Car Reviews

2018 Holden Commodore RS Sportwagon Review

Isaac Bober’s 2018 Holden Commodore RS Sportwagon Review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, verdict and score.

In a nutshell: The first front-wheel drive Commodore…and with a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine…and it’s smaller than the old Sportwagon, but there’s a lot to like.

2018 Holden Commodore RS Sportwagon

Price $39,490+ORC Warranty seven-years, unlimited kilometres Safety five-star ANCAP Engine 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol Power 191kW at 5500rpm Torque 350Nm at 3000-4000rpm Transmission nine-speed automatic Drive front-wheel drive Dimensions 4986mm (L) 1483mm (H) 1596mm (W) 2829mm (WB) Boot Space 560L/1665L Spare Space Saver Fuel Tank 61.7L Thirst 7.6L/100km claimed combined

THE NEW COMMODORE is copping plenty of criticism…and that’s mainly because it’s no longer built here, is deemed to be the cast off from another market, doesn’t offer a V8 and is front drive. There’s more that’s annoyed the Holden faithful but those are probably the key take-outs. The Commodore is no longer a home-grown hero.

Now, before you scroll to the bottom of the article and start slapping out a hate comment, I get all those criticisms. They’re all legit. Nothing can be done about any of that now…unfortunately, if you’re annoyed by the new Commodore, there’s not a lot of choice for something close to the old car. There’s the Kia Stinger but despite what other motoring writers might have written, it’s not really a close alternative to the old Commodore. Moving on.

2018 Holden Commodore RS Sportwagon

While some can’t, I’ve got to put the baggage to one side and assess the car in front of me. In some ways, the badge is almost irrelevant, if you get what I mean. For this review, I’m looking at fitment for purpose. Right, now you can start sending the hate comments.

What is the new Commodore?

We’ve dealt with this already in both our first drive of the ZB Commodore and in our recent review of the Calais-V. But, in a nutshell, the new Commodore is an Opel-designed vehicle that Holden took after local manufacturing was cancelled, and badged as a Commodore, and it’s a radical departure from the Commodore’s we’ve come to know.

For a start, it’s now fully-imported, is predominantly a front-driver although we do get an Australia-only variant with a V6 and AWD. It can be had as a lift-back, or wagon and a slightly raised wagon known as a Tourer. There are three engines available, the 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol in our RS Sportwagon tester a 3.6-litre V6, and a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel.

As we’ve reported before, the new Commodore has seen Holden cast aside its traditional model strategy, with no Executive, Berlina or SS variants. The new entry-level Liftback fitted with the two-litre engine (with the diesel optional) and called LT. From there, the Liftback moves through the Calais 2.0 and the Calais-V with the V6 engine and all-wheel-drive. But wait, there’s more. There’s also a three-model sportier side to the Liftback line-up, starting with the RS (2.0 and V6 optional) the RSV (V6) and the VXR (range-topping V6).

The Sportwagon starts with the LT version with optional diesel then moves through the RS (2.0) and the RS-V (V6). And the Tourer caps all that off with versions starting with Calais and Calais-V both of which get the V6.

2018 Holden Commodore RS Sportwagon

As you can see, our test car, the RS Sportwagon is the mid-spec variant in the Sportwagon range and lists from $39,490+ORC. The same car with a diesel engine adds a $3000 premium. We’ve included the key features below and what the RS variant adds so that you can get a good idea of what the RS offers:

LT Sportwagon

  • 2.0-litre turbo engine
  • 9-speed automatic transmission
  • 17-inch alloy wheels
  • Auto headlamps with LED Daytime Runnings Lights
  • LED tail lights
  • Passive Entry and Push-button Start
  • Remote Start
  • Holden Eye Forward Facing Camera

 o Autonomous Emergency Braking

o Lane Keep Assist

o Lane Departure Warning

o Following Distance Indicator

o Forward Collision Alert with Head-Up Warning

  • Advanced Park Assist (semi-automatic parking)
  • Rear View Camera. Front and Rear Park Assist
  • Rain Sensing Wipers
  • Holden MyLink Infotainment System with 7-inch high-resolution colour touch-screen display

o Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone projection

o Full iPod integration including Siri Eyes Free

  • Cruise Control
  • Leather Steering Wheel
  • 8-way Power Driver Seat
  • 60/40 split-folding rear seats
  • Space saver spare wheel

RS features over LT:

  • 18-inch alloy wheels
  • Sports body kit
  • Sports front seats
  • Side Blind Zone Alert
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert
  • Leather sport steering wheel
  • Rear lip spoiler
  • Handsfree power tailgate (Sportwagon only)

As you can see, the RS Sportwagon gets a decent level of equipment with a complete active safety suite, with only key features like the adaptive LED headlights and the 360-degree camera missing from the safety list.

