Did you know that roughly one in every eight cars sold so far this year is a 4x4 pickup? It’s a highly competitive category that sees a constant battle being fought by eight key models, in an arena where value is always at the forefront of buyer intent.
Sure, you can spend over $60,000 on a high specification model, but more often than not the core vehicle under the leather seats and driver assistance technology is the same at the top, as it is at the entry point to the range.
This is the premise behind the special edition 2016 Holden Colorado LS-X.
At $37,990 drive-away, the LS-X includes 16-inch alloy wheels (including the spare), fog lamps, an alloy sports bar, tinted bonnet protector and carpet flooring. Throw in an automatic transmission at no extra cost - and three years of free servicing - and that value equation starts to look pretty good.
For context, the list price on the mid-spec LT pickup – which offers the wheels, lamps and interior as standard equipment – paired with the automatic gearbox and accessories, works out to be $49,950. Add around $5k for on-roads and a further $1000 for three-years servicing and you’ll be looking at an invoice of over $55,000.
That makes the LS-X a solid $17,000 cheaper. For what is essentially the same car.
Sure, no one ever pays retail for one of these, but you get the idea. Bundled value is still good value.
You get the same 147kW/500Nm 2.8-litre Duramax turbo-diesel under the bonnet, the same select on-the-fly 4x4 driveline, and the same 3,500kg towing capacity. All the important stuff is identical to higher level, and higher priced models.
It’s this back-to-basics approach where the Colorado makes sense.
Forget paying $50k-plus for a Z71, this LS-X does everything you need, and in fact is a better work ute as it does without the load-limiting comfort suspension in higher-end models.
The LS-X has a gross-combination mass of 3150kg. Take a curb weight of 2064kg and an approximate 50kg penalty for the accessories, and you are left with over a 1.0-tonne payload capability. Load up four chunky lads, and there’s still a good 600kg to play with if you want to throw in gear (and snacks) for a weekend away.
At 1.5m both left-to-right and front-to-back, the square tub is a good size for most activities, but we increase ours with a $500 ReadyRamp bed extender (a standalone accessory that fits all utes, not a Holden-specific part) that fits securely over the folded tailgate.
It allows you to fit a trail-bike or mountain bikes in the back without having to resort to towing a trailer or dismantling everything before you hit the road. It doubles as a ramp to get bikes and other loads in there, too. Handy!
There’s plenty of room inside as well, with loads of head space front and rear, and ample room for six-foot adults in the back. You also score an arm-rest, 12-volt outlet and bottle holders in the doors. There are two ISOFIX mounting points but no vents or map pockets.
Up front, there are no less than four cup holders, three glove boxes, and the large centre cubby. It’s a pretty basic cab, with hard plastics and grey trim everywhere, but it has all you need for a relatively pleasant journey.
The seats are quite comfortable, albeit lacking in some support, and aren’t trimmed in the most stylish fabric. You can always opt for Holden’s optional ‘flayed muppet’ fleecey covers if you want something a bit more cosy though.
Included on the LS-X is Holden’s 7.0-inch MyLink touch screen which we have also found in the Trax SUV. It is well featured for basic operation, giving access to Bluetooth, media connections and internet music streaming, but only offers navigation via the BringGo mobile phone application and its required (paid) subscription service.
BringGo is not a great system and we recommend just using a decent mobile-phone cradle and your phone’s navigation system – given BringGo uses your data connection anyway.
We still hate the buttons to adjust volume, though. A simple twist knob is much easier to use when in motion.
Note also that, despite the screen, there is no reverse camera (a $400 option), but there are rear sensors.
On the road, the Duramax pulls well with or without a load. All 500Nm of torque is available from just 2000rpm and you can get the big ute up and moving quite quickly if you need to.
The six-speed auto is basic, but competent. You can quickly settle the Colorado down to where it is more at home, cruising at a constant speed.
We found it more economical than Holden’s highway claim of 7.6L/100km, too, at just 7.0 litres for our longer sustained runs. Fuel use settled around 11L/100km for the mixed-use week, up on the claim of 9.6L/100km.
It will clatter a bit when cold and and under load, but is a more general ‘noise’ of the car rather than a specific rattle.
Highway speeds will promote tyre and wind noise into the cabin and it is a bit louder than some comparable utes, but not hugely so. And the stereo is pretty good, so stream your favourite '80s playlist and turn it up!
Without a load to settle the firm suspension, the Colorado will bounce around a bit, especially in urban areas. It doesn’t exhibit as much of a floating sensation as some other pickups we have spent time in, and is generally quite comfortable.
Over speed humps, you can feel the front suspension compress well, and then the rear jitter around as you come down the other side. It’s typical of a ute, though, and does settle somewhat with some weight in the back.
On some low-quality country B- and C-roads though, we found the ride much more fidgety from the rear of the Colorado at speeds above 80km/h. The ride isn’t jarring, but it's worth considering if you are spending a lot of time on country roads without a payload.
We took the LS-X through a short unsealed and off-road loop north of Geelong and found it remarkably agile and capable for such a big vehicle. The 4x4 system can be changed from rear to high-range four-wheel drive on the fly, where low-range must be engaged when the vehicle is stationary.
You have a 30-degree approach, 22-degree departure and a 23-degree ramp-over angle with standard wheels and suspension.
There is no differential lock, but there is a hill-descent control system and we found, in dry conditions, there was very little of ‘everyday’ off-roading that would even slow the Colorado down.
Throw in some wet and muddy clay, though, and the standard 245mm-wide tyres would run into trouble very quickly. Again, something worth considering - depending on your particular use.
All said and done, the Colorado is still good fun to drive, and the simple accessories make it look a lot more upmarket than the badge and price would suggest.
Competitively, it has more power and torque, as well as a higher payload and towing capacity than the $36,990 Mitsubishi Triton GLX+ and $38,990 Nissan Navara RX – both currently offered with drive-away pricing and automatic transmission.
And given Volkswagen are currently pushing the arguably superior Amarok Core 4x4 for $39,990 drive-away, you could probably do even better when it comes time to talk turkey at your Holden dealer.
The Colorado has never been considered a segment leader. It’s a bit basic inside, a bit bouncy on the road and generally a bit behind the times, considering all the other mainstream pickups have received a major update in the past 12-months or so.
That said, there is an update coming for the big Holden, that promotes a re-tuned suspension setup, new interior and more stylish exterior design.
Until it arrives, though, the LS-X represents the RG Colorado in its best guise – as a high value working ute, that looks a bit sharper than your usual mine-spec model.
Click on the Photos tab for more images by James Ward and Tom Fraser.