Split per­son­al­ity

Week­day work­horses that be­come weekend war­riors

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page - STU­ART MARTIN stu­art.martin@news.com.au

CHECK for a pulse. If there’s still a gen­tle thump-thump present, that’s a good start.

Does it rise and fall with the en­gine revs and surge with cen­trifu­gal force in cor­ners?

That makes you a driver, some­one who en­joys a rib­bon of road and the chal­lenge of smooth, spir­ited progress.

But now prac­ti­cal­i­ties may take prece­dence and gone are the days of punt­ing a twoseater sports car along in­clines and hair­pins. Still, the op­por­tu­nity arises oc­ca­sion­ally for tak­ing the long way with only one seat belt in use — yours.

For the school run or Satur­day sport, a sedan is the bare min­i­mum re­quire­ment for get­ting the off­spring to their des­ti­na­tion. The same ve­hi­cle can also be used — if equipped ap­pro­pri­ately — for a solo drive just to clear the driver’s mind. But which $40K four-door is go­ing to get both jobs done?

HOLDEN VF COM­MODORE SV6

WEEK­DAY The cheap­est of this trio is also the largest — Ade­laide’s own VF Com­modore SV6, which at $38,690 for a sixspeed au­to­matic model is plenty of metal for the money.

Com­plet­ing the daily grind in the Holden is an easy task — its cav­ernous cabin eas­ily takes five oc­cu­pants, with enough space in ev­ery di­rec­tion to main­tain com­fort on the com­mute.

It’s not the big­gest boot of this trio at 496L and can’t be ex­panded by way of split­fold­ing rear seats but it takes a fair load of bag­gage.

The SV6 even has an auto start func­tion, which has its ad­van­tages on a cold morn­ing to fire up the dual-zone cli­mate con­trol, with rear vents.

The V6 and con­ven­tional auto driv­e­train lopes through metro mun­dan­i­ties. Park­ing sen­sors front and rear team with a re­vers­ing cam­era to as­sist in tight city park­ing. Thick wind­screen pil­lars take some get­ting used to at T-junc­tions.

WEEKEND The big Aussie sedan shrinks around the driver once the other seats are un­oc­cu­pied — the 3.6-litre V6 isn’t the most or­ches­tral of pow­er­plants but power and torque — 210kW and 350Nm — suf­fice to get it hus­tling.

It cov­ers ground quickly and eas­ily, with a light but di­rect con­nec­tion to the front wheels and sus­pen­sion that works in the bends with­out break­ing bones — or the bank, given a claimed thirst of 9L/100km.

The sport mode in the trans­mis­sion works well enough and there is the op­tion of a man­ual change for the driver, who will get ac­cus­tomed to the high-set brake pedal.

SKODA OC­TAVIA RS

WEEK­DAY Still dwelling un­der the $40,000 mark, the Skoda Oc­tavia RS is a $38,790 propo­si­tion in its au­to­matic petrol form and it’s the only one here with stan­dard sat­nav, part of the in­tu­itive touch­screen­con­trolled in­fo­tain­ment.

The Czech brand’s con­tes­tant also has a spa­cious cabin, if not quite as wide as that of the Holden.

There’s still plenty of space for five and the boot ex­pands to 568L with the split-fold func­tion — it’s enor­mous.

Sadly it misses out on a re­vers­ing cam­era but gets front and rear park­ing sen­sors with a clever info-graphic, based on the front wheel an­gle, to pre­dict the car’s path.

Daily du­ties are a lit­tle less com­fort­able in the con­ser­va­tively styled Skoda — ride qual­ity is a touch firmer than the Holden, though not to the point of dis­com­fort.

The Czech ups the airbag count to nine, adding two rear side airbags. It also has rain­sens­ing wipers and au­to­matic xenon head­lights for well-lit night driv­ing.

WEEKEND Just be­cause the front wheels do all the work, it doesn’t mean the Skoda han­dles like a de­mented dog on lino — the VW Group’s driv­e­train boffins have ap­plied elec­tronic trick­ery to keep trac­tion and torque steer in check and make the most of the en­gine’s out­puts in the bends.

It’s en­thu­si­as­tic in cor­ner­ing, with the 2.0-litre turbo four pro­duc­ing a use­ful 162kW and 350Nm (well-spread for flex­i­bil­ity across the rev range) but it needs 98 RON fuel to

gen­er­ate those num­bers.

Thank­fully, it only drinks at a claimed rate of 6.6L/100km, helped by the least kerb weight and only marred by a touchy brake pedal.

SUBARU IM­PREZA WRX

WEEK­DAY Subaru has re­turned its WRX to sedan form and with con­stantly vari­able trans­mis­sion it comes to $40,990, just breach­ing our nom­i­nal price bar­rier. The sixspeed man­ual is fine on the right road but for daily drudgery the CVT is a much smoother op­tion.

The Subaru’s ride qual­ity is the least suit­able here for the patch­work of bi­tu­men mas­querad­ing as main roads.

If you don’t mind be­ing an ex­tro­vert then the WRX is a con­tender — LED head­lights, body skirts and bon­net scoops make it stand out a lit­tle more than the other two.

The cabin has more room than you’d ex­pect from a first glance at the ex­te­rior, only re­ally fall­ing short of the oth­ers in rear head­room and the ab­sence of rear vents.

Bootspace is the small­est but not re­stric­tive at 460L, and the Subaru also can ex­pand on that with the 60-40 split rear back­rests.

The Sube gets the safety ben­e­fit of all-wheel drive, re­vers­ing cam­era (but no sen­sors), seven airbags (the usual six plus one for the driver’s knees). The dearer Pre­mium vari­ant adds dusksens­ing lights, rain-sens­ing wipers and sat­nav.

WEEKEND Here’s where the WRX comes fir­ing back into con­tention — clever AWD and the tied-down chas­sis gen­er­ate stu­pen­dous grip and drive out of cor­ners, ex­ploit­ing the turbo flat-four’s 197kW and 350Nm.

That’s Com­modore V6 out­puts with 158kg less weight, with all that torque spread over a more use­ful band. The Subaru claims a com­bined-cy­cle thirst of 8.6L/100km.

The CVT can smoothly mar­shal all that urge or the driver can switch to “S#” (Sport Sharp) mode and use the pad­dles to change gears. The eight-speed auto is much sharper than pre­vi­ous auto ef­forts in the WRX — it lives up to its her­itage as a very quick point-to-point car.

VER­DICT

The SV6 is by no means a bad beast. A Com­modore means lots of car for the money. It is light on its feet yet still has a big­car feel with­out feel­ing like a barge in the bends.

Subaru’s WRX is a head­kicker when fired up in anger — out­ra­geous grunt for the ask­ing price, with a muchim­proved auto op­tion and that grip — and the su­per-firm road man­ner is the sole fail­ing.

My two min­ions for the day choose the Skoda as the car they’d pinch if all keys were on the ta­ble and it’s hard to ar­gue with that con­clu­sion.

It lacks the width of the Com­modore and the out­right grip and grunt of the Subaru, nor is it as overt as the other two in the looks depart­ment. The cheeky Czech has plenty of space, pace and poise and can be driven with pur­pose.

Daily grind week­ends off: Com­modore SV6, left, Oc­tavia RS and WRX

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