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Utes, or trucks (as Holden likes to call them), have exploded in popularity over recent years. Today, Ute sales shine both at the entry level as workhorses and at the top end as lifestyle vehicles. It’s with little surprise that Holden has done everything in its power to ensure the 2017 Holden Colorado fits the bill on all fronts.
With thousands of hours of tuning work undertaken locally, in addition to hundreds of thousands of kilometres of global testing, Holden’s commitment to the Ute product appears unwavering.
The Holden team had the unique advantage of working on a product that needed a great deal of improvement. The old Colorado is a Ute that features an unrefined drivetrain, lack of interior finesse and dynamics that sit well behind the rest of the field.
With a starting price of $29,490 (plus on-road costs), the Colorado launches in Australia with a mix of high riding 4x2 and 4x4 models. The range tops out at $54,490 (plus on-road costs) for the Colorado 4x4 Z71, with a mixture of cab chassis, single cab, crew cab and space cab models in between. You can see a full breakdown of pricing and specifications here.
Year to date, the 4x4 Colorado range has seen a steady increase in sales, placing it amongst the best selling players in the segment. No doubt Holden wants to see that trend continue with the newest iteration of the Colorado nameplate.
As you may have read in our engineering story, Holden has invested massively in local engineering input for Colorado and Trailblazer. In fact, the team used some of the feedback from media such as CarAdvice to further refine the product.
Given the number of launch programs we attend, there’s often a proportional relationship between how good a car is and how much time is spent on the road in that new car. A straw poll of the CarAdvice team revealed some car launches where we spent around 40km behind the wheel — needless to say, these particular cars weren’t great.
The Colorado launch on the other hand featured a half-day of four-wheel driving, towing and a short motorkhana stint, while the following day included driving on a mix of highway, country roads, windy mountain roads and unsealed roads.
We only had the opportunity to sample six-speed automatic 4x4 versions of the Colorado at the launch program, but look forward to sampling 4x2 models when we get the chance to drive the Colorado on local roads in the coming weeks and months.
From the outside, the Colorado’s design is a welcome departure from the model it replaces. While styling is subjective, it’s not hard to see that the lines have been sharpened, with a styling direction erring very much toward the US mid-sized truck.
Holden is keen to capture the more premium portions of the market, which is why the Z71 model is packed with styling gear such as a sailplane, stickers and black highlights.
Holden executive director of sales, Peter Keley, told CarAdvice the company is targeting more sales at the top end of the Colorado range.
“What we are targeting is a richer mix. The real opportunity and growth in the marketplace is the level 3 and 4 trucks — the LTZ and Z71, the XLT and Wildtrak Ranger. We see a massive opportunity in the market for sales,” Keley said.
It’s the same story inside the cabin where designers have aimed to dramatically lift the quality, feel and presentation of the cabin. Fit and finish is excellent, while the use of materials suits the demographic of the vehicle quite well — such as hard plastics around common use spots and softer finishes along the dashboard.
The entry-level model even gets a vinyl floor, which can be hosed out or easily cleaned with very little fuss.
Key to the interior changes are technology and safety. The entire range now comes equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. LS and LT variants come with a 7-inch MyLink infotainment system that features six-speakers, DAB+ digital radio, steering wheel mounted controls and USB connectivity.
LTZ and Z71 models step things up further with an 8-inch version of the MyLink infotainment system that features everything the LS and LT models include, in addition to a seven speaker premium audio system and inbuilt satellite navigation (where the LS and LT use satellite navigation via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto).
In terms of safety, all models feature seven airbags (including a driver knee airbag), five star ANCAP safety rating, rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera. LTZ and Z71 models go even further with forward collision alert, lane departure warning, individual tyre pressure monitors, front parking sensors and remote start technology.
As with the last Colorado, leg and headroom up front is excellent. The same can be said for the rear, which is pretty impressive when you consider the size of the cabin and tray combined measure out to 5361mm in dual cab configuration.
Towing capacity remains at a braked 3500kg and 750kg unbraked across the range. Payload varies from 1487kg for the 4x2 Colorado single cab chassis (automatic) to 1000kg for the 4x4 Z71 (manual transmission).
