t afford the superb VF Commodore.

Pleasing or pointless? Let’s just say it’s not pleasing! Time will tell if we are right or not.

Mike Devereux Appointed GM CIO Vice President – Sales, Marketing and Aftersales; Continues to Manage GM Holden Until End of 2013

mike devereaux

 

 

 

General Motors Executive Vice President of Consolidated International Operations (CIO) Stefan Jacoby today announced that Mike Devereux has been appointed GM CIO Vice President – Sales, Marketing and Aftersales, effective November 1. Mr Devereux will report to Mr Jacoby.

While taking on this expanded role, Mr Devereux will continue to manage the GM Holden team and GM’s operations in Australia and New Zealand until the end of the year, at which time a replacement will be named.

“We have a diverse, complex region,” Mr Jacoby said. “Mike’s extensive international and cross-functional knowledge of our business will be critical as we look to position CIO for success in the coming years.”

Mr Devereux began his career at the GM of Canada St. Catharines manufacturing facility and has held positions across the company in marketing, aftersales, brand management and
e-business. Prior to running Holden, he was Managing Director of GM Middle East Operations.

Before that, Mr Devereux was responsible for globalizing GM’s approach to search marketing and websites as Executive Director of Digital Marketing and CRM. 

Mr Devereux’s educational background includes a degree in industrial engineering from the GMI Engineering & Management Institute and an MBA from Harvard University.

Holden Celebrates 35 Years of Commodore. VB had 64KW!!!

2.0.12.0.1Holden celebrates 35 years of Commodore (3)Holden celebrates 35 years of Commodore (4)

 

Holden is celebrating the 35th anniversary of its most iconic nameplate, Commodore.

For over three decades, the Holden Commodore has delivered significant advances in vehicle performance, safety and comfort on the way to becoming Holden’s longest-standing and most successful nameplate.

Holden Executive Director, Vehicle Sales, Service and Marketing, Phil Brook, said Holden was extremely proud of Commodore’s success.

“There are not many nameplates in Australia that can lay claim to a rich 35-year history,” Phil said.

“Not only has Commodore survived years of dramatic change in the Australian automotive landscape, it has thrived.

“Commodore has continued to adapt and evolve ensuring it remains relevant and much loved by Australians.”

In 1978, the introduction of the VB Commodore marked a new era for Holden as it sought to offer Australians a car with European styling, prestige, drivability and greater fuel economy.

The base engine in the VB was a 2.85-litre straight six cylinder engine that developed a maximum power of just 64kW and guzzled fuel at the rate of 16 litres per 100 kilometres on the official combined cycle.

VB Commodore was available with either a four-speed manual transmission or a three-speed Trimatic automatic transmission and offered air conditioning, power steering and a basic AM radio with the option for a push-button AM/FM stereo radio with cassette player on higher spec models.

Over the years, Commodore introduced advances in safety technology such as driver, passenger, side impact airbags, computer optimised restraint systems, ABS brakes and Electronic Stability Program (ESP®) as standard fitment and were all “firsts” for an Australian-manufactured car.

In 2013, VF Commodore’s contemporary design, innovative technology and performance make it a truly world class vehicle and the most advanced car ever created in this country.

VF Commodore Evoke features a high-tech 3.0-litre SIDI direct injection V6 engine that generates 185kW and posts a fuel consumption figure of just 8.3 litres per 100 kilometres, making it the most fuel efficient in Commodore’s history, without compromising on its renowned performance.

Today, Commodore delivers more advanced-technology safety firsts including Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Sport Alert, Reverse Traffic Alert as well as Auto Park Assist and Head-Up Display.

Advanced infotainment features through the Holden MyLink system, with built in apps such as Stitcher® and Pandora® that enable streaming of music and radio programs from around the world, are standard.

“Today’s VF Commodore represents 35 years of innovation, particularly in the areas of vehicle performance, safety and comfort,” Phil Brook said.

“Commodore illustrates the amazing talent, ingenuity and passion we possess here in Australia. It’s a story that we should all be very proud of.”

Calais: Reinvented, Rejuvenated and Rejoicing.

