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Car reviews - Holden - Colorado 7 - range

Our Opinion

We like
Third-row accommodation and access, roomy interior, value pricing, undeniable 4x4 ability, capped-price servicing, diesel economy, strong mid-range poke
Room for improvement
Noisy engine, cumbersome steering, jittery suspension, body pitch even on straight roads, low-rent interior presentation, iffy middle-row cushion comfort

30 Nov 2012

REMEMBER the Holden Jackaroo?

Built by Isuzu and released in 1981, it was a utilitarian SUV in the early Nissan Patrol mould, luring 4WDers with a tough separate chassis body-on-frame construction, high ground clearance, low-range gearbox and a lockable differential.

While the first editions suffered from feeble performance and crude comfort levels, the Jackaroo evolved over its 22-year career into a viable and capable alternative to a Prado, even if it lacked the Toyota’s refinement.

This was all before the arrival of the car-based midsized crossover/SUVs such as the Ford Territory and Toyota Kluger, which proved lighter and more viable as urban family runabouts compared with the light truck-based models that came before.

Eventually, the Jackaroo was discontinued and Holden concentrated on the Captiva.

But demand for tough, off-road capable SUVs with seven seats has remained strong, and now GM – again in partnership with Isuzu – has created the Colorado 7/Trailblazer series you see here.

And let’s not mince words … this is a chunky old-school 4WD with get-outta-my-way styling, masses of ground clearance, huge wheels and a rugged truck-based go-anywhere chassis.

How go-anywhere? While we missed out on taking the Colorado 7 on Holden’s demanding 4WD demonstration course, 4x4 specialist colleagues agreed with its ability to power through challenging terrain, made all the more difficult by torrential rain and sludge earlier in the day.

That’s the difference between one of these and, say, a Territory. The Ford is designed purely as an on-roader, even in AWD mode.

This Holden has decades of Isuzu and GM 4x4 knowhow to wow the grey nomad wanderers that will make up a sizeable portion of its buyer base.

But can the Colorado 7 cut it as an urban and rural everyday commuter?

Big and bulbous body dimensions mean that getting in and out is easy, although once inside all that 4WD hardware directly under the floor means the cabin isn’t quite as tall and deep as the big-boy design suggests. Everybody has to sit in a sort of laid-back position with legs pointed forward. Lucky then the Holden has the space for that.

The dashboard is from the latest Colorado ute, but since this has just been redesigned anyway to appear more car-like than any of the company’s previous efforts, most people will find the fascia modern and appealing.

If you’ve spent any time in a Cruze, for instance, the smart instrument dials, face-level ventilation outlets and logical audio interface will instantly feel familiar, even though the 7’s are not exactly the same.

Further plus points go to the comfortable driving position, masses of storage compartments, one-touch 2WD-4WD-4WD/Low ratio switchability and commanding views out, on reasonably supportive front seats.

The best bit of the interior, though, is the rear-most section. Access is really easy thanks to a middle seat that tumbles out of the way in one simple action, while the space itself can accommodate two average-sized adults about as well as any SUV that springs to mind.

Aiding their comfort is adequate knee room, face-level air vents, cupholders, storage slots and a reasonably sized glass area, as to not induce claustrophobia.

Of course, using all seven seats means luggage space is severely curtailed, but at least there is a small amount of room for some light shopping trips.

However, the 7’s interior suffers from a few disappointments.

Starting from the front, the steering wheel lacks reach adjustability – it only goes up and down.

Even in $50,490 LTZ guise, the grey leather upholstery and surrounding contrasting trim looks dour and feels cheap – too much so for the price. We hope it proves as durable as its hardness suggests.

The second row cushion, meanwhile, is too low, and thigh support is sorely lacking even after only brief exposure. That’s a shame because Holden provides a reclinable backrest, grab handles, and more face-level vent outlets for added comfort.

Most irritatingly, however, is the amount of noise intrusion – be it wind related in our example (on an admittedly inclement day weatherwise), road induced or mechanical all let the Colorado 7 down. Don’t expect Prado refinement in this rock-hopping Holden.

Speaking of such things, the ride, too, is below par – the suspension feels busy – if not unsettled – over virtually every surface we tried. We’re not talking light-truck jittery-bad, but the constant pitch and body movement did remind us of this vehicle’s relatively agricultural origins.

In the 7’s defence, however, we did get used to it after a while.

From a driveability point of view, things are equally so-so.

The tirelessly vocal 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel feels a little sleepy at take-off speeds, but then quickly springs into action, turning on the 470Nm torque tap for terrific mid-range performance. Keep your foot planted and the Colorado keeps on powering on, aided by a smooth six-speed auto transmission.

We have no doubt about this thing’s three-tonne towing capacity. If you can put up with the gravelly soundtrack, its grunt is impressive.

Similarly, the steering – quite heavy and low-geared in that light-truck way at low speeds – wakes up when you’re moving along, feeling progressive and well weighted. Some rack rattle and vibration is detectable, however, even on slick bitumen surfaces.

If you’re only used to car-like SUVs, you may find the new Colorado 7 a tad too big, cumbersome and, frankly, crude for round-town or inner-urban manoeuvrability.

But while its pick-up origins from a refinement and dynamic point-of-view might be a problem for some, for others, the fact that this is an old-school SUV with real off-road capability might just be the thing they’ve been looking for.

Throw in compelling value for money, excellent levels of space, strong performance, plenty of modern features, and a high five-star ANCAP safety rating, and the Colorado 7 might be the most welcome SUV news of the year – especially at thousands of dollars below the price of the equivalent Prado.

Jackaroo fans, the wait is finally over.

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