SOME LIFT IN YOUR LIFE
Holden has the key for the next generation of Aussie sedan families
Could there be anything more Australian than strapping two kids into the back of dad’s Commodore and heading to Dreamworld? Long-distance travel in a big Holden sedan is a right of passage for Aussie kids — but is the experience watered down when the Commodore’s an import? Not least when it’s a four-cylinder diesel sending power to the front wheels.
Let’s pack up the Commodore Calais Liftback 2.0T Diesel and do the road trip.
IAIN: Today I become a real man. I’m married, have two kids and there’s a new Commodore on the driveway.
JULES: I’ll get your pipe and slippers. A Commodore’s your birthright, I take it?
IAIN: It’s just the rules. As an Australian family man you ultimately must become Sedan Dad, and for 40 years that meant a Commodore or Falcon.
JULES: Rules have changed. You all drive double-cab utes now.
IAIN: I’m sticking with tradition. This is the luxury Calais version, complete with super-sensible four-cylinder diesel and front-wheel drive.
JULES: Not one for the rear-drive V8 Commodore faithful then? It looks quite attractive from some angles but did it have to be black? It looks like a salesman’s car.
IAIN: And he’d be very happy with it. Elegant Euro design with Liftback rather than conventional sedan shape, classy 18-inch alloys and a smattering of chrome. It’s as graceful as the Calais badge demands.
JULES: It’s also the most masculine car I could imagine. And just a bit bland, sorry.
IAIN: It’s a dad thing. You wouldn’t understand.
JULES: Right. The rivals?
IAIN: For $3000 less there’s a petrol Calais. I’d consider a Mazda6, Toyota Camry, Skoda Superb or even a Kia Stinger instead.
THE LIVING SPACE
JULES: Black inside too?
IAIN: OK, it’s a bit dour, but there’s leather everywhere and it’s a classy, tech-filled dash, wouldn’t you say?
JULES: Intuitive layout and the eight-inch touchscreen — they’re good. Apple CarPlay mirrors my smartphone perfectly.
IAIN: The ZB Commodore is a tad slimmer than the old Aussie-built ones but still feels a big car for those sitting up front.
JULES: Decent space for adults in the back, too, and our kids in their car seats can’t reach the seats in front with their grubby feet.
IAIN: You want leathery luxury in a Calais and I rate these low-mounted seats. No bum numbness after a three-hour highway trip but there were some hard cabin plastics letting the side down.
JULES: For the money, it feels good value. Heated seats, wireless phone charging, satnav, keyless entry and start, ambient lighting, parking sensors everywhere and I like how it can reverse park itself when you learn the technique.
IAIN: A 4.2-inch digital screen between the dials is superb for driver info too. The passenger seat isn’t powered, nor is there a headup display. Bit stingy. Should be Calais staples.
JULES: More storage too. Once I had found a place for my phone, purse, coffee, sunnies and water bottle, it was a bit crammed.
IAIN: It’s strange driving a diesel Commodore but I can embrace the new. It takes a bit of persuading to get up to speed but the mid-range shove is great from this 2.0-litre — but it can sound a bit, well, diesel-y.
JULES: Not as refined as a BMW diesel, for example, but look at the price difference. Anyway, there’s enough grunt to get you to your sales conferences on time.
IAIN: Thank you. There’s no radar cruise control and it’s just what a Calais owner would want for highway driving or sat in traffic.
JULES: Excellent boot space and the liftback design makes for a giant easy-to-load opening. IAIN: Opening it’s a fiddle though. You have to push a button then lift the tailgate separately, rather than in one motion. There really should be a button on the keyfob to open it too. JULES: Weekly shopping fits in easily plus there’s space for all your promotional banners and sales brochures.
IAIN: Holden’s engineers have done their usual excellent job of setting up this import’s chassis and steering for our conditions but it needs steering wheel paddle-shifters for the auto. JULES: It handles well but can be a bit bumpy on bad roads.
IAIN: I thought it a good mix. A really comfy ride that wafted along like a luxury sedan should. You’d want the petrol engine for more oomph but my Sunday drive would be taking the family on a highway road trip. We returned a decent 6.7L/100km — a petrol engine wouldn’t do that.
JULES: Great space for the two kids but we’d need the wagon to fit their bikes in the boot. IAIN: Safety’s brilliant. There’s a long list of active safety gear and driver assistance plus airbags stretching into the rear: something a modern dad should prioritise.
JULES: Definitely a dad work car rather than a family car, although the Calais was comfortable and fuel efficient on our 500km round trip. IAIN: It’s lazy to dislike the new Commodore. These are very good cars, strong on features and value. I’d prefer a wagon for family duties and a lustier, $3000 cheaper four-cylinder petrol over the diesel. But this is still a worthy entry into Sedan Dad life.
ONE CAR — TWO CRITICS