What’s the interior like?

There’s not a huge variation from model to model with the Commodore’s interior and if you look at the equivalent models from Opel and Vauxhall you’ll see that our cars are almost identical inside besides the badges. But, the interior doesn’t exactly scream Holden Commodore, and I haven’t quite determined whether that’s a good or bad thing.

The dashboard is laid out neatly with all the controls easy to read and reach. The quality of the plastics is good with soft-touch stuff in key areas but, as I mentioned in the review of the Calais-V some of the buttons and switches feel a little cheap to look at and touch. But, given the RS has a cloth interior it doesn’t seem like such an issue, if you get what I mean.

2018 Holden Commodore RS Sportwagon

The dashboard is dominated by the 7.0-inch infotainment screen and this looks and feels a little too small for the car. There’s no native sat-nav but fortunately Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is offered so you can use your smartphone, but at this price point I’d have expected native navigation. When connecting, if you don’t have the Holden MyLink app enabled and you don’t want to enable it, you’ll have a few extra button presses to connect CarPlay or Android Auto, but connection still only takes seconds.

2018 Holden Commodore RS Sportwagon

The front seats are supportive enough and the fact you can manually lengthen the base means those with longer legs will be able to get good under-thigh support, important on longer drives. There’s good adjustment on the front seat (powered front seats are standard across the range) and steering wheel, so getting comfortable behind the wheel, regardless of your height, is easy enough.

In the front of the cabin there are enough cubby holes and storage spaces that you’ll be able to stash your phone and keys, etc without drama. There are twin cupholders in the front and the door bins will just take a 500ml water bottle.

Over in the back of the Commodore is an area where the faithful will, again, take umbrage. See, you used to be able to fit three childseats side by side in the back of a Commodore (well, in VE and VF, anyway). Not anymore. And, even as far as passengers go, the back seat is best only for two adults; the middle seat is a pew without any real shape or support. You could use the seat for a short trip. This means, and you could argue against me, the new Commodore is effectively just a four-seater as far as carrying adults is concerned.

2018 Holden Commodore RS Sportwagon

As we’ve reported in previous reviews, the Commodore is smaller than the VF Commodore but it’s bigger than the VT Commodore. If you’re not sat in the middle seat in the back, the RS Sportwagon feels roomy and comfortable with good leg, shoulder and headroom.

2018 Holden Commodore RS Sportwagon

For those in the back, there are directional air vents and USB outlets, pouches on the backs of the front seats and the back of the middle seat folds down to offer an armrest with two cupholders.

2018 Holden Commodore RS Sportwagon

Over in the boot there’s plenty of room with a good shaped opening and a big wide space offering 560 litres of room up to the top of the back seats and 793 litres if you load it all the way to the roof, which you shouldn’t if you don’t have a barrier fitted. Fold down the 60:40 split-fold rear seats and you get 1665 litres, unlike other models, the RS Sportwagon doesn’t offer a fold function for the rear seats from the boot; you fold the rear seats via levers on the seat shoulders.

The RS Sportwagon offers an automatic tailgate with motion opening; you poke your foot under the rear bumper in the spot indicated by a projected Holden symbol. It works well and the door opens quickly, but I found that using the key fob, which requires a double press to open the boot only works when you’re at the back of the vehicle and only a few feet away from it. And the other quirk, which you can change via the infotainment screen is the default that only one door should unlock on the first key fob press. This isn’t so bad for the driver but if you’ve got kids, like me, then you’ll get annoyed with them yanking on the handle wondering why the door won’t open.

2018 Holden Commodore RS Sportwagon

What’s it like on the road?

The RS Sportwagon we tested is powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine making 191kW at 5500rpm and 350Nm of torque from 3000-4000rpm. This is mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission, although this variant misses out on steering-mounted paddles. Fuel consumption is a claimed combined 7.9L/100km for the Sportwagon which is only slightly higher than the RS Liftback at 7.6L/100km. The fuel tank is less than 62 litres (61.7L). In our week of testing we got close to the claimed figure recording 7.9L/100km across a range of mixed driving.

