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I’m sure that deep inside a fortune cookie somewhere is a pseudo-cryptic message that suggests being first doesn’t immediately equate with being the best.

Take this pair of pick-ups for example.

For 2016, the Toyota HiLux was not only the highest selling ute in Australia, it was the highest selling passenger vehicle. Period. The eighth-generation Toyota workhorse sold over 40,000 units to achieve its title of Australia’s favourite car in 2016.

Even in the 4×4 guise we have here, some 31,076 HiLuxes (HiLuxii?) found happy homes.

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It is, as it has been for some time, the benchmark double-cab ute.

A little way down the sales list, in fourth place, is the Holden Colorado. The General’s pick-up underwent a bit of a makeover in 2016 that saw a new look inside and out, plus some improvements to ride and driveline response.

Was it enough to turn the once ugly duckling into a swan though? In isolation, we were impressed with the updated Colorado, but the last time the Holden faced off against the Toyota, in our eight-way mega test, it was solidly beaten, in all areas.

That said, the HiLux itself was trumped by the likes of the Nissan Navara, Mazda BT-50, Volkswagen Amarok and Ford Ranger. Showing again that sales success doesn’t always equate to top-of-the-class results.

You’d have to get a pretty specific fortune cookie to read that line though.

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So now, with the HiLux boasting another trophy for the mantelpiece, and armed with new-year drive-away pricing to sweeten the deal, will the updated Colorado be a better match and perhaps climb closer to the benchmark?


Price and value

Our test cars are the high-specification, automatic, diesel models of each truck.

The range-topping 2017 Toyota HiLux SR5 ($56,390 list) is currently being offered with complimentary on-road costs, which means our Nebula Blue ($550 option) example with the premium leather interior pack ($2200 option) can be yours for $59,140.

Sitting in the penultimate position in the range, the 2017 Holden Colorado LTZ ($52,690 list) is currently supported by a drive-away offer of just under $50k for an LTZ with a manual transmission. Throw in the auto ‘box and our car’s Mineral Black paint ($550 option) and you’re off the lot for $52,730.

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These are both tough customers, built for varying terrain, so the inclusion on each of a full-size spare wheel, mud flaps, and rear bumper steps is expected.

Both cars feature satellite navigation, keyless entry, 18-inch wheels, side steps and alloy sports bars. You can option a leather appointed interior in the Colorado for $1500 extra, but even then it still sits $5k less than the Toyota.

Each pick-up is covered by a three-year, 100,000km warranty, with the Holden offering 15,000km (nine-month) intervals to the Toyota’s 10,000km (six-month). Over three years, adhering to standard service intervals, the HiLux will cost $1440 to the Colorado’s $1396.

On the showroom floor then, the win goes to the Holden.

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Style and design

Toyota’s new design approach for the HiLux has caused plenty of online discussion and keyboard-delivered angst. Personally, I like the modern look and front ‘underbite’. It can’t be mistaken for anything else, and the wrap-around headlamps with LED running lamps help give the nose a modern, upmarket feel.

The pumped arches and lower roofline help support a sporty vibe, but we haven’t been thrilled with the quality of finish, especially on the front bumper, which looks like it was spray painted with a rattle-can.

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Conversely, the Colorado, even with its new, Americanised nose, is a much more conservative design. The new look has helped improve the appeal of the ute no end, especially the smart LED running lamp styling, but it still feels quite blocky and basic in terms of an all-over design.

The rear hasn’t changed.

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Finish here is good, and the new wheel designs are very smart but it comes down to personal taste on whether the ‘I’m here’ chunky road presence is a good or a bad thing.

You can complete your personal preference with one of seven colour choices on either ute, so we’ll call this one a draw.

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Engine and drivetrain

Until the release of the 550Nm Volkswagen Amarok V6, the Colorado held claim to the most amount of torque in class.

