Somewhat overshadowed by its dual-cab sibling, the 2015 Holden Colorado LTZ Space Cab is perhaps the best-kept secret in Holden’s big ute lineup.
The ‘lifestyle pickup’ has been a mainstay of the American automotive landscape for decades, and now, like much of the consumer-culture from the home of the brave, Australia is seeing the rise of the ‘styleside’ as more than just a working truck.
In fact for the first five months of 2015, the 4x4 pickup market has already seen 6.8 per cent growth over the same period in 2014.
Utes have always been synonymous with tradies and primary producers, but now more and more are finding their way onto the High Street, replacing traditional large sedans and wagons as the vehicle of choice for many outdoor adventure-loving Australians.
Higher specification vehicles, with bold colours and lashings of chrome not only make a statement on the road, they make solid practical sense for the weekend too. And it is here where the Space Cab shines.
Our Oceanic Blue ($550 option) test car looks pretty darn good. It’s a big thing, over five-meters long (5,347mm) and almost as tall (1,780mm) as it is wide (1,882mm); the size magnified by the slab-sided nature of the Colorado.
It’s a young person’s car. It seems a silly statement to make, usually reserved for the likes of Holden Barinas and Ford Fiestas, but there is something about the giant Space Cab that wouldn’t make it look out of place wearing P-Plates (and probably a UNIT sticker), heading to the coast for the weekend.
The polished 17-inch wheel faces, chrome grille accents and giant alloy sports bar help to give the ute a commanding, but youthful presence.
So much so that the Colorado impressed on the school run, when two of miss-six’s classmates exclaimed that ‘your dad has the coolest car!’. Check. Mate.
Inside though, the cloth seats and hard-wearing plastics remind you that this is a working vehicle at its core.
The style and presentation is dated, the dash-top storage lid feels flimsy and there were mystery rattles from the door trims.
The Colorado is fitted with Holden’s seven-inch MyLink touch screen infotainment system, which provides an interface for telephone and audio, including internet-based streaming of music when connected to a phone by USB connection.
There is support for the BringGo navigation app through the same smartphone paring, but it is honestly so bad that it isn’t worthy of even discussing let alone persevering with to test. If you need navigation, use your phone in a secure mounting bracket.
That said, MyLink is easy to use and a reasonably neat system, but as we have noted before, the use of tap-up and down volume buttons, or even the on-screen slider, isn’t as simple or intuitive as it should be.
Further down the dash, the ‘interesting’ rotary control for the air-conditioning looks like it should have stayed on a ‘90s boom box. The bright blue-green LCD display tends to reflect in the rear view mirror at night too – giving false positive sensations of movement in your peripheral vision.
Generally though it’s ergonomic enough with good room and vision. There is plenty of storage with the twin gloveboxes, previously mentioned dash-top storage, centre console and door pockets. There are two cubbies below the rear bench too.
Powered by the same 147kW 2.8-litre Duramax turbo diesel as all other Colorado variants, the Space Cab offers the ‘Goldilocks’ solution of being neither too big or too small when it comes to both cabin and load space.
Offering two rear jump seats that are easily accessed by clever suicide doors, the Colorado Space Cab can comfortably accommodate two passengers in the back.
There is 23mm less headroom and 175mm less legroom than in the back of the Colorado Crew Cab, so taller adults may prefer to limit rides to shorter trips, but there is certainly enough room for children.
The added room over a single-cab also helps with the day-to-day needs of carrying bags, shopping, equipment - but not the dry cleaning as there are annoyingly no hooks in the back. Basically though – it can do pretty much everything a double-cab can do, but with one added benefit…
The tray is bigger, and much more usable.
At 1,795mm long, the Space Cab offers 311mm more load-length than the Colorado dual-cab, and 240mm more than the Volkswagon Amarok – the current king of dual-cab tray size.
For real world context, this means you can fit a full-size trailbike in the tray with the tailgate closed. Something you cannot do in any comparable dual cab.
It may seem like a random usability measurement, but for a car designed to fit in at Kinglake on the weekend as well as it does in King Street during the week, knowing the CRF can hitch a ride is an important factor.
