Car reviews - Holden - Colorado - LTZ
Driving experience now rivals class-leaders, comfort and space, technology, payload and towing capacity
Room for improvement
Still no reach-adjustable steering, reduced cup-holder count, hard-to-close doors, squirmy gravel-road braking
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30 Jan 2017
Price and equipment
THE Colorado LTZ 4x4 Crew Cab Pick Up with automatic transmission tested here is $52,690 plus on-road costs and second-most expensive variant after the Z71 flagship that costs $57,190 in automatic form.
A 4x2 manual Crew Cab is the most affordable way into an LTZ Colorado at $42,490, while a 4x4 manual Space Cab can be had for $48,990. A 4x2 Space Cab LTZ is not offered, nor is a cab-chassis option at this spec level. An automatic transmission costs $1500 extra on a 4x4 Colorado and carries a $2200 premium for a 4x2.
Compared with the pre-facelift Colorado, the LTZ trim level is $500 cheaper, while Holden claims the updated model has gained $1800 worth of standard equipment.
These upgrades include a fresh 8.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity plus DAB+ digital radio reception and voice recognition. Driver assistance and safety aids are also added, comprising forward collision alert, lane departure warning and tyre pressure monitoring. A reversing camera is also standard.
Other LTZ spec highlights are climate control, front and rear parking sensors, satellite navigation, electric driver’s seat adjustment, 18-inch alloys, LED tail-lights, remote vehicle start on automatic vehicles, a chrome sports bar and fabric tonneau cover.
Also fitted are carpet floor coverings, front fog-lights, side steps, electric windows with key-fob operation, cruise control, rear air-conditioning vents on Crew Cabs.
Seven airbags, electronic stability control, hill start assist, trailer sway control, and LED daytime running lights are standard across the Colorado range, contributing to a five-star ANCAP crash test rating for all variants.
Leather upholstery and heated front seats are optional for $1500.
The $4500 more expensive Z71 includes the leather trim and heated front seats while adding roof rails and unique style details including decals and a bodykit.
Holden dealerships also carry a record number of factory approved accessories including airbag-compatible bull bars and nudge bars, LED and HID driving lights, integrated LED park and turn signals, underbody protection, off-road gear such as a snorkel, fender flares, and all-terrain tyres, polished stainless or black sports bars, a two-tiered rear step bar, soft and hard tonneau covers, tray bodies, canopies, tub liners and tray mats and the 3.5-tonne towing pack including plus the required electrification.
If you have experienced the pre-facelift Colorado, the new interior is unrecognisable. In a very good way.
The awful clash of different, cheap-feeling plastic textures and flimsy storage compartment lids has been banished.
Unfortunately so have a number of storage provisions and cup-holders, such as the upper glovebox, dash-top compartment and handy slide-pit cup-holders beneath the outer air-conditioning vents that would keep drinks cool – being replaced by clip-on items, but the jury is out on that solution.
The centre console cup holders clash annoyingly and their position means the contents can be obstructive, too.
A soft-touch swathe across the dashboard’s middle latitudes gives the impression of leather with its double-stitched seam, while the upper and lower hard plastics are less hollow feeling and more pleasantly textured than before.
We would like to see door caps trimmed in soft-touch, but the Colorado is still very much a commercial vehicle in this regard.
Metallic highlights such as the vent and transmission lever surrounds plus chrome-rimmed instruments and gear selector knob plus more metal-like flashes on the door trims also break up the overall blackness in a tastefully restrained way.
Button-count is also restrained, but Holden has thankfully not gone too far with placing everything in the touchscreen to the detriment of usability. There is chunky switchgear throughout and simple rotary controls for audio and air-conditioning.
We found the MyLink touchscreen easy to use on the move and steering wheel controls are one of the only interior items carried over from before with their big, tough-feeling, chunky buttons and rocker switches. The new multi-function trip computer provides heaps of technical information, right down to how many hours the engine has been on for and how many of those were spent idling. The automatic transmission fluid temperature readout is useful for off-roading, too.
The LTZ-spec seats are great, too. Our experience with an LT-spec Trailblazer (the wagon version of this ute) was that better seats are fitted to the LTZ as we found the Trailblazer’s seats almost intolerable. Worth noting if you are trying to save a few dollars by going for an LT.
As good as the seats were, we never got a great driving position due to the lack of steering reach adjustment and the wheel being too far away for tall and short drivers alike. Were it our money we would seriously investigate some kind of permanent solution that would bring the steering wheel closer without losing the airbag.
Knowing the pre-facelift Colorado was a bit too truck-like compared with its increasingly stiff competition, Holden has done a heap of work improving the refinement and isolation, including making the cabin better sealed and quieter.
While its predecessor was fairly quiet when up to speed, the facelifted ute is noticeably improved with less vibration at idle, less noise at low speeds or under acceleration and a pretty relaxing place to spend long journeys, even on coarse-chip country roads. Where there was once plenty of wind-rustle around the windscreen pillars at 80km/h and above, we only really noticed anything through the thicker new windscreen when driving into a strong headwind.