 

VF Holden Calais (2)VF Holden Calais automated parking controlVF Holden Calais Blind Spot WarningVF Holden Calais door mounted controlsVF Holden Calais frontVF Holden Calais rearVF Holden Calais HUD Heads Up Display

BELOW: Fire damage along the Hume Highway west of Sydney

VF Holden Calais M5 hume hwy fire damage(3)VF Holden Calais M5 hume hwy fire damage(4)VF Holden Calais M5 hume hwy fire damage(5)VF Holden Calais rear seatVF Holden Calais (13)VF Holden Calais (6)

 

Calais: Reinvented, Rejuvenated and Rejoicing.

Who remembers the ads from 1978? No? Holden built suspense for months teasing us with a commercial voice over saying “Commodore is coming” but nothing else. No one knew who or what the Commodore was. There was no indication that it was a car, or that it was from Holden. It could easily have been an ad for a new drink, or a boat, or even a smart resort. It might also have been where ladies with faces like handbags could gather, dressed in white tee shirts with shiny gold writing. They’d spend their husband’s money like it was water and drink Riesling as Chardonnay was yet to reach our shores. This was Holden’s way of busting out of the Kingswood era which seemed to last an eon. Commodore was so different from the creaking dinosaur it was replacing.

Holden tried the same thing with its bright new VF. There were treasure hunts and teaser shots which were part of a stratospherically expensive campaign created by Gen Y geeks with dime-a-dozen marketing degrees.

Let’s be honest, VE Commodores looked great on the outside but had a disappointing interior. It felt nasty and the audio system sounded like some of the speakers had failed or were made in China. Apart from the sad quality, no design point was worse than the handbrake. The phenomenally stupid form-over-function execution of such a simple device constantly jammed fingers, and other vital organs, in a vice-like pinch as you wrenched the thing into parking position. Why? Didn’t someone notice such a ridiculous mistake? It would seem not.

The top model is the Calais and I was among many who thought the money asked for it should have delivered a better experience. It wasn’t special enough. After all, it was the same slightly shabby base-model interior dressed up with acres of animal hide.

And “lo”, Holden listened:

The VF isn’t merely a major facelift, tummy-tuck, and lipo of the VE, it’s a new model which just happens to share some of the same parts. It’s a revelation.

What’s new:

I could rattle on about the suspension settings, the engine specs and other boring technical stuff, but none will tell you exactly how fabulous the VF is.

The front and rear are completely new. The shape has completely changed with clever rethinking of the lights and bodywork. The rear now has a sinuous organic feel to the lights and upper boot lid lip. The line running down the C Pillar forms a line at the rear which then travels along the boot. The waste line runs just beneath it never quite meeting the boot lip, but instead forming a protruding edge which is the top of the tail lights and lower edge to inbuilt mini spoiler. The affect is deliciously sensual and thoroughly modern.

The silhouette has a premium feel. You get a sense that Holden actively went after the Eurosnobs with the Jaguaresque side vents. They look like they suck vast amounts of air into a finely honed engine built by god himself. The 19” wheels look enormous and fill the wheel arches, giving Calais and muscular and commanding stance. It looks impressive before so much as a button has been pressed. It looks fast and comfortable but here is the kicker, $44,139 (Calais), $51,429 (Calais V V6), $57,729 (Calais V V8) drive away is all you’ll pay. That’s almost ten grand cheaper than the model it replaced. The front has sexy new headlights and LED running lights which add to the drama. The classy exterior looks like it costs far more than it actually does. The premium feeling Holden was so obviously going for has been a complete success. The bonnet, bootlid and some of the suspension is now crafter from lightweight aluminium, another first for and Australian car. 1702kg for the Calais isn’t too bad for a car of this size.

The exterior is gorgeous, but it is the glamorous interior which has seen the most remarkable transformation. The design and execution has propelled Commodore and Caprice into another realm in a single leap. Forgetting the technology for a moment, the interior design had the class level dialled up a notch or ten. The leather-clad steering has a flat bottom, which I find annoying to use, but it’s beautifully made and the switchgear is now standard across the range. The standardised design is intuitive and is easy to use because it feels very familiar. The cabin is common throughout the range, including the Caprice. This means Calais is now really a short wheelbase Caprice, rather like the old days when Statesman De Ville was a stretch Kingswood, albeit with only the boot being the bit that was longer. The wheelbase was the same as the station wagon, but as usual I’ve digressed.

