New models - Holden - Combo
First drive: Combo carries on
Holden launches its new generation Combo load hauler with a bigger engine and more standard equipment
1 Oct 2002
By JUSTIN LACY
WHEN is the Holden Barina not a Barina? When it's a Holden Combo.
But just what is a Holden Combo I hear you say well it's a Barina-based light commercial van. You may not know the name, but chances are if you've spent any time in inner city Sydney or Melbourne, you will definitely have seen one.
Since it arrived in early 1996, the Combo has been a popular choice among small business owners and delivery people who need larger than average cargo carrying capacity, but who don't want the size hassles or cost of a traditional van or commercial vehicle.
Holden has now introduced an all-new Combo, the first completely new model in over six years and one that is now based on the current XC Barina.
The previous model was derived from the SB Barina, sharing its front styling and mechanicals, but using a unique over-sized box-like van rear end.
The new Combo features a monocab design, which helps it to keep pace with its main rival the Citroen Berlingo, as well as a larger and more powerful engine and increased carrying capacity over the model it replaces.
On sale from the second week of October, pricing for the Combo is up $720 on the old model to $17,490, although you would have to say it still represents value for money given the previous model was priced at $17,500 for the first five years it was on sale in Australia - and it was not equipped with power steering, among other features, as standard.
Also, despite the four per cent increase, the Combo remains cheaper than the Berlingo, which retails for $18,120, although the Citroen van does have the advantage of standard air-conditioning, which costs an extra $1990 on the Combo, taking its comparable price to $19,480 - a premium of $1360.
The Combo's main drawcard lies with its 64kW 1.6-litre engine, which replaces the 1.4-litre unit in the SB Combo, while the Berlingo still makes do with a 1.4-litre engine.
The 64kW maximum power output is produced at 5400rpm, while peak torque of 133Nm is on tap from 3000rpm. Compared to the old engine those figures represent a nominal 4kW increase, accompanied by a more significant and substantial 19Nm torque improvement that also happens to occur at lower revs (down from 3400rpm).
The XC Combo is longer than its predecessor with an increased wheelbase, but marginally narrower and lower. Payload length, width, height and therefore volume have all been reduced as a result of the monocab design, but payload weight has been increased by 200kg to 745kg courtesy of the new rear suspension set-up.
The old single leaf spring arrangement has been replaced by a torsion beam system with trailing arms and coil springs - as fitted to the Barina - although certain strengthening modifications have been made over and above the standard Barina to cope with the payload requirements, such as heavy duty springs, the addition of an anti-roll bar and higher load rating tyres (90T instead of 86H).
Other design improvements that accompany the one-box monocab body include a sliding side door, which enables kerbside access to the cargo area, as well as flush body sides - the previous model was wider across the cargo area than it was at the front cabin section.
The new Combo also picks up plenty of standard XC Barina equipment to raise the bar over its predecessor, including electric power steering, dual front airbags, steering wheel height adjustment, 14-inch wheels and tyres, CD player, tachometer, seatbelt force limiters, map lights and additional storage compartments.
A drawer has been fitted under the passenger's seat, while there is also a tray adjacent to the driver's seat and storage space behind both seats. The storage shelf that utilises the extra headroom in the cabin has been retained in the new model, while a fixed cargo barrier helps to protect occupants from the load area.
A five-speed manual remains the only transmission choice, while exterior paint colour options are now white and silver instead of white and red, as was previously the case.
Holden has forecast sales of 1000 Combos over the next 12 months, which equates to more than five per cent of the total van market.
Interestingly, that's around the same figure achieved for total light van - Combo, Berlingo and Suzuki Carry - sales in 2001, as well as a return to volumes achieved by the Combo in its first few years on the market.
From its launch in 1996 through until the end of 1998, Combo sales averaged 1122 units per year, although in the last two years the number has dropped to the low-mid 400-unit region.
At the same time the Berlingo has become increasingly popular with light commercial van buyers to the point where it is outselling its Holden rival on year-to-date figures for 2002 - 296 units to 146 units - although Combo supply had all but dried up in the months leading up to the XC model's release.
XC Combo $17,490 Air conditioning $1990
Metallic paint $240
DRIVE IMPRESSIONS:GIVEN that the Combo does not represent your typical new model release, Holden came up with a novel approach to the launch drive program.
Along with a few hours behind the wheel negotiating Sydney's inner city streets and freeways - representing the normal working environment of light commercial vans - the fleet of Combos were put to good use transporting and delivering appliances and furniture to Youth off the Streets, one of six "Combo charities" supported by Holden.
While power and torque have improved courtesy of the bigger capacity 1.6-litre engine, the XC Combo needs every extra kilowatt and Newton-metre to combat the extra 192kg it has put on over the outgoing model.
The engine needs to be kept above 3000rpm and worked relatively hard to deliver adequate performance - it is certainly not the type of vehicle where you can trundle around with few revs onboard or change up early, particularly if you want to keep up with the cut and thrust nature of city traffic.
Yet despite the bigger - and no doubt thirstier - engine and extra weight, Holden has somehow managed to improve the Combo's fuel consumption on both city and highway cycles.
With tests performed to the passenger car AS2877 standard, the XC Combo uses 1.3 less litres per 100km on the city cycle (now 7.2 L/100km), along with a 0.6-litre improvement (now 5.8 L/100km) on the highway cycle.
The only factor that has changed in the mix is the final drive ratio, which has been lowered from 4.29:1 to 3.94:1 (gear ratios remain the same) - the overall effect of which has been to give the Combo a lower engine speed for the same road speed and therefore better fuel economy and quieter running as a result.
Good for emissions and a higher potential top speed sure, but it reduces the vehicle's capacity to get off the mark and cope with pulling heavy loads.
The Combo's overall roads manners have improved significantly though, with the rear suspension changes, longer wheelbase and improved torsional rigidity of the body structure aiding the vehicle's onroad performance.
Even without a load on there is less creaking and groaning coming from the load area, while it now also rides bumps more competently and comfortably.
Add in better equipment levels and a greater load carrying capacity, and the Combo is now a more practical and flexible proposition for those needing the services of a light commercial van.
It is a much better match for the current Berlingo than it was previously, although Citroen have now just showed a facelifted version of that model at the Paris motor show, one that will go on sale here in January 2003.
So, just like the large car segment that's offering new Falcon, Commodore and Camry models, there is also plenty of new metal to tempt buyers in the niche of a niche that is the light van sector.
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