2018-2019 Holden Commodore and Calais review

By David Bonnici and WhichCar Staff

2018-2019 Holden Commodore and Calais review

Priced From N/AInformation

Overall Rating


4.5 out of 5 stars

Rating breakdown
Expand Section

Safety, value & features

5 out of 5 stars

Comfort & space

4 out of 5 stars

Engine & gearbox

4 out of 5 stars

Ride & handling

5 out of 5 stars


4 out of 5 stars

Pros & Cons

  1. ProPromising turbo-petrol engine, roadholding, equipment levels

  2. ConV6 lacks turbo torque, no Tourer diesel

  3. The Pick: 2019 Holden Commodore Sportwagon RS 5D Station Wagon

What stands out?

Based on the Opel Insignia but having undergone extensive ‘Australianisation’, the Commodore is a roomy, comfortable and well-equipped family liftback sedan or wagon, with great roadholding and three engine options including 2.0-litre turbo petrol and diesel, and V6 petrol engines. All-wheel-drive is available with the V6, and every Commodore has autonomous emergency braking. The Commodore range, which is being phased out by Holden, includes the upmarket Calais sedans and Tourer wagons.

Holden announced it would stop selling the Commodore and Calais in December 2019 and the subsequent announcement of the company's closure means you may be able to secure huge discounts on remaining cars. For more details, read: Holden slashes prices as final fire sales begin.

What might bug me?

Everybody harping on about how it’s not a real Commodore as it wasn’t built in Australia.

The unfair perception hat this isn't a good car, which has resulted from the backlash against it not being built in Australia.

Harsher ride quality on the 20-inch wheels with lower profile tyres in the more expensive Calais-V.

Fuel thirst of V6 petrols.

Driving at 80km/h on your space-saver spare wheel, until you can fix your full-sized flat tyre.

And of course, how Holden's demise could have an impact on already low resale values. The good news is you should be able so secure a good bargain and there should be no negative impact on your rights as an owner when it comes to parts, servicing, warranties and recalls.

For more details about how Holden's closure will impact Acadia ownership, see the 'Is it safe to buy a new or used Acadia with Holden shutting down?' section below.

What body styles are there?

Four-door liftback sedan and five-door wagon. Both are offered in front or all-wheel drive.

The Commodore is classed as a large car, lower priced.

What features do all Commodores have?

Automatic transmission; nine-speed with petrol engines, eight-speed for diesel.

Seven-speaker premium sound system, colour touchscreen, AM-FM radio receiver, Bluetooth connectivity for audio streaming, USB input, voice control, and Apple Carplay and Android Auto connectivity to sync with your phone’s music, maps and other functions.

A reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, and a self-parking system (which can guide you into a parking spot).

‘Holden Eye’ forward-facing camera-based active safety with automatic emergency braking and other advanced driver assistance features including lane-keeping assist, lane departure warning, forward collision alert, and a following distance indicator that provides an indication of the stopping time from the vehicle in front.

Dusk-sensing headlights, with LED daytime running lights, and LED tail-lamps.

Rain-sensing windscreen wipers, and heated exterior mirrors.

Keyless entry and push-button and remote start.

Cruise control with speed limiter, hill-start assist, and electric power steering.

Dual-zone air-conditioning, which allows the driver and passenger to set temperatures independently.
Height and reach adjustment for the leather steering wheel, from which you can operate the cruise control, the sound system and your phone.

Eight-way power adjusted driver’s seat, and 60:40 split rear seats.

Wheels made from an aluminium alloy (rather than heavier and uglier steel). Space-saver spare wheel and tyre.

Six airbags. Anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control – which can help avoid a skid.

(For the placement of airbags, and more on Commodore safety features, please open the Safety section below.)

All Commodores are warrantied for five years/unlimited kilometres.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

Three engines are available in a Commodore: a 2.0-litre turbo petrol, 2.0-litre turbo diesel, and a V6 petrol.

