Mitsubishi’s Triton was the first of the one-tonne ute brigade, in 2006, to adopt a more rounded design in response to the ever-growing appeal of the dual-cab variants as dual-role vehicles for both work and lifestyle roles.
Mazda’s latest-generation BT-50 followed suit last year, but General Motors’ Dageberto Tribia, one of the key figures in the GM Brazil design team behind the Colorado, says while its customers do want a more car-like experience from utes they are also clear they want them to look suitably tough.
“Yes, [the Triton and Mazda BT-50 are a] a bit strange and I feel a little weak,” says Tribia, talking to CarAdvice at the Colorado’s global launch in Thailand this week. “There is not the same posture or same personality as this [the Colorado].
“If you go with the Mitsubishi [Triton, above], it’s too rounded and a little bit too car-like.
“In the [market research] clinics, it seems that is not the answer. We had to find the right balance. We felt very confident to go with a mix between truck like and car like [design].
“A tough look is crucial, but not too blocky; [customers] want some kind of shape, a bit of sculpting, but not too much. The Colorado is a tough truck with strong personality but it also has some elegance.”
Tribia says of the numerous markets in which the Colorado will be sold, Thailand and Australia are the two countries where customers are asking for utes that offer a more car-like design and driving experience.
GM is certainly mindful of the Thailand market, the world’s biggest for mid-size utes – or trucks as the US car maker prefers to call them – such as the Colorado.
The various and differing demands of ute markets around the world was a challenge to “cover a whole bandwith of customers”.
“Every market has its own way to use a truck,” says Tribia. “On one side you even have people who just want to show off with a premium [looking] truck.”
Holden says this is certainly applicable to Australia, where it says the market is continuing to head towards higher-spec ute models – such as the $51,990 LTZ dual-cab 4WD variant that will sit at the top of the Holden Colorado range from mid year.
Tribia says the Colorado will be offered with more accessories than ever before, and expects Australian buyers to be particularly active with ticking such boxes.
He expects one popular accessory in Australia to be a ‘cab collar’ that is not yet officially confirmed by GM.
The ‘cab collar’ featured on the Colorado concept – pictured above – shown at the 2011 Bangkok motor show. It fits onto the back to form a more natural blend between the cabin and tray sections. (It also featured on a limited edition 2008 Triton called the Fastback.)
“For sure it will be part of our strategy to have that [cab collar] as an accessory. It makes [the Colorado] more car-like, and for Australian market this is really important. It will be an accessory decision for different markets but I would expect Holden to order it.
“I mean your market even has cars that are utes,” he adds in reference to the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon utes.
Car manufacturers may be continuing to evolve utes into more car-like vehicles, but the Colorado’s cabin materials are still clearly biased towards durability rather than quality.
Tribia defends the plethora of hard plastics in the Colorado’s interior, claiming it’s what GM’s customers want.
“[Durability] is part of the [interior] strategy – this vehicle should be very easy to clean, it doesn’t get dirt so easily, so that’s why the materials have been selected for this kind of work,” he says.
“I know on the materials side if you want to sell as more premium you would have to have some [of a higher grade], but this is not the case here; our customer feedback is that this [Colorado interior] is what they want.”
Stay tuned to CarAdvice this week for a first review of the new 2012 Holden Colorado.