Honestly, I wasn’t looking forward to driving Holden’s new Epica. For those not in the know, the Holden Epica is basically a re-badged Daewoo Tosca. So the stigma associated with the Daewoo brand, along with the recently released crash test results of the Holden Barina (2-stars) had me in two minds.
Upon first inspection, it didn’t actually look that bad from the outside – in fact, I thought it looked quite attractive. The swept back headlight design and flowing lines make this Korean-built mid-sized sedan quite appealing to the eye.
The interior is also a nice enough place to be. The driver’s seat is quite accommodating and provides adequate viewing space over the front and sides of the vehicle. Rear seat room isn’t too accommodating for adults though, making it a kids only space. The boot has a 480-litre capacity, trailing the Toyota Camry by around 55-litres.
Surprisingly, the build of the interior seemed quite solid and robust. Aside from a slightly loose glove-box cover, the interior felt well built and quite solid to the touch. The steering wheel felt like it was made entirely out of plastic though; it felt extremely cheap and nasty. The steering wheel did feature volume, audio and cruise controls, somewhat making up for its shortfalls.
Our test vehicle – the CDX – was optioned with the Daewoo-Porsche co-developed 2.5-litre inline-6-cylinder motor, producing 115kW of power and 237Nm of torque. Although it sounds great on paper, the engine is devastatingly short of torque throughout the lower end of the rev range. Stomping on the throttle from a standing start provides no general feeling of motion or torque delivery, things only begin happening north of 3500RPM where the engine makes an almighty racket.
In general terms, the engine was a total disappointment; the 5-speed Aisin gearbox didn’t help either, providing slow and lifeless shift patterns. The handling dynamics were also pretty average, the extremely soft suspension worked wonders over some of our B-grade roads, but when pushed through a corner, the whole experience felt wrong. The entire body pushed onto the outer wheel, creating a sense of awkward motion. The steering had very little feel and didn’t provide natural kickback whilst driving, it took quite some time to get used to.
The Epica range is available in two models. The CDX is available in both 5-speed manual and 5-speed automatic, along with the option of either the 2.0-litre or 2.5-litre inline-6-cylinder engines. The CDXi is only available with an automatic transmission and the 2.5-litre engine. Prices start at $25,990 for the manual CDX (2.0-litre) and reach $30,990 for the CDXi.
Standard features available across the CDX range include: Cloth trim; 16” alloy wheels; air-conditioning; ABS brakes; traction control; cruise control; power windows and mirrors; remote central locking and alarm; six speaker MP3 compatible stereo and front and side driver and front passenger airbags. Unfortunately, ESP isn’t available – even as an option, across the range.
As competition to the Toyota Camry, it doesn’t really offer the same amount of room (both inside the cabin and boot) and also lacks in terms of its engine and handling dynamics. But it does undercut the Camry when it comes to price – quite dramatically. The top-of-the-line CDXi model can be had for around the same coin as a base model Camry. The Epica’s not a bad car for getting from A to B and if you don’t expect much in the way of performance; it’s probably quite a wise purchasing option.