The diesel engine is the most fuel-efficient and is available in the entry-level LT sedan and Sportwagon, and Calais sedan. It consumes 5.6 litres/100km on official test figures (city and country combined) in the LT sedan, and 5.7- and 5.8 Litres/100KM in the LT Sportwagon and Calais respectively.

Wheels magazine drove a diesel Calais more than 3000km from Melbourne to Burke via Sydney, where it averaged 7.2 litres/100km.

Coupled with an eight-speed automatic transmission, it feels refined and is excellent for highway cruising, but does take a little while to get going.

One reason you wouldn’t choose it is that you would like the extra grunt and sportier response that comes with the 2.0-litre petrol engine, or the V6. And if most of your driving is in urban traffic you won’t see the best of the diesel’s efficiency.

You might also want the extra traction of all-wheel-drive, which is only available with the V6 powertrain.

Both petrol engines are coupled with an excellent nine-speed automatic transmission.

The 2.0-litre petrol is reasonably economical, sipping between 7.4- and 7.6 litres/100km/h across the different sedan and Sportwagon versions. It is quick off the mark and responsive while feeling very in tune with the nine-speed transmission.

The 3.6-litre V6 is the most powerful engine in the Commodore range, though its acceleration isn’t really apparent until you’re well on your way and revs mount up. Fuel consumption is rated at 9.1 litres/100km.

Expect this to be more in real-world driving conditions. Wheels’ trip from Melbourne to Bourke also saw a V6-powered Commodore VXR average 11.7 litres/100km, though this is still less than the twin-turbo V6 Kia Stinger.

(Power outputs and all other Holden Commodore specifications are available from the Cars Covered menu, under the main image on this page.)

What key features do I get if I spend more?

The least costly Commodore is the LT, which comes standard with the 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine, cloth seat trim, 7.0-inch touchscreen, 17-inch wheels, as well as the equipment that all Commodores have.

The LT Sportwagon has the same equipment levels as the sedan, but is a little more expensive, with the benefit being a bigger, more practical cargo area.

The LT sedan and Sportwagon are also available with the 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine for about $3000 extra.

Spend more on the Commodore RS and you gain a bunch of cosmetic enhancements including sports body kit, rear-lip spoiler and bigger 18-inch alloy wheels. The athletic touches carry on inside too with sports front seats and leather sport steering wheel.

Additional active safety features include blind-spot warning and rear-cross traffic alert.

The RS Sportwagon gains a hands-free power-operated tailgate.

There is no diesel RS option, but you can add the more powerful V6 engine with all-wheel-drive for about $3500.

The RS-V comes standard with the V6 all-wheel-drive powertrain, and a more sporty-looking rear end. The infotainment gains a bigger 8.0-inch touchscreen, inbuilt satellite navigation and digital radio (DAB+) and certain phones can be charged without a cable on the wireless charging pad.

The AWD system can be adapted to suite different road conditions, and driving information such as speed and cruise control information is up at eye level on a head-up display.

The RS-V also gains leather appointed seats that are heated at the front, sports steering wheel with paddle shifters, alloy brake and accelerator pedals, and ambient lighting to enhance the interior design at night.

Spending more on the Commodore can take you down a sportier path with the VXR, or toward the luxury focused Calais.

The V6 AWD VXR is the most expensive Commodore and gains a host of extra features over the RS-V for superior handling, including adaptive suspension which can be set to cater for different road and driving conditions, Brembo brakes that dramatically increase stopping power and bigger 20-inch wheels that provide additional grip.

The VXR also gains adaptive cruise control, which automatically maintains speed and distance behind a vehicle in front, clever adaptive LED Matrix headlights, a 360-degree camera to help you spot obstacles around the vehicle when parking, and an electric sunroof.

Interior enhancements include a BOSE premium audio system, VXR floor mats and door sill plates, performance leather sports seats with powered side bolsters, front and back heated seats, and front ventilated seats to help keep you fresh on hot days.

