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Used car review Holden Commodore VY/VY II 2002-2004

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Graham 'Smithy' Smith reviews the used Holden Commodore VY/VY II 2002-2004, its fine points, its flaws and what to watch for when you are buying it.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is an old truth, one Holden faithfully followed when it facelifted the VT Commodore once it proved a runaway success. The current VZ is the third major facelift of the VT, there were three minor updates as well as Holden worked to keep the Commodore fresh through the eight years since the VT was launched.

That it has been able to keep the Commodore selling so strongly for such a long time is testament to the original design, which has dated particularly well.

The VY launched in 2002 was the second major update of the VT and brought with it further refinements to the body, powertrain and chassis which reaped rewards in improved performance, ride and handling, and safety.

Another minor update in 2003, the VY II, continued the evolutionary development of the series with a raft of more subtle refinements.


Holden served up the familiar model range with the VY. The Executive was aimed at the fleet buyer, the Acclaim more at the private buyer, with the Berlina and Calais appealing to user-choosers who wanted more.

There were also the sporty models in the S and SS, but this time there was a new sports sedan in the SV8, which offered much of the SS features at a more affordable price.

Styling changes brought a more aggressive look, with new grilles and headlamps, bumper treatments and tail lamps.

The power choices were much the same, the well proven 3.8-litre overhead valve ECOTEC V6 was carried over unchanged, while the power of the 5.7-litre overhead valve Gen III V8 jumped to 235 kW with a retuned twin exhaust system.

There was nothing much new on the transmission front, with a choice of four-speed auto or five-speed manual on the V6, and four-speed auto or six-speed manual on the V8.

Under the sharp skin Holden’s chassis engineers made some major revisions, mostly to the steering which was adapted from the Monaro after it had been widely praised for its steering feel and precision.

In the 2003 VY II update Holden gave the luxury Calais a more European personality with bolder styling inside and out, larger alloy wheels, and sportier suspension settings.

The Gen III V8 was offered in two forms, a dual exhaust version, which boasted 245 kW at 5600 revs for the SS and SV8 models, and a 235 kW single exhaust version for the rest of the range.


2002 was a boom year for new car sales. Holden sales were also booming and the Commodore was the top selling car in a year Ford was regrouping in the lead up to the launch of the BA Falcon.

The volatility of the market can be seen by the special offers dealers are making on their used cars when they’ve got large numbers of ex-lease cars to move. It pays to shop around for the best deal.

Pay $18,000-$19,500 for an VY Executive sedan, add $3000 for an Acclaim or Equipe, $500 for a wagon. Add $3000 to move up to a similar VY II.

For a sporty model, pay $24,500-$26,000 for an VY S, $25,500-$27,000 for an SV8, $32,000-$33,000 for an SS, add $2000 for a later VY II.

To step up to a VY Berlina you’ll pay $27,000-$28,500, or $31,000-$32,500 for a VY II.

Take another step up to a VY Calais and you’ll pay $29,500-$31,000, or $34,000-$36,000 for a VY II.


Generally the Commodore is quite reliable. Little seems to go wrong with the V6 engine, which has proven to be a tough old unit, but debate rages over the oil consumption and piston rattle problems that plagued the Gen III V8.

The best explanation of the problem appears to be that Holden released piston rings that were a loose fit in the bore in the interests of fuel consumption. On some engines that resulted in an audible light piston rattle along with high oil consumption.

New Teflon-coated pistons and tighter rings was released which appear to have fixed most problem engines. Problem engines were rebuilt so it’s unlikely you’ll find one in the field now, but it’s worth checking the history of any V8 with the owner. Ask for any oil consumption history they might have, and check if it’s been rebuilt.

The Auto transmissions are generally reliable, but need regular servicing for reliability, so check for a service record. Check the trans oil in any car fitted with a tow bar, and look for signs it has been used for heavy towing.

The introduction of the toe-link to the Commodore’s IRS in the VX model improved the handling precision and response. Importantly it also improved tyre wear, but be warned tyre wear is still quite high. If you get 40,000 km from a set of tyres you’re doing well.


Further stiffening of the body shell aided primary crash protection with reduced risk of lower limb injury, while dual airbags were standard on all models, along with load-limiting seat belt retractors.

The recent used car safety survey rated the Commodore above the average for occupant protection, but not so high when it came to impact on the occupants of the car you hit.


Margaret and John Rowe have owned four Commodores and now own a VY which has done 41,000 km of mostly country running. On the plus side they like the road holding and drivability, the quiet comfortable ride, seats, safety, parking sensors, and used friendly cabin layout. On the other side they don’t like the LCD dash display, the boot hinges which eat into the boot space, the limited choice of trim colours, and the lack of a boot key. They say the fuel consumption, 9.0 L/100 km in town, eight L/100 km out, is good.

Michael Fava owns a 2004 VY II Equipe, and says it’s a great car with heaps of power and good looks. His complaints are minor, the location of the radio tuning controls on the steering wheel, a broken storage compartment lid on the dash, and the rear parking sensors are too sensitive. The highway fuel consumption, 8.7-9.5 L/100 km, is good, but he’s not as happy about the 11.0-12.5 L/100 km he gets around town.

Rod Kidd says he’s happy with his 2003 VY Commodore S pack Commodore, which has done 38,000 km without fault. Rod chooses Aussie-built six-cylinder cars because of their perceived value for money.

