Holden’s pick-me-up

The Colorado bears more than just a bold new look — it has the brand’s fu­ture rid­ing on its brawny shoul­ders

Herald Sun - Motoring - - COVER STORY - JOSHUA DOWLING NA­TIONAL MO­TOR­ING ED­I­TOR joshua.dowling@news.com.au

MEET Holden’s next hero. The brand’s fu­ture is rid­ing on the Colorado ute, which will re­place the Com­modore as its icon — and profit maker — once lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing ends late next year.

When the im­ported Com­modore ar­rives from Ger­many in late 2017 with­out a V8, which ac­counts for an as­ton­ish­ing 38 per cent of sales, de­mand for the big sedan will fall off a cliff.

This will cat­a­pult the Colorado to top spot in the Holden line-up, car­ry­ing with it the task of re­vers­ing the brand’s 22-year sales slump.

The Colorado al­ready has given the Com­modore a black eye, eclips­ing it in Jan­uary’s sales tal­lies.

Over the past 10 years, de­mand has more than dou­bled for four-door 4WD utes, the new fam­ily cars, de­signed for work and play. The Ranger has been Ford’s top-sell­ing name­plate since Fe­bru­ary 2014 and Toy­ota’s HiLux has over­taken the Corolla year-to-date.

That’s why Holden has thrown ev­ery­thing it pos­si­bly can into this Colorado up­date, which is more than just a bold new look mid­way in the model cy­cle.

Holden ad­mits it had some home­work to do. Barely a few months af­ter this gen­er­a­tion Colorado went on sale in 2012, Holden ex­ec­u­tives apol­o­gised to deal­ers for an un­der­whelm­ing ve­hi­cle.

It was one of the vic­tims of Gen­eral Mo­tors’ bank­ruptcy dur­ing the GFC. De­vel­op­ment bud­gets were slashed and the Colorado’s launch was de­layed.

In the up­date, stan­dard fare in­cludes seven airbags, rearview cam­era, Ap­ple CarPlay (first in class), dig­i­tal ra­dio, cruise con­trol, dig­i­tal speed dis­play, re­mote en­try, au­to­matic head­lights, LED day­time run­ning lights, auto “up” power win­dows on all doors and rear air vents on crew cab mod­els.

The Colorado LTZ — the most pop­u­lar vari­ant and the ri­val for the HiLux SR5 and Ranger XLT — gains em­bed­ded sat­nav (so you’re not com­pelled to use phone data), lane wan­der warn­ing (but not lane-keep­ing, as in the Ranger) and for­ward col­li­sion warn­ing (though not au­to­matic brak­ing).

The LTZ also gains front and rear park­ing sen­sors, power ad­just­ment for the driver seat, 18-inch rims, chrome sports bar, heated and power fold­ing door mir­rors, re­mote start via the key­fob (auto only) and rain­sens­ing wipers.

Holden even put car­pet in the door pock­ets and made them larger to han­dle big bot­tles of wa­ter. Good thing — the op­tional cuphold­ers that plug into the dash are too flimsy to hold any­thing.

What’s miss­ing? Dual-zone air­con­di­tion­ing isn’t avail­able on any model. There’s only one USB port (al­though there are three 12V sock­ets). Its steer­ing wheel is still only height ad­justable.

Un­like the HiLux SR5 and Ranger XLT, there’s no house­hold power point to charge a lap­top or the like. A tow bar and tray liner are not stan­dard. The Ranger XLT has these ex-fac­tory. In its favour, the LTZ is $7000 cheaper.

ON THE ROAD

The Colorado is built in Thailand and its de­vel­op­ment was based in Brazil yet Holden engi­neers did more than 100,000km of test­ing on Aus­tralian roads to come up with unique set­tings for the sus­pen­sion, au­to­matic trans­mis­sion and power steer­ing.

They also de­vel­oped new

tyre com­pounds and tread pat­terns to im­prove com­fort, cor­ner­ing and brak­ing, es­pe­cially in the wet.

There is more sound dead­en­ing be­tween the en­gine and the driver. The front side win­dows are now 4mm thick rather than 3mm, to dull road noise. New rub­ber mounts for the en­gine, trans­mis­sion and body aim to add re­fine­ment.

Man­ual mod­els have a new fi­nal drive ra­tio to ease progress from rest when tow­ing a heavy load (pre­vi­ously this mostly led to stalling).

The au­to­matic trans­mis­sion has less shud­der (thanks to a new in­ter­nal “en­ergy ab­sorb­ing damper” usu­ally only found in Ger­man lux­ury cars) and holds on to the en­gine’s torque bet­ter, rather than try­ing to slur a gear change in pur­suit of econ­omy.

That said, fuel con­sump­tion is also down slightly; our 200km-plus of open road driv­ing, un­laden, re­turned 8.5L/100km.

Based on a pre­view drive on pot-holed moun­tain roads and coarse ru­ral roads, Holden has closed the gap to the class lead­ers.

We tested five mod­els, in­clud­ing three crew-cab LTZ utes with four adults on board, ini­tially with an empty tray, then with 200kg and later with 500kg.

Un­usu­ally, there was not a sig­nif­i­cant change in ride com­fort, laden or oth­er­wise. The same can’t be said of most other utes (al­though the Ranger does well to dis­guise a load).

The only clue to the Colorado’s cargo was slightly lighter steer­ing and longer brak­ing dis­tances, to pull up the ex­tra weight.

The steer­ing feel and gen­eral com­fort when un­laden — which is how most are driven — have gone from bot­tom of the pack to within cooee of the bench­mark Volk­swa­gen Amarok and Ranger XLT.

VER­DICT

There used to be rea­sons not to buy a Colorado but Holden has elim­i­nated them. It’s a bet­ter truck with more equip­ment and a sharp drive-away price. The HiLux and Ranger won’t have the ute mar­ket to them­selves much longer.

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