Vauxhall Maloo

This inimitable Aussie is a lot of fun, but is it worth the price tag?

Engine: 6.2-litre V8 normally aspirated petrol

Transmission: six-speed automatic

Power: 431PS at 6,000rpm

Torque: 550Nm at 4,600rpm

Fuel consumption (combined cycle): 21mpg

CO2 emissions: 320g/km

Top speed: 155mph (artificially limited)

Acceleration (0-60 mph): 4.9 seconds

Price: £51,500

For better or worse, there really is nothing quite like the Vauxhall Maloo. It comes originally from Vauxhall’s Australian sister company in the General Motors empire, Holden, and is the latest in a series of rebadged high-performance cars from that source to arrive in the UK. First, there was the 2004 Monaro, which looked a bit like a beefed up coupé version of the old Opel/Vauxhall Omega. That was followed in 2007 by the VXR8, which had a spoilered-up saloon body, but otherwise followed the same recipe as the Monaro – the big, roomy body of a traditional full-sized Australian car combined with the character and thrilling power of a US-sourced “small-block” GM V8, a base engine that enjoys a terrific pedigree, and also turns up in the Chevrolet Corvette.

Now the Maloo offers a similar mix but with a highly unusual twist; it uses a two-door saloon-derived pick-up body, a car type that Australians call a utility vehicle - or ute for short. That alone means it stands out from the crowd even more than its attention-seeking predecessors. My test car was also a very vivid shade of yellow, which, by bizarre coincidence, recalled the colour scheme usually applied to one of the few other car-derived pick-up trucks offered for sale in the UK in recent years, the Skoda Felicia Fun – although the similarities end there.

And in the unlikely event that you don’t see the Maloo coming, you will probably hear it; the experience of driving it will be instantly familiar to anyone who has spent time with the Monaro or VXR8, and revolves mainly around the power, performance and, above all, sound, of the V8 engine which rumbles and roars in the traditional manner when extended. And as in the case of the Monaro and the VXR8, there’s a mild surprise, which is that while the Maloo doesn’t match the sophistication of most fast European cars, it’s nothing like as rough and ready as you might expect – either to drive or to sit in. And how does the Maloo do as a pick-up? Well it’s pretty unlikely that anyone is going to use one as a serious load-carrier, but the payload bay is generously proportioned and has a nicely designed and well finished lid, so it is perfectly usable.

The snags? Well fuel consumption and emissions are much higher than those of even some of the most powerful European cars, but a bigger problem is the Maloo’s price. When Vauxhall was able to offer early Monaros in the UK for less than £30,000 they represented something of a bargain, but a strong Australian dollar means that the Maloo now sells for more than £50,000. That puts it up against some pretty sophisticated European cars and makes it a lot harder to justify – although it is an awful lot of fun.