But they have seemingly gone too far with the door seals, the fact the windows drop slightly when opened to reduce the chance they will bounce back open due to cabin pressure an admission of sorts. It is not possible to switch this function off, the doors were still hard to close without a good slam and the constant automatic raising and lowering of windows left unsightly tide-marks.
If the heavy door-slamming required did not fully wake our sleeping infant passenger, the noise of the windows going up once the doors were closed finished the job.
Unlike some dual-cab utes, there was plenty of space in the Colorado cabin for a rear-facing infant seat to not require those in the front to sit uncomfortably far forward. This translated into plenty of legroom for tall back-seat passengers, who only suffered from the slightly too-upright backrest, but this is par for the course in dual-cabs. Also, good on Holden for including rear air-vents, which are too often overlooked in the dual-cab ute segment.
A pair of Isofix anchorage provisions on outboard rear seats also helped with child-carrying duties, as did the ease of lowering the backrest to attach the top tether.
Thanks in no small part to the spacious and pleasant interior, the Colorado genuinely fitted well into family life during our week with it. Unlike rivals such as the Ford Ranger and Volkswagen Amarok, it never felt too big or unwieldy around town despite a sizeable 12.7-metre turning circle. It feels as though it shrinks around the driver.
Engine and transmission
Although the Colorado’s 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine still produces 147kW of power at 3600rpm and 500Nm of torque from 2000-2200rpm (440Nm from 1600-2800rpm in the manual), a number of significant changes have been made to reduce emissions – it is now Euro 5 compliant – and make it quieter and smoother.
With memories of driving the pre-facelift Colorado with the windows down through narrow Sydney streets at the crack of dawn and wincing at the sheer amount of diesel clatter and turbo whistle still seared on our minds, the changes have definitely worked.
Yes it rumbles and clatters from cold but no longer is it deafening in confined spaces and there is far less vibration than before. Nothing in the segment bar perhaps the V6 Amarok can hide the fact it burns diesel, so at least the Colorado is now on par with the majority of rivals.
Considering the engine’s impressive peak torque figure has come and gone within just 200rpm, the Colorado feels responsive and muscular at all times, pushing occupants back in their seat with a sea of shove – at least when relatively unladen.
The six-speed transmission is quick, slick and intelligent, while the Australian Holden input is clear to behold with characterful down-shift blips just like a VF Commodore. It really does give this truck a bit of personality.
For long high-speed hauls, the engine lopes along in a relaxed manner at low revs and rarely requires a downshift for hills.
A manual gate is provided for those wanting more control on twisty roads, or while off-roading. For departing the beaten path, a rotary controller in the centre console activates four-wheel-drive mode on the fly and requires the vehicle to be stopped and placed into neutral before low-range can be selected.
In some vehicles the latter process can be a hit-and-miss affair but we never experienced trouble in the Colorado.
The official combined fuel consumption figure is not unrealistically optimistic at 8.7 litres per 100 kilometres, as we achieved 9.3L/100km during our week of mixed driving including plenty of suburban errand-running, a dynamic thrash and a couple of motorway runs. We bettered the official highway figure by 0.3L/100km during a mix of 110km/h and 100km/h motorway driving, our test vehicle returning a frugal 7.3L/100km.
Ride and handling
Based on how it now rides and handles, it is hard to believe this Colorado is just a facelift and not a clean-sheet new model.
There must have been something fundamentally right about the underlying chassis design for such a turnaround to be possible, which speaks volumes about how half-arsed the original effort really was. After all, it is rumoured that the Colorado’s development budget was a victim of the GFC and GM’s subsequent Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
We wouldn’t fling it at a twisty road in the way we would an Amarok and there isn’t quite the level of slick fluency enjoyed by Ranger drivers, but the Colorado’s advantage over those two is how nimble and manoeuvrable it feels around town. And let’s face it, much of its time, particularly in the up-spec LTZ trim tested here, will be spent in the urban environment.
Ride comfort is a revelation. Even on the LTZ-spec 18-inch alloys with only the driver aboard we could easily forget we were driving a body-on-frame truck.
There is an easy suppleness about the way it deals with bumps and we had to deliberately provoke chassis shudder by aiming at laterally uneven surfaces.
This is all the more astonishing when considering every Colorado variant can take more than a tonne in the tray. For example, an Amarok needs the heavy-duty suspension option to access its full payload potential, to the detriment of comfort unless a few hundred kilos are stacked in the back.
Most utes feel as though they are about to trip over their outside front tyre under fast cornering, but not the Colorado. Bodyroll is well-contained and its confidence-inspiring steering – now electrically assisted with components related to those used on the VF Commodore – remains positive-feeling at high speed and lacks the vague wooliness typical of vehicles that are set up to go off-road.
Also, where for example a HiLux might require armfuls of lock to get itself around a corner, the Colorado reacts well to much more car-like steering inputs and the Bridgestone Dueler tyres appear to be perfectly matched to the suspension setup, doing an admirable job of maintaining grip when pushed.
The physics rulebook appears to have been thrown out of the window too, as the Colorado felt incredibly balanced on fast, twisty roads even with nothing in the tray. It was seldom upset by mid-corner bumps, either, only occasionally letting the rear axle skip out of line when we encountered some savagely rippled roads.
