SWELL WAGON

Sta­tion wag­ons have never been al­lur­ing, but the lat­est fam­ily hold-alls are a dif­fer­ent beast al­to­gether, re­ports NICK DAL­TON

The Weekend Post - Motoring - - Front Page -

FOR starters they look sen­sa­tional and Holden’s Sport­wagon is one of the best. Gone is the box­i­ness of the VZ Com­modore se­ries and along has come the stylish, Euro-look of the Sport­wagon.

No longer will mum feel as though she is driv­ing an elon­gated car­ton on wheels. Here’s a svelte five door that just looks great.

The lat­est sport wag­ons make a lot of sense and present a great counter ar­gu­ment to SUVs which yummy mum­mies seem to love in droves.

This is mainly be­cause of the su­pe­rior com­mand­ing driv­ing po­si­tion but they are harder to park, thirstier, heav­ier and more cum­ber­some than the car-like wag­ons such as the VE Sport­wagon, the Mazda6 wagon and the Volk­swa­gen Pas­sat.

Holden is mak­ing the only Aus­tralian sport wagon while Ford con­tin­ues with the old style Fal­con load lug­ger as well as the Ter­ri­tory SUV.

The beauty of this wagon is that it drives like a car be­cause it is built on the same plat­form as the VE sedan and hasn’t been stretched.

That means all the top at­tributes of the VE sedan’s han­dling, road­hold­ing and ride are shared by the wagon.

PRIC­ING AND EQUIP­MENT

The test ve­hi­cle was the spe­cial Edi­tion Com­modore In­ter­na­tional Sport­wagon which is $35,990 drive away.

Spe­cial fea­tures in­clude 18in al­loy wheels, fog lamps, a six-disc CD changer, leather seat trim and steer­ing wheel, Blue­tooth con­nec­tion for com­pat­i­ble mo­bile phones and rear park as­sist.

That’s on top of the usual Omega Sport­wagon equip­ment lev­els in­clud­ing cruise con­trol, Elec­tronic Sta­bil­ity Con­trol, front and side im­pact airbags for driver and passenger, side cur­tain airbags, five-star ANCAP rat­ing, ABS brakes, trac­tion con­trol, power front and rear win­dows, mir­rors and steer­ing, trip com­puter, multi-func­tion steer­ing wheel con­trols, au­to­matic head­lights, four-way elec­tric driver’s seat ad­just­ment, air­con­di­tion­ing and a cargo blind.

So it of­fers good value when the base model Omega is $41,290 and adds more equip­ment.

THE EN­GINE ROOM

The Al­loytec V6 is not the most re­fined six cylin­der. Driven mod­er­ately and it’s not bad but give it a boot­ful and it be­comes noisy and harsh.

Be­ing at­tached to an old style four-speed auto doesn’t help the cause ei­ther.

But around town and on the high­way it re­mains calm and col­lected, as long as you don’t call up all the horses.

It does sur­pris­ingly well at the petrol pump. The Holden V6 has al­ways been eco­nom­i­cal for its size.

The of­fi­cial fig­ure is 10.7L/100km fuel use av­er­age on stan­dard un­leaded for the Sport­wagon and 256g CO2/km and that’s cer­tainly achiev­able.

I av­er­aged 13.7L/100km over a week­end which in­cluded city driv­ing, a stint up the Ku­randa Range to Ma­reeba, Mt Mol­loy, Ju­lat­ten, down the Rex Range and along the Cap­tain Cook High­way to Cairns.

I was not muck­ing around ei­ther, so moderate driv­ing will al­low you to un­der­cut the of­fi­cial fig­ure.

In fact, I de­cided to drive the Sport­wagon as gen­tly as pos­si­ble from Moss­man to Cairns and watched the fig­ures fall on the trip com­puter.

De­spite the lack of smooth­ness, the Sport­wagon has strong ini­tial per­for­mance for stop-start traf­fic and also pro­vides good over­tak­ing and hill-climb­ing power on the open road.

