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