Despite the cabin being common throughout the range, Holden has upped the ante by bringing the quality up to a level that you no longer feel the need to apologise for. My only problem was the hood lining, which although practical, doesn’t feel luxurious. It’s the same “fabric” as one would expect to be found a sports car, and a cheap sports car at that, and it has no place in a posh model. There is perforated leather and a kind of suede on the dash and doors. I have a deep fear that it’s going to need careful attention to stay clean. The “A.D.D.” among us are going to need an on-board kit to manage little accidents. One thing though, those girls who insist on sitting in the passenger’s seats with their feet up on the dashboards should be instantly and rigorously ejected regardless of speed. Not only is it dangerous, but their pongy feet are disgusting, their knees would be forced through their faces in a front end prang, and suede is a bugger to clean.

There is the similar finesse as one might expect in more expensive Europeans, but Calais costs less than half of a similar BMW 5 series or Mercedes E class, and is considerably better looking. Of course the build is cheaper. It would be churlish to suggest otherwise, but the gap in quality is now not so marked. There is still the odd bit of cheap plastic here and there but at this price that can be forgiven. Passat

The leather electric seats are heated to keep your bottom toasty even on the coldest days. Although they are comfy, they are not as soft as I would have liked. Despite this, they feel firm rather than hard, even after several hours in the saddle. The climate control, also standard in all models, is controlled via the console, but some of the functions in a menu in the MY LINK system. You set the default fan speed in the “config” menu while the temperature and other functions are set in the usual way with the usual buttons. Why? I can’t think why an automatic climate control system needs a default fan speed. Doesn’t it manage itself? Won’t it go up and down like a bride’s nighty?

With the same cabin and equipment level as Caprice, mega-geeks with god complexes have lavished Calais with gadget-attention. Nobody talks about the safety stuff under the bonnet anymore because you won’t get 5 star safety ratings from ANCAP without stability control and enough airbags to fill a space shuttle. Besides, it is nowhere near as interesting as the things you can see and touch. “My Link” has a big full colour LCD with far more function than the previous IQ infotainment system.

Among the mind-bogglingly useful inclusions are:

ü blind spot waring when changing lanes

ü crash alert when too close to the bloke in front

ü lane departure warning if you wander too close to an lane line

ü Automatic parking

ü Electric hand brake

ü Fully automatic climate control

ü Auto dipping mirrors for reverse

ü Memory electric seats

ü an alert that warns of oncoming vehicles when you are reversing out of a parking spot and tells you what direction they are coming from

The latter is so useful. How many times have you come out of Bunnings to find a gorgeous hot and sweaty tradie parked either side of you? Their big, manly, butch Toyota Hiluxes are impossible to see round and you want to back out but can’t see a thing. Fear not, Calais can see where you can’t. Select reverse, the mirrors dip, and back you go, slowly. If Calais senses an old lady in a Mini Classic bearing down on you because she has glasses like cock-bottle bottoms and can’t see you, it flashes a warning. A symbol appears in the reversing camera monitor complete with direction indicator of the offending old lady’s Mini. A quick dab of the brakes and disaster is averted.

But that’s not all, the crowning glory is the automated parking system which steers the amply proportioned saloon into either a parallel or 90° car park. All you have to do is man the throttle and brake following the instructions issued via the small LCD which is mounted between the speedo and tacho. It works well, but the 90° manoeuvre feels completely unnecessary to me. If you can’t get a car into a shopping centre car park, you ought to hand in your license. Some queens get into the most awful flap when parking!

Had you told me even a year ago that such marvels would adorn an Australian made car, I’d have laughed, yet here we are. Ford is trying the same thing with the Falcon ujpdate so it remains to be seen if it is the same level of improvement. Falcon’s cabin is even more monk-like than the old Commodore, and the plastics look even cheaper. There are teaser shots of a very sexy front end, which is great because the current Falcon front is as plain as unprinted pyrex.

After a week of nimble city driving, we unleashed the new Calais on the M5 and headed out of Sydney, which meant braving the M5 east tunnel and its inevitable crawl. Once clear of it, we hurtled along the highway in quiet comfort, and it was very very quiet. The steering felt quite delightful and is now electric to facilitate the automatic parking. Little men in long lab coats spent hours coming up with settings for the little men in white overalls to apply to the suspension. The softness took me somewhat by surprise. Modern cars of late have seen fit to tune the damping at a jaunty setting. Even the most gentle of undulations causes your molars to come away and your vital organs move permanently from their original positions. Calais on the other hand does none of these things. It wafts along soaking up bumps like Aladdin’s carpet, but is much less breezy.

