Holden broadens its appeal

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The Commodore is, frankly, the more polished diesel product in every comparable area. Photo: Simon Watts

This month's arrival of the promised turbo-diesel variants completes the current Commodore and Equinox line-ups, and should broaden the appeal of both models after relatively slow starts for the petrol versions on the sales charts.

As Holden points out, there has been a significant rising interest in passenger diesel over the past few years, and with 16,634 candidate vehicles being registered here so far this year, 2018 could deliver the biggest crop ever. But that's when looking at the overall scene.

The compact crossover category in which the Equinox is placed is intriguing. A boom spot, yes, but buyer interest is actually diverting away from diesel and back towards petrol engines just now. That's a niche Equinox has been meeting since January, yet at volumes well below those of the category kings.

It's great to finally see a Commodore ZB diesel too, though the space it is entering is one some potential rivals have left of late. Whether that means greater opportunity or not for Holden remains to be seen.

Still, what's to lose? Even if the diesel variants add just a few extra registrations to the monthly counts, that will be considered a worthwhile return.

Commodore serves up diesel in two guises, the $48,990 LT hatch and $2000 dearer like-badged sportwagon, both with front-drive. Equinox provides three diesel choices, opening with the front-drive $46,990 LT, then moving to four-wheel drive for the $55,990 LTZ and $59,990 LTZ-V.

From the first taste, these new powertrains - a 2.0-litre driving through an eight-speed automatic for Commodore, a 1.6 in marriage with a six-speeder in the rock-hopper - are certainly worth thinking about.

Their audiences are likely to differ - Commodore being pushed mainly as a fleet choice whereas the Equinox editions are primarily presented as family considerations - but the appeal is common: lower CO2 counts and superior economy than can be eked from the comparable petrols in their respective ranges.

To reinforce just how easily accessed their improved efficiencies are, we were tasked at launch to drive each car over a largely common there-and-back route, with a mind to keeping to normal rather than extravagant fuel-eking methods. It was an interesting exercise in which the Commodore did best by some margin.

All but one of us secured fuel consumption rates from the LT sedan comfortably below the stated official overall optimum (in my case, by 0.9L/100). The Equinox, driven in LTZ-V format, proved tougher to crack; in achieving an average 0.4L/100km under the stated claim, I notched up the second most frugal outcome in our group.

Well, apples and pears, right? The Chevrolet-designed, made-in-Mexico Equinox is hauling 137kgs' additional weight over Opel's sedan, and has somewhat less horsepower (and torque) to do so.

From my experience, the Commodore has a much easier time asserting its driver appeal. More muscle exerted over a broader spread and with greater immediacy as a core appeal, but what also stands out is the refinement; there's not too much of a gargling gravel note.

There are clear quality differences with the transmissions as well, the Commodore's eight-speed being smoother and less busy than the Equinox's six. The Equinox's outputs are modest for the class; even within its family, it comes second to the 2.0-litre petrol Equinox for torque. Is this why the braked towing capacity is also reduced by 500kg to 1500kg?

Of the two, Commodore is, frankly, the more polished diesel product in every comparable area. Whatever sentiment lingers about the abdication from V8 and rear-drive - or steering into the diesel arena, for that matter - the ZB is a thoroughly modern and well sorted car, with dynamics that improve all the more from Holden involvement.

Those same ride-handling people that tweaked the European-sourced Commodore for this part of the world have also done a good job in making the Equinox a better drive here than it is back in North America. And it has roominess, comfort and a far from sparse specification on its side, too.

Diesel carries a $3000 premium over the petrol equivalents in each family. Commodore's is an easier premium to justify, as this edition would be an ideal choice for steady-speed long distance drives.

Holden broadens its appeal
At a Glance
Holden Equinox (diesel)

Prices: $46,990 LT, $55,990 LTZ, $59,990 LTZ-V.

Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel, maximum power 100kW@3750rpm, maximum torque 320Nm@2000-2250rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
Brakes and stability systems: Front and rear disc brakes, ABS, EBFD, TC, ESP.
Safety rating: Five star ANCAP.
Wheels and tyres: Alloy wheels, 225/60 R18.
Fuel and economy: 5.6/5.7/5.9 litres per 100km, fuel tank capacity 46 litres.
Emissions: 151 grams of CO2 per kilometre.
Dimensions: Length 4652mm, width 1843mm, height 1661mm.


Holden Commodore (diesel)

Prices: $48,990 LT liftback, $50,990 LT Sportwagon.

Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel, maximum power 125kW@3750rpm, maximum torque 400Nm@1750rpm.
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic.
Brakes and stability systems: Front and rear disc brakes, ABS, EBFD, TC, ESP.
Safety rating: ANCAP five stars.
Wheels and tyres: Alloy wheels, 225/55 R17.
Fuel and economy: 5.6/5.7 litres per 100km, fuel tank capacity 75 litres.
Emissions: 148 grams of CO2 per kilometre.
Dimensions: Length 4897mm, width 1863mm, height 1455mm.