The Calais comes with a choice of all three engines and has everything that all Commodores have plus leather-appointed trim with heated front seats, wireless phone charging and the same level of active safety as the RS which includes blind sport warning and rear cross traffic alert.

The Calais also has the infotainment upgrade with the 8.0-inch screen, satellite navigation and digital radio.

The wagon version of the Calais is called the Tourer and has SUV-like features including high-riding suspension, and a hands-free powered tailgate. It comes standard with the V6, and AWD, which can be set to provide the best traction for different road conditions.

The Calais V is the most luxurious Commodore and shares features with the VXR including 20-inch wheels, adaptive LED Matric headlights, wireless phone charging, head-up display, 360-degree camera, sports steering wheel with paddle shifter, and BOSE premium audio.

Front and rear seats are heated, and the front seats also ventilated and the driver’s seat has powered side bolsters and even a massage function.

The Calais V sedan has an electric sunroof, and the Tourer a bigger panoramic sunroof.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

Paying more for the V6 engine could disappoint if you’re expecting a more responsive engine. It’s not that quick, and the cheaper 2.0-litre turbo feels more refined and responsive.

The shallower – or lower profile – tyres fitted to the Calais V’s bigger 20-inch rims tend to ride more roughly, and may cost more to replace. The VXR’s adaptive suspension helps overcomes this.

Red and white are the only standard colours; the remaining six cost more.

How comfortable is the Holden Commodore?

Despite an 86mm shorter wheelbase than the VF Commodore it replaces, the new Commodore feels spacious, with room to stretch, though the sedan’s sweeping roofline does compromise headroom in the back seats.

The interior lacks the charm and warmth of the VF Commodore though, with its sober textures and monochrome colour scheme.

The uncluttered dashboard shares a close family resemblance to the Astra and adds to the sense of space, and the intuitive layout adds to driver comfort. Contemporary instrumentation, user-friendly multimedia, effective ventilation, stacks of storage, and German build quality elevate Commodore to Volkswagen Passat levels of liveability.

Ride quality suffers on the 20-inch alloys of high-grade variants like the Calais-V, with some suspension harshness over bumps. The only big-wheeled model to escape this is the VXR, thanks to its standard-issue adaptive dampers.

Wheels magazine drove a Commodore VXR and Calais more than 3000km from Melbourne to Bourke in western NSW, via Sydney, and found both to be very comfortable over the long distances, with comfortable seats, and air-conditioning that kept the cabin chilled through 40-plus degree heat.

What about safety in a Commodore?

All versions of the Commodore feature ‘Holden Eye’ forward-facing camera-based active safety with automatic emergency braking and other advanced driver assistance features including lane-keeping assist, lane departure warning, forward collision alert, and a following distance indicator that provides an indication of the stopping time from the vehicle in front.

All but the cheapest Commodore, the LT, gain additional active safety features, including blind-spot warning, and rear-cross traffic alert that warns of any vehicles of people about to cross your path while reversing.

It has six airbags, which are in the usual places: two directly ahead of the driver and front passenger; two outside the driver and front passenger to protect at chest level from side impacts; and curtain airbags on each side extending past both seat rows, to protect all outer passengers at head level from side impacts.

Other safety features include a reversing camera, dusk-sensing headlights that turn on automatically in tunnels or when it gets dark, and LED daytime running lights that make your Commodore more visible to other drivers and pedestrians.

Anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control, which help you avoid a skid, are mandatory in all cars.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the Commodore its maximum safety rating, five stars, in February 2018.

To see a full list of the safety features on any model, select the car from the “Cars Covered by this Review” menu below the main picture at the top of the page, and look under the features tab. Safety-related features are listed in red.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

The 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol versions of the Commodore are the surprise packet. They’re quick off the mark and forcefully responsive while feeling very refined. The nine-speed transmission is very well tuned, and always seems to select the right gear ration to suit pedal inputs.

