AT A GLANCE
MOST SUVs can barely handle a patch of dirt road, let alone any serious off-roading. And then there are the likes of the Holden Trailblazer.
Unlike most SUVs, which have a car-like body structure, vehicles like the Trailblazer have old-fashioned heavy-duty chassis rails on which the body is mounted.
They’re cheaper to build and more rugged to drive and can get where most SUVs can’t.
It’s also easier for car companies to produce different derivatives from a shared chassis at a lower cost.
For example, the Trailblazer shares much of its chassis with the stablemate Colorado ute. It’s the same for Ford’s Everest and Ranger, the Toyota Fortuner and HiLux and Mitsubishi Pajero Sport and Triton.
Given our appetite for the great outdoors, car companies have been cramming their showrooms with these utebased 4WDs in the hope of hooking more buyers. Holden had a crack at this market niche with the Colorado7, introduced in 2012.
But, as with the ute on which it is based, it was a victim of cost cutting by General Motors during the global financial crisis and was underdone in every sense of the word. Buyers stayed away from it in droves, despite super-sharp pricing.
The Isuzu MU-X — which was initially a twin of the Colorado7 until an acrimonious split with General Motors — has consistently and comprehensively outsold the Holden by more than two-toone despite having roughly half as many dealers.
But now the Colorado7 has returned with a new look and a new name. Holden has adopted the name given to the vehicle in Asia and the Middle East to distance the Trailblazer sevenseater from the Colorado ute — even though they are made on the same production line in Thailand and look identical from the front.
As with the recent overhaul of the Colorado, the changes to Trailblazer are more than skindeep. There’s more sound deadening and other tech changes designed to improve on-road refinement.
Holden engineers also got the spanners on the suspension and developed unique settings and tyres for Australia. The steering is now electrically assisted (rather than hydraulic).
Inside, there are now seven airbags and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on all models.
The high-grade LTZ comes with forward collision warning (although not auto braking) and lane wander alert (although not lane keeping). ON THE ROAD The biggest changes are in the way the Trailblazer drives. The engine is retuned, though with no more power, and the sixspeed automatic transmission’s new calibration improves fuel efficiency and driveability.
The auto holds on to gears at lower revs, making freeway inclines easy and gear changes less intermittent.
There have been attempts to make the ute quieter — Holden has been more successful at muting the Trailblazer.
Even though the engines are supposedly identical, changes to the emissions hardware make the seven-seater quieter than the ute.
As with the ute, the Trailblazer is more pleasant to drive than previously, although it’s still not class-leading.
The suspension tuning is identical for the LTZ and base LT and the Trailblazer rides more comfortably on the latter’s 17-inch wheels rather than the 18s on the dearer model. It’s one of the great automotive ironies: luxury models customarily get betterlooking (larger) wheels that limit their level of comfort.
Other shortcomings are relatively minor: there are not enough USB ports (good luck arguing over who in this sevenseater gets to use the one port) but there are three 12V sockets to share the load. The driver’s seat lacks under-thigh adjustment.
The Trailblazer’s biggest assets are its price and simplified model range.
The LT starts from $47,990 plus on-roads and the LTZ is $52,490 plus on-roads — almost dollar for dollar the HOLDEN TRAILBLAZER PRICE $47,990-$52,490 plus on-roads WARRANTY 3 years/100,000km CAPPED SERVICING $1396 over 3 years SERVICE INTERVAL 9 months/15,000km SAFETY 5 stars, 7 airbags ENGINE 2.8-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 147kW/500Nm TRANSMISSION 6-speed auto; AWD THIRST 8.6L/100km DIMENSIONS 4887mm (L), 1902mm (W), 1846mm (H), 2845mm (WB) WEIGHT 2194kg-2203kg SPARE Full-size alloy TOWING 3000kg same as the Toyota Fortuner and equivalent grades of the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport.
Importantly, both Trailblazer models undercut Ford’s Everest by at least $8000. VERDICT The Trailblazer may not be the best in class but, with significant improvements and a sharp price, it earns a place on the shopping list.