Next year’s Commodore
Holden will import the Insignia as its staple family sedan, designed to bring new buyers to the brand
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.
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?