The Colorado may be a global GM product, but Aussie engineers have played an even greater role in this mid-generation remake.
WHAT we have here is the top-spec Colorado dual-cab 4x4, the Z71. It’s not exactly the Colorado we wanted for this test, but it’s not exactly wrong either. What we asked for was a LTZ dual-cab – one spec down from the Z71 – to compare with the volume-selling Ranger XLT. The good news is that this top-spec Colorado is actually a price match with the upper-mid spec Ranger XLT, which is always a valid starting point for a comparison test. Either way, the Z71 and the LTZ are mechanically identical; the Z71 just adds the rear body kit and leather and heated front seats, among a few details.
The Colorado arrives after a ground-up remake: it’s been pulled completely apart and put back together.
This generation Colorado is a GM product and not a re-badged Isuzu, and it emerged in 2012 from a GM design and development program based in Brazil. A year later it was tweaked, and again in 2014, before this major overhaul for 2017.
Most of the latest changes are aimed at improving refinement, with relocated engine balance shafts, revised fuel injection, additional injector soundproofing, a new torque convertor for the auto, shorter final-drive gearing for the manual, new engine and transmission mounts, new body mounts, recalibrated suspension and electric power steering.
Also aimed at refinement are revised roof mouldings, exterior mirror mounts, door seals, sliding glass channels, B-pillar inserts, and a thicker windscreen. So there’s not much that hasn’t been worked over.
POWERTRAIN AND PERFORMANCE
THE engine remains the 2.8-litre four-cylinder from Italian diesel specialist VM Motori, part of the seemingly ever-growing Fiat empire. As before, the engine claims maximums of 147kw and 500Nm, although fuel mapping has been tweaked for better driveability.
What you notice most is how much quieter and more refined this engine is than before, which is a more than welcome change from the generally unpleasant, rough and gruff thing it was before. It’s still no Amarok in terms of noise and running refinement, but it’s now a match for the Ranger and may even be a bit quieter. Either way, it’s now a very pleasant engine – something you couldn’t say about it previously.
There’s plenty of performance from its 2.8 litres and, pedal to the metal, the Colorado matches and can even better the bigger fivecylinder engine in the Ranger, although it does rev harder in the process. Peak power is at 3600rpm compared to the Ranger’s 3000.
The Colorado’s cause is helped by what is now a very good auto gearbox, with smoother, quicker and ‘smarter’ shifts than before thanks to the new torque converter and revised shift protocols. While no smoother than the Ranger’s six-speed, it’s a more proactive in its shifts, something you notice on demanding, hilly, winding roads.
ON-ROAD RIDE AND HANDLING
AMONG the chassis changes, the new Colorado’s electric power steering is the one you most notice. The benefit is very light steering at parking speeds, combined with more weight and feel at highway speeds.
In practice it works very nicely, and with the front suspension changes that run to softer springs, a thicker sway bar and digressive rather than linear front dampers, it provides a front end with more feel and a generally more compliant and comfortable ride than before. On the downside, the front end also seems to ‘crash’ more on the nasty washouts, potholes and bumps you might find on poorly maintained back roads, when hit at speed.
The rear spring pack, previously only fitted to the Z71 but now common across the range, combines a much softer initial rate and a slightly firmer final rate than the default spring pack fitted to non-z71 variants before the MY17 update. It’s surprisingly comfortable, even when
unladen. As with the front, the rear now has digressive rather than linear dampers.
Interestingly, of all the popular utes, the Colorado is the only one to run a mechanical rear limited-slip diff in addition to electronic traction control. The idea is that the limited-slipper takes care of moderate wheelspin so ETC isn’t triggered – potentially cutting engine power – when the driver is entering a moving traffic steam on a wet road and needs maximum acceleration.
THE Colorado’s new electric power steering is a winner off-road in terms of much-reduced steering effort. The softer suspension generally works better for low-range work, while Holden has also worked on the electronic traction control to improve its off-road effectiveness.
The end result is a better ute when the road stops and the tracks start, but the Colorado is still not a front-runner when it comes to vehicle-stopping conditions. Crucially the chassis doesn’t have as much travel as some competitors, the Ranger included. The Colorado also lacks a rear locker, and while all rear lockers fitted to current utes aren’t effective as they could be, the one on the Ranger certainly is.
CABIN AND ACCOMMODATION
THERE’S more good news in the Colorado’s cabin, with much improved fit and finish that brings a quality feel lacking in previous Colorados. There’s more equipment, too, right across the dualcab range.
At Z71 spec the Colorado feels quite luxurious thanks to its heated leather seats, although all Colorados lack tilt-andreach steering wheel adjustment. That said, the driving position is comfortable and provides shorter drivers with good vision over the bonnet and to the sides.
It’s got one of the bigger and better back seats, too, if you need to accommodate three adults – even if it’s not as roomy as the Ranger.
ALL Colorado dual-cab 4x4s are rated to carry more than a tonne (1000kg total payload) and tow 3500kg. From our recent tow test we know the Colorado does both with reasonable ease.
Off-road practicalities include two front tie down points – but none at the rear – a large air filter that draws via the inner mudguard, and a high-mounted alternator. Unfortunately there’s little room for a second battery.
The Z71 runs on 265/60R18 tyres and, if the 18-inch wheels aren’t to your liking, you can always fit the 17s from the LT, which will open up a wider choice of allterrain rubber.
1 2 3 1. Convenient, conventional
and intuitive dash layout. 2. Large air filter takes up a lot
of under-bonnet space. 3. Tame same-same rear belies
sporty front-end styling.