Holden Motors Australia, a subsidiary of General Motors in the US, has from time to time collaborated with other manufacturers to release vehicles under the Holden name. These may be referred to as rebadged, rebranded, or clones, as often they differ only in name or in slight finishing touches.
The Holden Apollo was one such vehicle, a rebranded Toyota Camry, which, interestingly, was also sold in Australia at the same time. While a few cosmetic changes differentiated the Apollo from the Camry, under the bonnet and in the cockpit are all legendary Toyota engine, gearbox, suspension, and controls.
The Holden Apollo first appeared in 1989 as a replacement for the flagging Carmina, but never really captured the driving public's attention. Still, underlying Toyota quality and fuel economy have made the Apollo's place secure in our driveways and on our roads. Through various iterations, including sedan and wagon models, the Holden Apollo was produced here in Australia from 1989 through 1996, after which it was replaced by the Vectra sedan.
The first-generation Apollo sported a 2.0L i4 petrol engine in both carburettor and fuel-injected [EFI] versions. The carburettor version only generated some 82kW while consuming about 7.6L/100km highway. High-end models came with the more powerful and more fuel-efficient EFI version generating 88kW and consuming just 6.8L/100km highway.
Eventually, the carburettor version was phased out, and by 1993, was replaced by a 2.2L i4 and 3.0L V6, both equipped with EFI and dual overhead cams. Fuel consumption for these newer engines stayed between 6.4 and 7.6L/100km, in spite of the increased engine size, and never rose above 7.6L/100km until the end of production in 1996.
Since the beginning, the Apollo 2.0L and 2.2L i4 engines were offered with a choice of four-speed automatic or five-speed manual gearboxes, mounted in either sedan or wagon packages. The 3.0L V6 engine was only offered in sedans with the four-speed automatic gearbox.
Standard Apollo models came with steel wheels and AM/FM radio. The sporty GS Apollo came with body stripes and red highlights, as well as a tachometer and upgraded AM/FM/cassette audio. By 1993, power steering, power locks, and the upgraded audio system were all standard. Rear disc brakes and antilock brakes were available as options.
Air conditioning was standard equipment almost since the beginning. By 1994, the GS included standard cruise control, power windows, and a driver's air bag. By 1995, rear disc brakes, wireless power locks, and engine immobiliser became standard on all models. A rear centre lap belt and cup holders were also added that year.
Perhaps the biggest competitor of the Holden Apollo was itself – that is, the Toyota Camry it was cloned from. Released side by side in the marketplace, most consumers preferred the Toyota nameplate, even though, for the most part, the Apollo and Camry were identical. While this may seem to be a case of mistaken identity, Holden Apollo vehicles were just as reliable and fuel efficient as the Toyota Camry, but don't hold the same value.
Possibly the only Subaru to exist without four-wheel drive, the Subaru Liberty sedans and wagons offered comfortable ride quality and more power, owing to turbocharged models. Unfortunately, more power came at the sacrifice of fuel consumption, as high as 8.5L/100km until 1993, after which Liberty got its consumption issues under control; even for the four-wheel drive models, it dropped as low as 6.6L/100km.
Even though the Mazda 626 2.5L V6 is smaller, it doesn't conserve as much fuel as expected, up to 8.5L/100km in some cases. The 626 did offer, according to some, more sophisticated styling and sportier handling.