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Car reviews - Holden - Nova - 5-dr hatch

Our Opinion

We like
Toyota reliability, durability and dependability, zippy, comfy, frugal and easy to live with, especially around town
Room for improvement
Mediocre handling and ride, anonymous styling

9 May 2003

THE 1980s were not a good time for Holden. Overweight, and lacking a good model range, the company was performing badly.

To purge the ills, it went through a drastic period of restructuring and rationalisation. The engine manufacturing operation was separated from the vehicle operation to become Holden Engine Company and the car company formed an alliance with Toyota (United Australian Automotive Industries) in order to share products and plug the gaps in the model range.

The uneasy marriage produced the "badge-engineered" Lexcen (Commodore), the Apollo (Camry) and the Nova (Corolla), none of which were even remotely as successful as the originals.

Although the basics were the same, there were enough cosmetic differences in the products to allow the companies to compete against one another in the marketplace.

The Nova was introduced in 1989, a slightly restyled Corolla with front-wheel drive and 1.6-litre engine. It was thrown into possibly the most fiercely contested segment of the market, against many makes with similar specifications.

It was available in four-door sedan or five-door hatch styles - Toyota retained exclusive use of the popular three-door hatch version - and a 1.4-litre, twin cam version was available for the fleet market.

The LF range was introduced in 1991. It was powered by the Australian-made Toyota twin-cam, 16-valve engine, available in 1.4-or 1.6-litre form, with carburettor or multi-point fuel- injection.

The model range starts with the SL with 1.4-litre carburettor engine standard or 1.6-litre (carburettor) optional, SLX sedan and hatch with 1.6-litre, fuel-injected engine and the top of the range SLE sedan or GS hatch with a 1.6-litre, fuel-injected engine.

Drive is through the front wheels via a five-speed manual or for most models an optional four-speed auto a three-speed auto was an option with the SL hatch.

Both autos have a lock-up torque converter for better fuel economy.

Suspension is independent all round through MacPherson struts and coil springs with the rear using two parallel lower arms for location.

Brakes are power-assisted discs at the front with drums on the rear of the SL and SLX. The SLE and GX have rear disc brakes.

Steering is rack and pinion with power assistance optional on the SLX sedan and hatch and standard on the SLE sedan and GS hatch.

The Nova is well appointed with all models above the SL having cloth trim, carpet, lumbar support adjustment on the front seats and tilt steering column adjustment. A tachometer is standard on SLE/GS and a rear screen wiper is standard on all hatches.

The rear seats have a 60/40 split backrest allowing the carriage of long loads. With the rear seat backs folded down the hatch offers a generous luggage area.

The Nova is a lively performer on the road, the 1.6-litre twin cam engine giving smooth performance and excellent economy.

The fuel-injected engines return better economy than their carburettor equivalents, as well as better performance.

With the 1.6-litre multi-point injected engine, expect up to 8.0L/100km around town with highway running giving around 6.0L/100km.

Ride and handling are good, the all independent suspension performing well under both smooth and off-road conditions.

In service, the Nova has the reliability expected of the long developed and well proven Corolla.

Toyota established the Corolla's reputation on fault-free service and low service costs. The Nova enjoys this heritage.

It is important to maintain the engine cooling system correctly by ensuring the correct coolant is used but otherwise there are no typical problems with the car.

The Nova is a sound investment in reliable family motoring as it owes its mechanical heritage to one of the best proven of all automotive designs, the Corolla.

The Nova has distinctive styling features and the back-up of the Holden dealer network, which will make it attractive to those loyal to the Holden name.

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