Next year’s Com­modore

Holden will im­port the In­signia as its sta­ple fam­ily sedan, de­signed to bring new buy­ers to the brand

The Weekend Post - Motoring - - FIRST DRIVE - JOSHUA DOWLING NA­TIONAL MOTORING EDITOR joshua.dowling@news.com.au

DIEHARD Holden fans are in for a shock. The four-cylin­der Com­modore to be im­ported from Ger­many next year is faster than the stan­dard lo­cally made V6.

We know be­cause we’ve driven it. The 2.0-litre turbo Opel In­signia tested in Europe is not iden­ti­cal to what we will get in Aus­tralia (it was all­wheel-drive, whereas four­cylin­der mod­els sold here will be front-drive) but it gave a valu­able fore­taste of what we can ex­pect when it ar­rives in lo­cal show­rooms in Fe­bru­ary re­badged as a Com­modore.

When the home­grown model reaches the end of the line in Oc­to­ber — end­ing 68 years of Holden man­u­fac­tur­ing and 39 years of Com­modore V8s — there will be a choice of 2.0-litre turbo four-cylin­der petrol or diesel front-wheel drives or a V6 all-wheel drive.

There is no turbo planned for the V6 be­cause there is no room un­der the bon­net.

The In­signia is smaller than the lo­cally built Com­modore. The V6 was a late ad­di­tion af­ter the Holden fac­tory clo­sure was an­nounced and the In­signia was se­lected as its suc­ces­sor.

The new Com­modore is not in­tended to be a per­for­mance car but buy­ers will be in­ter­ested in how the new en­gines stack up, given V8s rep­re­sent more than half of sales of the out­go­ing model.

The cur­rent Com­modore base model V6 does the 0-100km/h dash in about eight sec­onds. The new turbo four takes seven sec­onds and the V6 is ex­pected to stop the clock in about six. As these are no match for the cur­rent Com­modore V8 (0-100kmh in about 5 sec­onds), Holden will fo­cus on tech­nol­ogy in the new model.

In­tel­li­gent “ma­trix” head­lights (with 32 in­di­vid­ual LEDs, up from 14 in the lat­est As­tra) en­able you to drive on high-beam with­out daz­zling other cars — a cam­era scans the road ahead and dims the LEDs di­rectly fac­ing other traf­fic.

In ef­fect, it cre­ates a dark “box” around ap­proach­ing ve­hi­cles — or those you’re fol­low­ing — while still il­lu­mi­nat­ing their sur­round­ings and fur­ther on.

A dig­i­tal dis­play, the in­stru­ment clus­ter has large nu­mer­als for the speed read­out and other menus such as nav­i­ga­tion in­struc­tions and tyre pres­sure read­outs.

As with cur­rent flag­ship Com­modores, a head-up dis­play re­flects on to the wind­screen in the driver’s line of sight. Im­por­tantly, the dis­play is not dimmed by po­larised sun­glasses (as that in BMWs and oth­ers of­ten are).

The cabin con­trol sys­tem turns down the air­con­di­tion­ing fan dur­ing phone calls us­ing Blue­tooth or Ap­ple Car Play/ An­droid Auto — so it’s eas­ier to hear the call and be heard.

In ad­di­tion to heat­ing and fan-cool­ing, the front seats have a mas­sage func­tion.

The radar cruise con­trol ac­cel­er­ates as you in­di­cate to change lanes. Au­to­matic lane­keep­ing — which, al­though this is not ad­vised, en­ables the car to be driven hands-free at free­way speeds for up to 30 sec­onds — is more ac­cu­rate and in­tu­itive than sim­i­lar tech­nol­ogy used by Mercedes-Benz.

Rear cross traf­fic alert makes re­vers­ing out of shop­ping cen­tre car parks less haz­ardous (it spots pedes­tri­ans and trol­leys as well as traf­fic). The 360-de­gree cam­era and front and rear sen­sors make it eas­ier to par­al­lel park into tight spots.

The other pleas­ant sur­prise was how sporty and ac­cu­rate the steer­ing felt and how com­fort­able the sus­pen­sion was over bumps.

In com­fort mode, it feels floaty (sim­i­lar to a Citroen on air sus­pen­sion), in sport mode it’s a touch more taut (but not bone-jar­ring) while nor­mal is a happy medium.

Ride com­fort is sur­pris­ingly good given the 20-inch wheels and low pro­file tyres.

Also note­wor­thy: the quiet­ness and grip of the Con­ti­nen­tal tyres. Cus­tom­ar­ily one comes at the ex­pense of the other.

As a flag­ship model, the In­signia tested was equipped with four-pis­ton Brembo front brakes. Given they are sim­i­lar in size to those used on top-spec Com­modore SS vari­ants — and the In­signia weighs about 300kg less — the brak­ing per­for­mance was im­pres­sive.

The hatch­back body means the boot is big­ger and more us­able than it is cur­rently but the rear seat is a squeeze for three adults.

VER­DICT

The new In­signia is up there with the likes of the Volk­swa­gen Pas­sat and Mazda6.

The jury is still out, how­ever, on whether it should wear a Com­modore badge.

Holden says the new car is de­signed to ap­peal to new buy­ers for the brand. So why stick with the old name?

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