Holden has the key for the next gen­er­a­tion of Aussie sedan fam­i­lies

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page - IAIN CURRY & JULES LUCHT

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.


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.


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