Holden is determined to become your SUV company in 2019, which makes sense considering high-rise wagons are now the biggest player in the Australian new vehicle market.
Using the global resources of parent General Motors it has assembled a line-up of SUVs that starts with the Korean-built Trax mini and stretch all the way to the heavy-duty Thai-built Trailblazer.
Nestling somewhere in between is the buff-looking Acadia (yes, no ‘r’), which is built in the US, and has arrived Down Under pitched as a competitor for the popular Toyota Kluger, Mazda CX-9 and Hyundai Santa Fe in the large light-duty SUV segment.
What is it?
The Acadia is essentially a passenger wagon with height. It can be had as both front- and all-wheel drive and with seven seats. Row three is kid-only.
It is powered by a 3.6-litre naturally aspirated V6 petrol engine, which delivers plenty of power (231kW), a medium amount of pulling power (367Nm) compared to its rivals and a decent thirst (claimed 8.9-9.3L/100km).
It could be a lot worse, but a nine-speed automatic transmission is standard across the range and that helps improve engine efficiency.
There is no sign of a fuel-saving and emissions-reducing hybrid version arriving to complement the petrol engine – nor a turbo-diesel for that matter.
Why is it important?
Holden is in a sales slump, which has accelerated since it shut down its Adelaide factory and killed off the locally designed and developed Commodore. It is in search of a new beginning and a new identity and it has identified SUVs as a way of rebuilding.
The Acadia is an important model because it sells into a popular segment. Make some inroads here and Holden starts to turn its fortunes and public perception around.
How much does the Holden Acadia cost?
There are three model steps in the Acadia range, the $43,490 LT, the $53,490 LTZ and $63,490 LTZ-V. Add $4000 to each for all-wheel drive. It’s no coincidence that pricing just undercuts the Kluger at each model step.
The Acadia comes with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and fixed priced servicing with one-year/12,000km intervals (industry best practice is 15,000km these days). Across the first five years of servicing the Holden calculator estimates a $1535 cost.
What does the Holden Acadia get?
We’re testing the LT AWD here and the base model is very well equipped when it comes to safety equipment. Seven airbags that cover all three seating rows, autonomous emergency braking, traffic sign recognition, side blind zone alert, lateral impact avoidance, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning with lane keep assist, forward collision alert with head-up warning, a following distance indicator, rear park assist and a reversing camera are all standard.
There’s also a five-star ANCAP rating.
One GM-specific safety feature is the way the seat vibrates when an obstacle is detected. The rear seat reminder that flashes up in the instrument panel is simpler and just as worthy.
Luxury items include 18-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, sat-nav, cruise control, tri-zone climate control, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, active noise cancellation, three USB ports and a hitch guidance feature to help with towing.
What do we like?
Although it’s sourced from GM’s GMC division and very much a Yank tank, Holden’s talented group of local engineering staff have put their best efforts into localising Acadia.
So, what you get is a car that settles well into the Australian landscape. It smothers out the lumps and crags of our second-rate highways and feels stable and confident on gravel roads.
But be aware: this is not a serious off-roader. Yes, you can click it from front- to all-wheel drive and even into an off-road mode but get too serious and you’ll quickly get hung up.
With much of our driving on the open road, the big V6 returned an acceptable 10.1L/100km fuel consumption average. That will escalate in the city of course.
Allied to a comfortable drive, the Acadia also provides a substantial amount of interior space. Even with all three rows in-place there is 292 litres of luggage space. It grows to a massive 2102 litres with row two and three folded.
What we don’t like
The interior presentation lacks class compared to the likes of the CX-9 and Santa Fe. Hard surfaces mar the presentation, while the manual shift rocker on the top of the gear lever is an ergonomic own-goal.
And if Holden is still Australia’s car company – as its executives insist – then how about fitting a full-size spare tyre to the Acadia rather than a space-saver?
It also became quickly apparent driving at night that the LT’s halogen headlights suck. The top-spec LTZ-V comes with High-intensity discharge units and they are far more illuminating.
Buy it or not?
The Acadia LT is a big, comfortable, decently priced and predominantly well-equipped example of the modern-day family hauler.
It isn’t in the same class as the CX-9 and Santa Fe, but it doesn’t miss by that far. If you’re shopping in this class then don’t discount it, because a Holden dealer might just do that to the price for you.