Dave Whyte reviews the latest Holden Colorado
Although we contentedly live in a global world, with almost all multi-national automakers present in our market, we do not necessarily benefit from access to the full range of products available from each marque on a worldwide basis.
With Holden looking to grow its market share purely on the basis of its imports, once the company ceases production of the Australian products, it may only be a matter of time before it includes the light commercial range already available under the Vauxhall and Opel badges in Europe as an option for the Australian market. Until the current scenario changes, Holden dealers have but one light commercial product in the form of the Colorado.
Over the past decade the typical application of a ute has switched emphasis from something that was used mainly for work and they have become more of a lifestyle vehicle. While most models are still capable of carrying or towing a decent load, the reality is that many will rarely see a hard day’s work. More often it will be the occasional trip to the tip or garden centre, or maybe towing the boat or caravan on the long weekend.
I can hear all the tradies out there crying foul at this, but in reality the tradies’ market only makes up a part of the overall ute sales numbers these days. This shift has been welcomed by the manufacturers, and many have adjusted their offerings to suit. Some, including Holden, have gone even further, and adapted the ute platform to accommodate the whole family, doing away with the rear tray entirely.
The Holden Colorado range offers five different model variants across the 4×2 and 4×4 ute and cab/chassis categories. In addition to the commercial range, there is also the seven-seat wagon, known as the Colorado 7. The different trim levels and the availability of a people-mover/SUV demonstrate how the Colorado is not simply designed as a work vehicle, though it does still retain many attributes that make it appealing to the workforce.
All models are powered by the 2.8-litre Duramax 2 diesel engine, which delivers 147 kW and up to 500 Nm of torque. However, this high torque output is only available with the six-speed automatic transmission, with the engine in the manual variants limited to 440 Nm.
To see just what the Colorado range has to offer, I took the keys to a 4×4 dual-cab ute with the six-speed auto transmission, for a week of work and play. The Colorado LTZ is the top-of-the-range offering, and comes with all the mod cons and comfort features you would expect from a flagship model. These include climate control, optional leather seats and a large touchscreen multimedia unit with Bluetooth connectivity. External features include a soft tonneau cover, polished alloy sports bar, and side steps, the latter of which are very necessary for those of us with young kids. While they weren’t really needed for adults to enter the cab, the floor height from the ground meant they were very handy for persons of a shorter stature.
On the safety front, the Colorado is fitted with driver, front passenger and curtain airbags, electronic stability control (ESC) and mounting points for child seats in the rear. The LTZ also has Projector HID headlights, front fog lights and LED lights at the rear, making nighttime vision very good.
The first thing I noticed about the Colorado, as is common among the current era of utes, was its sheer size. The new breed of utes have grown to be the size of a light truck, and while this does have some benefits in areas such as towing capacity and ground clearance, it can be a bit of a nuisance.
The height of the tub means it can be difficult to load or unload by hand. The top edge of the Colorado tub was at my chest height, and so anything that was sitting in the centre of the tub could only be removed by dropping the tailgate and climbing in, not exactly glamorous for a bloke of my size and shape.
Size is also a factor in visibility from the driver’s seat, though the Colorado didn’t seem to suffer too badly here. Forward vision is good from the high seating position, and large mirrors provide good sight down either side. The centre-mounted rear view mirror is good for watching the following traffic, but not so much for reversing in tight spots. With even an average parking space being a tight spot for a vehicle of this size, the rearward reversing camera is a very handy piece of kit. I found it especially helpful for hooking up a trailer, with the camera positioned directly over the tow ball.
The Duramax 2 engine seems a little rattly at idle, and engine noise is obvious at low speeds. Once up to highway speed though, it is barely noticeable with the engine ticking over at around 1700 rpm. This left plenty of reserve power for overtaking, and provided plenty of torque for pulling up hills without the need for a lower gear. I did find myself selecting manual mode a few times to maintain the right gear where the driveline wanted to go down a gear. The six-speed made very smooth gear shifts, loaded or empty, and provided for smooth acceleration. This is important if you plan to use the full 3.5-tonne towing capacity, as it reduces the shock through the coupling and chassis, and gives a better ride for whatever is on the trailer.
In lifestyle mode, with no load or weight on board, the Colorado ride was fairly standard for a four-wheel-drive – a little floaty on the humps and hollows but comfortable over the rough roads. There was no sign of wander in the steering or loss of traction though, giving a feeling of confidence and safety in all conditions. With a little weight on, and with about half a ton of concrete in the trailer, the ride was exceptional. There was no bouncing or bottoming out, and the Colorado felt rock solid on the road. This for me was where it really shone, with enough weight to iron out the bumps and plenty of power to keep it motivated.
I also took a few days driving the Colorado 7, the seven-seater wagon. This model shares the same driveline, interior treatment and front-end appearance as the ute, but with an extra two seats in place of the tray. The driving experience is very similar to the Colorado ute, which does have its drawbacks. The noise levels and ride quality are acceptable for a commercial vehicle, but for a dedicated family car I had expected a little more refinement. In reality, the seven-seater feels like a commercial vehicle to drive. Mind you, it also shares the performance and towing characteristics of the ute, so if you were looking for a family car to tow a horse float or similar, it could fit the bill nicely.
The Colorado may not be the most refined in its class, but it does put up a good show. With a huge towing capacity, plenty of comfort and safety features, and a strong driveline, it doesn’t leave a lot to be desired. As a crossover vehicle, it provides a great combination of strength, family friendliness and off-road ability. There is also that dominating appearance, which is sure to win over a few buyers. The 4×4 ute market is definitely a big player in the new car sales figures, and the Colorado is a serious contender in this segment. This is one model that is definitely pulling its weight – up to 3.5 tonnes – for Holden.