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Driven: Holden Colorado chases Ford Ranger

Big changes: The heavily revised Colorado is in showrooms from September 1 and prices have fluctuated marginally.

Holden won’t reveal sales forecasts but expects big conquest potential for Colorado

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Holden logo18 Aug 2016

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

GM HOLDEN is quietly confident that the updated Colorado introduces enough improvements to challenge the one-tonne pick-up truck segment best-sellers such as the Toyota HiLux, Mitsubishi Triton and Ford Ranger.

On sale from September 1 and priced from $29,490 up to $57,190 before on-road costs, the facelifted RG Colorado has received a thorough makeover with improvements to design, driveability, safety, refinement, comfort and practicality, while maintaining the value-pricing proposition of its critically panned predecessor.

Speaking to GoAuto at the launch of the model year 2017 Colorado in Queensland, GM Holden executive director of sales Peter Keley said that while the company would not divulge volume projections, he believed the changes to the Thai-built one-tonner will catapult the range into a much stronger position than before.

“We wouldn’t be bringing the improvements to the vehicle without wanting and expecting to get additional sales,” Mr Keley said. “The vehicle can compete with the very best of the segment, it will continue to offer great value in the segment, and with the credentials it’s got, with the value that it’s got, we are very confident sales will increase as well.” While upbeat about the chances of achieving a podium position against big-hitters like the locally developed Ranger, the Holden veteran admitted that the Colorado’s hoped-for success will not happen overnight, and that the company is in it for the long game in the crucial segment.

“These things take time,” he said. “You don’t instantaneously (hit your sales stride) straight away. What people need to do is experience the vehicle. We’ll get in some early adopters, they’ll love the vehicle, and they’ll talk to their friends about that vehicle, saying ‘you should check this out’, so they’ll build its momentum, and that’s what happens nowadays.

“Even the Ranger was not an overnight success. It built over time and this truck can do the same, I think.” However, Holden says it is wary of becoming too dependent on one vehicle line, such as Ford has been accused of being with the booming Ranger, which snared more than 40 per cent of total Blue Oval volume in Australia last month with 2874 registrations against an overall sales tally of 6894 units.

According to Holden chairman and managing director Mark Bernhard, Holden will not become “The Colorado Car Company” even after its Australian-made best-selling Commodore ceases production late next year.

“I don’t think that’s a risk at all,” he said. “I mean, we’re looking at the product that we have coming at us from GM globally, and I think we’re choosing products that this market, that this customer base really wants. And I think you’ll see us with a very diversified portfolio that suits the needs of many customers.

“We’ll be a much stronger company if we could get the spread across the portfolio.” Said to be two years behind schedule (because the initial RG program was delayed originally due to the global financial crisis and General Motors’ Chapter 11 bankruptcy), the MY17 Colorado shares the basic ladder-frame chassis, powertrain, and bodywork from the nose cone back.

The entire front fascia – headlights, grille, bumpers, and bonnet – is different, as are some of the wheels.

Moving to the interior, it has been completely overhauled, with a redesigned dashboard featuring noticeably higher-quality materials, updated door trims, restyled instruments, better padded front seats, a fresh multimedia system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the inclusion of available driver-assist safety systems. A reversing camera is standard on all Pick-up variants (not Cab Chassis).

As before, three body styles are available – two-door Single Cab Chassis, two-door four-seater Space Cab in Cab Chassis and Pick-up, and four-door five-seater Crew Cab in Cab Chassis and Pick-up.

Though all the work was carried out at this-generation Colorado’s original ‘home room’ in Brazil, Holden’s engineers were consulted from the outset. Testing for the changes the Australian team were asked to perform started in the latter half of 2014, with the first pre-production prototypes arriving a year later.

Working off local customer feedback/expectations, a single chassis tune is employed, with an emphasis on improving ride quality and vehicle control.

Among the changes is a switch to electric power steering, which brings a faster rack and fewer turns lock to lock – for nimbler and more car-like handling the supplier is the same as the VF Commodore’s, with the final calibration and sign-off done in Australia.

The suspension – coils up front, leaf springs in the rear – sees digressive shock absorbers, a fatter anti-roll bar, and revised spring rates. The goal was for flatter cornering, better rolling comfort, improved noise isolation and better load management. Unlike before, every model is now rated for a one-tonne payload. A changed tyre compound and tread pattern brings improved low-rolling resistance, wet weather grip, and ride comfort.

Additionally, there are new chassis controls – including hill-descent control (HSA in Holden-speak), retuned traction and stability controls – as well as revised mounts for the body, engine, and transmission designed to quell noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) pathways.

