The weight and thickness of the boot floor gives away that this Commodore can carry a serious amount of kit. Fold the rear seats flat and there’s enough room for a mosh pit of meerkats. I’d tell you exactly how much but Holden’s flash new website makes it really difficult to find any meaningful data (even though it looks nice).
Suffice to say that, if you were having problems attracting enough meerkats to fill it, you could use the space for something more productive. I assisted someone moving on the weekend using the Commodore’s capacious boot to cram a large number of items in. So far so good if you’re into carrying lots of gear.
To haul that gear you’ll need a strong engine and the Commodore Evoke comes with a 3-litre SIDI V6 bolted to a six-speed automatic transmission. It feels like a good gearbox and engine. You get 185kW and 290Nm, but the Holden is on the heavy side and it feels a bit restrained; like it’s being held back. The flip side is that there’s an aura and sense of solidity and, as I’ve said before, with a Commodore you do feel like it is enveloping you slightly while you are driving it, which further adds to the impressions of being protected by the car.
It handles well given its size, and rides comfortably on the 16-inch wheels. Holden has introduced a suite of major changes that improve refinement over the previous model. Noise, vibration and harshness levels are low at speed, and at idle the engine is barely noticeable. Put your foot down and the transmission takes on an almost supercharger-like whine. Even though there’s traction control, it’s completely unobtrusive in the dry.
Overall, even though this is the base model with its quite firm cloth-trimmed seats, the cabin has quite a classy feel and everything falls to hand easily. It’s still grey, but there are nice touches such as a fibre-weave trim panel on the dash which is dominated by the 8-inch screen for the MyLink media centre. MyLink brings Bluetooth and Enhanced Voice Control, but I couldn’t get it to pair with my iPhone 5 to try it out. According to Holden there is Siri Eyes-Free integration, and for you Android users you can view your texts on-screen and have them read out to you. The system is voice activated so you don’t need to take your eyes off the road.
The MyLink system has other smarts, too (which I couldn’t get to work): namely, it’s compatible with apps. Initially this is Pandora and Stitcher SmartRadio – obviously this is not only going to give you access to internet streaming radio which is infinitely better than terrestrial radio (except National, which should indicate to you that I must be getting old), it also sets a precedent for the ‘appification’ of vehicles. Expect to see more apps that do more things be introduced into a wider range of cars over the next few years.
Holden has applied its usual small wing mirrors to the Commodore Evoke and they’re a little lacking when parking, so it’s fortunate that it will park itself (both parallel and reverse, although I only tried out the parallel parking).
It’s a little difficult to judge the rear corner, so the reversing camera and reversing sensors are welcome on this base model. That doesn’t help the A-pillar, though, which is very thick and when you’re turning in certain angles, particularly around a traffic island as you turn right into a side road, you can lose sight of the island.
Safety features include hill-hold start and trailer sway control, along with the more established suite of electronics to prevent loss of traction and loss of control. Add six airbags into the mix and the Commodore Evoke gets a 5-star ANCAP crash test rating.
If you’re got more money than the base price 52 grand, you can go right the way up to the SS-V Redline via the SV6, SS and SS-V.
The SV6 ads 18-inch wheels, sports suspension, Blind Spot Alert, Reverse Traffic Alert and some interior and exterior trim enhancements. The SS beefs up the engine to a proper 260kW, 517Nm V8 with Active Fuel Management. The SS-V bumps up the wheel size to 19-inch, puts leather under your buttocks, adds push button start and satellite navigation, amongst other things. Finally, the Redline up-rates the sports suspension again, adds Brembo brakes, a sunroof, head-up display, Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning and a Bose premium stereo. The Redline comes in at a respectable $77,190 – that’s a lot of gear for the money.
There’s no excuse for not buying a large car now. The price is quite sharp and you get a large vehicle for the same money as a mid-sized vehicle (albeit minus some of the toys). And why bother buying an SUV when all you’ll do in it is drive up kerbs? The Commodore will most likely return much better fuel economy (8.3l/100km, which is comparable with many mid-sized cars), and it will feel more stable on the road.
Holden has produced a car which demonstrates strong value for money. Sure, the base model is not perfect, but at the price, can you really complain? There are a multitude of options available in the range to suit your requirements, so if you don’t want the disadvantages of an SUV, but you want the internal space and a bit of towing capacity (remember it has the trailer sway control, too), the Commodore Evoke is a good place to start.
- Lots of room
- Well-proportioned – looks muscular
- Excellent ride and handling
- MyLink should provide excellent media options, but…
- Wouldn’t connect to my iPhone 5
- Feels like it’s being held back
- Thick A-pillars hinder some manoeuvring
Words and photos: Darren Cottingham