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Car reviews - Holden - Colorado - range

Our Opinion

We like
Improved design, cabin, dash, noise suppression, steering, handling, control, performance feel, infotainment, value
Room for improvement
Still heavy and truck like, ride a tad unsettled, no telescopic steering, no rear diff lock on 4WD

18 Aug 2016

HOLDEN’S history is littered with examples of disappointing new models that only really came good after intensive post-launch redevelopment. 1965 HD to 1966 HR. 1971 HQ to 1977 HZ. 1988 VN to 1993 VR.

To that list we can add the MY17 RG Series II Colorado, because compared to its immediate predecessor launched in 2012, the progress is obvious on a number of fronts.

Speaking of which, let’s start with the styling, with the amorphous softness of the original giving way to a far more aggressive, GMC-truck style nose cone that gives the one-tonne truck presence where before there was only a shadow of one – and a slightly perplexed one at that.

As with most of this vehicle, the facelift was carried out by GM in Brazil, which is the development home room for the entire program worldwide, though significant input from Holden was sought and taken, from the beginning to the end of the facelift phase.

Result? A total rethink inside has seen the cheap and frankly ugly old dashboard junked entirely, steering wheel aside, for a far more contemporary item that still manages to look tough and purposeful, yet also friendly and helpful.

Better materials mean the cabin – always a spacious and airy place to be in – now no longer seems built down to a price the large central touchscreen is bang up-to-date with range-wide reversing camera (on Pick-up variants) and apps connectivity including Apple CarPlay and Apple Android the instruments are way easier on the eyes simple and effective climate controls have been introduced and new-to-series active safety inclusions like lane-change alert and forward collision warning are available on higher-end versions.

More importantly, improved seat bolstering, thicker glass, improved sealing and more sound insulation are now included, meaning that the Colorado is comfier and quieter to sit inside, and – thanks to a whole lot of steering, suspension, and tyre work tuning both in Australia and abroad – more settled, more stable, and less taxing to drive and travel in.

Modifications to the 147kW/440Nm (six-speed manual) and 500Nm (six-speed auto) 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine (and the way it and the transmission are mounted) have been designed to quell noise and vibration. And, sure enough, it does seem far less intrusive than the loud and coarse preceding version (especially from the cabin), though this is far from the quietest and sweetest-sounding one-tonne ute powertrains. At least now ears are no longer assaulted.

We only drove 4x4 autos, so cannot comment on the shift quality or step-off performance of the manual with its revised final drive ratio, but the self-shifter now demonstrates more consistent acceleration, without the fatigue-inducing lag-then-surge characteristic from before. Shift quality is smooth, and mid-range performance strong, though the overall sensation is that this is still quite a heavy truck for the four-pot turbo-diesel to lug around.

But let’s not forget, the RG Series II – with a towing capacity of 3500kg and one-tonne payload on all versions – remains a formidable off-road machine, even if it is not fitted with a rear diff lock, since it offers 4x4-ready ground clearances, considerable wheel articulation and high-low range transmission choices to handle the rough stuff, as a demonstration on the launch in Queensland demonstrated.

Back on normal bitumen, the shift to an electric power steering system is immediately obvious from the first turn of the wheel.

Combined with a faster ratio and more progressive responses, the Colorado feels far more connected to the driver and road than before. All the versions we drove were Crew Cab (four-door utes), and there is still that underlying sense that this is a separate chassis truck, but the body seems far tauter and controlled, with less movement, lurching and weight shifting under acceleration than before. It’s gone from a drag to quite pleasant to drive – though whether it hits the heights of the Ranger and Amarok remains to be seen.

Holden says the new tyres have softer compounds and revised tread patterns for better comfort and wet-surface grip, and we’re pretty impressed with the general controllability of the MY17 Colorado over sweeping twisting roads, but, again, there is still a sense of substantial mass and cumbersomeness here, while the ride always felt quite firm and unyielding except on the smoothest parts, when we were expecting better shock absorption properties. Once more, that sense of being in a body-on-frame truck is inescapable.

Yet the fact remains that the latest Colorado is a far, far better vehicle to look at, sit inside and drive at any speed, without the lumbering, loose, and tiresome dynamics combined with loud and thrashy performance that made us hesitate to recommend the older version.

While only a direct comparison with the Ranger, Amarok, Mazda BT-50, Toyota HiLux, Nissan Navara and Mitsubishi Triton will reveal whether the Holden has a class leader on its hands, it is pretty obvious that the MY17 Colorado is now in contention for a podium or near-podium standing, instead of being a sorry also-ran.

Consider this, then, Holden’s HD/HZ/VR moment in pick-up trucks. Welcome to Colorado. You ought to finally enjoy your stay.

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