There’s a car affordability index that pops up from time to time measuring the number of average weeks wages it takes to buy a Holden, and the most recent iteration of this showed it was at an historic low. Hmmm, I do worry about such things.
Firstly it uses pre-tax wages, and we pay a greater proportion of tax than we did back in the days of the FJ, and secondly Holdens are hardly the yardstick anymore. But their struggle for sales probably helped the affordability index immensely this time around, because Commodore prices have been slashed between $5000 and $9,800 while standard equipment is up. If you’re into Commodores they’re dead-set bargains, but only if you’re into Commodores.
Most people aren’t. Since the 1990s car buyers have been swinging to smaller, more economical things like Mazda3s and Hyundai i30s while General Motors, Canute like, continues building Commodores. To the point where workers have been asked to take pay cuts and cessation of Australian manufacture is freely discussed.
So now the company is pushing its LPG-powered model. It uses more fuel but that fuel is a lot cheaper. I may have used 16.5 litres for every 100 kilometres around the city, but 16.5 litres of LPG costs $12.75. On petrol the same distance would cost more than $16.
Cheap, sure but LPG has two downers. First, the engine note: your brand new car sounds like a taxi, but maybe I’m the only person in the world who notices this let alone gets annoyed. Second, the spare wheel. There isn’t one because the LPG tank is where the spare normally sits. You can buy a spare as an option but you’ll lose cargo space and it will need inflating before use.
As long as all four tyres remain inflated this is a pretty good car and good value for its size. As well as being large, practical and comfortable it has all sorts of goodies including blind-spot warning, automatic headlights, cruise, a back-up camera, dual zone climate control and Bluetooth. It can automatically negotiate tight parking spots and depending on your phone, tap into Pandora.
It cruises comfortably, rides well and handles with surprising agility although you’re always aware of it being a large lump of metal. The seats are nicely sculpted front and rear and leave you fresh after a couple of hours, and it has a generous cargo area although some more rear legroom would be nice.
It’s a surprisingly good thing. But only if you’re into Commodores.
Holden SV6 Sportwagon LPG.
Competitors: Ford Territory, Peugeot 508 wagon, Hyundai i40 tourer.
Power: 180-kilowatt 3.6 litre liquid petroleum gas V6.
Gears: Six-speed auto.
Economy: On test 16.5 litres per 100 km city, 12.1 country. Officially 12.1.
Drive away price: $46,920 (Postcode 2000) $46,812 (Postcode 3000).
The good: Good value, great space, heaps of equipment.
The bad: No spare, limited availability of LPG fuel in the bush.
The ugly: Possibly the Commodore’s last gasp.