The European-designed and built ZB Commodore hasn’t got off to a great start in Australia, with sales falling way short of its Australian-built predecessor. One reason is dwindling demand for larger passenger cars with buyers flocking to SUVs, though patriotic backlash for daring to name the Opel Insignia after an Aussie icon also seems to share the blame.
This has led to a perception that the new Commodore isn’t as good as the VF model it replaces. This might be justified for those lamenting the loss of V8 versions such as the SS-V Redline, however it’s a very different story when comparing the lesser powered versions from each generation. Anyone used to the old VF SV6 Sportwagon will be pleasantly surprised by its 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol RS successor when it comes to power, ride, handling and features
Priced at $39,490, the RS Sportwagon comes with all the standard features found in the $3600-cheaper LT Sportwagon including autonomous emergency braking, but adds cosmetic enhancements including a sports body kit, bigger 18-inch alloy wheels, front sports seats, leather sport steering, and additional active safety features including blind-spot monitoring and rear-cross traffic alert.
- The 191kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine is a sweeter unit than the more powerful, but heavier V6 that’s also available. It’s marginally less powerful than the 210kW/350Nm V6 in its VF SV6 Sportwagon predecessor, but a lot more refined and quick off the mark thanks to the nine-speed automatic transmission.
- The 2.0-litre petrol is also reasonably economical, with an official 7.6L/100km combined rating. We achieved about 8.7L/100km in our real-world testing, which isn’t too bad.
- Ride comfort is excellent. It’s very quiet and feels like its gliding along the road on the RS spec’s 18-inch wheels.
- This is a lot of car for around $40,000, with a features list that rivals some premium German models. Standard equipment includes the aforementioned active safety features, plus; dusk-sensing headlights, LED daytime running lights, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, keyless entry, dual-zone air-conditioning, power-adjusted driver’s seat, 18-inch alloy wheels, hands-free power-operated tailgate and an excellent seven-speaker sound system.
- The uncluttered interior is well put together with German build quality that, dare I say it, exceeds that of its Aussie predecessor.
- The attractive dashboard looks modern and is intuitively laid out.
- The MyLink infotainment system is simple to use and features Apple CarPlay/Android Auto to sync with your phone’s music, maps and other functions.
- The cloth sports front seats are very comfortable with great back and under thigh support.
- It’s not as big as the old Commodore, but rear seat passengers still benefit from plenty of legroom. The Sportwagon doesn’t have as much of a sloping roofline as the liftback sedan, which will please taller occupants. Rear seat passengers get their own heating and cooling vents at the back of the centre console.
- The RS Sportwagon boot holds up to 793-litres which pushes out to 1665-litres with the seats down, which isn’t bad considering the sleek roofline.
- The RS spec doesn’t come with the more powerful and economical 125kW/400Nm 2.0-litre turbo diesel that would be ideal for country driving and long-distance touring.
- The interior is a little drab, with bland textures and monochrome colour scheme.
- Despite being a wagon there’s no room for a full-size spare tyre, meaning you have to make do with a space saver.
- Towing capacity is about 1800kg, which is a lot less than the VF Commodore SV6’s 2100kg and that of most large SUVs.
- Having to put up with the “that’s not a Commodore” crowd’s prejudice.
ARE THERE ANY RIVALS I SHOULD CONSIDER
While the ZB Commodore is classed as a large car, it’s not much bigger than most medium-sized cars, which expands its competitor set. Similarly priced wagons from both segments include the diesel-only Ford Mondeo Ambiente, Hyundai i40 Premium Tourer, Mazda 6 Touring, Skoda Superb 162TSI, Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium and Volkswagen Passat 132TSI.