Can Holden's take on a ute-based SUV be more convincing than the Mitsubishi Challenger and Nissan Pathfinder?
A decade after the demise of the Jackaroo, the Holden Colorado 7 arrives to (finally) fill mud-encrusted boots in the full-sized, seven-seat SUV segment.
Although competitors these days have a ‘relaxed’ view of off-roading, the Colorado 7 remains true to the roots of its long-buried predecessor. It is a proper bush basher, with a separate chassis, limited slip differential, and dual-range gearbox with switchable four-wheel-drive system (2WD, 4-High, 4-Low), all unsurprisingly borrowed from its Colorado ute sibling.
While the double wishbone front suspension is also shared, the wagon-backed version of the Holden Colorado replaces the rear leaf springs of the tray-backed variant with coil springs to control the live beam axle.
Available in two specification levels – the $46,990 LT, and $50,490 LTZ – utilising a single 132kW/470Nm 2.8-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder and six-speed automatic drivetrain, the Holden Colorado 7 will compete with the Mitsubishi Challenger and Nissan Pathfinder – old Jackaroo foes – rather than the Ford Territory and Toyota Kluger.
The entry LT gets 16-inch alloys, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, reversing camera and Bluetooth connectivity, while the flagship LTZ adds 18s, leather trim, single-zone climate control and eight-speaker audio.
According to Holden's executive director of sales and marketing, Phillip Brook, the Colorado 7 will appeal to “grey nomads” and rural folk more than urban dwellers looking for a school-run chariot. Brook expects a “few hundred” sales per month; the Challenger has averaged 208 sales per month to October, compared with 227 Pathfinders.
Front to rear, the 4878mm Holden Colorado 7 is 183mm longer than Challenger, and adds 65mm over the Pathfinder.
What that translates to is generous third-row legroom (above), at least by typical third-row standards. With 1902mm body width a full 102mm greater than the Mitsubishi and 50mm up on the Nissan, there’s even room for an open console container between the rearmost two pews, and a cupholder under each window.
The centre bench doesn’t slide, but it does tumble forward to allow easy (but awkward-to-fold) entry and egress. Both rows of occupants can be chilled or warmed, thanks to roof-mounted air vents and a separate rear fan control – standard on both spec levels.
Families who need all seven seats will be forced to accept only 205 litres of luggage room. Fold the third row and that expands to 878L. When there’s only two aboard, with all seats folded, a 1780L cavity is available.
As a static display of space and practicality, the Holden Colorado 7 is impressive, particularly for the price. It also makes economic sense in other ways. The oiler delivers its 470Nm at 2000rpm, and the six-speed auto slurs between changes to keep revs in that ballpark, so the 9.4L/100km claimed economy figure is achievable. On our drive through the hills around Healesville, in Victoria, the trip computer remained below 10L/100km.
For SUV buyers who actually travel off road, the Colorado 7 is very capable. Steep, rain-soaked tracks kept our test vehicle busy, but with differentials locked, and the oiler digging away in an ultra-short first gear, the Holden kept churning through ruts and over boulders.
For caravan-towers, a three-tonne braked-trailer capacity means the Colorado 7 will be the ideal option for those who like BYO accommodation.
There is, of course, a fairly large ‘but’ that accompanies the alternative-lifestyle focus. Being good at towing and being able to deliver 231mm of ground clearance (Challenger 205mm; Pathfinder 232mm) to conquer most terrain means sacrificing the ability to be good at normal, bitumen-based activities.
Fine, there’s a sacrifice. The mechanical power steering is slow and numb, and weirdly weights up into the turn. The tall body and thick-sidewalled tyres exacerbates the feeling of roll, and the solid rear beam hops and skips over large irregularities.
There’s little refinement and balance from fairly utilitarian ute-based underpinnings. At least the long-travel suspension delivers a comfortable ride on the freeway and over really rough terrain.
Again, sacrifice is expected. But what isn’t acceptable – in any class, especially at $47-51K – is poor cabin quality and engine refinement.
Inside (above, LT cabin pictured top and LTX bottom), the plethora of hard plastics should at least prove durable. However, the Thailand-made Colorado suffers from flimsy lids and cubby-nooks, crude surface joins, and separate audio and climate control screens with different fonts – the former a dot-matrix pixellation, the latter borrowed from a 1990s bedside alarm clock. Even the LT’s mouse-fur trim and LTZ’s vinyl-like leather is from an era closer to that of the late-1990s Jackaroo.
Diesel engine refinement is also sorely lacking. At idle, engine vibes shimmy through the dashboard and tiller. Anywhere in the rev range, clatter penetrates the (clearly underdamped) firewall. It’s loud, unpleasant, and – worst of all – ever present.
It’s understandable that the Holden Colorado 7 will perform better off-road than on. It doesn’t have to be sharp dynamically. However it’s the cabin quality and refinement issues that drag the big wagon down most.
There’s a crudity that no doubt lingers from sharing its parts with a commercial vehicle. It’s a compromise that even off-road enthusiasts with decent money to spend may find difficult to accept.