Sportwagon offers space with grunt
YOU know that feeling of stretching out on a comfy couch, just sinking into the deep cushioning, enough space for relaxed limbs and no bulky bits pushing your neck forward.
Well, that's sort of what it feels like to drive the Holden Sportwagon – except you can't close your eyes.
Space, space, glorious space. So much in fact that you can swing your arms around in comfort and stretch your legs without squeezing the legs of the person behind you.
Three in the back actually means three well-proportioned adults, and more space to fit the groceries and the pram in the boot with room over for the kitchen sink.
Choosing a car is a tricky business.
You have to balance the needs of space with performance and fuel economy, also big factors.
Both Sportwagons are spacious to the extreme with 895 litres of cargo space that increases to 2000 litres when the seats are down. The instrument panel is modern and funky and the console is well set out with all the required buttons within easy reach.
On the road
The SV6 is powered by a 3.6-litre SIDI with the SSV hiding a 6.0-litre, Generation 4 Alloy V8 engine beneath its bonnet.
Of course the V8 has more grunt with effortless acceleration that gives you the confidence sometimes needed on busy highways.
The thrill of hearing that thumping engine doesn't hurt either.
The SV6 manages to hold its own too.
The sequential shift is a good facilitator especially during shorter day-to-day trips, although the gearbox is not as smooth as you'd expect, with an audible thump between changes every so often.
The wagon delivers an all-round solid performance on the tarmac.
The drive is nicely weighted and it pushes through corners well with the ESP picking up the slack if needed. Incredibly easy to manoeuvre given the size, but the huge A pillars make roundabouts and turns a more concentrated effort.
Grip is exceptional with both the SV6 and SSV giving no quarter in treacherous conditions.
What do you get?
The new Sportwagon range comes with the full safety package including six airbags, electronic stability control, anti-lock braking, EBD, electronic brake assist and traction control.
Fittings are a bit more classy than plasticky with brushed aluminium and soft leather providing accents.
The interior remains quite durable though and will stand the test of sticky hands and muddy paws.
At the heart of the wagon's inclusions is Holden's new iQ system that is comprised of music, telephone and satellite navigation in the form of a fully integrated, 6.5-inch, full-colour, multifunction LCD touch screen.
It supports CDDA, CD-R, CD-RW, MP3 and WMA playback and also provides the driver with live traffic alerts, speed advisory and point-of-interest functions.
Without a Falcon wagon on the market, the biggest competition will come from the Mondeo Zetec wagon ($36,990) and the VW Passat wagon at the higher end ($59,990).
Of course, depending on your needs, SUVs may also get a glance in.
The space and drive quality makes the Sportwagon a good family option. But at five metres this is a big car that takes some negotiating.
Visibility out the rear is poor with passengers in the back but that is improved considerably by the reverse camera and sensors. Holden has kept the window and door controls in the centre panel which is a pain to control when driving.
Holden worked hard to improve the fuel economy on the Sportwagon.
Holden claims 9.9 litres per 100km for the SV6 and 12.3 litres per 100km for the SSV.
We found both to be a couple of litres higher.
The power is a mitigating factor though and the SSV also has flex-fuel capacity, which means it can run on E10 bioethanol, unleaded premium or a combination in between.
The exterior has remained pretty much unchanged with tweaks to the grille, a more contoured nose, new headlights and softened lines giving it a modern edge.
The Sportwagon is no longer just a family car.
Sure, it is highly practical for that purpose courtesy of the ample space in the rear but the improved driving performance and grunt delivered especially by the V8 makes it an option for people without kids and their paraphernalia in tow.
Model: Holden Sportwagon SV6.
Details: Five-door rear-wheel drive wagon.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic with Active Select.
Engine: 3.6-litre V6 petrol generating maximum power of 210kW at 6400rpm and peak torque of 250Nm at 2900rpm.
Consumption: 9.9 litres/100km combined average.
Bottom line: $45,790.
Model: Holden Sportwagon SSV.
Details: Five-door rear-wheel drive wagon.
Transmission: Six-speed manual or six-speed automatic with Active Select.
Engine: 6.0-litre V8 petrol generating maximum power of 260kW at 5700rpm and peak torque of 517Nm at 4400rpm.
Consumption: 12.3 litres/100km combined average.
Bottom line: $55,990.