HAPPY FAM­I­LIES

Holden’s long-time-com­ing SUV is big, boxy and set up to please the tribe

Mercury (Hobart) - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE - JOSHUA DOWLING

M eet the fam­ily car poised to put an end to back seat bore­dom.

The new Holden Aca­dia has so many power out­lets to keep kids pre­oc­cu­pied with tablets and phones they may never get the chance to moan, “Are we there yet?”

The same ques­tion could be asked of Holden for tak­ing so long to get a full-size SUV.

The Cap­tiva sold over the past decade was too small and the Trail­blazer is too rugged.

This bold box-shaped seven-seater is Holden’s first fair-dinkum at­tempt at ap­peal­ing to the masses. Call it Holden’s be­lated an­swer to the Ford Ter­ri­tory.

As you may have guessed from the de­sign it comes from the US, where it is sold as a GMC and com­petes with the Toy­ota Kluger, Mazda CX-9 and Nis­san Pathfinder. The big­gest ace up its sleeve is in­te­rior space. The Aca­dia claims more cabin and cargo room than any other ve­hi­cle in its class — even though its foot­print and ex­ter­nal di­men­sions are slightly smaller than the Mazda and Nis­san.

The big­gest and most pow­er­ful petrol en­gine in the class, a 3.6-litre V6, is matched to a nine­speed auto that boosts ac­cel­er­a­tion and im­proves open road fuel econ­omy.

The lack of a diesel could be viewed as a set­back but the top two sell­ers — the Toy­ota and Mazda — are also petrol-only propo­si­tions.

There are three grades, LT, LTZ and LTZ-V, start­ing from $42,990 drive-away, $53,990 drive-away and $63,990 drive-away re­spec­tively in front-wheel drive for­mat. All­wheel drive adds $4000.

This sharp in­tro­duc­tory price is likely to con­tinue. It means the bet­ter equipped Holden un­der­cuts its main ri­vals by $1000 -3000.

All mod­els come with au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing, rear view cam­era, rear cross-traf­fic alert, blind zone warn­ing, lane keep­ing as­sis­tance, for­ward crash alert and speed sign recog­ni­tion cam­era.

Should the worst hap­pen, seven airbags — in­clud­ing a driver’s knee airbag and cur­tain bags cov­er­ing the third row — pro­tect oc­cu­pants in a crash. ANCAP is yet to pub­lish a safety rat­ing.

Com­fort and con­ve­nience items in­clude a sen­sor key with push but­ton start, built-in nav­i­ga­tion, Ap­ple CarPlay, An­droid Auto, dig­i­tal ra­dio and three-zone air­con.

A tow bar and seven-pin trailer light plug are al­ready fit­ted, tucked neatly be­hind the rear bumper on all mod­els. Just add the neck and tow ball.

The mid-range LTZ gains leather trim, 10way power ad­just­ment for the driver’s seat, eight-way power ad­just­ment for the front pas­sen­ger seat (both seats heated), wire­less phone charg­ing and front sen­sors in ad­di­tion to the rear beep­ers, among other add-ons.

The flag­ship LTZ-V — which Holden is dub­bing the suc­ces­sor to the Caprice limou­sine — comes with the lot: 20-inch al­loys, twin sun­roofs, radar cruise con­trol, 360-de­gree cam­era, eight-speaker pre­mium Bose au­dio, heated and ven­ti­lated front seats, 10-way power ad­just­ment for the front pas­sen­ger seat and adap­tive sus­pen­sion. The list goes on.

All grades have a space-saver spare stashed un­der the rear cargo floor. It’s a chore to ac­cess.

Most ri­vals have tem­po­rary spares that are eas­ier to get to. If you want a full-size spare, the Toy­ota Kluger, Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento are for you.

Ser­vice in­ter­vals are 12 months/12,000km. pay $817 for the first three years or 36,000km, or $1176 over four years or 48,000km.

ON THE ROAD

The large glass area gives the Aca­dia ex­cel­lent out­ward vi­sion all around, mak­ing it easy to ma­noeu­vre in car parks. The turn­ing cir­cle is tight for a large SUV, at 11.8m iden­ti­cal to its ri­vals. There is am­ple stor­age in the cen­tre con­sole, glove­box and door pock­ets. The sun vi­sors ex­tend to block side glare.

The mid­dle row has a handy slide-out stor­age tray un­der the cen­tre con­sole, above which are air­con con­trols and two USB ports; there are three 12V sock­ets up front and two in the cargo hold.

Shoul­der and legroom in the sec­ond row are class-lead­ing, ac­cord­ing to brochure fig­ures.

Ac­cess to the third row is via tilt­ing and slid­ing the sec­ond-row seat; there’s enough room for an adult to squeeze through.

Sit­ting in the third row, my 178cm frame had a sur­pris­ing amount of clear­ance for my head, shoul­ders, knees and toes.

You could com­fort­ably fit the in-laws in the last row with­out caus­ing an in­ter­na­tional in­ci­dent. Kids should have no rea­son to com­plain, not that that will stop them.

The en­gine is perky by class stan­dards and, to be frank, even com­pared to a V6 sedan. Even on gen­tle throt­tle the Aca­dia wants to get up and go, though it’s not over-sen­si­tive.

Hav­ing am­ple power on tap means the front tyres can strug­gle to find grip if you floor the throt­tle, prompt­ing the steer­ing wheel to wrig­gle in your hands. The Aca­dia is not alone in this re­gard and you soon ad­just your driv­ing style.

This trait is com­mon to front-drive and AWD ver­sions. Un­less you select all-paw mode, the AWD hard­ware is de­ployed on de­mand.

The 18-inch wheel and tyre pack­age on the LT and LTZ is the most com­fort­able over bumps and the steer­ing is smooth and ac­cu­rate.

How­ever, the all-ter­rain rub­ber doesn’t have quite as much grip in tight bends as some other SUVs. The flag­ship LTZ-V is bet­ter in cor­ners thanks to its road-bi­ased 20-inch wheels and low pro­file tyres but it’s a touch busier over bumps.

The brakes work fine around town but, as noted on the me­dia pre­view drive, you’d be well ad­vised not to pun­ish them on long down­hill sec­tions, as the Aca­dia has the small­est discs among its peers.

The speed sign recog­ni­tion cam­era works well and the high res­o­lu­tion dig­i­tal in­stru­ment read­out has a crisp dis­play (the ve­hi­cle speed dis­play could be a bit big­ger).

The base model, to com­plete what is al­ready an im­pres­sive start­ing pack­age, might ben­e­fit from front park­ing sen­sors.

VER­DICT

The Aca­dia is a hand­some, roomy, welle­quipped, sharply priced fam­ily car that’s also de­cent to drive.

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