Handling is defined by light, yet responsive steering, that provides quick and confident cornering, backed up by unflappable roadholding and a comfortable ride on the smaller 17- or 18-inch wheels.

The 2.0-litre, eight-speed diesel powertrain also blitzed expectations, with a muscular but cultivated feel that makes it excellent for touring.

Things, however, become complicated with the heavier, non-turbo, V6 AWD versions. The oomph is there but doesn’t really kick in until well after you get going. This is good for overtaking, but a little underwhelming when accelerating from a standing start. The VXR is quoted as sprinting to 100km/h in 6.1 seconds, which is over a second slower than the V8-powered VF Commodore SS and the turbocharged V6 Kia Stinger.

The VXR is the pick of the V6s though, with excellent chassis poise and grip, resulting in exceptional agility and control at higher speeds; though steering does feel a little light. Its adaptive suspension eases the hard ride on the the bigger 20-inch wheels. The VXR’s 9-speed transmission can occasionally get flustered when driven hard, often indecisive as to which gear it should be in.

How is life in the rear seats?

The rear is almost flawlessly packaged, blending space and comfort sumptuously. The seats aren’t shy of legroom, but that sloping roofline will pinch headroom for taller occupants. That issue disappears altogether with Sportwagon and Tourer.

Heating and cooling vents are located at the back of the centre console, and the VXR and Calais V versions have heated rear seats.

How is it for carrying stuff?

The boot space in the liftback sedan holds 490 litres to the top of the seats, or 552-litres if you need to stack things up to the roof. That’s a little less than the previous-generation VF Commodore, but the boot floor has a bigger area which allows for more flexible loading.

Unlike the VF Commodore, the seats fold down, in a 60:40 split, which extends capacity to 1450-litres.

The Sportwagon and Tourers hold 560- and 793-litres to seat- and roof-height respectively, which pushes out to 1665-litres with the seats down.

The 2.0-litre petrol and diesel Commodores can tow up to 1800kg if the trailer has brakes, except for the RS-V, which can pull up to 2100kg. The V6 models can also tow up to 2100kg braked. All models have an unbraked towing capacity of 750kg.

Where does Holden make the Commodore?

All Holden Commodores are produced in Germany, by Opel.

Interestingly, Opel is no longer owned by General Motors, which owns Holden. It was sold to the PSA Group, which is the French parent company of Peugeot and Citroen.

Are there any rivals I should consider?

Unlike previous Commodores which were classed as large passenger cars, this generation is also in direct competition with smaller, medium-sized cars. It’s long list of rivals include the Kia Stinger, Ford Mondeo, Mazda 6, Toyota Camry, Subaru Liberty and Outback, Volkswagen Passat, Skoda Superb, Hyundai Sonata, Peugeot 508 and the Honda Accord.

I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

The cheaper 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol versions are actually the most satisfying to drive. Of these, the RS model, in sedan or Sportwagon guise, provides the sweet spot in terms of price and features, and is a lot of car for under $40,000 and a good SUV alternative.

Is it safe to buy a Commodore now Holden is closing down?

In December 2019 Holden announced it would stop selling all Commodore and Calais variants, along with the Astra, to focus on selling SUVs and utes. It will continue to sell the MY19 model until stocks run out, which is expected to be several months into 2020.

The Commodore's demise and Holden subsequent closure means you may be able to secure huge discounts on remaining cars. For more details, read: Holden slashes prices as final fire sales begin.

If you do snare a good deal, Australian consumer law requires that a brand supports its products for at least seven years, while General Motors – the parent company of Holden who are behind the closure – have stated that it will extend warranty and service support for 10 years. The company says it will establish a national after sales network to support existing customers for at least the next 10 years. And remember, you don’t have to service your Acadia at a Holden dealership to guarantee warranty coverage.

For more details, read: What does Holden's axing mean for its customers.