Its 2.8-litre Duramax engine offers 147kW at 3600rpm and 500Nm from just 2000rpm. On paper, or in pixels, this is a significant increase over the Toyota’s 2.8-litre four cylinder which offers 130kW at 3400rpm and 450Nm from a really low 1600rpm.

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This equates to a power-to-weight figure of 71.2 W/kg for the 2065kg (tare) Colorado and 63.7 W/kg for the 2040kg HiLux. There’s a 300kg braked tow rating advantage to the Holden too, with 3500kg against 3200kg in the Toyota. And a 350kg advantage in gross combination mass (6000kg to 5650kg).

Both cars offer six-speed automatic gearboxes, each with the ability to tip into a self-shift mode, as well as on-the-fly switchable 4WD systems.

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We’ll get to on- and off-road performance shortly, but when racing data-filled spreadsheets, the Holden again takes the lead.


Cabin comfort and space

The area which saw the largest change for the Colorado’s mid-life update was the interior. Big, four-door pick-ups are becoming more common as work-and-play family vehicles, so the cabin needs to be as comfortable as it is functional.

A new dash with softer, chunkier surfaces continues the Americanised styling of the Holden. The big knobs for the audio and air conditioning controls are easy to use when on the move, and the layout is clean and ergonomic.

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Top: Holden Colorado LTZ | Bottom: Toyota HiLux SR5

That said, the change has removed some of the storage, with the Colorado just offering a single glovebox and a dash-top tray rather than a cubby. The pull-out cupholders in front of the vents are gone too, replaced by optional clip on items!

Despite the much-needed update, the layout could still use some refinement. For example, the cupholders on the centre console are partially obscured by the central armrest cubby lid, which isn’t great.

For devices, there is a single USB plug but two 12-volt outlets to run chargers or other accessories.

You sit high, and flat, and even though the seats are power adjustable it is hard to get into just the right position. Vision is good, but from behind the wheel, the Colorado stays true to form and feels like a big truck

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Top: Holden Colorado LTZ | Bottom: Toyota HiLux SR5

Over in the blue-corner, from the driver’s seat at least, the HiLux immediately feels more like a car or SUV than a truck. You sit lower and the dash layout is much more modern and feels very well-built and of decent quality.

There’s plenty of storage, with twin gloveboxes, cupholders on the console as well as pull-out items in front of the vents. You get a key tray as well as a central cubby under the armrest, which houses a 12-volt and 220-volt ‘mains’ accessory plug, which we always find handy on the go. Again, just one USB though.

And of course, the digital clock, front and centre in the dash, which is almost a Toyota trademark these days!

Switch gear feel is good and the layout is ergonomic, plus there are some cool features like the little ute icons on the air conditioning controls. The sense of solid quality is very good in a working leisure vehicle like the HiLux, and is one of the reasons Toyota has such a good reputation for longevity.

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Top: Holden Colorado LTZ | Bottom: Toyota HiLux SR5

Back seat room isn’t a strong point of the HiLux though, and while the bench is quite comfortable you sit very upright. Knee and head room is particularly tight for taller occupants, and I personally wouldn’t enjoy a long trip back there. That slim glasshouse that makes it look more modern on the outside comes with compromise on the inside.

There is a central armrest with cupholders though, plus it offers funny coat hooks and map pockets on the back of the front seats. You get grab handles and bottle bins in the doors but there are no vents or power outlets.

The seat base can flip up in 60:40 split to handle some extra loads, and there is under-floor storage on both sides, although you can’t easily access the one under the single flip seat, which is a bit silly. Both outside seats have ISOFIX support and there are top-tether points as well, but you can’t flip the seat back down at all.

There is plenty of room in the back of the Holden though, and the cloth seats are quite comfortable. Head and knee space is vastly superior, plus there is a 12-volt outlet as well as map pockets. The door bins are smaller than the Toyota and here too, there are no vents.

