This car is roomy & comfortable to drive. The turbo diesel is gutsy & frugal. The car is excellent as a long-distance tourer or cruising, & I find it very relaxing to drive. The turbo lag at low revs takes a bit of getting used to, as does the light steering, but I soon adjusted, & they don't bother me.
Interior is well-laid out with all the buttons & switches in the right place. The steering wheel controls for cruise, radio etc are very easy to use. The seats are comfortable, & there is room for 5. The driver's seat has lumbar support & adjusts 8 ways. The steering wheel adjusts for both tilt & reach, so any driver should find a comfortable position. The boot is huge & practical.
Overall, I think it's a very under-rated car. The Epica (both diesel & petrol) is popular in fleets, so maybe the fleet managers know a lot more than we do! Sure, the technology in the Epica might be "old" in comparison to the latest whiz-bang techno-zip cars, but it works! I know it was rubbished when first released in 2007, but the 'EP' series, particularly with the diesel engine has been more favourably reviewed. The car seems to be screwed together properly & the doors give a reassuring 'thunk' when closing.
I can recommend this car to anyone looking for a spacious mid-size diesel car for under $26,000 drive-away. Same engine/transmission as the just-superseded Cruze, but offers much more space, & is cheaper to boot.
July 2013 update:
Owned this car for over 3 years, & it has performed faultlessly.
The car starts first time every time, & has not given me any headaches.
It's proven to be economical around the suburbs, averaging low 7lts/100kms, while on country runs it drops into the low 6's.
The diesel is a pearler on country roads & freeways (we have FREEways in Perth, not motorways that you have to pay for!) & ticks over at 1800 RPM at around 110kph; it has hill-flattening power & is well matched to the 6-speed auto.
Handling & comfort is very good with plenty of space for 3 full-size passengers, and 4 in a pinch.
I no longer notice the turbo lag or super-light steering at low speeds (the power assistance drops off as speed increases).
The car is standing up very well, with no signs of wear on any of the cabin surfaces.
Thinking about the car, I've come to realise just how damn good it is; the motoring journalists were not impressed with the car, considering it "boring", but then they didn't have to consider running & service costs, long-term reliability & every-day driving.
June 2014 update:
Owned this car for 4 years & 45,000km from new (& still own it!). The car has not given me any "surprises", it has been reliable, starting first time every time.
I am generally very happy with the Epica, though I have a few minor gripes (e.g. positioning of the air con button). It is a comfortable, spacious & very practical car. The diesel engine, mated to the smooth 6-speed auto, is a gem & comes into its own on freeways & open country roads, where the engine just ticks over at about 1700-1800 RPM at 110kph. I get excellent economy (even allowing for the premium on diesel) averaging in the low 7l/100km & that's with mainly suburban driving (I don't usually drive in heavy traffic or commute).
I have thought of getting a more "modern" car, but the Epica feels like a 'reliable friend' & I can't bring myself to sell it! The styling may be "bland", but it's easy to keep clean without all the folds & creases of most modern cars. It's a pity the motoring journalists didn't give the Epica a "fair go", because with long-term ownership it's proven to be a real gem, & a bargain to buy at the time to boot!
June 2015 update:
The Epica is comfortable & spacious - the styling is not everyone's "cup of tea", but the car has proven to be much more substantial than just the cosmetics.
I recently completed a 1,300km road trip & was very pleased with the performance of the Epica on the open road. At 110-120kph the diesel engine was just "ticking over" at 1800-2000 RPM, right in the 'sweet spot' for maximum torque, & cruised effortlessly with no loss of speed on hills & plenty of punch for overtaking. It returned an average of 7lts/100km, which was excellent considering the high cruising speeds.
The driver's seat proved to be very comfortable for the whole trip, & all the controls fell easily to hand, no doubt also due to my familiarity with the car. Because it has a large & practical boot, there was no problem fitting all the luggage in.
Overall, I was very happy with the overall open-road performance.