To that end, there is also a Centrifugal Pendulum Absorber torque converter – a segment first, according to Holden – that basically counteracts torsional NVH elements via counteracting moving weights. This has allowed for a revised transmission calibration for smoother and more fuel-efficient operation, decreasing diesel consumption.

The 2.8-litre four-cylinder common-rail direct-injection VM Motori turbo-diesel delivers the same power and torque outputs as before (147kW at 3600rpm and 440Nm from 1600-2800rpm in the six-speed manual, or 500Nm from 2000-2200rpm in the six-speed auto), but is now Euro 5 emissions rated, has relocated balance shafts and an engine acoustic pack.

The manual’s final drive ratio has increased from 3.73 to 4.1. Along with a wind-noise reduction package – essentially more sound-deadening measures with thicker glass and better sealing – the result is a quieter cabin experience, partly addressing the previous model’s significant refinement maladies.

Fuel consumption figures average between 7.9 and 8.6 litres per 100km, depending on grade and transmission, which equates to between 210 and 230 grams per kilometre of carbon dioxide emissions.

Holden says this engine is now essentially the same as the unit found in the North American-market Colorado.

Additionally, there have been improvements in the manufacturing processes, designed to increase quality, panel fit, and overall robustness, while involving more export markets in validation drives has resulted in a palpably improved product, according to the company.

GM deemed that the existing Colorado’s all-wheel-drive system was competitive enough not to receive any major changes. Towing capacity is 3500kg.

The model range consists of the LS, LT, LTZ, and Z71 – the latter being Holden’ s answer to the popular Ranger Wildtrak. Seven airbags, stability control, Hill Start Assist, Trailer Sway Control, and LED daytime running lights are fitted to all variants, helping achieve a five-star ANCAP crash test rating.

Standard gear in the LS includes power windows with remote key-fob operation, cruise control, rear vent ducts in Crew Cab models, the aforementioned touchscreen/multimedia set-up with rear sensors and a reversing camera in Pick-up models, auto headlights, and 16-inch steel wheels.

The LT brings alloys, carpet, foglights and side steps, the LTZ ups the ante with Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning, and Tyre Pressure Monitoring (all new to Colorado), as well as climate control, front parking radar, larger touchscreen, sat-nav, electric driver’s seat, 18-inch alloys, remote vehicle start on automatic vehicles, sports bar, tonneau cover, and LED tail-lights.

The Z71 offers leather and heated front seats, a bodykit, roof rails, and unique trim and detailing.

Prices rise (by $850 in the base LS Cab Chassis 4x2 manual, $300 in the LT 4x4 Crew Cab auto) while others fall slightly, with Holden claiming the LTZ is $500 cheaper despite gaining $1800 worth of content and tech while the Z71’s carryover price includes $1500 of extra gear.

On the service front there’s fixed-price servicing – for example, $349 for the first four and $409 for the next three after that – set within 15,000km/nine-month intervals.

Finally, the Colorado pushes new ground for Holden in the accessories market, with the Australian team becoming a key part of the GM International Centre in this area.

The Holden accessories division worked in parallel with the 2017 Colorado model development, resulting in parts that are integrated to work with all vehicle systems, and extensively tested as a result.

Among them are frontal protection packs, provisions for two sets of driving lights, integrated LED park and turn signals, underbody protection systems (including snorkel, fender flares, and all-terrain tyres), and cargo space items (sports bars – polished stainless or black, two-tiered rear step bar, soft and hard tonneau, tray bodies for cab chassis, canopy, tub liners and mats), including what is required for the 3.5 tonne towing plus electrification.

2016 Holden Colorado pricing*
LS Single Cab Chassis 4x2 $29,490
LS Single Cab Chassis 4x4 $37,490
LS Space Cab Chassis 4x4 $40,990
LS Crew Cab Chassis 4x2 $34,490
LS Crew Cab Chassis 4x4 $43,490
LS Crew Cab Pick Up 4x2 $35,990
LS Crew Cab Pick Up 4x4 $44,990
LT Crew Cab Pick Up 4x2 $38,990
LT Crew Cab Pick Up 4x4 $46,990
LTZ Space Cab Pickup 4x4 $48,990
LTZ Crew Cab Pick Up 4x2 $42,490
LTZ Crew Cab Pick Up 4x4 $50,490
Z71 Crew Cab Pick Up 4x4 $54,990
*Excludes on-road costs. Automatic transmission $2200 extra.

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