Car reviews - Holden - Trailblazer - range
Excellent value for money, strong front end design, NVH improvements
Room for improvement
Cheap feeling cabin, still feels old compared with newer rivals
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8 Sep 2016
EVEN Holden admitted that the Colorado 7 underperformed in Australia, with the big seven-seater getting beaten in the sale race by the vehicle on which it is based, the Isuzu MU-X.
Things have gotten harder for the Colorado 7 in the past year, with the recent arrival of a number of impressive and capable rivals including the Australian-developed and designed Ranger-based Ford Everest, Toyota’s HiLux-based Fortuner and Mitsubishi’s Triton-based Pajero Sport all lobbing to stir up trouble.
Holden heard the complaints from media and consumers about the Colorado 7, and the Colorado ute that spawned it – harsh ride, agricultural engine, noisy cabin, lack of technology features – and has made some big changes as part of a mid-life upgrade.
The most obvious part of the update is the new name. To further differentiate the pick-up and the SUV, Holden ditched the Colorado 7 moniker for Trailblazer, which is used by GM in other markets.
A fair bit has changed with the new Trailblazer, but pricing remains steady.
There are still two variants, starting with the LT from $47,990 plus on-road costs and topping out with the LTZ from $52,490.
Holden showed a slide during its media presentation that highlighted the difference in specification levels of the LTZ compared with the mid-range Everest Trend, Fortuner GXL and MU-X LS-T and the top-spec Pajero Sport Exceed and it highlighted just how much more the Trailblazer gets as standard.
The Everest was also pretty well stocked but it is also a good $8500 more too.
Standard gear in the base LT includes Holden’s MyLink infotainment system and connectivity to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, steering wheel mounted controls, digital radio, cruise control, rear parking sensors, reversing camera, LED daytime running lights, front foglights and remote window operation via the keyfob, while the LTZ adds front parking sensors, a suite of active safety features, sat-nav, remote vehicle start via the keyfob, leather appointed seat trim with heated front seats, electronic climate control, LED tail-lights, heated and power folding exterior mirrors, auto-dimming rearview mirror and six-way power adjustable driver’s seat.
In terms of outright value for money, the Trailblazer is the clear segment leader.
But of course there is more to a new-car purchase than the standard goodies list.
Thankfully Holden has carried over the new front-end design from the Colorado to the Trailblazer which gives it a sharper, more modern and more aggressive look than the old SUV.
No changes have been made to the rear end and while it is not as wildly styled as the Fortuner or Pajero Sport – what is with that tail-light treatment, Mitsubishi? – the Trailblazer is handsome enough and has road presence, aided by new LED daytime running lights.
Inside there are enough changes to keep buyers happy given how poorly designed and executed the previous dash was.
The new 7.0-inch touchscreen – 8.0 inches in the LTZ – helps make things look more modern inside and it houses the aforementioned Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functions.
New materials and controls abound but you would never mistakenly think you were in a high-end luxury SUV. There is a lot of dark and hard plastics and it is identical to the Colorado ute, down to the unchanged, and somewhat unappealing, steering wheel.
The leather-appointed seats on the LTZ are fine but do not feel premium, although they would be much easier to clean than a cloth trim.
Despite the seats feeling as though they have been re-padded or enhanced in some way, Holden says it has only changed the materials. They do feel better though and more supportive somehow, something the company said a number of engineers and staff had also picked up on.
There is also not a great deal to differentiate the LT and the LTZ in the cabin given the $4500 price gap and it does still feel a little cheap. But so do the cabins of all of its chief rivals. At least they would be durable.
Cargo volume is average for the class at 235 litres with all three rows in place, up to 1830 litres with the second and third rows folded. This is better than the Fortuner’s 200/1080L capacity but can’t match the massive 450/2010L of the Everest.
Another advantage over the Fortuner is that the third row simply folds flat into the cargo floor via a lever in the cargo area, rather than flipping up and to the side like in the Toyota, consuming way too much space in the process.
Accessing the third row is easy too, and while your 183cm correspondent could fit, we would not want to be sitting back there for long. Although headroom was surprisingly good and there are air vents.
Second-row comfort is more than adequate as well, ensuring few complaints from the people that are likely to occupy them most often.
Holden talked up the engineering work it did on the Colorado and the Trailblazer, in conjunction with GM Brazil’s team, and it’s a good thing they did a solid amount of tuning and tweaking here in Australia because the big seven-seater is a much more enjoyable vehicle to drive now.
For starters, it is significantly quieter than its predecessor. The old model was agricultural sounding and not a pleasant place to be when gathering speed particularly on poor roads or at high speeds on a freeway.
Sound-reducing measures for the cabin and engine bay have had a dramatic impact and you no longer need to shout to have a conversation with your rear-seat occupant. Well done Holden.
Major improvements were made to the electric power-steering calibration which has made the steering in the Trailblazer much sharper than before. There is also noticeably more feel to the steering than before. It is a bit more heavily weighted but not overly so.
The 2.8-litre Duramax four-cylinder Euro 5 turbo-diesel engine found in the Colorado, delivering 147kW at 3600rpm and 500Nm at 2000-2200rpm is essentially unchanged.
It’s a solid unit but given the circa-2200kg kerb weight, it was never going to feel like a supercar.
The Trailblazer pulls off the line adequately but is punchier higher up the rev range which helps ensure that overtaking is not a terrifying experience.
The engine is still a rattly diesel but thanks to the NVH improvements, it is no longer a concern.
Off the beaten track and in very wet conditions the Trailblazer handled itself admirably. It only lost traction once at a particularly slippery part of the four-wheel drive track and was also due to the fact that we had not switched to four-wheel drive mode. Oops.
We did not test the Trailblazer’s towing ability, but it is one of the main reasons people pick a vehicle like this and anecdotal reports suggest it does an admirable job in that area. It has a braked towing capacity of 3000kg.
If value for money is important, then the Trailblazer is a standout in the 4WD wagon segment, but the Toyota and Mitsubishi have a similar price point and are also impressive in their own right, despite some notable negatives.
The changes made to the Trailblazer have improved the big off-roader dramatically, but in terms of driving enjoyment and overall refinement, it still trails the Everest and even the Pajero Sport and Fortuner, but it is now a more appealing package than its Isuzu MU-X cousin.
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