2013 HOLDEN COMMODORE LPG REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Large Sedan
Price: $37,490 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 180kW/320Nm V6 LPG | 6spd auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 11.5 l/100km | tested: 12.1 l/100km
Sometime ago, Australia decided its love-affair with large family sedans was over.
Instead, in numbers like no other country on earth, buyers tossed over the family sedan for SUVs; big ones at first, but now, increasingly, mid-sized and compact ones.
And why not? Who needs a big sedan that's difficult to park and has an expensive thirst?
On those latter two points - and a whole lot more besides - Holden would like you to think again.
For inexpensive motoring, the VF Commodore Evoke LPG can match wits with a small car. And the VF range comes with 'park assist' (it does the parking for you), so you can also scratch "difficult to park" off the list.
And then add that it's roomy, quiet and comfortable on road, and drives especially well. Here's our report after a week with the 2013 Holden VF Commodore Evoke LPG.
Quality: The VF Commodore is a big step up from the VE. The interior feels fresh and modern, power window switches have moved from the centre console to the doors, and, miracle of miracles, you can finally pop the boot without having to open the glovebox first.
The controls and switchgear are are easy to use on the move, well laid-out and with a soft-touch quality feel.
The only downside is some of the lower-down interior plastics, which can scratch quite easily.
Comfort: Large cars will always be more comfortable than smaller ones, and the VF Evoke LPG is no exception.
Plenty of head, elbow and leg-room all round, and large comfortable seats with plenty of adjustment. Even the centre rear seat will accommodate an adult in comfort.
The revised dual-zone climate control is a welcome addition, as is the much-improved centre-console design. The ventilation system provides a decent flow of air into the back seat as well.
Equipment: The MyLink eight-inch touch-screen is the big news for VF; and it’s a winner. Carmakers have been slow to integrate the ‘smart phone’ feel into their cars, but some of them are doing it quite well now.
MyLink offers the full range of USB, auxiliary input and Bluetooth and links it all to the seven-speaker stereo.
Plus, the standard Stitcher and Pandora radio apps are great for those who wish to hear the sounds of home while interstate.
The controls mounted on the steering wheel are the best yet for a Commodore, and the wheel itself is comfortable and stylish without being too thick.
There's park assist ('self parking'), cruise control, automatic headlights, multi-function trip computer, reversing camera, keyless entry and electric seats, along with an electronic park brake.
Sat nav is an option, and bundled with a blind spot monitor and a collision warning system.
It would be nice if the Evoke had twin front map-lights, rather than just a single centrally mounted light and there is no indication of what ratio the car is using (first, second, third, etc.) on the instrument display - unless you are selecting gears manually.
Storage: Deep door pockets, map pockets, quite usable cup-holders in the front, a single sunglasses compartment, a big glove box, deep centre console bin containing the USB port and auxiliary input and cup holders in the rear seat ski-port are all as you would expect.
The boot is typically Commodore-large at 495 litres, but the spare wheel has been sacrificed completely to accommodate the LPG tank. In its place is a tyre ‘goo’ and air-compressor-in-one unit, to (hopefully) provide temporary repairs to flat tyres.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: In a word: easy. The LPG-powered V6 Commodore variants come with the 3.6-litre V6, versus the smaller 3.0-litre V6 in the petrol-powered Evoke.
With 180kW and 320Nm on tap, the electronically-controlled throttle is responsive and there is ample power underfoot for the LPG-powered VF to effortlessly flatten hills and for confident overtaking.
While the LPG engine gives up 5kW to the 3.0 litre petrol V6 and 30kW to the 3.6 litre petrol V6 in other VF Commodores, you would be hard-pressed to pick the slight drop in power.
It is helped that the six-speed automatic (there is no manual option for the sedan) has a good spread of ratios for normal driving.
Simply follow the instructions on the dash and sit back (well, almost) while the big Commodore steers itself into the spot, with you just controlling the brake and throttle.
Handily, it also works on both parallel and right-angle parking spots.
Refinement: The VF Evoke V6 is uncannily quiet. Wind noise is minimal, and cruising along in top gear on the freeway allows conversations in soft whispers.
Sixteen-inch wheels are still standard fitment to Evoke models, which helps to keep tyre-noise down.
Previous Commodores have been critcized for allowing harsh engine noises into the cabin. The VF has seen a massive improvment in this area.
Ride and Handling: Every bit the Australian-built car, the VF Evoke’s suspension is close to perfection for local roads. It is weighted towards the firm side, but has more than enough 'give' to counteract the local council’s lack of road maintenance.
Steering is surprisingly direct. For a big sedan, the steering is extremely positive when turning into a tight corner at speed. It is, quite simply, a rewarding and enjoyable drive.
Braking: Twin-piston callipers grabbing disc brakes up front with single piston calipers at the rear provide controlled and confident braking for the 1704kg LPG Commodore.
While the brakes aren't the most powerful fitted to a VF (just scope the stoppers on any HSV product for some perspective), they are more than capable of coping with the daily grind.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars (35.06 points out of 37)
Safety features: Driver & passenger airbags (dual), head airbags for second row seats, side airbags for first row occupants (front), head airbags for first row seats (front).
Active safety systems include electronic stability control (ESC), traction control, trailer sway control, electronic brake distribution, and brake assist.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km.
Service Costs: Capped-price servicing is included, which covers up to four services in the first three years or 60,000km of ownership. The maximum price for LPG engine services is $265 each.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Ford Falcon MkII XT EcoLPi ($39,735) - The obvious alternative to the VF Commodore Evoke LPG, and a very decent car with a more advanced 'liquid injection' system.
Falcon offers all of the same large-car advantages and has noticeably more power (and thirst) from its 4.0 litre six-cylinder LPG engine. Commodore has the edge though on price and fuel economy and is the more modern car. (see Falcon reviews)
Toyota Camry Hybrid ($34,990) - There is more than one way to build a large car with small-car running costs and Toyota’s Camry Hybrid has struck a chord with good performance and handling.
The current version has much better performance than the old model, and the price is very sharp. A pathetic 300kg maximum tow-rating is the only real mark against the Camry Hybrid, compared to the LPG Commodore. (see Camry reviews)
Honda Accord V6L ($51,990) - A direct competitor only on size (no hybrid or alternative fuel offering here) and you'll need much deeper pockets to step up to Honda's Accord V6L.
If you do you will be rewarded with a fine drive from the Japanese carmaker.
It sports a powerful V6 engine, but running on petrol it cannot hope to match the Evoke's running costs on LPG. (see Accord reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Just 21 LPG-powered passenger cars were purchased privately in Australia in August. This, in this country with its plentiful reserves, is almost criminal.
Here’s a car with better-than four-cylinder running costs; and one that also reverse-parks itself.
Using official fuel figures, a comparison with a 2.0 litre four-cylinder Mazda3 with automatic transmission sees the Mazda3 costing 12 cents per km at $1.50 per litre for petrol, while the Evoke LPG sedan costs just 9 cents per km, if LPG is priced at 80 cents per litre.
Yet the LPG Commodore also offers V6 power, a more comfortable towing experience than any of the commercial utes and large-car interior space and comfort.
The LPG engine is available in the Evoke Sportwagon and SV6 Sportwagon variants too.
In the 2013 Holden VF Commodore Evoke LPG, it is almost possible to ‘have it all’.