Car reviews - HSV - Maloo - range
More involving behind the wheel than sedan and wagon, blurs the boundary between workhorse and two-seat sportscar, clever interior storage
Room for improvement
Bump-steer in spades, entry level Maloo cabin has too much in common with regular Commodore, soft-tonneau cover on base model
14 Jun 2013
By BARRY PARK
AS WE’VE stated, the Maloo range starts from the same price point as before despite Holden stripping thousands of dollars off its ute range, and higher-end HSVs becoming more affordable.
Therefore, the entry-level Maloo carries about a $10,000 premium over the most expensive Holden-badged ute, the 6.0-litre, 270kW/517Nm SS V Redline.
Note, however, that if you ask for the auto version of that car, the power drops to 260kW to account for the fuel-saving cylinder deactivation system fitted to two-pedal drivetrains.
By comparison, the entry-level Maloo gains a 6.2-litre V8 producing 317kW and 550Nm.
The only fair dinkum competition to the HSV is Ford’s performance arm, FPV.
It sells two versions of its panda-eyed ute, the first fitted with a whooshing 310kW/565Nm turbocharged 4.0-litre six-cylinder engine and costing from $55,990, and the second with a silky supercharged 5.0-litre engine delivering 315kW/545Nm and costing only $52,990 for both the auto and manual versions.
Put a Maloo side-by-side with the most expensive of the Holden ute range, and apart from the lairy HSV-styled nose and more dramatic rear-end, from a side-on profile you’d be hard-pressed to pick between the two.
This is because the entry-level Maloo is a stripped-down version of the real show pony of the HSV-badged ute range, the $68,290 Maloo R8 that also gets more poke – 325kW of power and 550Nm of torque.
Compare both the FPV and HSV with German-engineered horsepower, and the locally made bang for bucks under the HSV’s aluminium bonnet, and the FPV’s steel one for that matter, is cheap.
And where the cheapest Maloo looks like a tricked-up Holden, the R8 looks like a true member of the HSV range, adding a more aggressive rear diffuser and a hard tonneau cover.
Incidentally, the base version’s soft tonneau cover is there because HSV says some owners will occasionally want to put something big into the back of the car.
Once again, there’s daylight between the Commodore Ute’s interior and the more expensive R8, but not so much between the entry-level Maloo and the Holden-badged version.
The cheaper Commodore SS V Redline is much more richly equipped than the entry-level Maloo.
Still, the Maloo gets all the HSV theatre, such as the squared-off steering wheel, bespoke 20-inch alloy wheels, heavily bolstered cloth sports seats, the extra instrument dials that really only eat into valuable small-item storage space, a bespoke instrument cluster, selectable sports mode and the faux carbonfibre inserts around the dash.
There’s also a reversing camera with parking sensors – important when you consider the aerodynamic “sailplane” that obstructs rearward vision behind the cabin, particularly in the R8 – an electric parking brake that automatically holds the Maloo range steady on hills, and Holden’s self-parking feature
You also get keyless start, and stepping over to a six-speed automatic transmission to replace the six-speed manual is only a $2000 option.
The more expensive R8 gets closer to the SS V Redline’s level of kit, such as leather trim on the electrically adjustable, HSV-bespoke “race” seats, a head-up display, a release button for the heavily sculpted hard tonneau cover, a much deeper sailplane extending off the rear of the cabin, lane departure warning, a blind-spot monitor that flashes in the mirror if the car behind is out of sight, and a pre-crash warning system that flashes up an alarm if you’re too close to the car in front.
The other noticeable difference is the “EDI” system, the electronic driver interface that flashes up all sorts of performance-related information on the Maloo’s seven-inch colour screen high on the centre console.
It is fully functioning in the R8, but push the icon on the base model Maloo’s touchscreen and all that comes up is a “EDI option not fitted” message. There’s another word that starts with “M” and finishes with “ongrels” that feels appropriate at this point.
In this light, the almost $10,000 step up to the Maloo R8 makes much more sense if you can afford it. Unfortunately, the $10,000 step down from the base Maloo to the top-spec Holden Ute also seems more rewarding.
We drove both Maloo utes back-to-back on the road, as well as on the track.
Driven like nana’s pride and joy, both HSV utes are pussycats.
Acceleration from the big pushrod 6.2-litre V8 is smooth and linear under light acceleration, and accompanied by a low growl from the exhausts but very little induction from under the bonnet.
It’s difficult to feel the kilowatt deficit of the base-model Maloo compared with the more powerful R8. Both engines produce more than enough audible growl to turn a grin up to stupid, and lay power down thickly through the wider rear wheels with repeated wheel-chirping impunity.
The automatic transmission is intelligent enough, shifting smoothly and without fuss as speeds, but there are no steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters to make the drive even more of an experience.
The better choice is the six-speed manual. The previous “E3” series HSVs were renowned for their heavy, off centre-sprung clutch pedals that made the slog through heavy traffic much more of a chore than it needed to be.
However, the Gen-F range’s clutch pedal is now a lot more user-friendly, losing the harsh pop of the old unit but without losing feel or making it less, well, manly.
The short-throw gear shifter is a pleasure to work with.
One criticism, if we may, is a big pedal offset between the brake and clutch. For the traditional heel-toe enthusiast, it’s a difficult adjustment, and for the left-foot braker behind the wheel of the auto, it’s not ideal.
You hear the words “sedan-like” bandied about a fair bit when conversation revolves around the Holden ute’s on-road performance. It applies equally to the Maloo – at low speeds.
The ride on both utes is firm, not harsh, and more like a sedan than a workhorse that may someday need to carry a load of cement bags in the plastic-lined tub.
Things change, though, when you turn up the wick. Yes, there’s still that sedan-like handling at high speed, but the Maloo’s load-carrying suspension set-up introduces a new element to the equation – bump steer.
On the track, the Maloo turns in and grips better than before thanks to its softer springs and stiffer anti-roll bar compared with the previous-generation ute, but hit a mid-corner bump with the throttle buried deep into the firewall and the rear end will tuck, rebound and step out, requiring a bit of throttle modulation.
It’s never dangerous, as the Maloo’s electronic aids step in early to scoop things up, but it does require a higher degree of driver involvement – and anticipation – than the sedan version.
The HSV range gains all the safety updates that its Holden Commodore donor car did, including a wider use of ultra high-strength steels that have helped the range achieve an even higher five-star crash rating than before.
The standard airbag count remains at six, just like it did before. The HSV range’s electronic stability control system, though, can switch between touring and sport, and even touring, sport and track modes, that allow the driver to dial down the stability control system’s intervention.
HSV’s range is covered by a three-year, 100,000km warranty. The car-maker also offers three years of fixed-price servicing (or 63,000km of travel) capped at $220 a visit to the workshop. Of course, that all depends on how often and hard you drive, and don’t drive, the car.
HSV’s Maloo ute extends the two-seat sports car theme beyond Holden’s traditional tradie fare.
However, the base-model Maloo seems a little undercooked compared with Holden’s value-packed by comparison, top-of-the-line SS V Redline ute.
The sweet one, then, is the more expensive Maloo R8, which looks outrageous, is equipped more like a German performance car, and looks like nothing else out on the road.
If you just want one, make it your pick.
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