ON THE ROAD

The Sport­wagon’s re­la­tion­ship to the Com­modore sedan is ob­vi­ous, with the same crisp steer­ing, tight body con­trol and nim­ble han­dling.

But be­cause it has been de­signed as a load car­rier, the in­de­pen­dent rear sus­pen­sion has been firmed up and it feels that way. The front end is more com­pli­ant.

Around town for­ward vi­sion is good, al­though the thick A pil­lars do block the line of view when cor­ner­ing.

Rear-park­ing sen­sors help when the go­ing gets tight when rev­ers­ing.

The Sport­wagon has sac­ri­ficed lug­gage space for style. The tail­gate fash­ion­ably cuts into the body with a coupe-like rear­ward slope. But the for­ward hing­ing aids ac­cess into the cargo bay and al­lows it to be opened in tight spa­ces.

With all seats in place, there is 895 litres of lug­gage space. The load­ing height is low and two curry, four side and four floor tie-down hooks help keep cargo al­to­gether.

There also is a light, a 12-volt out­let and a se­cu­rity blind that can slide up the D-pil­lar out of the way when load­ing goods.

Split-fold the 60:40 bench seat and 2000 litres and 2m of al­most flat space is opened up. But the tail­gate glass does not open sep­a­rately, the bench seat does not slide or re­cline and there is no un­der-floor stor­age such as a wet bin. Rear-seat pas­sen­gers will find the bench plush and space plen­ti­ful al­though the mid­dle po­si­tion is for short trips or young chil­dren only.

Be­hind the steer­ing wheel ev­ery­thing is Com­modore fa­mil­iar, in­clud­ing the cen­tre con­sole power win­dow switches and park­ing brake lever. The size of but­tons in the cen­tre stack and their la­bels are large and clear, but the green dig­i­tal read­outs, the cruise con­trol stalk and the trip com­puter sys­tem are a bit dated.

The driver has a comfortable and broad bucket seat, reach and rake-ad­justable steer­ing and a good left footrest.

Stor­age op­tions up front in­clude long door bins with 600mm bot­tle hold­ers, a lid­ded cen­tre box and a de­cent-sized glove box. In the rear there are smaller door bins and cup hold­ers that pop out of the seat base.

SAFETY

The Omega Sport­wagon was the first lo­cally man­u­fac­tured wagon to re­ceive a max­i­mum five star safety rat­ing from the Aus­tralasian New Car As­sess­ment Pro­gram (ANCAP).

The re­sult re­flects the long list of safety fea­tures found stan­dard across the range in­clud­ing six airbags, rear park as­sist and Elec­tronic Sta­bil­ity Con­trol ( ESC) which in­cor­po­rates Anti-lock Brak­ing Sys­tem ( ABS), Elec­tronic Brake­force Dis­tri­bu­tion ( EBD), Elec­tronic Brake As­sist ( EBA) and Trac­tion Con­trol Sys­tem ( TCS).

The Sport­wagon range also has a steer­ing col­umn shroud en­ergy ab­sorber that helps to re­duce driver knee in­juries. The Omega model fea­tures a passenger seat belt re­minder.

THE VER­DICT

Holden has helped re­vi­talise the fam­ily wagon seg­ment which in re­cent years has been taken over by soft road­ers.

The com­pany has clev­erly based the wagon on the stan­dard sedan’s plat­form which has meant a loss of lug­gage room but it re­tains the car’s ex­cel­lent road­hold­ing/han­dling/ride equa­tion.

In fact, un­less you looked be­hind, you’d be hard pressed to tell the dif­fer­ence on the road be­tween sedan and wagon.

So the wagon has all the great at­tributes of the sedan and its flaws too.

If only the drive train had bet­ter re­fine­ment and grace.

Most peo­ple would be happy with the Al­loytec V6 and the four speeder but if I was in the mar­ket I would step up to a V8 and the six-speeder.

And there are plenty of choices too from the $ 49,790 SS, all the way up to the Calais V Se­ries at $63,990.

>>TEST VE­HI­CLE COUR­TESY OF IRE­LAND HOLDEN, MUL­GRAVE RD, CAIRNS, PH: 4052 3666.

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