1993 Holden Calais VP 3.8L V6 from Australia and New Zealand
A decent cheap car, but with the emphasis on cheap
Power steering system prone to leaking and creaking.
Right low beam stopped working.
Several electric parts not working (back left power window, electric mirror).
Seat belts have problems retracting.
The radiator nearly crumbled to bits.
One rear wheel is off-camber.
The Calais is a decent car for the money, but that amount is not a lot nowadays.
First, the good news. Calais are effectively Commodores in a nicer outfit, meaning you get the same and more in terms of comfort for a marginal price increase.
For an old car, the climate control works well, the seats are decently comfortable and it is quite reliable. The engines are quite tough in these cars, and provided the battery is fine, the car will always start, even on cold days.
Now, the bad news. Calais weigh at least 70kg more than the standard Commodores (1,420kg kerb weight). It certainly feels like a porker, and despite the decent engine, it suffers in terms of performance quite badly.
Mashing the accelerator will get a good response, but then fuel consumption becomes a big issue. Mine averages 12L/100km on a good day, and this figure skyrockets if you try to have any fun or accelerate at a decent pace. The performance to fuel consumption ratio is poor.
The build quality isn't terrible considering the car is twenty years old, but the issues are piling up very fast now. Electrical gremlins like lights, windows, mirrors and dash board indicators are common. Body panels outside are not very tough and panels inside squeak a fair bit (a lot if you run into a slightly rough patch).
The steering of this car feels quite light, and at low speeds it can really belie the size of the Calais. When pressed though, body roll easily occurs to an unsettling degree. At highway speeds the car can feel quite floaty at times. These cars are barge like in size, and you will feel this through the handling.
Safety is a genuine issue now. VN to VP Commodores were known to have average safety ratings, and time has not helped. The seat belts often have trouble adjusting. The latest UCSR rating puts the VP cars at ONE STAR. Please don't use these to teach your kids.
Commodores from the early 90s have a distinct appearance, and the Calais provides a nice upgrade from the basic model. However they are highly dated now, and don't offer much in terms of being a "classic." If you want a low cost vehicle, just spend a little bit more and get something nicer and safer. It will be worth every cent.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know
Review Date: 31st July, 2013
I never knew the Calais was ever available with a manual transmission.
Well now I feel silly for forgetting to mention this, but my car had a transmission swap (to a Borg Warner T5, the manual box used on Commodores). It was done by a family member when he had it (he was not a Holden employee, but he's a knowledgeable enthusiast) and the car seems to have benefited a bit (average l/100km dropped 1.1 litres since I got it).
Borg Warners are good transmissions for their age and shift rather nicely. The only reason I'm having issues is due to slightly low transmission fluid. 5th gear is a wee bit tall and 1st is a bit short, but all the others are perfectly fine.