Stuart Martin gets familiar with the Holden Colorado Super Cab:

There’s a lot to be said for 31.1 centimetres, or just over 12 inches – a foot goes a long way in a ute in the form of being the difference between the tray length of a Colorado dual cab (1484mm) and the 1795mm tray on the Colorado super cab.

It could well be the deciding factor between getting a trail bike on board with the tailgate up or down – although neither is getting a standard pallet in between the wheelarches, which are 1122mm apart. The rear tray does get four tie-down points but misses out on the handy 12-volt outlet fitted by some of its key opposition.

The LTZ isn’t absolute bargain-basement at $47,990 (plus $2200 for the auto and $550 for the test vehicle’s Holden_Colorado_9Oceanic Blue paintwork), but it benefits from a features list with items like climate control (single zone), power-adjustable driver’s seat, power adjustable and folding exterior mirrors, climate control, Bluetooth phone and music streaming (but no CD slot), USB and auxiliary inputs, touchscreen control for the infotainment and app-based (which means you pay for the app and the data use) satellite navigation, cruise control and an informative trip computer.

If you’re looking for some limited passenger-carrying capability in a ute-of-substance guise, this body style does make a good case for itself.

The rear “jump” seats are accessed through forward-opening half-doors that – although endowed with 175 fewer millimetres of leg room according to Holden – will suffice for short trips.Interestingly, some if these utes even have child seat anchor points for the jump seats, which would make for an uncomfortably upright journey for rugrats in the rear, but the Holden doesn’t have them, ruling out the smaller offspring for a ride in the rear.

The school run for bigger kids will want to be short, given the reduced legroom and absence of a 12-volt outlet (like a USB it can be considered life-alteringly vital for charging devices) but at least it’s a kid-carting option in a pinch.

Most will probably flip the seat cushions up and make use of the extra space for other gear.

The door set-up is similar to others in the class, requiring the front doors to be opened first, but the latch mechanisms in the Holden don’t feel as snug and secure a fit as others. It locks together with a looser clang than would perhaps be ideal and doesn’t clinch together with as reassuring a clunk as some others of this ilk.

Holden_Colorado_8It’s no shrinking violet either and at 5.3 metres long, 1.9m wide and 1.8m tall, it lays claim to 210mm of ground clearance and a tray that’s 466mm deep. At 2075kg (7kg lighter than the manual) it is also one of the heavier utes of the segment.

Powered by a 2.8-litre, double overhead cam, 16-valve common-rail four-cylinder, it’s a slightly quieter soundtrack than before but the thrummy four-cylinder still makes itself heard. In outright punch terms, the hefty Holden gets underway with 147kW at 3600rpm and with the auto it claims 500Nm (or 440Nm when teamed with a six-speed manual).

Fuel use is a claimed 8.9 litres per 100km for the auto (7.9 for the manual) from the 76-litre tank, but our time returned a figure just under 11 l/100km; on the lab-derived highway test, the gap is close – the manual claims 6.9 versus the auto’s 7.5.

On the city cycle, the auto is 11.3l/100km and the manual is claiming 9.5, but the payoff is the far-from-pleasant user-unfriendly manual gearbox – in the auto we had an average of 10.7 litres per 100km.

The peak figure is class leading but doesn’t feel it, seemingly needing to offer more of a spread across as wide a rev range as some of the competition; it’s not as flexible at low engine revs.

Our time was being devoted to giving an automatic version a workout, and while the torque curve might not spread quite as wide as some, if you keep the revs in the midrange there’s no shortage of shove to be had.

Making the most of the in-gear acceleration can be done with a genuine manual shift on offer from the auto – if you hit the redline it won’t simply slip up a gear if the driver is asking otherwise.

The auto’s ability to recognise the need for holding a gear in Drive on descent is also useful; Colorado has been playing catch-up since it launched in its latest full model change, but slowly it feels as though its getting to nearer to where it needs to be.

Not as quiet or refined as the class leaders, it makes up for that with a sharper pricetag.Holden_Colorado_1

Tilt-only adjustment for the leather-wrapped steering wheel (which delivers class average steering feel and weight for the driver) conspires with a limited range of electric seat adjustment to provide a driving position that passes muster but is on the high side.

An independent double-wishbone/coil front suspension has been tweaked for an improved ride and it has achieved some of its aims – fast dirt road work is more easily completed with a hint of increased body roll but nothing about which to complain.

The traditional leaf spring rear suspension doesn’t shirk a load either, in fact it relishes it – a tray full of heavy wet horse manure was more than enough to level the ride height as well as settle down the ride of the rear nicely.

The safety features list includes stability control (which can be switched off without fear of entering the scenery backwards), with hill descent and hill start assist and trailer sway control helping to keep things straight, although it still runs a front-disc/rear drum set-up and there’s no sign of automatic wipers, a rear diff lock (it does have a limited slip diff) or dusk sensing headlights, although the latter will turn themselves off once the key is out.

The Colorado is also part of the brand’s capped price servicing regime for its 15,000km/nine months service schedule, which starts from $349 for the first service, but can top out at over $1600 if you look at the 300,000km mark listed on the website.

Driven in isolation the improvements made to the Holden workhorse are apparent, but that doesn’t help it when viewed in light of its competition, some of which have raised the standards of the segment to car-like levels.

The Colorado fights valiantly, using price, punch and brawn to win over buyers, but it has its work cut out for it.

Cabin refinement and the availability of key safety features are among a number of facets that have been brought back into the buyer mindset with the arrival of the updated Ford Ranger, Nissan’s new Navara (which still has a cloud hanging over its rear coil spring suspension’s load-carrying ability), and Mazda’s inbound BT-50.

With the imminent arrival of the new Toyota Hilux to highten competition in the utility market, the Colorado could well get caught in the cross fire.

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