THESE are desperate days for Holden.
The core appeal and identity of the brand – its Australian engineering and manufacturing heritage – vaporised when the VFII series Commodore ceased production in October.
In March, its market share dropped to 4.8 per cent, its worst ever result. Holden faces a monumental task just to stay alive, let alone reinvent itself, because it had so much invested in its ‘Australianness’.
Drive-away prices for the mid-spec RS Sportwagon, which we’re in today, kick off at $43,800. It’s powered by a 2.0-litre fourcylinder turbo that drives the front wheels via a nine-speed automatic.
In addition to the LT spec, the pseudosporty RS has stylish 18-inch alloys and a body kit, plus more supportive, power-adjustable front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and power tailgate with handsfree foot swipe operation.
Starter kit includes a seven-inch screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, semi-automatic perpendicular and parallel parking, remote starting, keyless entry, cruise control, rain-sensing wipers and automatic headlights.
Holden is trying to give sales a rev up with a seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty deal. Servicing, for the first three years at least, is cheap. So running costs should be low, apart from the 2.0-litre’s preference for 95 octane premium fuel.
The sports driver’s seat in the RS, with a firm, extendable cushion and supportive side bolstering, is exceptionally comfortable for tall drivers on a long journey.
Rear legroom is vast, headroom is fine and the firm, high bench will suit kids in restraints. A low, long boot floor easily extends via the 60-40 split-folding rear seat back to a flat two metres, and even in fiveseater mode you get greater load capacity than many SUVs.
The LT has autonomous emergency braking, effective lane-keeping assist, distance indicator to the car in front plus audible and visual forward collision alerts. The RS adds blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
Peak torque of 350Nm kicks in at a high 3000rpm. This lack of bottom end grunt is effectively masked by tightly packed lower transmission ratios, so responsiveness is reasonable and, in the main, the nine-speed works unobtrusively and efficiently.
Holden’s local engineering input and the relatively light weight of the four-cylinder models (a trim 1569kg for the RS Sportwagon) show in its rock-solid roadholding, confident, agile handling, light, precise steering and firm, yet compliant and comfortable ride.
It’s a lot more enjoyable to drive at speed than any comparably sized SUV.
Verdict: Capable, comfortable, spacious and practical, the RS Sportwagon is competitive.
The Holden Commodore RS Sportwagon.