Like all Commodores, Calais feels planted at any speed and is particularly at home on a road trip, although handling is not as it is for the uber-sporty SSV. The soft settings are built for everyday comfort not roaring around the racetracks, and your kidneys will thank you for it.

The 3.6 V6 in the base model is my favourite GM engine. It has just the right mix of power, torque, and fuel economy. The 3.6-litre produces the same 210kW as the VE, but at 6700rpm instead of 6400rpm, with 350Nm of torque at 2800rpm down from 2900rpm. On the highway we managed 7.8L/100k which would give you 900k’s (ish) on a tank though I wouldn’t want to push her that far. The auto in sports mode is a belter. It holds gears longer and makes the changes quicker. Sadly, the 3.6 still sounds a bit like a taxi. The brakes feel progressive so there are no nasty surprises but when you bury your loafer into the Axminster, Calais takes over and applies full pressure. Even on a damp section of tarmac, the Holden stops fast and straight with no hint of wayward behaviour. Holden has come so far since those early days when my Kingswood under the same situation would have flown off the road in protest. Not only did we feel very comfortable but also very safe.

The Heads Up Display is a clever idea which projects snippets of info onto the windscreen. You can scroll through to change what’s displayed but most of the time leaving it with current speed will also show the current speed limit. Very handy indeed. As part of the display, you SATNAV will give instructions by temporarily changing what’s on the screen. You can leave the sound muted most of the time because the music is muted each time a direction is given and is very annoying. Should you want the directions again you can repeat them and again they will be flashed onto the HUD.

If I was being uber critical, I might like the climate control given some more thought. It seemed to be too cold or too hot and the vents don’t have a lot in the way of adjustment. Left and right is fine, and down is no problem but they only come up as far 90°. There is no way to point them upward. It seems a silly thing but why fall at the last hurdle. The previous SSV had circular vents so could be twisted to point anywhere you wished so it seems silly to have gone backward in such a basic thing as ventilation.

WOULD I BUY ONE?

Yes, gladly. It’s by far the best current Holden and as Holden suggests, is the best Australian built car ever. It’s a big claim but it’s a big car, and I like it very much. Its classy exterior reflects what’s going on inside and under the bonnet. A smooth diesel option would widen the appeal because all similar sized Euro saloons have the option to burn oil instead. What about a small turbo? The turbo Falcon G6e feels properly quick from a similarly sized engine. But, as it is Calais is a big, long legged tourer that’s also at home round town.

Finally, a home-grown offering that doesn’t make you want to put your head in your hands while muttering “almost, you almost got it”.

Holden Calais
Price: from $39,990
Engine: 3.6-litre V6
Power: 210kW
Torque: 350Nm
Transmission: 6-speed auto
Fuel consumption: claimed 9.0L/100km
Weight: 1702-1730kg

Holden Calais V8
Price: from $52,990
Engine: 6.0-litre V8
Power: 260kW at 5600rpm
Torque: 517Nm at 4400rpm
Transmission: 6-speed auto
Fuel consumption: 11.5 to 11.8L/100km
Weight: 1778kg

Malibu, For Us Fails To Deliver.

 

2013-holden-malibu-2

Below: EPSILOM II platform:- GM/Holden Malibu, SAAB 9 5,

GM/Holden Malibu

Holden Malibu (7)Holden Malibu (6)Holden Malibu (1)

SAAB 9 5

SAAB 9 5 side view2011-Saab-9-5-rear-three-quarter2011-Saab-9-5-front-three-quarter

Opel Insignia

Opel Insignia 2014 (2)INSIGNIA Select Sedan trking fnt 3 qrtINSIGNIA Select Sedan Rear static 2

 

Below left: Epica, Below right Malibu

2007_Holden_EP_Epica_CDX_sedan_012013-holden-malibu-2

Holden Malibu (5)Holden Malibu (4)Holden Malibu (7)Holden Malibu (6)Holden Malibu (3)2013-holden-malibu-3Holden Malibu (8)Holden Malibu (9)Holden Malibu (10)Holden Malibu (11)

