14 May 2001
Despite its name the Holden Apollo was built by
Toyota at its Melbourne factories, not by Holden. It was the
result of a joint venture between the companies that made
sense at the time, but which quietly fizzled out in the mid
Apollo is a Toyota Camry with styling
changes and some variations of standard features. It was
less successful on the new-car market than the Toyota
original and for a while sold for lower prices as a used
car. As the two models have aged prices have come to depend
more on condition than which badge is attached, but Toyotas
are still our preferred choice.
As an Australian built car the Apollo had
changes made to its suspension and steering to improve road
feel and toughen it up to suit the harshness of Australian
bush driving. Itís light and easy to drive in the suburbs
and being smaller than full-sized family cars is simpler to
park in tight spots.
Apollo was a small-medium car in its
earliest days, but from the new model of March 1993 was only
one size down on the big Holden Commodore (which in turn had
a clone sold as the Toyota Lexcen). The Apollo/Camry
actually has a larger boot and a better centre-rear seat
than the Commodore because of the space efficiency of
Apollo is sold as either a four-door sedan
or a five-door station wagon. As mentioned, the sedan has an
excellent boot, but the load area of the wagon is spoiled by
the intrusion of the wheel arches. If child safety seats are
installed the wagonís luggage area is compromised by their
upper locating straps. The Commodore/Lexcen wagon does it
Engines were all four-cylinder units from
the carís August 1989 introduction until the larger body
of March 1993. The early fours had a capacity of 2.0 litres,
those from March 1993, 2.2 litres. Also from 1993 a
3.0-litre V6 became an option.
Surprisingly the Apollo in its V6 form was
heavier than the new Commodore of the era so is noticeably
down on performance.
The four-cylinder can be bought with either
a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission.
The V6 is sold only with the automatic. The self shifting
transmission is a particularly good one and most of its
changes are virtually imperceptible.
The manual gearbox is better than average
for that fitted to a large car with a transverse engine, but
it is inclined to baulk at times, making shifting rough -
occasionally shifts are met with a crunch.
Spares and repairs are available through two
of the biggest, most far flung dealer networks in Australia.
Prices are about average for cars in this class, perhaps a
bit lower than average at times. Shopping around between the
two marques can lead to some savings, but generally the
prices are about line ball.
Insurance costs are pretty reasonable, not a
surprise considering the generally conservative buyer at
which the cars are aimed. Again there may be some
differences in cost between the Holden and Toyota models,
but chances are they will be about the same.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
These Holdens were reliable cars from day one, not
suffering from the teething problems of the early Toyota
Camrys, these were sold for two years before the Holden.
Rust is unusual in the Apollo, but play it
safe by checking the lower body areas, especially the door
bottoms. Also look at the front and rear windscreen
surrounds and around the fuel filler cap. Rust generally
only gets into a car that's had poor quality crash repairs.
So if you do find rust itís smart to have a full crash
The engine should start almost as soon as
the key is turned and idle smoothly from startup.
Four-cylinder engines won't be quite as smooth as the sixes.
Carburettor engines can be forgiven for a rougher idle than
injected ones for the first 10 seconds or so.
Look for smoke from the exhaust pipe when
the engine is put under load after idling for a minute of
Fast gearchanges from third to second gear
that result in baulking and crunching probably mean the
gearbox is near the end of its life.
Drive at very low speed with the steering on
full lock in one direction and then the other and listen for
clicking sounds at the front wheels, indicating worn
constant velocity (CV) joints.
Check the suspension settles down again
within a second or so of going over bad bumps and doesn't
crash against the bumpstops on the initial hit.
Marque Publishing Company