Style versus Substance

Holden’s Colorado 2WD comes under the spotlight

The launch of a totally new range of products in the light commercial world happens somewhat infrequently. It’s the nature of the beast that, while cars are revamped and replaced on a relatively regular basis, change for change sake is slower coming for the load carrying fraternity.

Holden’s Colorado launched in June and Delivery Magazine has been taking a close look at how the 2WD fulfills its role when it comes to looks and practicality.

Whereas new cars can be sold on glitz and glamour with a suitable amount of rhetoric, light commercials, like their big brothers, have to fulfill a role in business. Some do it better than others, but all have to be capable of earning their living.

Holden launched the Colorado range with a massively expensive TV commercial showing a ute within a building site driven far faster around working plant and equipment than could be condoned in any worksite.

In a short 45-second segment, Holden managed to display dangerous driving, dangerous vehicle recovery and a totalCARS_VANS_Holden-Colorado_P1 misunderstanding of vehicle ability in off-road activity.

The vision caused a howl of protest among off-road driving experts and industry driver trainers as to the dangerous antics of the driver. The damage to the brand was compounded by the shots of the driver coupling a chain to the rear of a bogged light truck and then seemingly snatching the stricken vehicle out of the mud. As the levels of complaint increased, the ad was eventually withdrawn and reworked with much of the offending footage removed.

What the TV ad showed, from a management perspective, was that marketing and reality were about as far apart as possible when it came to displaying the advantages of the vehicle. But, unfortunately for Holden, it appears that the marketing demand for an overly visual product has held sway over a commonsense attitude of engineers when it comes to the actual on-road specification, especially for the 2WD versions.

Delivery Magazine has been driving the 2WD version of the Colorado. In single cab-chassis form with a full-length tray on the back, the overall appearance from a marketing perspective is great. It stands high off the ground, looks as though it can climb Mount Everest and dwarfs a traditional 4×2 ute of a decade ago. However, is it practical for work? Unfortunately, no – and it’s all down to what Holden calls “High Ride”.

By running the rear leaf springs over the top of the rear axle, the ride height is ridiculously high for a vehicle that is not intended to travel off-road.

What makes it worse, is the way the tray has to be mounted, with spacers of 300 mm filling the void above the chassis before the tray can be fitted. Notwithstanding its height off the road, it’s a good-sized tray with an overall length of 2,400 mm and an overall width of 1,780 mm.

This result is undoubtedly a demand from the marketing department that can justify its actions by some consumer survey of hoons and non-users of commercial vehicles. The need to look “Macho” has resulted in the load height of the tray being 1,060 mm from the road. It’s of no consequence when photographing the ute for a brochure, but it’s a significant disadvantage for anyone who has to load it with anything bulky and heavy.

We thought perhaps we might have been a little harsh in our judgment, but our views were soon reinforced by the crew at our local rural supplies centre, all of whom looked at the load height of the tray and voiced their disapproval. CARS_VANS_Holden-Colorado_3

There is no practical reason to the ute being configured in this way. It all comes down to the perception by marketers that it’s more important to look as though it can do the job, rather than actually being able to do the job.

In single-cab 4×2 style, the Colorado ute comes in two spec options: the DX and LX.

The DX features a 2.5-litre diesel, against the LX, which enjoys increased capacity to 2.8 litres. Transmission options for the DX are for a five-speed manual only, but a move to LX brings the choice of the same manual plus a six-speed automatic transmission. Towing capacities are 3,000 kg for DX and 3,500 kg for the LX, and a limited slip is standard fitment on both models.

There’s a variance, albeit slight, in fuel efficiency, with the standard DX manual 4×2 returning 7.9 l/100 km, against the manual LX at 8.1 l/100 km and the six-speed auto at 8.9 l/100 km. Emissions levels are 218 g/km of CO2 for both manual gearbox versions, and 245 g/km for the auto.

So, if we are appearing to be overly harsh in our initial comments, let’s look at what we like about the new Colorado 4×2.

Firstly the styling. It’s a meaty looking ute with strong design lines and a spacious cabin. Easy to access, the seats are comfortable and easy to adjust. Steering control is positive – thanks to the power-assisted rack and pinion unit – and ride comfort, even when unladen, shows the independent double wishbone and coil sprung suspension on the front is well matched to the leaf sprung rear.

Bluetooth connectivity is standard and matching your mobile phone to the system is easily accomplished, without reading the manual, in just a couple of minutes. The standard stereo system offers good sound clarity, and for those with higher inclinations to sound sources, the system can connect to either a USB or iPod.

Our test vehicle was the LX with 2.8-litre engine and six-speed automatic transmission. There’s an onboard trip computer, and, for those running at freeway speeds, we found that 8.6-9.2 l/100 km was an easily achievable set of figures. The trip computer also monitors average speed, distance to empty, fuel used and external temperatures.

Moving up to the 2.8-litre brings with it the option of cruise control, a leather wrapped steering wheel, which has a good chunky feel to it, carpet floor trim (versus vinyl flooring), multi-function steering wheel controls, power mirrors and windows, front bucket seats (versus a split front bench seat in the DX), and a four-way adjustable driver’s seat. CARS_VANS_Holden-Colorado_1

It is a good feature to see safety standards common between both the DX and LX models. Included in this spec are full-length curtain airbags, front SRS airbags for driver and passenger, electronic stability control, anti-loch braking with electronic brake force distribution, front seat pre-tensioners and full-length side-impact protection bars in the door interiors. Traction control is also standard.

The Colorado design results from a joint venture between General Motors and Isuzu Ute in Thailand. Sharing the same cab structure, and similar chassis and suspension construction, the major differences come in the form of the engine and transmissions.

Colorado and D-Max are built in two distinctly different factories in Thailand. The VM Motori designed engines used in the Colorado come from a third factory operated by GM, whereas the D-Max uses Isuzu’s highly regarded 3.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel.

As the entry-level model, the DX with the 2.5-litre engine offers maximum power of 110 kW produced at 3,800 rpm, and peak torque output of 350 Nm rated at 2,000 rpm. The 2.8-litre, four-cylinder diesel offers 132 kW and 440 Nm in the manual, and 470 Nm with the auto, all at identical rpm levels to the 2.5-litre.

There’s obviously been a lot of work done on noise insulation and sound intrusion from the engine, and wind noise is well controlled. The standard headlamps are very impressive on country road performance, but it pays to dim down the dashboard lights to prevent annoying reflections from the rear window coming back at the driver.

Colorado provides a good overall package, and with a five-star ANCAP rating for the crew-cab version already confirmed, the elevation of safety levels in utes is something we can now look forward to for all contenders in the future.

The standard service intervals are at 15,000 km periods, and capped service pricing is also available.

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