The V6 we tested in the Calais-V might be the hero powerplant but this 2.0L petrol jobbie is the pick…although I say that without having driven the 2.0L turbo-diesel. It’s a fizzy engine that’s eager and fun to drive. From the get-go the thing just feels exuberant and quick; more so than the V6 engine which takes a little while longer to build up a head of steam. The only real downside to the engine is the exhaust note which is raspy and thrashy sounding when you’re giving it a boot full of revs.

2018 Holden Commodore RS Sportwagon

The 2.0L engine is well matched to the nine-speed automatic which seamlessly slips from gear to gear and back again when needed. There’s no hunting and there’s none of the occasional baulkiness we found in the Calais-V. Across the Practical Motoring loop, the transmission responded perfectly to the throttle and brake pedal and while there are no paddle shifters, you can slot the gear selector into manual mode if you so choose.

The steering is nice and accurate and feels well suited to the rest of the package with good levels of feedback through the wheel. There’s decent weight, although apparently less than the European models because we don’t have high-speed autobahns.

Holden has gone to great lengths to explain the lengths its engineers went to to tune the steering and suspension to suit Australian conditions; to give the imported Commodore a feeling of suitability for our roads. And the engineers have done a good job. Being lighter than the V6 and with a more zippy feeling engine, the basic MacPherson strut front-end set-up is great. The nose tucks in neatly, refuses to buck away from the corner off mid-corner bumps and with no torque steer if you give it a boot full off throttle from a standing start.

2018 Holden Commodore RS Sportwagon

Indeed, the ride across both bitumen and dirt was excellent with noise insulation that betters the likes of Camry, Mazda6 and Ford Mondeo, although there’s a slight knobbliness to the ride at very low speed. No matter the surface, the RS Sportwagon is very quiet, making it easy to communicate to both those in the front and back of the car.

While I liked the all-wheel drive in the Calais-V we recently tested, I personally thought the ride and handling of the RS Sportwagon was better. There was no rain in my time with the RS Sportwagon but I thought its dry road and dirt road grip was impressive with a well calibrated traction and stability control systems that don’t so much act like a kill switch but more like a guiding hand.

What about safety?

There’s less of an argument to be made about the five-star rating for the 2.0-litre Commodores, as this is, bar the steering wheel being on the wrong side, the same car that was crash tested by EuroNCAP. It was the application of the same five-star rating, without testing, on the V6 AWD variant that seems controversial.

So, the ZB Commodore gets a five-star ANCAP rating as well as autonomous braking, an active bonnet, lane keeping assist (which isn’t the best system we’ve sampled), forward collision alert, reversing camera with front and rear parking sensors and semi-autonomous parking assist, rain-sensing wipers, rear cross traffic alert and blind spot monitoring.

So, what do we think?

Okay, the Holden faithful might not warm to the ZB Commodore and those that would are more likely to be drawn towards an SUV. So, the new Commodore will struggle to sell anywhere near the falling sales of its predecessor, but Holden knows that. Moving on. Looked at as a feature-rich machine, the new Commodore has a lot going for it. It’s good to drive, good to look at, comfortable inside with plenty of features for the money. There really is a lot to like about it.

2018 Holden Commodore RS Sportwagon

Editor's Rating

What's the interior like?
What's it like on the road?
What about safety?
Practical Motoring Says: Ignoring the baggage the imported Commodore is carrying; the thing is unlikely to appeal to the faithful. But, the RS Sportwagon makes a great family-oriented wagon if you’ve only got four in your family. It’s slightly smaller than the VF Commodore that went before, but you’d be hard pressed to pick it unless you went to fit three child seats across the back seat (you can’t). The thing is good to drive, comfortable and feature-rich and if you think you need a V6, think again, because the 2.0L four-cylinder is a better engine…and a seven-year warranty is impressive.

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Theo
Theo
2 years ago

Isaac the North American market via GM Buick also get the ZB Insignia as the Regal GS AWD V6 imnsedan and wagon firm so it’s not an “Australian” only model.

I have driven a LT spec Commodore pretty much similar to RS spec, FWD, 2L turbo, 9 speed auto but with less equipment, my overall impression remains, not as good as VF from a dynamics, yes the engine is better than the awful 3.0L V6 the Evoke has and the extra 3 over drives innhe gear box mean on the highway the engine is super relaxed at 110km/h speedometer indicated it’s only revving at 1,500 in top gear but as soon as you press on it will automatically downshift bit to I think 5th (which is 1 above direct drive 6th) but the lag will catch it out then boost kicks in at around 2,800rpm and it’s all good again, you don’t get this issue with the V6 as it’s linear (build revs the NA way) but takes needs 4,000rpm to start singing.

