Car reviews - Holden - Colorado - range
Spacious, comfortable cabin, grunty engine, smooth automatic transmission, quiet on-road cruising, easy off-roading
Room for improvement
Ride can be harsh, too many cabin textures, equipment and usability oversights
14 Jun 2012
HOLDEN is pinning a lot of hopes on the new Colorado, expecting the one-tonne ute to become its best-selling import and elevate it above the combined volume of the Captiva 5 and Captiva 7 SUVs.
The Thai-built Colorado is similar size to the Ford Ranger but with a roof height that is around 40mm lower, it shrinks around the driver in a way the Ranger does not.
The hydraulically-assisted steering feels initially heavy when maneuvering, but the meatiness was consistent at higher speeds, providing confidence, accuracy and a linear response – if not feel or feedback – when negotiating the wet, sinuous roads across Mount Glorious near Brisbane.
A slow steering rack necessitated by the Colorado’s need for off-road competence required larger than usual inputs on-road, but other compromises were less obvious, with well-contained body-roll and admirable levels of grip, even in the wet.
Ride quality appeared to vary between body variants and one particularly bad bitumen road taken in the space-cab fitted with an alloy tray had us slammed around and badly shaken.
However in the top-spec LTZ, even with its larger 17-inch wheels, we experienced a far more composed ride, even when deliberately aiming for pot-holes, something engineers put down to its extra weight.
The weight argument was lost when we drove the LX 4x2 tray-backed single-cab, which rode almost as well as the range-topper, but we bear in mind that this could be due to this variant lacking the extra chassis strengthening applied to 4x4 models.
All variants of the Colorado tested exhibited typical body-on-frame bump shudder, to a greater degree than the Ranger, but still leagues ahead of older rivals.
Going uphill and during towing, the 2.8-litre engine’s 132kW power output and 470Nm of torque (manual variants are limited to 440Nm) provided effortless grunt and a smooth build-up of speed, with a soundtrack at idle and under acceleration that left us in no doubt about which fuel was being burned under the bonnet.
At cruising speeds, the engine settled down to be almost inaudible, with little in the way of road noise on most surfaces, but wind rustle around the A-pillars got quite loud at speeds upward of 90km/h, an annoyance worsened several degrees with the (ungainly-looking) optional snorkel fitted.
Automatic gear-shifts were smooth and unobtrusive and the five-speed manual was easy to use, with a positive feel, progressive clutch and none of the slack or vagueness that blights the Ford Ranger’s stick-shift.
Driving the thirstier automatic 4x4 Colorados from Brisbane to Grandchester, fuel consumption averaged in the high nines after requiring more than 12L/100km for the climb up Mount Glorious.
In the manual variant we drove during the off-road section, which was entirely negotiated in low range, fuel consumption still failed to break double figures – and even when towing a 2.5-tonne mini-steamroller, average usage was a respectable 10.2L/100km.
Petrol has been dropped from the engine line-up, as Holden says 97 per cent of segment shoppers opt for diesel, and by way of a entry-level price leader, the company offers a manual-only 4x2 single-cab with a 110kW/350Nm 2.5-litre diesel engine that was not available to sample on the media launch.
The off-road section by no means pushed the Colorado to its limits in terms of wheel articulation or traction (the course had dried unexpectedly quickly after a rainy spell), but it showcased the grunty diesel engine’s effortless climbing ability and strong compression braking that made the lack of electronic hill descent control forgivable.
Towing was similarly effortless but adversely affected ride quality more than we expected – although this could have been due to the narrow trailers that had the majority of their weight loaded towards the rear.
The Colorado’s interior is spacious and comfortable, with seats we found quick and easy to adjust for a decent driving position, despite the lack of steering wheel reach adjustment.
Our main complaint in this department was that the lowest seat-height setting was still a little high for taller drivers, who would often end up peering through the blue tint-strip at the top of the windscreen, especially when cresting a hill.
Crew cabs have an impressively roomy and comfortable rear bench, which has just enough backrest angle and plenty of headroom, while a tall passenger sitting behind a tall driver has a few centimeters of knee room to spare.
It is therefore unfortunate that even on the LTZ flagship, rear passengers have to do without vents or cupholders.
Space cabs have a ‘suicide’ door entry, which provides pillarless access to the cabin’s rear storage area, where a couple of temporary-use seats are placed atop storage compartments. The seating position back there is bolt upright, with no thigh support, but this is to be expected.
The Colorado’s dashboard as many familiar Holden hallmarks and is generally easy to use, although some of the same mistakes are made here as in other models in the Aussie brand’s line-up, such as the mish-mash of too many textures, cheap-feeling hard plastics and a smooth finish in the centre of the dash-top that can cause distracting reflections in bright sunlight.
Why the audio system’s USB and auxiliary input ports are located behind a rubber tab on the fascia is a mystery as not only is the tab difficult to remove and hangs unattractively from the dash when opened, the supplied adaptor cable is also left flailing and there is nowhere convenient – let alone out of sight – to place the attached MP3 player.
The multi-function steering wheel is an improvement to the design found in other Holden products, with chunky buttons and wide, grippy thumb controls that should be easier to use than the fiddly thumbwheels found in the Barina and Cruze.
Plenty of storage areas are provided up-front, with door bins that feature bottle holders complementing the four cupholders dotted around the cockpit.
A deep bin is located beneath the centre armrest, a covered storage area is found on top of the dashboard and a generous glove compartment (although not laptop sized like some rivals) has a second storage compartment located in the dashboard above it – but none are fitted with non-slip interior surfaces.
Although the Colorado has many merits in terms of equipment, ability and value for money, there are also some glaring omissions.
For example, there is no dashboard indicator when 4x4 mode is selected, which could result in unnecessary wear and tear to the diffs and tyres caused by forgetting to re-select 4x2 mode after emerging from dirt onto dry bitumen.
The pick-up trays have only four lashing points, which are not ideally located, and unlike rivals such as the Ranger and Amarok, there is no 12-volt power outlet or exterior light for the tray.
In addition, for a vehicle with such an impressive towing capacity, the lack of electronic trailer sway control seems odd and no optional diff-lock is offered for serious off-road work, while parking sensors are only offered as an accessory.
No satellite navigation, reversing camera or even a colour screen are available, even as an option, but Holden says this is due to a rationalisation of infotainment systems now taking place within General Motors that the Colorado missed out on due to its launch timing, meaning these technologies are likely to be introduced later.
The Colorado drives well for a body-on-frame truck, and is a good effort – and so it should be with a $US2 billion development budget – but to us (as was the consensus among members of the media at the launch) in terms of driving pleasure and well thought-out features it does not quite match up to its rival from the Blue Oval, the Australian designed and engineered Ranger.
However, it is no doubt a big step up from the old Colorado, providing a compelling mixture of capabilities, with tempting safety and value propositions.
Holden is sure be on to a sales success with the Colorado, given the loyalty of existing owners, a booming segment, the brand’s strength and big plans afoot to publicise the ute’s arrival.
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