 

For many moons Holden lacked a midsized sedan so Holden filled it with an old Daewoo called Epica. GM, Holden’s big daddy, purchased the failing Daewoo after Daewoo’s CEO dipped his hand in the till then disappeared. They thought it would be a great place to build cars cheaply, and they succeeded, the cars built there are cheap, and they feel it. The mercifully short-lived Epica failed. Interestingly the Viva, also a Daewoo with new badges, failed in a similar fashion. After a couple of years with nothing in the void, Holden introduced Malibu, GM’s world car. In the pictures, it slightly resembled the Epica in some angles so it was with great anticipation, and not only a little trepidation, that we awaited its arrival.

The Malibu is built on a platform shared by many distinguished fellows such as the sensational SAAB 9-5 and the orgasmic Opel Insignia, commanding Cadillac XTS to name but a few. The SAAB was a fabulous drive and the Insignia was so easy to live with, so what would the Malibu hold for us? Would it be the same engaging drive with the same innovative interiors and impeccable road manners?

Sadly, no.

To demonstrate my point, I’ve included the SAAB and Insignia to demonstrate what we could have had, but don’t as neither are now available. SAAB went belly up and Opel stayed in Australia for a mere year before pulling up stumps after a marketing disaster.

OUTSIDE:- The bland front end looks chunky. The GM/Holden language doesn’t seem to translate well to this platform. There are lines defining the headlights, grille, fog lights and lower intake but it’s the shape of the headlights themselves that look a little awkward. Somehow it reminds me of the Epica. Insignia is also chunky, but in a regal stylish way and is smooth and refined with it. The SAAB is simply sexy and gorgeous, like a slinky lounge performer in a smoky club singing a smooth ballad.

The rear end is a different story. From the ¾ and straight on view, the rump is sexy with the unique shape of the tail light lending a certain verisimilitude to the nomenclature. Its butch yet relaxed and just a little bit sexy, like someone you’d expect to be sunning themselves on a beach, in Malibu. Remember, Malibu is an affluent area so to call a car that name, it must have gravitas or it’s going to look a bit silly. From the rear, the Malibu is as successful as the other two.

From the side is where it all falls apart for me. The Malibu looks far too much like the Epica it replaces. I don’t mean they look the same, but rather what the Epica would have looked like had it gone another generational evolution. It’s something you notice particularly in the flesh. The wheels look far too small making the body look large and cumbersome and the back door has an unattractive kink in the waist line. It is meant to look like the line is following along the C pillar and across the top edge of the boot but since the C pillar is smooth, the line is lost. It could have made the hind quarter look muscular like the Camaro but instead looks awkward. It must be said that if you squint you can see shade of Insignia in the way the tail lights and boot lid appear in the side view. For me, the front looks massive and heavy with a huge overhang and a bulbous proboscis. When viewed next to the Commodore, the nose of the Malibu looks large and anything but streamline.

By contrast the SAAB overhang looks tiny and the Opel’s slope fools the eye into making the front end look smaller. The huge wheels on both make the body look sporty, especially on the SAAB. It’s important to remember the shape (within reason) and size of the wheels cost a car maker very little to get right in terms of manufacture, and SAAB and Opel got it right.

Interior:

The Malibu is the antithesis of the clean beautiful SAAB interior and the neat-as-a-pin German Opel.

The Malibu interior feels like a bucket of cheap plastic exploded in the microwave. There are waves and curves and lines of hard plastic as far as the eye can see. There is a line of blue LEDs running along either side of the dash between two other lines of plastic. The light is in fact reflected onto a chromed plastic ridge from above. It’s a clever affect if you’re into boy-racer lighting effects. Below that the dash bulges out above the glove box. The steering wheel feels thick and soft but the covering feels well below par. The door facings too are almost entirely plastic even in the top model.

The foot-well makes a driver feel cramped but the poor interior fit sees the carpet bulge 4 or 5 cms into the space making it feel even smaller. A gentle push reveals nothing behind the bulge. How could that get through quality control?

The centre console is well laid out but again the plastic feels hard and lacks the quality of other examples on the same platform. In fact the cabin doesn’t feel as good as the Cruze which sits below the Malibu in Holden’s line-up. One saving grace in an otherwise ho-hum cabin is MY LINK, Holden’s infotainment system. The quality of the sound is also good for a car of this price and I like the configurable home screen.

