Read some of the stuff written about the Epica and
you could be forgiven that this car is a complete heap of rubbish, sourced from
Korea by Holden as a cheap and nasty way of filling the gap created by the
departed Vectra. And it’s true that the Epica is a much cheaper car than the
last Vectra models were, and that yes, the Epica is made in Korea and has a lot
of Daewoo genes in its make-up.
But a complete heap of rubbish? We certainly don’t
The Epica is not a car for hard-charging drivers;
it isn’t a car for those who like traffic light grands prix or doubling corner
advisory signposted speeds. But if you decide that you don’t want to join
Holden’s Commodore race - you know, the one where it’s heavier, thirstier and
more powerful each model – then the Epica makes a very good Holden family
Powered in the tested model by a Porsche-designed
2.5 litre straight six cylinder engine, the $27,990 car uses the almost unique
configuration of placing the engine transversely across the nose, something that
with six cylinder engines normally requires a V design. Not overly endowed with
power – there’s 115kW available at 5800 rpm – and with low-down torque that is
clearly not in the league of the local sixes, the 1500kg Epica still manages to
acquit itself quite well in the normal cut-and-thrust of urban traffic. In this
it’s helped by the complete lack of (dry road) wheelspin and the well-matched
auto transmission torque converter.
Away from idle, the straight six is silky smooth
(at idle there’s a slight lumpiness) and noticeably ‘comes on cam’ (or is it the
switching of the variable length intake manifold?) at around 3500-4000 rpm.
Because of its relatively small size, hard acceleration requires lots of revs
and the engine then becomes clearly audible. There’s also a slight jerk when
getting back on the throttle, something particularly noticeable with the cruise
But for our money the biggest driveline deficiency
is not the engine but the 5-speed auto trans. No easy-to-use manual shift mode
is provided – a pity, when at times the power and torque characteristics of the
engine would lend themselves well to manual control. And, as we’ve found with
other recent overseas-sourced Holdens, the auto trans calibration is poor. In
the Epica this meant that when running under cruise control up a long country
road hill, the trans constantly shifted back and forth between 3rd
and 4th gears.
We wouldn’t recommend towing something big, but
the car has quite adequate power and response for a 6x4 trailer taking a
trailer-load to the tip or bringing home an item of newly-bought furniture.
The ride is excellent, feeling ‘large car’ and
being upset only by continuous short-spaced bumps on country roads – there, the
ride can become a little jiggly. In other conditions, including dirt roads, the
suspension feels long-travel and well-damped. However, steering feel is poor and
cornering prowess nothing special. Both might be improved by new rubber –
standard are 205/60 Hankook Optimo tyres on 16-inch alloys. (Incidentally, the
spare wheel is a 15 inch steel rim that is limited to 80 km/h). The steering
wheel is height-adjustable only and in the test car the rear driver seat height
knob (front and rear of squab can be adjusted separately) was very stiff and so
difficult to use.
The Epica is a full-size family car, capable of
swallowing four adults. Rear space looks at first a bit tight for leg-room but
that’s primarily because the rear seat tracks extend back a long way – position
them so that front occupants are still comfortable and the back seat has
sufficient leg-room for normal sized adults. The very tall will, however, find
that rear headroom is tight. No rear vents or door pockets are provided but the
seats (front and rear) are large, soft and comfortable.
The boot is huge and very practically shaped; the
boot carpet is edged and lifts out easily for cleaning. A pull down hand-hold is
provided in the boot lid and an emergency interior escape release is also
fitted. The rear seat folds 60/40 but the opening from the boot into the cabin
is quite limited.
The instruments and controls are clear,
well-marked and straightforward in use. Steering wheel controls are provided for
cruise control and operation of the sound system. The heater and air-conditioner
are effective but we found that, after a short stop with the car turned off, the
air from the vents was much warmer than ambient.
A large, flat-lidded compartment is provided in
the middle of the dashboard – presumably, an LCD display is placed there in
other models. It looks a bit odd but the compartment is deeper than it first
looks and actually proves to be quite useful. One of the few indications of the
car’s price can be found in the lidded bin in the centre console – the lower lid
is flimsy and falls into place with a clatter. Side and front airbags and
traction control (not stability control) are fitted to this model.
Build quality looked fine – a close inspection
showed no problems with the paint or panel margins and the doors shut very well.
The body design gives good all-round vision – even for smaller people.
In a mix of country and city driving we achieved a
good 9.3 litres/100km – exactly the same as the official government test. As a
quick comparison, the Mitsubishi 380 we had over the same period, which
travelled much the same mix of kilometres, achieved fuel economy some 30 per
The Epica CDX 2.5 is not perfect – and we’d
certainly like to see a running change to improve the auto trans calibration –
but for someone who wants a roomy car that’s not high priced, is fuel-efficient
for its size and is quite comfortable, we think it deserves a close look.
Epica CDX 2.5 was provided for this story by Holden.