Holden Commodore is a large family vehicle that’s extremely well suited to all Australian roads – be they smooth motorways, dirt roads that have seen better days – or everything in between.
In this Used Car Checkout, we are going to look at the Commodore from the VE series which was introduced in August 2006.
This was the first model that didn’t use an extensively modified German Opel platform. Instead, it sits on the global General Motors Zeta underpinnings. It has extensive local changes to suit Aussie driving conditions as well as our drivers’ taste in ride and handling.
The VE was significantly upgraded and sold as the VF from February 2013. The Commodore VF Series II arrived in September 2015. It featured more changes than had been anticipated, particularly in styling.
Those who love to drive will be delighted to know that the VF II V8 engines were virtually lifted directly from the HSV range.
Holden Commodore is sold as a sedan and station wagon. The older wagons were initially based on the VZ so had the longer wheelbase that it shared with the WM Statesman and Caprice saloons. Sadly, from July 2008 VE wagons have the same (shorter) wheelbase as the sedan.
These station wagons have sleeker rear-end styling, so they miss out on the huge cargo volume of the previous models. Holden’s marketing people tagged the VE as a ‘Sportwagon’ to try and justify the loss of cargo space.
Though there’s good width for three average sized adults in the back seat, the one in the centre-rear will find foot space compromised by the transmission tunnel taking drive to the rear wheels. The Z-Series isn’t quite as good as the VE and VF, so try for yourself before buying.
The biggest criticism of the VE and VF are the huge A-pillars that create large blind spots. Thankfully, drivers seem to have worked their way around this.
The VE Commodore saw the introduction of an all-new V6 petrol engine, a twin-cam unit of 3.6 litres. There were some improvements in feel when the engine was installed in the VE, but the engine still disappoints in this area despite several attempts to improve it over the years.
A smaller V6, this time of 3.0 litres and aimed at lower fuel consumption and emissions, was introduced in September 2009. It wasn’t popular, but if you’re not overly worried by the fact that it only has moderate performance you may be happy with it. Test drive for yourself, ideally on the sort of roads that you will be using it on.
The VE transmission lineup was a big improvement; with six-speed automatic transmissions and six-speed manuals.
Holden ZB Commodore was introduced in February 2018, but was now a full import from Germany. It’s marginally smaller than the last Aussie-made VF II Commodore, though it is still classed as a full-size family car.
Importantly, the ZB also has significant changes made by Australian engineers to tailor it not only Australia’s harsh driving conditions, but also the particular likes of our drivers.
The ZB is sold only as a five-door hatchback or as a station wagon, there’s no sedan. Importantly, the ZB Commodore is built on an all-new architecture and is about 200 kg lighter than the VF. Making for more performance and lower fuel consumption.
Holden ZB Commodore is powered by either a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder that drives the front wheels Or a 3.6-litre V6 petrol through all four wheels. Both have a nine-speed automatic. In another first for a Commodore its Euro heritage means there’s also a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine.
One of many changes made to the ZB to meet Australian condition, is the use of AM radio as well as FM. That’s because AM can be picked up over much longer distances than FM – a necessity for those travelling in the great land Downunder.
Holden Commodores are pretty easy to work on with good access to most mechanical components. A good amateur mechanic can do most of their own repairs. Leave safety-related items to professionals.
Spare parts prices are generally reasonably priced and Holden’s widespread dealer network is as strong in the bush as the metro areas.
Insurance is generally reasonable for a car of this size and performance, though there can be added charges for the sportier models, especially those with V8 engines. Young and and/or inexperienced drivers should check on this before opting for a V8.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Check the service books as Commodores were the subject of quite a few recalls. A car that has always been serviced by official dealer for routine work can be a bonus.
Squeaks and rattles, most easily found when driving on a rough road, may indicate a Commodore has spent a lot of its time in the bush on dirt roads.
Wear in the cabin and boot may be an indication the Commodore is an ex-taxi; or c perhaps driven by sales reps who were always in a big hurry.
Rust is seldom a problem in these Commodores, but can get in after low-quality panel repairs. Check for these by running your eye over the panels, looking for a slightly uneven finish.
Paint that doesn’t match exactly from one panel to another is another clue a car has spent time in a panel beater.
Manual gearboxes are generally chosen by those who like to drive, but this may also mean the car has had a hard life.
The downchange from third to second gear is the one that suffers the most. Try some fast changes, if it’s hard to shift or noisy there could be problems.
Automatic transmissions are generally OK, but one that’s slow to go into gear and/or noisy and harsh in its operation should be treated with caution.
Expect to pay from $2000 to $4000 for a 2006 Holden Commodore Acclaim or a 2009 Omega; $6000 to $10,000 for $2000 Berlina; $7000 to $11,000 for a 2011 Equipe; $9000 to $14,000 for a 2008 SS or a 2102 SV6; $12,000 to $18,000 for a 2010 SS-V or a 2017 LT; ; $15,000 to $20,000 for a 2013 SS-V Z-Series; $18,000 to $24,000 for a 2013 Calais or a 2018 RS-V; $24,000 to $32,000 for a 2016 SS; and $34,000 to $46,000 for a 2018 SS-V Redline.
CAR BUYING TIP
Most cars are sold at weekends, if you buy during the week, you may be able to get a lower price if the sales people are nearing the end of their monthly targets.
RECALLS: To browse recalls on all vehicles go to the ACCC at: www.productsafety.gov.au/products/transport/cars/