Drive: Holden Epica
Review by Feann Torr
Holden’s new mid sized car, the Epica, has the arduous task of going
head to head with popular models like the Mazda6 and Toyota Camry.
It’ll be a tough job as the mid sized car market doesn’t show any signs
of growing like the ebullient small car market, which means that sales will have to be poached from its rivals.
Holden is confident that it's new Epica model is innovative enough to
attract current mid sized car buyers, and as
we discovered during at car’s launch the new Holden has a number
going for it, one of which is price. Starting at $25,990 the new
model undercuts many of its rivals, including its two major rivals: the
Mazda6 starts at $28,285, and the Toyota Camry pricing begins at
Two engines types are offered:
a 2.0-litre and a 2.5-litre engine, and two levels of trims, the entry-level CDX, and the premium CDXi.
windows, cruise control, and four airbags are standard on all models,
and as the photos indicate you wouldn't know it was made in Korea
unless it was pointed out. The reason for the contemporary styling is
two-fold. Mike Simcoe, the man behind the VT Commodore and the 21st
century Monaro, had the final say on the design and according to the
Australian car maker he established a recognisable Holden 'DNA' for the
The second reason for the new look is that the car
had to be a global vehicle. That is, it was designed with specific
markets in mind - namely Europe and North America.
We spent a day
driving the new Epica models during the launch, and our first
impressions are positive. It's a practical, roomy, and well-equipped
vehicle powered by a pair of very smooth engines, and the American and
European influences give the car an interesting character.
then there's the somewhat notorious "Money Back Offer" that has sparked
plenty of controversy only days after its Australian lauinch. But as
they sometimes say, even bad publicity is good publicity.
Price: $25,990 - $30,990
Transmissions: 5-speed automatic + 5-speed manual
Engine: 2.0-litre + 2.5-litre inline 6-cylinder petrol
Car Supplier: GM Holden Australia
Epica's Money Back Offer
many of the Epica's good points - creamy smooth engine, great
efficiency, good interior space - is a new offer that Holden is running
for its new mid sized car. If you buy an Epica and you don't like it,
you can ostensibly take it back to the dealer and get your money back.
The reason behind this move is because Holden wants to offer a
'no-risk' purchasing option to private buyers -but there's a catch.
you have had the Epica for more than 30 days, or travelled more than
1500km, the deal's off. And any modifications - such as nitrous oxide
injection - will also void the money back deal. But the most
interesting point is that to get your cash back you must have already
bought a totally new vehicle. Here's the company line:
mentioned that this scheme has been rolled out in
Europe to good effect, and will take the risk out of changing brands
for a lot of buyers. Is this a desperate move by Holden? The car maker
says no, saying that the deal works on the showroom floor. A lot of
will be concerned about changing brands (from Toyota), and this deal
supposedly mollifies that fear.
This year Holden has already launched the new Astra
and the Captiva
diesel, and like these models the Epica is another global car.
sold in Asia, Europe, and North America, and the influences show in the
There's an electronic compass on CDXi models, a feature that American
drivers insist on having, while the exterior styling blends Asian and
in Korea with Aussie input from Mike Simcoe, the overall look of the
car eschews the angular design of the current Camry and goes for a much
more curvaceous profile. It has a certain presence, and especially
the range-topping CDXi model ($30,990) with its fog lights, but the brake lights need work.
of the first things about the Epica that caught my attention was it's
size. It ain't small. Measuring 4805mm long, it's only about9cm shorter
than the VE Commodore (4894mm). Boot space is also generous in the new
Holden mid-sizer, amassing 480 litres.
Holden representatives assured us that the Epica will not eat into Commodore
sales. Why? Holden reckons the driver demographics are very different and the Epica
is a front-wheel drive vehicle with small engines, whereas the Commodore is rear-wheel
drive with large engines.
Epica doesn't look too bad in the flesh and the CDXi model with the
17-inch alloy wheels and bodykit gives the car a sportier look. But
don't expect sports car performance.
The 2.0-litre and 2.5-litre
engines are both inline 6-cylinder blocks, outputting 105kW and
115kW respectively, so they're not the quickest vehicles off the mark,
and compared to their rivals they leave a little to be desired: they
are very smooth in operation, and not too loud either, but they're not
what I'd term responsive and take a while to build steam if you
floor the throttle.
But if outright power isn't at the top of your list, these small 6-cylinder engines may still pique your interest.
With the fuel efficiency of similarly sized 4-cylinder engines, the Epica returns good economy figures: 8.2L/100km
for the manual 2.0-litre variant and and 9.3L/100km
2.5-litre automatic model. During our first drive of the car, it
was clear that the engines are very frugal, and I would imagine that
this will be one of the car's key selling points.
