2013 HOLDEN VF SPORTWAGON REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Large wagon
Engine/Trans: 180kW/320Nm 6cyl LPG | 6spd auto
Price: $42,690 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy listed: 12.3 l/100km | tested: 16.1 l/100km
With a whopping 895 litres of boot space, plus extremely comfortable seating for five full-size adults, there aren’t many cars can claim the same price-to-space ratio as Holden's VF Sportwagon.
Need room? This is your vehicle.
We’ve made a big fuss over the VF range, yet, externally, not much has changed since the VE. A nip here, a tuck there, but the back end is identical.
But don’t be fooled. Both inside and out, the VF’s changes have made the Commodore Sportwagon a wholly better vehicle.
And with the SV6 Sportwagon costing a mere $3200 more than the Evoke, there’s little reason to opt for the entry-level wagon. On that rationale, we spent a week with the SV6.
Quality: You’ve read it before, but the VF’s cabin is leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessor.
There’s some harder plastic across the dashtop (but it’s nicely textured) and under the dash there’s some cheaper looking moulded areas, but the rest is very nice in both look and feel.
Knobs, buttons and switchgear all have a solid quality-feel and the swooping layout with fibre-weave fascia looks excellent. Even the weave-patterned trim pieces look the part, without adding 'tackiness'.
Comfort: Holden has the formula right here. Wide, beautifully padded seats, with plenty of room and a good mix of materials makes the SV6’s seats a very nice place to spend some wheel time.
The alcantara inserts keep you in place, yet there’s enough detailing – contrast stitching along with leather panels – to not look boring. Power lumbar adjustment is also a huge plus.
Along with the impressive overall width of the car, there’s enough under-thigh support to keep boofy blokes comfortable when sitting three-across in the back. The doors are long enough to make entry and egress easy with plenty of headroom and miles of footroom.
Equipment: The SV6 may be only one rung up from the entry Evoke, but there’s still plenty to be had.
Leather-wrapped wheel, cruise-control, auto headlights, Bluetooth phone and streaming, rear camera, dual-zone climate control - it’s all standard.
Then there’s the MyLink system which brings an 8-inch touch-screen and included apps such as Pandora and Stitcher radio.
It syncs seamlessly with both Android and iPhones with voice control for either, plus text-message reading and composing with complete hands-free functionality.
Voice commands with MyLink control are designed to work with the Aussie accent and the car had no issues switching between male and female voice recognition. To make it even more functional, however, it would be worth optioning sat-nav ($750) which also brings DVD playback.
Storage: Yes, with just shy of 900 litres on offer, the Sportwagon can hold a lot of luggage. And unlike the sedan, the back seat is a 60/40 split-fold arrangement, meaning long loads can be carried too.
There are two large cupholders in the centre console, two for the rear passengers found in the middle seat base, a small storage area at the base of the centre-stack and a deep box-like area under the elbow rest.
It also gets a large glovebox.
Front and rear door pockets are quite deep. The narrow opening may make them a little hard to clean, but good for preventing things rolling around.
Map pockets on the back of the seats round out storage areas.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Being fuelled by LPG, the SV6 version of the Sportwagon gets a 180kW/320Nm V6, missing 30kW and 30Nm compared with the equivalent models.
Only when you’re really working it, or it’s loaded to the hilt, do you miss that extra power. For everyday driving, there’s enough torque to keep things motoring along nicely (pun intended).
Helping here is the excellent automatic which now rivals a ZF for smoothness and response.
Kickdown happens when you’d expect it, and it keeps the engine on the boil when needed.
It’s at its happiest above 3000rpm but unlike Holden V6s of yesteryear, it's neither coarse nor thrashy.
The drivetrain works very well as a whole, but it’s when you go to fill up that you’ll appreciate that little red diamond on the numberplate.
At today’s $0.85/l, a brimmed tank will cost you a little over $71. Based on unleaded’s current price of $1.50/l, the same full tank in the petrol version would be $114.