While we are talking about the centre console, I should mention the electric parking brake which is controlled by a small lever on the left of the gear selector. It is frequently out of sight depending on how your seat is set. Once put into drive, the button is behind the gear stick. It’s not a total disaster as the Malibu will release the brake if you forget. Wouldn’t you think someone would have noticed?

The Small LCD between the speedo and tacho usually displays several menus but only vehicle info is available in this model. The console is framed by shiny hard plastic with a metalised finish, which always looks cheap.

There is nothing much more to say about the interior design.

THE DRIVE:-

The drive in not in the least engaging.

Interestingly Holden’s website has compared Malibu to Camry, i40 and Mondeo all of which are vastly superior especially on the road. The Mondeo is handsome and sharp and the Camry, although conservative in styling and road manners, feel well built and solid. Mondeo handles well even in the base model and the cabin feels like it was designed this century. The engine is snappy and the steering precise with suspension the both dampens and handles bumps, whereas the Malibu does not.

The steering is vague and remote with absolutely no feeling whatever. The handling is soft and wafty that feels remote and distant yet clunks uncomfortably over bumps. The handling becomes worse as the road surface deteriorates. The smooth quiet ride becomes rough and unrefined and in corners the stance is quite jittery.

The engine isn’t terribly smooth either. It feels old fashioned and crude with a distinct buzz as it’s pushed hard. Its 123kw/225Nm is not sufficient to haul a car of this size and could desperately use the 132kw unit from Cruze. Whilst smooth and quiet at low speeds, there is nothing in reserve once on the move. The gearbox never seems to be in the right gear and there is no sports mode. However there is a manual mode accessed by pulling the lever all the way back but gear selection via the rocker switch on top the gear lever is hard to use. James Bond’s ejector seat button it isn’t.

The fuel consumption wasn’t all that brilliant at 14.9 L/100k around town and

I wanted to tell you about the highway cycle. I wanted to say that despite the cheap feel and the dowdy exterior, she was OK on the open road and would be great for a cheap long distance vehicle, but it isn’t and I can’t. I have never done this before, but after 20 minutes on the open road I shelved the idea of a run to the NSW Southern Highlands and diverted to Picton instead. I just couldn’t go any further. Do you remember the old American movies where the driver was moving the wheel left and right to simulate motion? Well, that’s what you find yourself doing in the Malibu. You have to constantly correct but with no road feel you have no idea what the car is doing underneath. You can’t feel the road through the seat of your pants either because you’re isolated, until it comes to bumps. Even a small bump elicits a loud clunking noise and an uncomfortable jolt. The usually soft spongy suspension soaks up straight-line imperfections with great aplomb and only becomes cranky when asked to negotiate bends, even gentle ones, if there are bumps or undulations encountered.

In one final comparison, the SAAB which sold for $95,000 was sexy and although expensive, worth every zack. The V6 was powerful and the brilliant auto snappy and intelligent. The Opel was closer to the price of Malibu, but the top model at $49,000 was much better value. It drove beautifully and had a classy well designed interior, though not quite the match of the sensational SAAB. Either would be a pleasure to own. In fact the SAAB would make an excellent 2nd hand buy.

WRAP:

The drive and interior would point a savvy buyer down to the Cruze which seems well designed and refined by comparison, or up to Commodore, the best locally made car ever.

The Honda Euro, Toyota Camry, Ford Mondeo, Kia Optima and all vastly superior for similar. The equipment level in no way compensates for the frumpy exterior, the poorly fitted and designed interior, or the soggy drive. GM foisted Viva and Epica onto Holden and both failed. My prediction is the Malibu will not be a success and slow sales seem to confirm this. It reminds me of the Epica it replaced..

Would I buy one? No, Thumbs down.

