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Holden One Tonner S

A high-capacity hauler with a touch of sports appeal.

By Michael Knowling

Click on pics to view larger images

At a glance...

  • Huge carrying capacity
  • Comfortable and well equipped
  • Flexible performer
  • Poor rear visibility
  • Gruff engine at high rpm
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A sporty ute or cab-chassis is one of the favourite tax deductions of tradespeople around Australia.

And with good reason.

When a heavy-duty load carrier is required for work purposes it’s a great opportunity to spoil yourself with something a bit sporty.

Holden’s VZ one tonner S caters specifically to this market.

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At AUD$32,120, the VZ one tonner S manual is tough enough to handle all the abuse you throw at it yet it’s easily distinguishable from a bread-and-butter commercial vehicle. The S pack adds just over AUD$5000 to the base one-tonner price and brings an LSD, 16 inch alloy wheels, a subtle body kit and black headlight bezels. This is in addition to the updated VZ detail changes. The S pack interior is also equipped with a leather steering wheel and attractive sports trim.

But the big news is the fitment of the new Alloytech V6.

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Displacing 3.6 litres, the new DOHC, 24-valve, variable cam timed engine is rated at 175kW at 6000 rpm and 320Nm at 2400 rpm (400 rpm lower than in ute versions). Ninety percent of peak torque is also accessible between 1630 and 5460 rpm.

Coupled to a new 6 speed manual gearbox, the V6 one tonner is very easy to drive and flexible. With a kerb weight of just 1496kg, it is also one of the lightest vehicles in the VZ stable - so it’s no surprise that it moves quite swiftly.

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Unfortunately, this performance is not reflected in our mid 9 second 0 – 100 km/h times. The first problem is getting off the line cleanly – the relatively light rear-end and commercial-spec tyres mean a clutch dump is pointless. The second problem is gearing – an up-shift into third gear is required to reach 100 km/h.

Overall NVH is also a mixed bag. At light-throttle in city/urban conditions, the VZ one tonner is relatively quiet and sophisticated. But spin the engine past about 4000 rpm and the V6 sounds gruff and vibration enters through the gear knob. The aluminium tray also conducts ringing noises and causes noticeable aerodynamic noise on the open road.

Fuel consumption is demonstrably superior to what you’ll achieve in a V8-powered Holden ute but it’s nothing remarkable; we recorded 13 litres of ULP per 100km in mainly urban driving. Note that fuel tank capacity is 68 litres – a couple of litres short of the full-body Holden ute.

So what about the load capacity and accommodation of the one tonner S?

Well, Holden has been building this sort of vehicle for a long time – and it shows.

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The fold-down side and rear panels of the tray are easy to release and, although the bed is up near waist height, it’s easy to slide cargo in and out. The tray area is also monstrous – much bigger than a conventional Holden ute.

There are three tie-downs along each side of the tray and a curved rail is positioned in front of each rear wheel – these can be stood on to provide arm reach to the middle of the tray. We also like the aluminium grille behind the rear window, which serves to protect occupants.

Holden gives the one tonner a GVM of 2826kg, so – minus the 1496kg kerb weight – you’ve got a healthy 1300-odd kilogram payload. This 1300kg payload is accommodated thanks to the one tonner’s heavy-duty leaf spring live-axle rear (the conventional Holden ute uses coils with IRS). The wheels are tyres are specifically chosen to cope with the extra loads and the S version scores a standard LSD to aid traction.

Holden also quotes an increased towing capacity of 1600kg thanks to a stronger clutch and a shorter first gear ratio compared to the previous Ecotec model.

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Inside, the one tonner has a reasonable amount of storage. A pair of storage compartments can be found in the rear bulkhead while jackets, soft bags and other items can be chucked in the cavity behind the seats. The only hindrance is the jack and jack handle, which are mounted quite clumsily on the floor behind the passenger seat.

The one tonner cabin is a direct carry-over from other VZ models. The seats are comfortable and supportive and the dashboard houses a single CD/tuner, easy-to-use standard air conditioning, electric driver’s seat height adjustment, a trip computer and a new instrument cluster with smallish markings. Power windows and cruise control are also now fitted as standard but, curiously, there are no map lights. A driver’s airbags comes standard while a passenger airbag is available for AUD$495 extra.

But the one tonner does have a couple of irritating flaws.

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Visibility past the driver’s side B pillar is terrible and the standard-across-the-range VZ exterior mirrors don’t give a good view past the tray (which protrudes from the sides of the body). The leaf-sprung rear suspension also gives a very stiff ride when unladen – it’s not as noticeable with a load on board.

Despite its stiffly sprung rear-end, the Holden one tonner S is a surprisingly fun machine to chuck around – it’s nowhere near as nervous as we expected. It understeers when hurried into a corner but a bootful of throttle will move the rear into oversteer in tight conditions. It all happens very predictably – the one tonner’s lengthened 3200mm wheelbase certainly seems to improve stability. There is no traction or stability control.

Not surprisingly, the commercial-based 215/65 16 Bridgestone Dueller A/T tyres don’t give a huge amount of cornering grip and the vehicle lacks the steering response and feedback found in other full-size Holdens.

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Ground clearance – at 134mm – is noticeably more than a normal Holden ute and this helps provide access to the spare wheel, which is mounted under the rear. Unfortunately, the spare rim is steel and wears only a conventional tyre.

With standard ABS, EBD and brake assist, the one tonner pulls up with little effort and with maximum composure. A new brake booster and master cylinder are part of the VZ update.

The steering is also revised with a new pump and hoses but those commercial-grade tyres offset any potential improvement in driver feel. The turning circle is also quite large at 12.1 metres – the one tonner takes a substantial amount of room to manoeuvre.

So what do we say to all the sparkies, plumbers and builders who want a vehicle with serious carrying capacity and a bit of sports appeal?

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Well, the Holden one tonner offers a greater payload capacity than its Ford rival but in many respects the pair is quite similar. Unfortunately, the Ford doesn’t come with standard air conditioning but it does hit back with the availability of the RTV’s diff lock and a slightly gruntier engine.

But rest assured both are very accomplished machines. The choice will come down to the sharpness of the dealers’ pencils.

The VZ One Tonner S manual was provided for this test by Holden Australia. www.holden.com.au

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