With a larger tank than the petrol versions (84.4l vs 76l) you’d expect a better range. But remember LPG cars consume more fuel, so the range ends up similar.
Refinement: The VF’s sound absorption from the engine bay is very impressive, as is its vibration suppression.
Unlike previous generation LPGs, it only takes a couple of turns of the starter motor for the engine to kick into life and then it’s nearly silent; with the windows up, you’ll struggle to tell it’s running.
With the SV6’s larger wheels and the Sportwagon’s open back end, you’d expect road noise to be an issue. Despite the worst elements for noise, the Sportwagon is remarkably quiet, only emitting a thrumming sound on the coarsest of surfaces.
Adding to its refinement is the automatic’s fabulous shift quality
Ride and Handling: With one of the best electric-steering systems around, the VF can be placed on the road confidently. It’s very consistent in feel at all speeds and its weighting is quite satisfying.
Backing it up is the FE2 suspension which brings with it a firmer spring and damper tune and sharper handling. Too firm to cart people around? No, we don’t think so.
Its initial absorption is good enough to remove the sharpness out of bit hits, though on rough roads, you’ll hear it rather than feel it.
It’s still a big (read: heavy) car, though, so don’t expect it to dart about like a housefly, yet it can be hustled along a country road at decent speeds. Given the excellent steering, the SV6 is a surprisingly fun steer.
Braking: While the braking performance is strong, brake pedal feedback is perhaps the VF Sportwagon’s biggest issue. Quite wooden in feel, it needs a much sharper initial bite in stop-start situations to inspire confidence in its ability to haul you up.
Up front are 298mm x 30mm vented front rotors and 302mm x 22mm vented rear rotors; twin piston aluminium calipers at the front and single piston aluminium units at the rear.
ANCAP rating: Five stars. The VF range scored 35.06 (out of 37)
Safety features: Parking sensors and reverse camera are standard, as is trailer sway control and parking assist. ISOFIX anchors, plenty of airbags, ESC with ABS, and intrusion protection rounds out the safety suite. Optional is blind-spot alert, forward collision alert and reverse traffic alert.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres
Service costs: LPG models come with the first four services capped at $265.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Ford Territory TS ($46,990) – Yes, it’s an SUV, but with a huge boot and five seats it certainly equals the Sportwagon’s USP.
Although it has colossal boot space, it is quite thirsty in comparison, and the Territory also doesn’t match the VF in interior style or quality. (see Territory reviews)
Skoda Superb Wagon ($40,990) – The Skoda isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s a good steer, has even more rear legroom than the VF and also has a huge load area.
It will struggle to seat three across the back seat, however it counters by killing the VF for economy in diesel form and it can be had in AWD (see Superb reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
To work out whether the savings of an LPG SV6 Sportwagon is worthwhile for you, you will need to sit down and do the sums. But petrol will keep going up, and LPG less so: it's cheap (comparatively) and abundant in Australia. It also burns greener.
But, regardless of which fuel powers it, the VF SV6 wagon is an extremely comfortable way of transporting people and gear around.
With most SUVs never seeing anything bigger than a kerb, if you're looking for interior space and solid build, the SV6 Sportwagon makes perfect sense at this price.
And with all that newfound refinement, superb steering, self-parking and excellent voice recognition software, it’s a pleasure to be back behind the wheel of an Aussie car.
PRICING (Excludes on-road costs)
Recommended retail prices, comparing new VF to VE, excluding dealer delivery and government charges:
Evoke (auto only)
|Reviewed: SV6 Auto Sportwagon||$42,690|
SS-V Redline (manual)
Calais (auto only)
Calais V V6 (auto only)
Calais V V8 (auto only)
Sportwagon body style adds $2000 including GST (auto transmission only)
Automatic transmission adds $2200 including GST (Sports models only)
Prestige paint adds $550 including GST