There are two engines to choose from, the 2.0-litre manual and the
2.5-litre auto. Both gearboxes have 5-speeds and both engines are quite
smooth and exhibit a more refined character than 4-cylinder engines of
a similar size. Built by GM Daewoo, the engines were designed by
Porsche and feature variable intake manifolds. And importantly for Holden, both models beat the Toyota Camry’s fuel
pressed on a diesel option, Holden staff said there is one currently on sale in Europe, and it
will be "evaluated" for Australia. Translation? Don’t hold your breath. Once the Epica
has been around for a while and people know the model, maybe then.
the car is quite comfy and features decent quality materials. I was
expecting a budget-basement cheap-mobile, but that's not the feeling
you get when driving it; the steering is fairly light and
the cloth upholstery isn't bad and the seat cushions are nice and
soft. There's a leather option (beige or black) if you want it for
$2000, and the plastics aren’t from the bottom of the
spare parts bin either, which gives the Epica a fairly confident
icing on the cake are the easy to use steering wheel
controls, for the stereo and cruise control. The switchgear, too, has a
certain quality feel, and the culmination of these things won't its
sales prospects one iota.
Driving the car is like, well,
driving a Camry. It won’t set any performance records, but it is very
frugal. The larger 2.5-litre engine with the 5-speed automatic gearbox
(the least fuel efficient model) was sipping 6.2L/100km on the freeway, which isn't too bad.
At 100km/h in top gear it was sitting on 2000rpm, and it must be said
that the automatic gearbox is quite smooth. It's an Aisin number, built in Japan. It doesn’t offer the quickest
shifts in town, but they are smooth and combine with the 6-cylinder engines’
refined characters to create a smooth and dare I say seamless driving experience.
engines aren’t as raspy as 4-cylinder mills when wound up, and the
sound they emit is far more endearing. But as mentioned, these
things are not speed demons. But then if Holden’s Epica is trying to poach
Camry buyers, this will be seen as a boon, rather a than drawback.
As well as punting the 2.5-litre CDXi Epica with the 5-speed automatic, I had a dip in the
2.0-litre manual version. It has less poke than the 2.5-litre model, but has a smoother feel
than a lot of 4-cylinder engines of the same capacity. The larger
2.5-litre engine feels better equipped to drag the 1400kg body around,
but takes it's sweet time to reach peak power high in the rev range.
Epica has a very smooth ride, smoother than Mazda6, but maybe not quite
as soft as the Camry. At the same token, it’s not shy to tackle
corners and exhibits only mild body roll when hustled through bends.
It presents a good ride/handling balance that suits the car's demeanour –
practical, attractive, but not too in your face.
soaks up bumps in the road easily (thank the American input for that)
and provides a very smooth ride in most situations, and we covered some
unsealed roads too which the Epica dealt with effortlessly. There is
some wind noise at highway speeds, but in general it's a rather smooth
Holden put some 64,000 kilometres on the clocks fine
tuning the Epica's suspension in Australia for our local conditions, so
the car is slightly more responsive and direct than overseas models.
This results from different spring and dampers settings and
the steering has been sharpened too, making it more direct
and designed for low effort parking.
The Epica won't set alight
your desire to drive hard and fast, but then that was never it's
intention. It's a Camry rival, and in this sense it does a lot of
things well. It's smooth, quiet, and easy to drive. Everything is where
you expect it to be, and because it's at the value end of mid sized
class, it will be more accessible to a wider range of buyers. Holden
talks about the 35+ demographic accounting for the largest proportion
of drivers, but I think it may be more like the 45+ age group.
was a key design theme in the Epica, and that's why you'll find a small
hook near the globebox that can keep grocery or takeaway bags from
spilling their contents all over the seats. The steering wheel controls
for the cruise control and audio are different to look at, but work
well, and the 8-wayadjustable drivers seats on all models are a nice touch.
Epica - like the Korean-built Holden Barina - is part of Holden's plan
to tackle Japanese and Asian car makers with budget-priced cars, and to
a point the Epica does a good job. It's cost effective, the 6-cylinder
engines are remarkably smooth, it returns good fuel economy, and it's
got heaps of room. That should be enough for potential Camry buyers to
take a closer look.
The entry-level CDX models gets four airbags,
while CDXi versions get six airbags (curtains airbags are added),
but without ESP to improve its safety ratings, no satellite navigation
option and the preconception among many Australian drivers that
Korean-built cars are still rust buckets, the Epica mayinitially find
the going tough. Having driven the car, I reckon that Holden has done a
fairly good job with the Epica, but the money back offer may be viewed
as cynical by some buyers.
present, the medium car category makes up 14.6% of total Australian new
car sales, which is about 87,000 cars per annum. That's a lot of cars,
and Holden wants a piece of the pie, something that the Vectra never
quite achieved because of its premium price. The
Epica comes from a completely different angle; it's not built in
Europe, it's built in Asia; it's got a very different look and Holden
hopes it will appeal to style focused customers and those looking for
running costs and good standard features.
Motors has sunk big bucks into GM Daewoo and
it's starting to show with vehicles like the Captiva, and now this new
mid sized sedan. The Epica may not have been given the best start to
life with the money back controversy, and in some respects it is a
somewhat bland vehicle but perhaps that what this market segment
requires? Regardless, I reckon it'll make quite a few drivers more than
happy in due course.
- Refined 6-cylinder Motors
- Fuel Efficiency
- Roomy Interiors
- No ESP
- Brake Light Design
- Money Back 'Controversy'
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