Price: from $28,490 CD petrol to $35,990 CDX diesel

Engine/trans: 2.4 litre petrol inline-four, 2.0 litre turbodiesel inline four
Power/torque: 123kW/225Nm (petrol), 117kW/350Nm (diesel)
Econ l/100km, listed: 8.0 (petrol)
Econ l/100km, tested: 14.9 (petrol)

Cruze: Holdens Best seller. Price drop with more stuff

IMG_0087

 

IMG_0090

ABOVE: dash board bin lid has a strange fit

Holden Cruze MK II (2)Holden Cruze MK II (4)Holden Cruze MK II (8)Holden Cruze MK II  wagon (1)

ABOVE: left- sedan, right-wagon tail lights

Holden Cruze MK II new keyless start (5)Holden Cruze MK II (7)Holden Cruze MK II infotainmanet system (6)

ABOVE: left-my link, right-new design start/stop switch, engine, my link

Holden Cruze MK II wagon  (10)Holden Cruze MK II wagon (9)IMG_0080

Above and below: The hatch parked at the end of the main runway, sydney airport

IMG_0082IMG_0083IMG_0084IMG_0088

BELOW: reverse camera

Holden Cruze MK II rear view camera (3)

Buyers are canny people. They watch their pennies and expect to get value for their money. Carmakers know this and are falling over themselves to tempt you with their tasty titbits. Bluetooth is no longer a luxury, but that which is expected if a car is to stand half a chance. Holden has no doubt been keeping a careful eye on its arch rival, Ford, who is pulling up stumps in a year or 4. They will no longer build cars in this great country of ours because they say their costs are too high. Interesting, because they are selling the same cars in the USA for half of the price of Australian models regardless of where they are made. The manufacturing excuse doesn’t hold up under even the most cursory of inspections.

But I digress: Holden wants to stay here and wants to employ Australians. It behoves us all to keep that in mind. To that end we took a Cruze for a quick thrash. We drove last year’s offering here and found it ok but it was lacking in some areas. The steering wasn’t quite right and the keyless start was a rectangular button set at a jaunty angle in order to sandwich it in a limited space. There were no auto wipers and the infotainment system wasn’t quite up to snuff but the biggest problem was the engine. It had the 1.4 turbo which is fine but at this price lagged behind the opposition. I said then that it needed much more power and as if by magic, Holden obliged.

The latest SRiV feels a totally different car. The steering has a different feel and the new auto is very sharp. In fact I could have sworn it was one of those new-fangled double clutch jobs. The changes were crisp and sharp though I can’t say I noticed too much difference in sports mode. If I could offer a small piece of wisdom to Holden, it would be this: ditch that awful shifter and put something classy in. The gear knob felt cheap and lightweight and ruined the interior. The movement felt imprecise as if it was from a 20 year old banger. For contrast I tried the Ford Focus and there is simply no comparison in either feel or look. The manual remains my favourite. It’s easy to use with a light clutch and easy reach of the gear stick. The manual shifter has a nice feel to it too, unlike the auto. With the driver’s seat set in a comfy position the centre console bin is too high and elbow bangs are aplenty. The senor key system has small buttons on the doors to lock and unlock and a button on the dash to start and stop the engine. The start button is now round and looks a thousand percent on the tacky rectangular one of the pre-update model.

It isn’t immediately obvious but the audio system has been made over too. The sound quality is better and MY LINK now controls the system. It works the same way as in other Holdens although the buttons appear to be carried over from the old Cruze. I remarked last time that you can’t get your fingers to the bottom row of icons on the screen because the LCD is in a deep housing to negate glare so you have to slide your finger down it to press the radio station buttons. That problem remains. I’ve had trouble getting the voice function to work in both sedan and hatch but I’ve put this down to driver error. Clearly there is something amiss but a recent upgrade to IOS7 may be at fault. There is no Satnav which I think is a bit mean given the great infotainment system. It’s in the production models but because the test car is a rush job it misses some of the things we’d like to have seen.

Whether it’s my imagination or not, the seats feel more comfortable but the driving position was always pretty good in the Cruze. Our test cars were bright blue sedan and 70’s orange hatch, colours I haven’t seen in years but I liked them even it is simply to relive fond memories.

Cruze benefits from larger wheels and the SRiV has 18” alloys, but I thought Holden could have chosen more adventurous design. Keep in mind the lower the profile of the tyre the harder the ride. The locally made Cruzes have suspension modifications as per the specs below.

The Cruze SRi and SRi-V features a locally-tuned, unique-for-Australia sports suspension incorporating a Watts Link.

The sports tune for MY14 Cruze is based on 2 new locally tuned Bridgestone Potenza sport tyres. A 17” for the SRi and an 18” for the SRi-V.

