Holden Commodore VS Ford Mondeo
- Comfortable but dynamic chassis
- Strong and smooth 2.0 turbo
- Liftback's boot practicality over a sedan
- Relatively unassuming looks
- V6 not as refined as the 2.0 turbo
- VXR doesn't match the romance of old V8 SS
- Well equipped
- Practical and refined
- EcoBoost engine hammers
- Hit and miss styling
- Inconsistent ride
- SUV-like seating position
For many Australians, calling the new ZB a Commodore is tantamount to being forced to call your Mum’s new boyfriend ‘Dad.’
One big reason is that it was always going to be the next Commodore, even before Holden decided to stop building cars in Australia. Yes, it was even set to be built here.
Once the VE/VF Commodore’s Zeta platform was axed during General Motors’ post-GFC rationalisation, the next best thing was to align with the Opel/Vauxhall Insignia designed primarily for Europe.
Holden was actually involved with the new Insignia’s development from the beginning, which has led to some key details for the Commodore version and Australia, and a whole lot of input from our world-renowned Aussie engineering team.
So it’s a whole lot more Commodore than you may realise. Whether it lives up to its reputation is another matter.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
Yes, this is a Ford Mondeo review in Anno Domini 2018.
Why? Perhaps Ford doesn't want anybody to get overly attached to a sedan-y hatch that has a cloudy future in an ever-shrinking mid-size market. After all, there's still a rather vocal sect of the population feeling burned by the end of the Falcon dynasty.
You'd also be right to assume those numbers are padded out a fair bit by corporate leases. Salesmen in England were long referred to as Mondoe Men for a reason. I'll tell you this much, though, I'd be pretty stoked if I got one of these Mondeos as a lease.
As an FG Falcon owner, for most intents and purposes it would even be a half-way decent replacement for my large sedan. Stick with me as I explain why.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
So will the new Commodore become Australia's favourite car? I strongly doubt it, but it's not the car's fault, and it wouldn't be any different if it was a rear-wheel drive, V8, Australian-built sedan. Australian buying habits have just moved on, and diversified into a range of SUVs, small hatches and dual-cab utes.
Taken as an all-new entry in Holden's revitalised line-up though, the new Commodore ticks all the important boxes required of a mid-size to large passenger car these days. It may not be anywhere near as exciting as a 6.2-litre Redline sedan, ute or wagon, but it’s objectively a far better car overall, and you should definitely give it a drive before dismissing it.
The pick of the bunch in my eyes is the $39,490 RS Sportwagon with the 2.0-litre petrol engine. Yep, the best new Commodore is now a four-cylinder station wagon.
Be sure to check out what James Cleary thought of the new Commodore in prototype guise here:
The Mondeo creeps to the forefront as one of the best Fords with the smallest marketing budget.
Well equipped, reasonably fun to drive and semi-luxurious to be in for long periods, it's hard to remember why it's so forgettable.
Its certainly worth your consideration over its rivals, but then perhaps you don't want to fall in love with another Ford potentially headed for the chopping block in the near future.
Did you know Ford still sells the Mondeo, and would you ever consider it? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Aside from the move to a front-drive basis, the other key difference between the new Commodore and those of the past is its shift from a classic three-box sedan shape to a sleek, five-door Liftback. Even the Sportwagon has an elegant arc to its roofline, which is arguably their most appealing design element. There are no Ute or Caprice bodystyles, and there never will be.
The European-designed look is less macho than the bulging wheelarches of the VE and VF, but more in line with its European rivals like the Ford Mondeo, Volkswagen Passat and Skoda Superb.
The best way to identify specific models is by their wheels, with the trim levels split between a more elegant body trim on the entry, Calais, Calais-V and Tourer variants, and sportier body kits with side skirts and a rear spoiler on the RS, RS-V and VXR flagship.
The interior look is also best described as elegant, with fresh shapes that flow cohesively into the door trims and centre console. There’s a general air of quality about it, but it’s let down by some cheap-feeling controls and switches, particularly the climate control knobs.
The ZB’s overall size is bigger than you might think, with most dimensions fitting neatly between the VE/VF and the VT-VZ generation that preceded it.
You might be surprised to learn it’s no lightweight either, with the heaviest Calais-V Tourer actually outweighing the portliest VF by 31kg.