With the exception of the Amarok V6, no ute brakes convincingly even when unladen and the Colorado is no exception. Pedal feel is pretty good, but nothing can really overcome the fact these vehicles weigh upwards of two tonnes, have fairly basic suspension and tyres built for toughness rather than performance.
Less understandable is the way the rear end of the Colorado would step out when braking hard on gravel. We tried this several times to make sure it was not due to the surface or road camber and every time the rear would swing to the right.
Oddly enough, this buttock-clenching trait was shared by the related Trailblazer wagon we drove a week later.
It was symptomatic of an overall feel of sketchiness exhibited by the Colorado on gravel. It was as though the excellent bitumen ride and handling characteristics had come at the expense of dirt road stability. This encouraged us to take it slow when not driving on paved surfaces.
Going further off the beaten path the Colorado performs well, providing ample ground clearance and axle articulation for negotiating some deeply rutted tracks littered with wash-outs. Low-speed engine response, accurate throttle control and decent visibility made life pretty easy for us out bush.
But the standard limited-slip rear differential arguably provides only a halfway house measure against the majority of rivals that provide a locking rear diff activated by a dashboard button.
That said, we did not need a locker in the dry conditions of our test and the Colorado’s LSD works in two-wheel-drive plus high- or low-range mode whereas many factory-fit lockers only work in low range. To this end, the Holden solution more usable on a daily basis. For those wanting more, you know where to go for an aftermarket upgrade.
Safety and servicing
Crash-test authority ANCAP awarded every variant of the facelifted Colorado range a full five-star safety rating, compared with only dual-cabs getting the accolade previously.
The Colorado performed well in the side-impact and pole tests as while picking up points for seatbelt reminders, scoring a perfect 16, two and three points respectively, while a rating of 13.89 out of 16 in the frontal offset test made the overall score of 34.89 out of a maximum 37.
A rating of ‘good’ in whiplash protection and a high airbag count also got a nod of approval from ANCAP testers.
Fewer seatbelt reminders in the Single Cab and Space Cab body styles drop one point from the ANCAP score, but are still considered safe enough overall for the five-star honours. Interestingly, the Colorado’s refreshed front-end look also scored high marks for pedestrian protection.
All Colorados are fitted with seven airbags, electronic stability control, hill start assist, trailer sway control, and LED daytime running lights as standard.
Holden supplies a three-year, 100,000 kilometre warranty that also covers any genuine accessories fitted, along with the same duration of roadside assistance. Both can be upgraded for duration and coverage respectively. but no standard roadside assistance.
Under Holden’s lifetime capped-price servicing scheme, the Colorado’s 15,000km/12-month maintenance intervals cost $349 for each visit until 60,000km, rising to $409 until 105,000km (prices correct at time of writing).
Sweeping changes have elevated the Colorado from bottom of our ute pile to a podium finish among the Ford Ranger and Volkswagen Amarok, both of which are more expensive.
In fact, we found the Holden easier to live with than an Amarok, which also lacks rear airbags and the availability of modern active safety equipment. Only the fact the big VW is such a ripper thing to drive both on- and off-road keeps it in this company and ahead of the rugged Toyota HiLux in our estimation.
Controversial, we know.
The Colorado also expands on the Toyota’s urban usability with superior road manners and driveline characteristics. Being related to the bulletproof Isuzu D-Max, we expect long-term toughness from the Holden, too.
So it is back to the classic Ford versus Holden battleground. A sure sign of the times that the weapons of choice are now $50K-plus dual-cab utes.
For us, the Colorado does not feel as bulky on the road as a Ranger, but while both lack steering reach adjustment, the Ford’s superior seating position makes that less of an issue.
Holden fights back with lower pricing and saves customers more with its superior fuel efficiency. Then again, we’d feel more confident on dirt roads in a Ranger, which also carries one of the highest ANCAP crash-test scores on the market regardless of vehicle type.
A lot of Australian input has gone into the latest Colorado and boy does it show, but local pride is reserved for the Ranger that was conceived, designed, engineered and tested right here.
The pub argument could go on and on, but the takeaway message is that previously this conversation was about a Toyota or a Volkswagen versus the Ford.
With this overhauled Colorado, Holden has shifted from the sidelines and entered the debate, big time, with an incredibly compelling argument.
That is a remarkable achievement.
Ford Ranger XLT Double Cab automatic from $57,615 plus on-road costs
Impressive ride, refinement and road manners, with one of the segment’s classiest cabins and heaps of technological toys. Its on-road sense of bigness could be a deal-breaker for some.
Toyota HiLux SR5 Double Cab automatic from $56,390 plus on-road costs
The toughest truck by reputation got tougher with this latest generation, which is still unstoppable off-road and provides access to a massive accessories aftermarket. Shame about the dynamic deficiencies and uninspiring engine.
Volkswagen Amarok TDI 420 Highline Dual Cab automatic from $56,990 plus on-road costs
In the face of younger competition, the Amarok has managed to remain competitive because it set the bar so high in the first place in terms of driving experience. An upcoming update will help maintain its position, but it will still lag behind on towing capacity, airbag-count and its lack of active safety aids.
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