The tune incorporates;

· A stiffer rear twist beam to better optimise mid corner grip and balance.

· Stiffer and lower springs than on other models in line with the sports tune, lowered to account for the larger sports tyres.

· An internal rebound spring in the front strut providing crisper steering response, increased roll stiffness and aids vertical motion control.

· Strut and shock tune to achieve the performance target of this vehicle.

· A shorter rear shock bump stop to preserve rear suspension travel, mostly needed for when the car is laden.

The compound crank rear axle provides packaging and mass benefits as well as superior wheel camber stiffness.

Carried on a small cross-member attached to the underbody, the Watt’s link sits just behind the rear-wheel centre line and attracts cornering thrust from the tyres with minimal deflection. This further reduces vehicle response time and helps provide crisp steering response.

The star of the SRiV is the 1.6 Turbo under the bonnet. Holden increased the output but 1/3 and is now at 132 KW and 230Nm. Holden claim combined cycle of 7.4 and 7.9 L/100k. Because these figures are achieved by men in white coats, it’s unlikely you will get this in your own driving conditions, and we certainly didn’t. The top model felt alive and nimble, all the things the other models aren’t. I found myself relaxing into a pleasant drive and my previous reservations gradually disappeared. The cabin still feels plasticky but the ease of which Cruze can be thrown around in city traffic makes that fade. Another strange thing is that I flux between liking the hatch more than the hatch, then back again.

The sedan looks heavy in the back end and I don’t like the light clusters at either end of the car. The hatch would look much better with the shooting brake treatment that BMW and Volvo gave their baby models. The rear window stands more upright almost like a sports wagon but with a shorter overhang. Perhaps we might score that in the next model.

The price range is from $20,000 base model to $30,800 for the SRiV with bells and whistles. With that you get better handling, interior, and a much higher trim level, but above all, more power. The SRiV would be the only model I would consider.

This is the moment where I answer the burning question: would I buy one?

No, I would buy a Ford Focus. Although the Sport model ($26k) lacks some of the function of the Cruze, the drive, appearance and interior all superior and for this reason the Focus is the top selling car worldwide.

My motto remains: Holden for big cars and Ford for small cars. That is of course if I’m limited to the big two but remember Toyota sells more car than Holden and Ford combined in the Australian market so the options for an Australian buyer remains wide. It is perhaps this reason that in this segment, Mazda 3 outsells both of the above options but Corolla is Australia’s bestselling car

Sept units sold: Toyota Corolla 3343, Mazda 3 3052, Hyundai I30 2675, Holden Cruze 1851, Ford Focus 1642

Engines

1.6 litre DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder turbo petrol *new*

Power: 132kW @ 5500 rpm Torque: 230Nm @ 2200 rpm

· 1.4 litre DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder turbo petrol Power: 103kW @ 4900 rpm

clip_image001Torque: 200 Nm @ 1850 rpm

· 1.8 litre DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder ECOTEC petrol Power: 104kW @ 6300 rpm

Torque: 175Nm @ 3800 rpm

· 2.0 litre SOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder common rail turbo diesel Power: 120kWkW @ 3800 rpm

Torque: 360Nm @ 2000rpm

Transmissions

· 5-speed manual transmission (1.8L petrol)

· 6-speed manual transmission (1.6L petrol)

· 6-speed automatic transmission with Active Select (1.8L petrol; 1.4L petrol; 2.0L diesel)

· 6-speed automatic transmission with Active Select and sports mode (1.6L petrol)

The 6-speed manual transmission is manufactured in Aspern, Austria; the 5-speed manual transmission is manufactured in Gunsan, South Korea; the 6-speed Gen 2 automatic transmission is manufactured in Boryeong, South Korea.

Fuel economy (ADR 81/01)

Fuel economy – Cruze sedan and hatch

Litres per 100km

Engine

Fuel

Trans

Equipe

CDX

SRi

SRi-V

1.4L

Petrol

Auto

6.8L

-

-

-

2.0L

Diesel

Auto

6.7L

6.7L

-

-

1.8L

Petrol

Auto

7.4L

7.4L

-

-

1.8L

Petrol

Man

7.0L

7.0L

-

-

1.6L

Petrol

Auto

-

-

7.9L

7.9L

1.6L

Petrol

Man

-

-

7.4L

7.4L