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Holden Rodeo V6 Test

The 3.6-litre Global V6 finds its way into the Rodeo

By Michael Knowling

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At a glance...

  • Great value
  • Poor ride
  • Specially tuned Global V6 performs well
  • Grab the space cab or 4 x 4 version for a real advantage over the Holden one tonner
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Initially, Holden’s new Global V6 version of Rodeo LX single cab 4 x 2 left us disappointed. Why, we wondered, would anyone buy the Rodeo over the Holden one tonner which uses the same engine (in higher spec) and has a similar load carrying capacity? The Rodeo rides f-a-r worse (the rear-end is so stiff that small bumps cause the seatbelt to lock across your chest!), it handles worse, it’s noisier and has less equipment. And, in 4 x 2 guise, it has no greater off-road potential than the jacked-up one tonner.

So why on earth would anyone buy this thing?

Well, the answer is price. At AUD$23,490, the Rodeo V6 single cab is almost ten thousand dollars cheaper than the Holden one tonner – so it deserves to be looked at in a very different light...

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From the start of ‘06, the Rodeo’s optional 3.5-litre V6 is replaced by a specially tuned version of the 3.6-litre Global V6 (as found in the VZ Commodore range). While the previous 3.5 engine generated 280Nm/147kW, the new engine puts out a substantial 313Nm at 2800 rpm and 157kW at a relatively low 5300 rpm. It’s not quite as powerful as the one tonner spec engine but Holden has done an effective job tuning it to deliver improved low rpm torque.

In some respects, the relatively low power Rodeo-spec V6 is more pleasant than the full power version. With good low-down torque and peak power so much more accessible (at 5300 rpm instead of 6000 rpm) there’s no need to rev the engine to the point where it sounds thrashy and coarse. Yes, the 3.6-litre V6 is still a gravelly-sounding engine but you don't need to experience the high rpm unpleasantness of other models.

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Coupled to a relatively short geared five-speed manual gearbox, the Rodeo V6 is flexible in urban/city driving and is willing to accelerate in almost all rpm/gear/road speed combinations. The only exception is when you try to use top gear at 60 km/h – the engine will j-u-s-t cope if you’re maintaining constant speed but a down-change is needed if you want to accelerate.

During our test, the V6 Rodeo returned just over 13 litres per 100km fuel consumption – pretty decent given the extremely hot conditions and that the air conditioning was run almost non-stop. Interestingly, the engine also refused to detonate on normal unleaded fuel – its 9.6:1 compression ratio (reduced from 10.2:1 in the one tonner) is part of the reason.

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With a kerb weight of 1446kg and a Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) rating of 2800kg, the Rodeo single cab 4 x 2 V6 can safely cope with a 1300+ kilogram payload. We didn’t test this to its limit but we can vouch that it performs very comfortably with a couple of hefty tree trunks and a load of shrubbery strapped onto the tray. The tray is generously sized, the rear and side panels are easily swung down and there are plenty of tie-downs.

Interestingly, the Rodeo’s ride is massively improved when there’s some weight over the rear axle. Without a load, the leaf sprung live axle rear jumps and jars almost unbearably. But strap down a load and the ride is much more balanced with the torsion sprung front-end. Certainly, you’d want to be using the Rodeo for regular load-lugging to put up with its stiff rear suspension.

Compared to its four-cylinder petrol and turbo diesel 4 x 2 stablemates, the Rodeo V6 has the added advantage of bigger brakes. The V6 scores the same 280mm front discs and 295mm rear drums as found in the 4 x 4 models. However, during our test, the rears were prone to locking in hard brake applications – ABS is an AUD$1000 option.

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Despite riding on 225/75 15 Bridgestone Dueler A/T commercial-grade tyres, the Rodeo 4 x 2 is quite pleasant to steer. There isn’t the steering response achieved with low-profile rubber but the power-assisted rack and pinion setup is consistently well weighted and is accurate enough to avoid corrections during cornering. The overly stiff rear suspension is unsettling for the driver when pushing through corners but, thankfully, most cornering loads are channelled through the front wheels and – as a result – the Rodeo is biased toward understeer.

The Rodeo is available in a range of body configurations - single cab, space cab, crew cab, ute body and cab chassis. In the single cab version we were constantly caught out in situations that required some in-cabin storage – for a couple of thousand dollars extra we would gladly buy the space cab version which sacrifices some tray area for storage behind the seats.

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In LX trim, the Rodeo single cab has a basic but liveable interior. The seats are a tad firm (especially when combined with the stiff rear suspension) and don’t bother looking for vanity mirrors, a trip computer or variable intermittent wipers. But you do get power windows, air conditioning, a single CD/tuner (which sounds pretty awful) and dual airbags. The floor is also covered in ‘hose off’ vinyl instead of carpet.

The V6 Rodeo has an elevated stance which provides a good view of the road ahead and imposes on those people driving mere sedans and wagons. The Rodeo also has flared wheel arches which, in LX guise, aren’t colour coded. The same goes for the mirrors, door handles and bumper. The build quality of our test Rodeo was well up to standard (especially given the price) and the widespread use of galvanised panels should ensure the body is durable.

So what to make of this vehicle?

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Well, as much as we’d prefer the Holden one tonner over this particular Rodeo model, it’s important to acknowledge its major price advantage. For many buyers the comparison ends here. But it is also important to realise that the Rodeo is available in many other configurations that give it a definite advantage over the one tonner – you get a choice of space cab, crew cab chassis as well as 4 x 4.

Against rivals from other manufacturers, the Rodeo V6 shapes up as very good value. The single cab Rodeo V6 is cheaper than the comparable Toyota Hilux and Nissan Navara (and, in the case of the Hilux, air conditioning is an extra cost option). It’s no benchmark, but if you want a bargain commercial vehicle, they don’t get any cheaper than this.

The Rodeo V6 single cab chassis was provided for this test by Holden Australia.

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