Despite being one of the few utes not slated for a major update anytime soon, the Colorado did receive some tweaks for the 2015 model year.
Added sound deadening and adjustments to the suspension helped make the big Holden more compliant and comfortable, but it is still a long way from being best in class.
There is a noticeable rattle from the diesel, amplified substantially in enclosed environments like laneways and fast-food drive-through lanes (don’t judge me).
It’s not a deal breaker though, and on longer stints at highway speeds, the Colorado is cozy and comfortable enough to eat up long distances.
Response is very good for a vehicle of its size, and when mated to the six-speed automatic ($2200) the full 500Nm is available from the Duramax (the manual is limited to 440Nm), making it the most ‘torquey’ ute in its class.
On a highway cruise we witnessed fuel economy of around 8.1L/100km (slightly up on the claimed 7.5L/100) and after the week of mixed use, a 10.1L/100km average fuel consumption (up again on the claimed 8.9L/100km).
Unladen, the leaf-spring rear is typically firm and bouncy, but even with our 150kg Honda CRF250 in the tray, the ride settles well and makes the big Holden much more predictable on the road.
Move off the black stuff and the 4x4 pickup keeps going – for the most part.
Let down in wet and muddy terrain by the road-biased tyres fitted to our test car, the Colorado’s capability can be easily enhanced by a better choice of rubber for your weekend pursuits.
The Colorado uses a switchable four-wheel drive system that allows the driver to transition between two-wheel and four-wheel drive modes on the fly (although you need to be stationary to select low range four-wheel-drive).
With all four wheels engaged, the centre differential is locked and splits torque evenly between the front and rear axles. The low-range mode simply multiplies the torque to the wheels, which gives greater control over speed and acceleration.
Hill descent control is standard and aids with negotiating steep terrain, and the Colorado’s ground clearance and approach/departure angles are on par with its competitors, but the lack of a rear differential lock affects the Colorado when the going gets tough.
If the terrain forces one of the rear wheels to lift into the air, the lack of the locking rear diff can see the big ute left high and dry. It’s only in pretty extreme off-road terrain that a driver will encounter such a problem, but with the Ford Ranger and Mazda BT-50 offering such a feature, it’s worth calling out.
The ute feels big on tighter tracks but is reasonable agile, and offers good vision out the front. The square shape helps you easily judge where the Colorado ends and trees begin - plus it is just plain good fun.
So on Colorado Island, the Space Cab is the pick – but how does it stack up against the competition?
Starting at $50,190 (plus on roads) the automatic Colorado LTZ Space Cab is $3700 cheaper than the arguably superior Ford Ranger XLT Supercab – the latter due for even more improvements with a forthcoming PXII update later this year.
Granted, no one pays retail price for a Colorado, and at the time of writing Holden are offering the normally $2500 more expensive Crew Cab for $42,990 drive away – that’s a $10,000 saving before you’ve even left your browser.
While the Mazda is the clear choice for driving dynamics and refinement, its looks can be polarizing and it needs a number of ‘lifestyle’ options to bring it in line with the Colorado’s bling (the polished alloy sportsbar on the Mazda is $1029.40 alone).
The Isuzu is a bit down on power and torque and generally a bit more basic, but it has a bigger tray (1825mm).
Put simply – you have a lot of choice in this market.
Great news for buyers who, like me, grew up with Hollywood selling the lifestyle properties of the humble pickup. Barely a film passed where ‘teens’ wouldn’t head to the lake (there was always a lake), whether to fuel the fires of romance or be brutally slain by a guy in a hockey mask, behind the wheel of their go everywhere ute.
It worked on the silver screen, and it is working now at home.
The Colorado is a capable and complete package. It’s not as polished a product as the Volkswagen Amarok, and can feel a bit low rent, but it is a fun car and a solidly competent car.
At its list price it is easily outclassed by the wholly superior Ford Ranger, but when a deal can be struck to measure drive away differences in the thousands of dollars; the Colorado does make more sense.
In this broad and growing market, for the right price, the Holden Colorado 4x4 Space Cab is a great way to blend a work-life balance, with a bit of power and toughness, with some value, flash and good old fashioned fun thrown in.
Click the Photos tab for more images by James Ward and Tom Fraser.