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Top: Holden Colorado LTZ | Bottom: Toyota HiLux SR5

You can fold the back seat down in one hit, which seems handy if you need to carry bulky items inside the cab, but the middle seatbelt comes for the ride, so just putting stuff on the seat bench is probably easier. Folding the backrest helps you access the child-seat anchor points though.

Folding the base up is the same 60:40 split process as in the Toyota, but the under floor storage is more accessible.

So while the Holden might be bigger, and has undoubtedly improved, the HiLux takes the points for the most well-rounded cabin.


Infotainment and technology

A glassy seven-inch display is standard in the Toyota, and it manages telephony and audio, which still includes a CD player. You get six speakers in the SR5 too.

It’s clean and clear, but quite basic and often confusing in its interface design. Plus the volume control is dealt with by tapping or sliding your finger on the screen. This might be cool on an iPad, but it’s annoying in a car.

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Top: Holden Colorado LTZ | Bottom: Toyota HiLux SR5

The eight-inch MyLink system in the Holden is a much more usable and modern approach and even supports DAB digital radio as well as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay projections. The native navigation system is easy to use and the display and menu configuration just seems more modern and friendlier than the Toyota.

The screen is susceptible to glare though, and can sometimes be a bit slow to initialise. But, count them, you do get seven speakers!

Both have a rear-view camera, which makes living with the big trucks much easier in town, although the Holden has the benefit of ultrasonic sensors on the front and rear as well.

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Top: Holden Colorado LTZ | Bottom: Toyota HiLux SR5

Along with a superior entertainment system, the Colorado also offers a host of safety technology including lane departure and forward collision alert systems.

So on the technology front, the win goes to the Holden.


Rear tub and load

The HiLux, while fitted with an optional bed liner, doesn’t come with a standard tonneau cover. There are plenty of options available though. Inside, there are four ‘foldable’ tie down points mounted mid-height on the side of the tub.

While the Colorado does come with a standard soft tonneau cover, having to remove the whole leading edge from the lip of the tailgate each time you want to load something can be a pain, especially in the morning if the vinyl is cold and not very stretchy.

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Top: Holden Colorado LTZ | Bottom: Toyota HiLux SR5

The stitching on the cover is pretty ordinary too, we can see plenty of these getting sent to ‘Sew Quick’ for repairs under warranty.

There are also four tie points in the back of the Holden, but they are basic, fixed U-shackles, rather than the smart folding alloy items on the Toyota. Again you can option a tub liner to protect the paint finish.

Neither are wide enough to fit a pallet between the arches (1109mm in the Toyota and 1122mm in the Holden), but the HiLux bed is longer at 1569mm, against 1484mm; and wider at 1645mm, compared to 1534mm.

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Where the  Colorado has a 150kg advantage in gross vehicle mass (3150kg vs 3000kg), we don’t think absolute load wins the day here and the Toyota takes the cake in terms of functionality and capability in the tub.


Driving performance

On the move, the HiLux is a very easy vehicle to drive. The steering is light, although you do feel that you need to turn the wheel more than you would expect, but it’s a minor issue.

The more ‘car-like’ cabin feels immediately more comfortable and you sense you can just hop in and go.

What doesn’t feel more comfortable though is the ride. Unladen, the Toyota feels very firm and jittery, particularly from the rear. Yes, it will settle with a load, but there’s no point feeling you always have to add ballast before a quick zap to the shops.

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Even on well-paved roads, there is a constant feeling of movement from the car. This is amplified over rough sections, and on a particularly heavily rutted road on our assessment drive, the Toyota really bounced around.

Over the same stretch, the Holden dealt with the rough surface with much more stability, which continued throughout the drive loop.

Much of the suspension was updated in the Colorado’s update and the result is quite impressive. Where your seating position suggests the big Holden will drive like a truck, it really handles and rides more like an SUV, and is much more suited to longer touring drives than the Toyota.