Interior dimensions are comparable with its predecessor, with the most significant differences being a narrower back seat thanks to its 36mm thinner body and 13mm less rear headroom in the Liftback (but 3mm more in the wagon).
Before the decision was made to source the new car from Germany, Holden was planning a longer wheelbase for Australia. One specific requirement that did reach fruition is the availability of a V6 engine, which isn’t fitted to European versions.
Under the skin it rides on GM’s E2XX platform, which is a significant evolution of the chassis that underpinned the previous Insignia and the now-defunct Holden Malibu.
Aside from having a say in every step of its design process, Holden engineers covered more than 200,000 kilometres of testing on Australian roads and at the Lang Lang proving ground.
This has been to fine tune the drivetrain calibrations, the steering, suspension, and even details like the sat nav and radio reception to suit our tastes and unique demands.
Specific suspension tunes have been developed for four cylinder models, the V6 Calais, V6 RS-V and the Tourer, with unique setups between Liftback and Sportwagon bodies.
The only version not to score an Australian suspension tune is the VXR, which was treated to a performance-focused setup at the Nürburgring in Germany.
There's no doubt that the Mondeo is a chunky monkey. Just get a look at those proportions, it looks like a dense rectangle's worth of car, and that's before you line it up next to something else for perspective.
In this case I sat it next to my Falcon. Once the largest sedan on offer by Ford in Australia, in some ways it looks dwarfed. The Mondeo is taller and just as wide, but not quite as long. A quick comparison of spec sheets proves it's not much lighter either, despite the Falcon sporting a cast-iron engine that's literally twice the size.
The front three-quarter especially makes the Mondeo look tough. The big catfish-esque grille combined with the slimline headlight clusters and bonnet ripples make it look aggressive - like a rolling advertisement for the Mustang.
Head round to the rear three-quarter, however and things get a little… off. The raised dimensions and high rear light features make it look too tall. The 'liftback' roofline does no wonders for the car's proportions either.
It's a shame that after so many decades of Mondeo there is still apparently no way to make that rear-end appealing.
Inside there are also plenty of quirks. While there are some parts that really work, there are also some that don't.
The plush leather seats unique to the Titanium grade are lovely, but they're positioned so high up you'd be forgiven for thinking you were at the helm of an SUV. The sunroof is also so far back it's basically useless for front passengers, yet it eats their headroom (also, it's just a glass roof that doesn't open).
Then there's the switchgear, of which there is an overwhelming amount. You're presented with a sensory assault of buttons and displays, half of which could seemingly be easily offloaded onto the multimedia system. It's an approach that dates an otherwise modern-looking cabin.
Eerily similar to the Falcon, the fan speed and temperature controls aren't dials (a user experience nightmare) but the volume control is… go figure.
Those gripes aside there's plenty to like about the Mondoe cabin. There are soft-touch surfaces everywhere, helping the car live up to its luxury spec and price point, while all the switchgear and interactive parts are solid and tough, just like the Mondeo's big brother, the Ranger.
While the digital dash is way too busy, it presents the relevant information well, and is a good interactive design once you get used to it.
The back seat is a very nice place to be, making full use of that big glass roof, and the rear seats are just as plush as the front ones. If you spend lots of time ferrying friends or family around, it's a strong point for the Mondeo.
Another traditional Commodore trait to have taken a step backwards is its ability to carry three adults across the back seat. Admittedly only really an issue for taxi use, the ZB will certainly still swallow three, and likely three child seats, but less comfortably and more like the similarly sized Camry.
The Liftback’s reduced headroom didn’t matter for this 172cm tester, but if you were marginal in a VF you’d probably want to avoid spiking your hair.
The cabin ticks all the other important boxes for a modern family car, including twin cupholders front and rear, bottleholders in each door and two ISOFIX child seat mounts in the rear.
All get a good cluster of USB and 12V charge points, while the RS-V models upwards get a big bonus with wireless phone charging.
The Liftback's boot space is only slightly down on before at 490 litres, but the huge opening created by the five-door design is so much more useful in the real world. It also brings a split-fold back seat for the first time in a non-wagon Commodore.
The Sportwagon has lost around 100 litres in capacity though, but is still a very useful 560 litres to seat height or 793 litres to the roof.
Holden’s local team has also developed a range of optional accessories for the Commodore, which includes a bonnet protector, weather shield, towbar, boot liner, floor mats, headlight protectors, sill guards, locking wheel nuts, roof racks and a cargo net, but there’s no sign of a cargo barrier, nudge bar or bullbar at this stage.
Do you like stowage spaces? Good, because the Mondeo has heaps of 'em. No longer content with just making one huge plastic fascia across the dash, there's a surprisingly large extra stowage space sitting below the air-conditioning controls. That joins a massive centre console box, with two USB ports and an extra tray layer for tidbits, as well as one of my favourite features, two truly massive cupholders. These show Ford's American influence as much as the aforementioned chunky switchgear.
The cupholders spent our weekend easily swallowing two phones, two wallets and two sets of keys with no problem at all. They'll fit your XL Coke no problems.
As I mentioned before, front passenger headroom is impacted by the glass roof, and there's a slightly claustrophobic feeling brought about by the huge swooping A-pillars, which also create a bit of a vision impairment for the driver. The SUV-like seating position can potentially be awkward, room-wise, for people with chunkier knees, or those that prefer sitting in a low, sporty position.
Up the back there's plenty of legroom and space for heads and arms and legs. I fit easily behind my own driving position, and there's the luxury of a fully leather-bound fold-down armrest with two big cupholders for rear passengers.
The keyless entry is also truly keyless, in that all four doors can lock or unlock the whole car at a touch. Another nice feature for when you're ferrying people around.
Boot space is also colossal, thanks to the liftback design. Ford states the size as 557 litres but as this seems to be a non-VDA-standard measurement it's hard to compare to competitors with numbers. Rest assured it will swallow a set of suitcases with ease, and the space is a practical rectangle with little intrusion from wheel arches.
Price and features
Aligning with the Insignia’s European platform has bumped the Commodore right up to speed with the current status quo of features expected in such a family car.
Available Commodore firsts include standard auto emergency braking (AEB) on all models, adaptive cruise control, 360-degree / surround-view cameras, massage and ventilated seats, heated rear seats, wireless phone charging, LED headlights and a power tailgate on the wagons. Like most new cars, there’s no more CD player or DVD player with the radio and other multimedia options.
The broad model range is split into LT, RS, RS-V, Calais, Calais-V, VXR trim levels, while the off-road flavoured Tourer is split into Calais and Calais-V versions.
All bar the Tourer and VXR are available with either Liftback or Sportwagon ($2200 extra) bodystyles, while the 2.0-litre turbo engine is standard in the LT, RS and Calais. The V6 with all-wheel drive is available in the RS, RS-V, Calais-V, VXR and both Tourer trims, while the diesel engine is limited to the LT and Calais.
The base LT Liftback drops the Commodore entry point by $1800 with a list price of $33,690. The diesel engine is available in either bodystyle for an extra $3000.
Standard features include the aforementioned AEB, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in addition to Bluetooth connectivity with a 7.0-inch multimedia screen, reversing camera, auto parking, a leather steering wheel, an eight-way power driver’s seat, proximity keys, auto headlights and wipers, air conditioning and 17-inch alloy rims.
The RS kicks off at $37,290, or $40,790 in V6 AWD guise, and brings sports front seats, steering wheel and body kit, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and bigger 18-inch alloys, while the Sportwagon version gets a power tailgate.
The V6 AWD RS-V commands $46,990, and adds leather seats, heated front seats, paddle shifters a larger 8.0-inch multimedia screen with built-in GPS navigation system and DAB+ digital radio, a colour head-up display, wireless phone charger, interior ambient lighting, upgraded Hi Per strut suspension and a sportier rear bumper.
The $40,990 Calais is also available with the diesel engine for an extra $3000, or as the V6 AWD Tourer wagon for $45,990.
The Calais sits closer to the LT on features, but adds leather trim, front seat heaters, 8-inch multimedia screen with built-in GPS navigation system and DAB+ digital radio, wireless phone charging, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and 18-inch alloys.
The Calais Tourer scores a ride height lift (overall height up 42mm) and off-road styled unpainted wheel-arch moulds and bumper caps.
The $51,990 Calais-V adds a Bose premium sound system, ventilated front seats, a massage function and powered side bolsters for the driver’s seat, heated rear seats, a sports steering wheel with paddle shifters, 360 degree cameras, colour head-up display, adaptive LED headlights and 20-inch alloys. The Liftback version gets an electronic sunroof, while the Tourer version gets a panoramic glass roof.
The top-spec VXR is closest to the RS-V in terms of features, but for $55,990 it adds VXR-specific sports seats with power adjustable bolsters and ventilation up front, heated rear seats, Bose premium audio, adaptive suspension, adaptive cruise control, Brembo brakes, VXR floor mats and sill plates, active LED headlights, 360-degree camera, electric sunroof, and 20-inch alloy wheels.
From launch, Holden is offering drive-away pricing across several models, with on-road costs included. The LT petrol Liftback is available for $35,990, while the RS Liftaback is being offered for $38,990 with the 2.0-litre turbo and $42,490 with the V6. The Calais Tourer is also being offered for $47,990 drive away.
The available colours are spread across two whites, two reds, silver, grey, black and blue, with some only available on certain models. All bar the non-metallic white and red will cost you an extra $550, but there’s no sign of the green, purple, orange, or yellow we’ve seen over the past decade.
Today's Mondeo has evolved to adapt to modern expectations for a mid-size sedan. It's a far cry from the budget Mondeo of the ‘90s and even approaches territory that once would have been restricted to cars like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. No, really.
Our top-spec Titanium, for example, is packed with heated and leather seats front and rear, a power tailgate, auto-leveling ‘dynamic' LED headlights (the ones that move where you're pointing the steering wheel.), a fixed panoramic sunroof, power tailgate (handy) and even an auto-dimming wing mirror on the passenger side. The Titanium also gets a different digital instrument cluster and a heated windscreen.
These join the regular suite of Mondeo features such as Ford's Sync3 multimedia system on the 8.0-inch screen (thankfully, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto), rain-sensing wipers, Digital radio (DAB+) and adaptive cruise control (part of a rather excellent safety package).
It's an impressive features list, which means nothing if the price isn't right. Our Titanium EcoBoost comes in at $44,790 before on-roads, pitting it against the Holden Commodore RS-V sedan ($46,990), Mazda6 GT sedan ($43,990) and Toyota Camry ($43,990).
None of those rivals have the heated windscreen or fully digital dashboard, though, and only the Mazda6 GT has heated seats front & rear. The Commodore RS-V is the only car here than can match the 8.0-inch screen size, but it does come with the addition of wireless phone charging and a colour head-up display. Food for (value) thought.
Engine & trans
No, there’s no more V8, manual transmission or rear wheel drive, but the ZB’s options are more in sync with its newer rivals.
For the first time since the VH, or 1984, the base engine is a four-cylinder petrol unit, but uses modern tech like direct injection and a turbo to boost power statistics to more than triple that of the infamous Starfire engine. Also seen in the Equinox, the new turbo motor’s 191kW is also notably 6kW more than the 5.0-litre V8 in the VL Group A SS (Walkinshaw), and 1kW more than the 3.6-litre V6 was making in top-spec VZ Commodores – so pretty good horsepower for its engine size.
The real story is its healthy 350Nm of torque, which is also more than what the same VZs were making, but on tap from a useful 3000-4000rpm.
The latest version of the 3.6-litre Alloytec V6 that’s seen duty in VZ, VE and VF models makes a reappearance as the new performance leader, but mounted sideways and turning all four wheels this time. In ZB trim, it produces 235kW and 381Nm, the latter from 5200rpm.
For the first time, you can also choose a diesel option with LT and Calais trims, which is a version of the engine used in the previous Opel Insignia. You’ll also find it under the bonnet of the Jeep Cherokee and Compass, and its applications spread as wide as the Alfa Romeo 159 that ended production in 2011. In Commodore guise, the turbo 2.0-litre engine specs are 125kW and 400Nm (available from 1750-2500rpm), and therefore taking out the torque trophy for the ZB range.
Both petrol engines are paired with a nine-speed torque converter automatic transmission, while the diesel has an eight-speed gearbox. Both four-cylinder engines are front-wheel drive, while all V6 variants are all-wheel drive.
The all-wheel drive system is actually quite clever, using what’s called a Twinster twin-clutch rear differential for finite torque vectoring, or sending the just the right amount of power to each wheel. The system varies torque distribution between 100 per cent front and a 50/50 split.
If you think the Commodore has gone soft, its towing capacity ratings also suggest otherwise, with a 2100kg maximum braked rating for V6 models matching the best offered previously. The four cylinder models are rated at 1800kg, which is 200kg better than what the previous 3.0-litre V6 and LPG models carried.
Ford offers two 2.0-litre turbocharged engines with the Mondeo, either a petrol EcoBoost engine or its diesel Duratorq equivalent.
The EcoBoost in our car is a bit of a gem. It produces an average sounding 177kW/345Nm when compared to the 220-plus-kW V6 engines in the equivalent Camry SL and Commodore RS-V, and it's even somehow out-played in the torque division by the Mazda6 GT, with its 170kW/420Nm.
As I'll explain in the driving section, however, it doesn't make the Mondeo feel any less powerful.
EcoBoost Mondeos can only be had with a six-speed traditional torque-converter automatic. Thankfully it doesn't carry 'PowerShift' branding either…
As you’d hope, the ZB sets a new Commodore benchmark for fuel consumption, with the diesel models managing a best official combined figure of 5.6L/100km. The petrol four-cylinder models also pip the VF’s best combined fuel economy figure of 8.3L/100km with 7.4 and 7.6L/100km for the LT, RS and Calais Liftbacks respectively. The Sportwagon versions wear 7.7 and 7.9L/100km figures, while V6 versions span 8.9-9.3L/100km combined ratings.
It’s worth noting that the petrol four-cylinder engine needs premium 95RON unleaded to do its best, while the V6 is happy to run on regular 91RON unleaded. All versions have a 61.7-litre fuel tank.
Due to the entertainment factor given by the EcoBoost engine I wasn't particularly light on the throttle.
Ford claims you'll use 8.5L/100km on the combined cycle, which is 1.9L/100km more than the Mazda6 but on par with the V6 Camry and Commodore. In reality I experienced about 12L/100km, which is a fair bit more than the claimed figure, but not unusual for a keen-to-go engine. More on that in the driving segment.
For a bit of perspective, I can extract similar, if not better, fuel figures from my 4.0-litre FG Falcon.
The Commodore we know and most of us love is just as famous for its quality driving experience as its local production and motorsport successes. So, the ZB has some big shoes to fill in this area.
At the ZB’s media launch, we drove everything aside from the base LT or any diesel variant, over several hundred kilometres of pretty much every road condition.
I’ll cut to the chase. There’s a genuine quality to the way they handle Australian road conditions. We drove them back to back with a UK-spec model at Lang Lang, and while you’d expect the local car to excel at its own test facility, the rear and front suspension work in harmony to handle mid-corner bumps with far greater stability than the alternative. The electric power steering weighting was also lighter, but it didn’t seem to lose any precision.
You probably wouldn’t notice it driving to the shops every day or cruising on the highway, but this on-limit controllability could easily be the difference between life and death in an emergency.
The turbo four is a surprisingly capable and refined package, and would honestly be my pick if I were in the market. It’s smoother and more tractable than the V6, so feels like it would deliver speed more readily than the bigger engine unless you were going flat out.
Holden isn’t quoting official 0-100km/h acceleration figures, but we hear the petrol four is good for a 7.0 second-ish time, and the V6 will manage just over 6.0sec. So there’s really not much in it outright.
Therefore it’s a shame you can’t get the Tourer with the petrol four, but because the combination is available in Europe, Holden could shift the line-up if there’s enough demand.
The nine-speed auto does a pretty good job with either engine, and its electronic brain does a slick job of seamlessly adjusting its shift behaviour to your driving style.
Holden isn’t quoting ground clearance figures, but all have enough to handle dirt roads, and while the 17-inch wheel equipped models match the VF II’s 11.4m turning circle, be aware that the 18-inch wheel variants blow out to 11.7m, the 19s are 12.7m, and Holden doesn’t quote a figure for the 20-inch equipped Calais-V Liftback and VXR.
The only other surprise among the group we drove is the Calais-V Liftback, which is likely to be a bit too sharp in its ride for some luxury buyers on its big 20-inch alloy wheels. The Calais or one of the Tourers would be your best bet for comfort.
The VXR performance flagship is a completely different personality to the SS models of the past. It’s nowhere near as fast, but is more of a grownup package that’s easier to get the best out of.
Its more demure than the brash final VF IIs, and the V6 does make a pretty sweet note, even if half of it is coming from the speakers.
Nothing was ever going to replicate the romance and pride of the last SS, but all is not lost for fans of fast Holdens.
The Mondeo is thankfully quite a bit more fun than it looks. As I've been leading up to, the EcoBoost engine absolutely hammers with little encouragement. It's a hoot. The downside to this is that the fuel figure suffers.
Channelling 345Nm from as little as 2300rpm through just the front wheels also has the side-effect of tearing the steering wheel out of your hands under heavier bouts of acceleration. It does wonders to suspend the initial impression from the SUV-like seating position that this Mondoe must be a heavy car.
It definitely isn't a sports car, though, more of a semi-luxe sedan, which is a good thing, because when you're not driving as hard it's a pleasure to be at the helm of.
The steering is direct and light, making it easy to point at any speed, and in terms of noise the Mondeo is impressively quiet. There's barely a peep out of the engine. Road noise is great around town but increases a lot at freeway speeds and on rough surfaces, likely due to the larger alloys and lower-profile rubber.
The suspension makes for a mostly luxurious ride as well, but frequent undulations cause it to become unsettled side-to-side. Heavier bumps and potholes also resonate through the cabin.
It's almost annoying how close to excellent the refinement is.
The six-speed auto transmission is fantastic for a daily driver because you'll never know its there. I failed to catch it off guard once during my week with it.
There's a Sport mode and paddle-shifters you can use to make it stay in gear a little longer, but with the amount of power seemingly available at a moment's notice I never felt like I needed it.
All versions of the new Commodore come with a maximum five star ANCAP safety rating, which has been measured against 2017 standards. The VF’s five star rating was based on 2013 standards.
As mentioned above, all versions get standard AEB and ISOFIX child seat mounts, plus features like lane keep assist and departure warning, auto parking, a reversing camera with front and rear sensors and six airbags covering both rows of seats.
All versions also get a novel following distance indicator to help you gauge a safe distance from the car in front. This could serve as excellent driver training, and worth having a go with on a test drive.
RS variants upwards get blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, while only the Calais-V and VXR get 360-degree /surround-view camera setups.
Once you get to Titanium level, the Mondeo's safety offering is truly expansive.
On the list is Auto Emergency Braking (AEB) with pre-collision warning, Lane Keep Assist (LKAS) with Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM), Driver Impairment monitoring and trailer-sway control.
There are also a standard set of airbags with a few sneaky extras like inflatable rear seat belts on the outer two rear seats,which join ISOFIX points in the same position. Since April 2016, every Mondeo has a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
These join the very welcome surround parking sensors, rear-view camera and auto-park, which make not nudging things in the Titanium a cinch.
And a boon for long-distance drivers is the fact that all Mondeo hatchbacks have a full-size steel spare.
Holden is currently offering a seven-year, unlimited kilometre warranty with roadside assistance to help boost sales, but be on the lookout for the return of this deal if you miss out this time. Normally, the Commodore carries the standard three year/100,000km warranty.
Service intervals are now 12month/12,000km, which have shifted from the previous 9month/15,000km terms.
Service costs are capped for the first seven trips to the workshop, with petrol models costing $259, $299, $259, $359, $359, $359 and $259, or a total of $2153 over seven years or 84,000km. The diesel is actually slightly better value at $259, $359, $259, $399, $359 and $399, or $2134 over the same period.
Ford has recently updated its warranty to five years/unlimited kilometres, which is a nice standard, although it is now matched by Holden and Mazda. Toyota lags behind with a three-year offering. The Kia Stinger starts to look very impressive here with its seven-year warranty.
At the time of writing, Ford's own service calculator tells us the Mondeo will cost a minimum of $370 per year or 15,000km (whichever comes first) service interval. Every fourth year that jumps to $615.