Victor de Beer is happy with his 2003 VY II SS Commodore, which has done 19,000 km, but feels it needs better brakes and a more up-to-date auto transmission. The worst part of owning an SS Commodore is its high tyre wear.

Stephen Matthews recently updated to a VY V6 auto Commodore, which now has 24,000 km on it. Since buying it he has noticed a slapping noise or dull lifter noise when the car is restarted after it is already warm. Holden has replaced the lifters without effect.


• Sharp aggressive styling

• reliable and fuel efficient V6

• possible oil consumption of V8

• improved steering precision

• comfortable seats

• safety of airbags

• stiffened body structure


• Ford Falcon/Fairmont – 2001-2002 – $15,000-$22,000

• Toyota Camry – 2000-2002 – $13,000-$25,000

• Mitsubishi Magna – 2000-2003 – $11,500-$21,500


Booming new car sales three years ago mean lots of low mileage ex-lease cars flooding on to the market now making the VY Commodore a good buy.



Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 10 comments

  • I Have had A VY series 2 equipe for nearly 5 years with nearly 290,000 km (purchased with 136500 km in march 2009) on the clock. since owning this car the only non maintenance items that have been replaced have been the alternator, the radiator and the sound system as the cd stacker was jamming up on me. has benn an extremely reliable vehicle and i hope to get many more reliable km out of it yet. no signs of any major oil leaks at this stage have always had it serviced by the book (if not beforehand)

    Andrew of Blayney Posted on 03 January 2014 4:39pm
  • Under Drivers Seat Plastic Trim

    Ian of Point Cook Victoria Posted on 02 September 2013 4:29pm
  • blar blar blar mine rips fat skids

    hugyugyfytftyftftf of penrith Posted on 15 July 2013 8:36pm
  • Andre, If you are confused about the prices mentioned in the article, it was written in 2009, hence the incorrect reflection upon todays used car market.

    Scott of Central Coast NSW Posted on 16 November 2011 5:50pm
  • I am confused as I have seen a 2003 VY Commodore with 70,000kms on the clock. It looks immaculate but has been for sale online for over two months - which is a mystery. It has a full Holden body kit, scuff plates, 17 inch alloys and turbine in colour. The asking price is $13,000. As this will be my first car, I would be really grateful if anyone can provide some feedback and what I should look out for.

    Andre of Sydney Posted on 22 August 2011 7:12pm
  • VY Commodore wagon has so much boot space. Nothing on the modern market compares with it. My vehicle has done 240000 and has not missed a beat. Very reliable, fuel economy 10.4l/100k combined. Service costs have been reasonable and tyre wear issues in the article match my experience. I've had no leaking problems. I love my VY wagon.

    Mark Posted on 19 June 2011 9:57am
  • i have a 2004 vy acclaim station wagon and have been driving it for 4 years, i also have a worn drivers seat witch has some holes just where the stitching is, i also had to replace the radiator and also the starter motor. my cd player is starting to play up, the radio control buttons on the steering wheel no longer work properly and the petrol shutter decided it didnt want to be part of the car anymore and came off. i have also had all the door buttons replaced twice as the locking system plays up! i find it pretty expensive to run on short daily trips but the upper has been that i travel long didtance every weekend and the car still goes strong! its done 150,000 kms, with the driving i have to do the commodore has been reliable and i dont think many other cars would take the hard yakka i give it hahah

    jennifer davis of Australia nsw Posted on 16 May 2011 10:28pm
  • I also have a leaky late model commodore, and so does a friend of mine. Mine is a vz with wet carpet and my friend's one is a vy with puddles. He's had door and window seals replaced which hasn't fixed it. It's a total mystery so far.

    Dan Posted on 03 April 2011 10:43am
  • In 2009 I bought a second hand VY station Wagon in a very good condition with only 114,000kms on the clock. The vehicle was well looked after, has never been involved in any accidents, and I knew the owner who mothered the car. I love the overall road performance of the vehicle. My biggest issue with the car is the water leakage through the two nearside passenger doors during heavy rain which always results in saturated carpets. I have attempted to find the source of the leaks through the door seals with great difficulty, and even left the car with a smash repairer for a full day and he too failed to find the source of the leak. My previous Commodore was a VT sedan and it too leaked water when it rained in the boot compartment and through the nearside passenger door as well. I found sites which confirmed VT's were susceptible to leaking boots and passenger doors. Buying a second car that leaked water was depressive, and I not to receive any satification from a Holden Dealer when seeking the source of the problem was even more frustrating. Can anyone tell me if water leaks are a common issue with Commodores, and if so how do I fix the leaks once and for all?

    John Falzon of Bray Park Posted on 05 January 2011 10:13pm
  • I am to still driving my 2002 VY V6 Executive and have been for the last 5 years it now has 130,000 kms on the clock. The only complaints I have about this model is the drivers side seat foam is falling out and worn a hole in the seat I feel they don't make the seats to last anymore our old VH SLE seats still had no holes in them and that's from 1983 and I have also had to replace the radiator as the Holden factory one is quite simple rubbish and the ignition switch broke which is a common problem i have been told apart from that in the 100,000 km I have travelled in this car it is reliable and the fuel economy is about 11ltrs in town and I have had it down to 6.9ltrs on the open road but it all depends how you drive them and my factory CD player is starting to play up other than that its been a great car and I?m sure I will get many more kms out of the car happy driving.

    Jamie Scott Anderson of Mount Gambier S.A Posted on 16 October 2010 10:41am
Read all 10 comments

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