Overall it’s a fine vehicle but one that will struggle to sell.

Al Green - light through glass

Do families still buy these style cars – most seem to have a Mazda 2 or 3 equiv and a cheap SUV, probably late model 2nd hand – the two together costing not much more than the single Commodore

Sean Randall
Sean Randall
2 months ago

2019 Commodore RS Wagon 💩
The ultimate Friday car! What a bloody nightmare this car has been, so many little problems…. firstly the rattles a maraca rattles less. I had rattles in the rear qtr panels, door lock button drivers door, speedo cluster dash. All of which the local dealer has tried and tried to rectify. In the rear qtr panels they just filled it with more packing eventually it seemed to sort that one, door lock button just bent it a bit occasionally it will still rattle. Dash they said their was a bulletin and they had fixed that. Ahhh Nope! Not only that when it came back the facia trim was loose. But they do have a tool to find rattles so they told me. Tool?
Hands free tailgate never works when your hands are full. You can stand there all day no go, then randomly try it and it works.
Then there was the time the left side of the car floor filled up with water after sitting for 2 week on a flat level surface. Please note it had been through winter no problems, the problem apparently was a seem weld in the firewall area had been missed at the factory. Would have thought it would have leaked as soon as the rain started and or washed weekly? But hey without pulling it all apart to see the work they did??
Then there is the refueling, this drives you bloody insane and the people waiting behind you. Lets say dead empty display says Less than 25km remaining. Its apparently 65L tank there is obviously a reserve amount still there. You start the fill bowser clicks off at 46L ok so like the past cars you’ve had You top it off and get your 62-65L fantastic. Nope! That extra 12 – 14L can only be achieved by dribbling it in. One would think oh its full. You then get on average between fills 450 -540ks depends on driving. Dealer tech says oh just hold bowser at 90 deg snd top it off. Nope! Senior tech comes to servo you can tell he thinks I am full of *^%#, so by all means fill it up we are on dead empty as one would say. Oh whats that it stops at 46L no thats not right just hold it at 90 deg what that doesn’t work either lets try every degree possible??? Yes! Tech… thats not right… no kidding einstein!
I will look into this and come back to you… tumble weeds…….
Then the infotainment unit… intermittently turns off display radio still works however will disconnect phone if you are on a call. Advise dealer oh we have never heard of that we will have a look… no there is nothing wrong. In one case it did this then when it came back on you had no control. So volume is up to drown out rattles you are on a 3hr trip and you go out of range static at volume, yay. Call Holden dealer tech says just bring it in after you have told him you are 2hrs on your journey. Maybe disconnect the battery. Are these guys serious….
No! Kept driving stopped got out locked car radio still on walked around get back in fault still there. Drive another 45min get out resist burning car to the ground have a coffee before seeing customer as you are wired as hell. 10mins later get back in and all working as it should. Captured it on video as this seems the only way to prove it… dealer thanks thats helpful we will check and come back to you…. tumble weeds
The last service they never mentioned any of the faults nor did they fix any. Just did their “Free Service” OMG how kind. But they did manage to jam the service book in the glove box and left half the GB contents on the passenger seat. Tried to open small plastic clip that the ram connects to broke off. At this point I lost my +^^% went back to service reception Asked can someone come take s look at the glove box. Service reception person… why whats wrong? Shrugs shoulders. Pretty much implying whats your problem now? I tried to pause and resist however I had a brain fart… whats wrong? Its s piece of f}#%^* s#%^.
Recently the H side line from AC compressor has developed a leak, so compressor is wining AC system internally gurgles away.
Recently parking sensors go off for no reason more often when it’s raining. Then it says park system fault then the blind spot light on door mirror flashes permanently then all of a sudden all back to normal.
Its due to go in on 30.06 for servIce…. whats the bet no loan cars available, don’t look at any of the reported known issues, but hey its a free service 🤣
If I owned this not leased it it would be parked in the middle of their building….
Now with the demise of Holden I feel the care factor is below zero.
On a positive note drives well holds the road well, comfortable nice looking car. Drive it on smooth tarseal no rattles. Maybe the land transport roading people can make all the roads smooth and quiet, probably more chance that happening the Holden sorting this. And the Service manager at the dealer has been great, I know how hard it is to rectify some problems, but being told all new cars rattle and hold the gas bowser at 90 deg etc…. is just BS.
My opinion never buy one of these. I know it seems I unfortunately got the last car off the assembly line for that week The ultimate Friday car!

Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober