Holden became Australia’s favourite brand making powerful, spacious, comfortable, affordable family cars. Since it became an import-only operation it has struggled but, with the arrival of the new seven-seater Acadia SUV, Holden once again has a credible contender in the family freighter business, with those same attributes.
Even though Acadia is built in Tennessee, it wears the Holden badge more convincingly than most of the other models in its current line-up.
At our recent Car of the Year judging, the base Acadia LT, priced at $42,990, fronted the judges as one of 10 finalists. As with the rest of the range, it’s powered by a naturally aspirated 3.6-litre V6, with the most power in the class — 231kW — paired with nine-speed automatic and front-wheel drive.
Standard equipment includes touchscreen infotainment with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, digital radio, navigation and voice control. Five fast-charging USB points are spread across the three rows of seats, as are five child restraint anchors. Two ISOFIX points are also fitted in row two. Three zone aircon includes controls for row two plus roof vents for rows two and three. Eighteen-inch alloys are also standard.
Acadia’s value proposition becomes less attractive as you move up the range in five figure chunks. LTZ, with extra fruit including leather, power adjustable, heated front seats and a power tailgate, is $53,990. Top spec LTZ-V, at an ambitious $63,990, adds 20 inch alloys, a sunroof, adaptive suspension, Bose audio and cooled front seats.
All-wheel drive adds $4000 to each variant.
You face a high, bulky dash and shorter drivers may feel intimidated by what is a mighty big bus. That said, the driving position offers plenty of adjustment. Materials, fit and finish are nothing special, and it ain’t pretty inside, but the cabin is made to take kid-inflicted punishment.
Row two, split 60/40 with each side adjustable for legroom, offers great comfort and space for the two outboard passengers, and is wide enough to take three. Airconditioning controls, roof vents, two USBs and a slide out drawer on the centre console make it a practical, kid-friendly space too.
The same goes for the two rear seats. Kerbside access is via the larger section of row two, with a single lever action and minimal effort. With row two pushed forward a bit, legroom is better than most seven-seater back stalls. I’ve squeezed into tighter rear seats in small hatchbacks. A USB connector and roof vents are provided.
Cavernous in five-seater mode, the boot has a sizeable storage compartment under the rear floor, but no load cover. Row two doesn’t quite fold flat in extended mode.
Ride comfort is fine in the LT, albeit a touch firm and fussy on lumpy roads, the price paid for disciplined control over body movement in such a heavy wagon. LTZ-V, with adaptive suspension, is smooth and supple in Normal mode and firmer though still absorbent in Sport.
Acadia includes autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection — though it operates only up to 80km/h — plus blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and a camera. Lane keep assist and speed sign monitoring are also standard. Only LTZ-V gets adaptive cruise, surround cameras and AEB that operates above 80km/h.
The big petrol V6 has no problem at all getting Acadia’s close to two tonnes mass off the line, and with nine ratios to work with responsiveness and acceleration are immediate and emphatic from any speed. It gets vocal and hoarse at high revs; otherwise, it’s a smooth, quiet, effortless engine.
Around town it guzzles regular unleaded, despite auto stop/start. Mid-high teens is normal, though it can chew through 20L/100km in traffic. On the highway, as is usually the case with large capacity V6 engines, it will use less than half that, returning 7-8L/100km on a gentle cruise.
Maximum towing weight is two tonnes. A camera helps you line up the trailer hitch as you’re reversing, and check it on the move. A selectable towing shift pattern is provided on the nine speed automatic.
Acadia is built for comfort, not speed, but Holden’s engineers have given it the requisite suspension tuning to drive confidently and safely on rough country roads, assisted by quality Continental tyres, and the steering is surprisingly tactile and precise. Both variants I tested were front-wheel drive; Acadia has no off-road pretensions at all, but with this much power underfoot, all-wheel drive would be worth considering if you do a lot of highway kilometres as it does add an extra measure of grip and security, especially in wet conditions.
I grew up in Holdens and now I’m looking for one for my family. I like the chunky American styling and big petrol V6 power. When it comes to SUVs, bigger is always better and biggest is best.
I’ve got young kids who can trash a new car inside three weeks so I don’t want to spend a fortune. I want power, space, safety and practicality. This ticks all four boxes and the base LT is a good deal.
TOYOTA KLUGER FROM $44,500
The seven-seater template, with a 218kW/350Nm 3.5-litre V6/eight-speed automatic. Bulletproof but getting on a bit. Turn-offs are below par ride, seat comfort, infotainment and short warranty.
MAZDA CX-9 FROM $44,900
Feels like $100,000 worth compared with the Acadia when you first climb in. Punchy, relatively frugal 2.5-litre turbo four/six-speed automatic. Rear seat space not quite in Acadia’s league and servicing is expensive.
PRICE $42,990 (excellent)
WARRANTY-SERVICE 5-yr unlimited km warranty (good); $1535 over 5 yrs (cheap)
ENGINE 3.6-litre V6; 231kW/367Nm (above average)
SAFETY Not yet rated; 7 airbags, AEB, blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keep assist (good)
THIRST 8.9L/100km (fantasy)
SPARE Space-saver (not good)
LUGGAGE 1042L (big)
Three and a half stars
In the post-Commodore world, this is as close to a “real” Holden as they come: a spacious, comfortable, powerful, safe family hauler. LTZ and LTZ-V are overpriced, but the base LT offers maximum SUV for minimum money.