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It’s quieter in the Colorado too, with tyre, wind and engine noise much less present than in the HiLux. It feels smoother and less ‘clattery’ off the mark, and while we didn’t measure standing 0-100km/h times, the Holden feels more punchy under heavy throttle.

Remember though, they aren’t sports cars and through a number of tests for urban driving, roll-on highway acceleration and 80-100km/h overtaking moves, each performed as expected.

You need to plan ahead for overtakes, but hit the POWER MODE button in the Toyota, and throttle response is amplified, giving a more urgent sensation under foot. Neither car feels standout though, good or bad.

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Top: Holden Colorado LTZ | Bottom: Toyota HiLux SR5

The instruments in both cars are easy to read and each offer myriad of trip and driving data in a central LCD display. We found the Colorado managed 9.2L/100km on a combined cycle (up from the claim of 8.7L/100km) and the Toyota 9.4L/100km (also up on the claimed 8.5L/100km).

Bottom line, in the real world, both machines are pretty economical, especially given their size.

Shifts from the six-speed autos is again pretty line-ball in both cars. Left to their own devices, under normal driving conditions, the changes are well timed and smooth. Using the self-shifting is more for low-speed management than sportier driving, and again each car manages this well.

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Top: Holden Colorado LTZ | Bottom: Toyota HiLux SR5

Both pick-ups offer a standard high-range rear-wheel drive and a high-range four-wheel drive mode that can be selected while the car is in motion. Again, both offer low-range four-wheel drive but only the Toyota has a rear differential lock for particularly challenging terrain.

There is a hill-descent control option for both cars and decent entry (28-degree Holden, 31-degree Toyota), and departure (22-degree Holden, 26-degree Toyota) angles to deal with  the majority of medium duty off-roading that these pick-ups may regularly face.

High airboxes in both cars account for a 700mm wade depth in the Toyota and a slightly lower 600mm depth in the Holden, and with the added hardware gives the off-road win to the Toyota… but the overall driving trophy to the Holden.

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Conclusion

The Toyota HiLux might be the best selling pick-up in Australia but we already know it isn’t the best in every way. That doesn’t stop it from being a well rounded, capable benchmark though. It’s a low-risk buy in an increasingly complex and busy segment.

The HiLux provides an excellent status quo for all others to be measured by, and where it is functional, comfortable, modern and capable, it is also small in the back, too firm when unladen and lacking in some technology and usability areas.

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Not only has the Colorado improved in areas where we felt it was lacking, the big Holden answers each of the Toyota’s shortcomings by being spacious, comfortable and compliant (even when empty) and offering better and newer technology, but sadly it still doesn’t reach the bar set by the HiLux’s bigger load space and better built cabin.

It is however, more powerful and at least $5000 cheaper than the HiLux.

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It’s this that gives the 2017 Holden Colorado LTZ the boost it needs to equal the benchmark setting 2017 Toyota HiLux SR5. An impressive improvement from Holden, given it wasn’t really playing in the same quality park as the Toyota just 12 months ago.

Neither option here is perfect, each have their favours and faults, and it comes down to more personal choice than an engineering one.

Cabin space, comfort and technology important, then try the Colorado. Quality, ease of use and all-round robustness your key driver, then HiLux it is.

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If only a fortune cookie would say that!

Click on the Photos tab for more images by Tom Fraser.


Podcast

Listen to the CarAdvice team discuss the Toyota HiLux and Holden Colorado comparison below, and catch more like this at caradvice.com/podcast.



HOLDEN COLORADO BREAKDOWN

Holden Colorado LTZ v Toyota HiLux SR5 comparison
  • 7.5
  • 7
  • 7.5
  • 7.5
  • 7.5
  • 7.5
  Submit an Owner Car Review

TOYOTA HILUX BREAKDOWN

Holden Colorado LTZ v Toyota HiLux SR5 comparison
  • 7.5
  • 7
  • 7.5
  • 7
  • 7.5
  • 7
  Submit an Owner Car Review




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