Epica’s epic tale
This tweaked Asian import had a big hole to fill, writes Graham Smith
THE Epica was one of the new generation of small and midsized cars that Holden imported from Asia to replace its expensive European range. Specifically it replaced the mid-sized Vectra.
The Vectra was well regarded for its responsive performance, but it was a premium product with a premium price and never really got going. It wasn’t surprising that Holden turned to South Korea for a cheaper replacement.
By adopting the Epica, Holden became more price competitive in a market segment that was growing as buyers downsized out of bigger cars, such as the Commodore and the Ford Falcon.
GIVEN that the Vectra was a premium European model with all the technology and features expected of a car from that part of the world, Holden’s decision to replace it with the South Korean-built Epica seemed something of a step backwards.
But it wasn’t as bad as feared once Holden’s engineers had finished tweaking it to ensure it was in tune with Australian demands.
Local engineers played a hand in the suspension settings, transmission controls and equipment. It was also given a cosmetic makeover by Holden designers so there was nothing that jarred when it landed here.
The result was that it had an appealing look and was packed with plenty of the features Australian buyers wanted.
Inside, the cabin was roomy and comfortable with accommodation for three adults across the back seat, and beyond that there was a good-sized boot.
Two engines were offered, both sixcylinder units, and there were two models, the CDX and CDXi.
Porsche designed the double overhead camshaft straight-six engine.
In its smaller 2.0-litre form it put out 105kW at 6400 revs and 195Nm at 2600 revs, while the bigger 2.5-litre produced 115kW at 5800 revs and 237Nm at 2600 revs.
The 2.5-litre engine was the pick of the pair.
Its performance wasn’t breathtaking by any measure, but it was smooth and steady while the 2.0-litre simply lacked spark. The CDX was available with either the 2.0 or 2.5-litre engine; the 2.0-litre came with a five-speed manual gearbox and the 2.5-litre with a five-speed auto. Those who chose the better-equipped CDXi got the 2.5-litre engine and five-speed auto as a matter of course.
Anyone opting for the 2.5-litre auto might well have been disappointed when they discovered the transmission wasn’t equipped with a manual shift option that has become an accepted part of the motoring landscape in recent times.
The Epica came with plenty of the features most buyers wanted, with standard airconditioning, cruise control, cloth trim, alloy wheels, power