Colorado moves up as class act
Light trucks are dominating the sales charts and it’s not difficult to see why as they’re just as well appointed as the family hatchback. Dave Leggett reports.
Forget prestige sports cars and grand limousines, the most important vehicle on the New Zealand market is the one-tonne ute.
The ute dominated the sales charts last year and it’s been the same early this year as well.
Out of the six best selling vehicles last month, four were utes, two of them knocking the perennial bestseller, Toyota’s Corolla, into third place.
Holden’s Commodore was the only other car in the top six.
Holden’s entry in the utility market is the Colorado, last year the third biggest selling utility with almost 3000 sales and 8 per cent of the market.
It is already looking to at least meet and probably exceed the 2014 sales figures with more than 1000 sales so far this year.
A major revamp late last year has no doubt helped sales but it faces even stronger competition this year as most of the other ute makers revise or replace their own utility models.
Mitsubishi has just launched its new Triton and Nissan is set to launch a new Navara at Fieldays next month. Ford has a revised Ranger coming towards the end of the year as does Mazda. And then there is Toyota’s Hilux also set for a complete revision in the latter part of the year. All light truck makers know that it’s no longer enough to build a competent vehicle able to carry a load and handle the tricky terrain around a building site.
That’s because these days a ute is more than just a working vehicle. It may have to carry up to five people reasonably long distances – and in some sort of comfort. And it’s also likely to have to meet the approval of drivers and passengers within the family who use the ute as an everyday drive.
So that can mean it has to be as connected as any other vehicle with all the latest gadgetry and access to all the latest software.
The utility will also have to perform at highway speeds and in commuter traffic and most ute drivers now expect their vehicle to be as proficient as a sedan in the ride and handling department. And at the same time it has to be as safe as the family hatch.
All that and the ute has still got to be able to fit a standard sized load on the back and be able to scramble through the inevitable morass at the front gate of the construction site.
The top of the 11-model Colorado range is designed to meet all those challenges and still sparkle. It’s the four-wheel drive LTZ crew cab, the highest-spec model in the range that now sports a more aggressively styled front end.
It’s a big change for the vehicle and gives it a completely different personality. The two-tier effect of the grille suits the vehicle although I’m not sure it works as well on the other Holden vehicles that now get it. The Colorado range utilises just one engine, a 2.8-litre turbocharged diesel. It produces 147kW of power and a massive 500Nm at 2000rpm so it was more than enough to impress ambling around on and offroad.
Dragging a trailer-load of firewood up from the bottom paddock the Colorado never even broke into a sweat. Five minutes later it was sitting on the speed limit down SH3 and it was just the same. With the revs hovering on the 1700rpm mark, it was doing little more than idling so it’s no wonder it can return a fuel economy figure under 9 litres per 100km.
In this upmarket LTZ model, the engine is matched to a six- speed automatic, one of the reasons the Colorado is now such an attractive highway cruiser. Want four-wheel drive? Or low ratio? It couldn’t be easier and all done on the fly through a large rotary switch just behind the gear shift.
As part of the facelift last year Holden did a lot of work on reducing the Colorado’s powertrain noise and it’s now a smooth package out on the road. However, it’s still a noisy engine and when you put the foot down the diesel unit, is very obvious.
Revised spring rates and damper settings as well as a stiffer front stabiliser bar have worked to give the Colorado an excellent ride, one of its standout features.
Holden sees the importance of the Colorado’s urban appeal so a rear view camera has been fitted.
Backing by touch is a thing of the past and a camera must surely be standard item in any ute this size. Out of all the new features in the Colorado, this was the one from which I got the most benefit.
Others might get more from the MyLink entertainment system which features smartphone integration with Pandora internet radio, Siri Eyes Free and Stitcher Smart Radio as well as TuneIn radio and BringGo Navigation, all displayed on a 7-inch centrally mounted screen.
Not of much use to me but certainly an indication of how the standard ute has changed its use and its customer base.
And that makes a utility’s lack of storage space even more annoying than it did in the past. There is nowhere to put the weekly grocery buy or loose items.
Safety features have been uprated so the Colorado LTZ gets a five-star ANCAP rating and a six-airbag package as well as an electronic driver assistant package that includes trailer sway control, hill start assist and hill descent control to go with the other stability control features.
Then there is the six-way electric adjustable driver’s seat that seems to go nicely with the climate air and electric windows, the soft touch door trims and armrest and the jet black highlights around the centre console and instrument panel.
There is even a leather upholstery option with heated front seats for another $2000.
No wonder it’s so difficult to continue thinking of the utility as a working vehicle.
Hi-tech Holden Colorado LTZ takes the ute into sedan territory.