The 2012 Holden Colorado is an entirely new light truck built from the ground up, with the project costing more than $2 billion in development costs and covering more than 2.5 million test kilometres. The Colorado shares its underpinnings with the soon to arrive Isuzu D-Max but has a very General Motors feel to it, including new-generation diesel engines that are unique to the Colorado.
The Colorado ute was designed and engineered by GM’s Brazilian operations but many other global GM centres, including Australia’s Holden, had a great deal of input into the truck’s engineering requirements. Australian delivered Holden Colorados come out of Thailand with the 2.5-litre and 2.8-litre diesel engines being produced at a brand new engine plant nearby.
From the outside the Colorado sports a bolder look upfront with a dual grille design that highlights the lion badge. Although looks are entirely subjective, we certainly think it has more road presence than the old Colorado but perhaps falls short of the tough-truck looking new Ford Ranger. The rear design is very generic, like most vehicles in this category, a simple tailgate with vertical taillights do the job.
Powering the new Colorado is a set of 2.5 and 2.8-litre turbocharged diesel engines. Petrol engines are no longer on offer as Holden has chosen to go for a diesel-only strategy due to significantly higher demand for diesels compared to petrol-powered utes (97 percent in the 4×4 segment). Out of the 26 different Colorados on offer, only the absolute base model DX cab chassis is offered in the 2.5-litre guise (110kW – 350Nm) and in a manual only. It seems to exist solely to get an entry price point ($26,990) to drive dealer throughput. Given the company has dropped petrol engines altogether, it seems seemingly illogical to carry a different sized engine just for one, likely low-volume, variant.
The great majority of Holden Colorado buyers will have their vehicle powered by the new 2.8-litre Duramax turbo diesel engine that provides a healthy 132kW of power and 470Nm of torque when coupled to a six-speed automatic. Manual lovers will have to be content with the 440Nm of torque provided when coupled to a five-speed manual. Both configurations of the 2.8-litre engine provide a class leading towing capacity of 3.5 tonne (3.0 tonne for the 2.5L) and all new Colorados offer a one tonne payload.
It’s fair to say that it all looks good on paper, but how does the new Holden Colorado stack up in the real world? To find out, we drove a series of different Colorados from Brisbane airport out through the seriously twisty roads of Mount Glorious and onwards to Toowoomba for some towing and off-roading. Around the twisty stuff the Colorado was certainly not car-like, there was noticeable body roll around bends (which you’d expect for a body-on-frame vehicle of this size) and steering input was not as responsive as some of its competitors (e.g. Ford Ranger). Nonetheless it was easy to drive and simple to manoeuvre.
We also experienced a bit of wind noise when cruising at around 100-110km/h thanks largely to the giant side mirrors (we believe). It’s not overly loud, in fact it’s probably no worse than the ever-popular Toyota HiLux in terms of cabin quietness but again, it’s not as refined or car-like as the Volkswagen Amarok or the Ford Ranger/Mazda BT50 twins. On a more pleasant note, the 2.8-litre diesel engine (2.5-litre not tested) provides torque in all the right areas without causing much of a fuss. Powering out of corners is a breeze with power and torque being pushed to all four-wheels in 4H (4×4 high) but even in standard real-wheel drive mode it felt very competent in its power delivery.
One feature we were very impressed with was the Colorado’s electronic stability control (ESC), which worked extremely well to limit traction loss without cutting too much power. Around the tight corners of Mount Glorious, with moderate rain, we thought the Colorado would be a handful but it drove exceptionally well thanks to the ESC. On long highway stretches it’s also a pleasant ute to command, so long as you’re not bothered by the wind noise. The six-speed automatic is well mated to the engine and provides smooth and seamless gearshifts. The five-speed manual can do with an extra gear but is still far easier to live with than the Ranger’s finicky six-speed manual.
Holden’s main marketing point will be the Colorado’s best towing capacity in class (3.5 tonne compared to 3.35 tonne for the Ford Ranger). To showcase its might we had a good hour behind the wheel of two Colorados each towing a near 3 tonne load around suburbia and on highways. There’s certainly no issue towing a heavy load, even with three well-fed adults in the car (as tested). We felt the Colorado performed the task amicably and without complaints.
We did, however, feel rather uncomfortable sitting in the back seat during the towing process. The jittery movement (trailer without electric brakes) is likely to make any rear passenger feel a tad queasy. It’s also worth noting that the extra gear in the six-speed automatic seems to make the whole towing process a little easier in terms of acceleration and overall feel.
As for off-roading, the Holden Colorado’s 210mm ground clearance is more than adequate for the great majority of uses. We put it through a relatively easy four-wheel drive course and found it performed just as good as we expected. We’ve put the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger through much tougher 4WD tracks and found them exemplary.
The Holden Colorado lacks some of the sophisticated features of its rivals, such as hill descent control (Ranger) but unless you plan on doing serious off-roading, it’s a non-issue. The Colorado is by no means the best off-roader in class but that shouldn’t be a negative given the majority of ute owners never subject their beloved vehicles to anything a meter away from the tarmac.
What many owners may find surprising is the Colorado’s new and somewhat Spartan interior. Holden claims it’s the result of many user clinics and that even the instrument gauges are inspired by the Camaro. The reality, however, is rather different. We found the interior lacking in sophistication and the single colour stereo system and air-conditiong controls looking rather dated already (pictured below).
As for the Camaro-inspired gauges, the dial is so thick that it tends to cover the markings on the speedometer, which makes it rather hard to read (don’t try and use that excuse if you get pulled over by the men in blue). The front seats are comfortable and provide adequate support but the rear seats could do with a little more padding. The steering wheel also lacks in-out reach adjustment. It’s not the sort of vehicle you’d take the family on a long-distance trip in, at least comfortably. The Colorado has some way to go yet to match the cabin quality and overall interior-ambience of the Ranger and Amarok.
An ANCAP safety rating is still unreleased, but Holden’s decision to equip all Colorado variants with ABS with EBD, ESC, front driver and passenger airbags as well as full length curtain airbags is commendable. The company will also use its new capped-priced servicing strategy to lure new customers to the brand. A guaranteed $295 fee is all you’ll pay for the first four scheduled services for the first three years or 60,000 km (whichever comes first).
The Holden Colorado is offered in four different trims with prices ranging from $26,990 for the DX Cab Chassis manual to $51,990 for the range-topping LTZ pickup six-speed automatic. It has already acquired 1,500 preorders with all of those customers buying the vehicle unseen. That’s a pretty healthy number and one that goes to show the Colorado’s loyal customer base. In fact, according to Holden, Colorado customers are the most loyal for the manufacturer, even more so than Commodore buyers. Whether or not it will unsettle the seemingly unbeatable and iconic Toyota HiLux or tackle the private-buyer’s number one choice, the Nissan Navara, remains to be seen.
Check out the gallery (link up the top) for many more photos.
Holden Colorado DX highlights:
Holden Colorado LX highlights over DX:
Holden Colorado LT highlights over LX:
Holden Colorado LTZ highlights over LT:
4×2 CREW CAB
4×4 SINGLE CAB
4×4 SPACE CAB
4×4 CREW CAB