Trainspotters will notice a new feature adopted from the Brazilian market. Much like a convertible, or pillarless vehicle, the windows open slightly with the door to relieve cabin pressure once closed. It originally wasn’t going to be included on the Australian calibration, but was later added due to positive feedback from stakeholders.
Although the Colorado is fitted with a single engine option, a four-cylinder 2.8-litre turbocharged diesel engine that produces 147kW of power, torque output varies with the six-speed manual offering 440Nm and the six-speed automatic boosting the offering to 500Nm. If we were buying, we’d opt for the six-speed automatic given the higher torque output (a $2200 option plus on-road costs across the range).
Peak torque for the six-speed automatic comes in at a healthy 2000rpm, meaning that you don’t need to look hard to find slabs of push from the engine. The six-speed manual peaks slightly earlier at 1600rpm.
As you turn the engine over, it doesn’t take long to realise how quiet the package now is. Under the skin changes include the introduction of shear body mounts, new tyres aimed at reducing road noise, a relocation of the balance shaft to reduce vibration, aerodynamic changes to reduce wind noise, injector insulators, a metal timing cover and an oil pan insulator.
These items combine to deliver a quiet cabin experience. It’s a complete contrast to the outgoing Colorado and Colorado 7, which were significantly louder both inside and outside the cabin. It’s quiet both at idle and also at cruising speed, where noise is limited to a small amount of engine noise and some wind noise in Z71 models due to the sailplane.
On the open road, it becomes immediately obvious that the Colorado has benefitted from a raft of changes over its predecessor. The steering has been updated with an electrically assisted steering rack that offers variable resistivity as vehicle speeds increase or decrease. At low speeds it’s lighter, while at high speeds it firms up to offer greater feel. Throughout the steering range there is much more feel and it’s easier to use across all speeds. Also gone is the dead feeling about centre.
Some of the mechanical changes include reducing the amount of turns lock-to-lock from 3.9 to 3.29 and changing the steering rack from one with 41mm of rack travel per revolution to one that offers 48mm of rack travel per revolution. This effectively means less steering input is required to effect the same amount of turn, making the steering more ‘car-like’.
The suspension has been completely reworked thanks to revised spring rates, the introduction of digressive front and rear shock absorbers along with an increase in size to the front stabiliser bar to 34mm, which represents an increase of around 15 per cent.
These changes have catapulted the Colorado in amongst the best vehicles in this class. The new ride and handling package delivers new levels of chassis communication, along with impressive bump absorption. While it still uses leaf springs at the rear, the ride remains settled — even without a load bearing down on the tray.
Hitting diagonal road joints doesn’t result in scuttle shake, while the front end more confidently tucks in during cornering. One of the mountain stretches offered a healthy mix of tight corners and long sweeping bends. We tried this using both the laden (500kg) and unladen Colorado utes and found that both returned impressive dynamics.
The laden vehicle stayed more composed through corners, while the unladen vehicle floated through with ease, only affected by mid-corner bumps that could unsettle the rear in some circumstances.
It’s highly unlikely that anybody would expect the Colorado to be as dynamic as it is, so it’s fair to say that we were very impressed with how it performed. These aspects matched perfectly with the engine’s sharp throttle response and dynamic ability.
In terms of negatives, we’re still not thrilled with the Colorado’s brakes. Brake pedal feel is very spongy and doesn’t offer reassurance. That is only multiplied with a load in the tray or a heavy trailer in tow.
The small motorkhana circuit was built on a sloping grass hill. The challenging little circuit involved a slalom, along with a few sharp turns. The course highlighted how easy it is to manoeuvre the Colorado around slow, tight corners. In real life, you would replicate these situations moving in and out of slow moving traffic or parking the vehicle in tight spaces.
Our towing challenge featured a large 2000kg tractor on a trailer that we had to drive around a small circuit before reverse parking. The vehicle with the trailer attached was a 4x4 manual and part of the reason the circuit was slow and tight was due to revisions made to the manual gearbox’s first gear. The changes make it easier to take off — especially on an incline — and make better use of the engine’s torque band.
Collectively, we’ve now spent well over 1000km behind the wheel of the new Colorado (both in pre-development and production specifications) and have come away very impressed. In isolation it feels fantastic, but the real story will be told once we get the chance to benchmark the Colorado against its competitors.
In the interim though, the new Colorado represents a huge step forward from the previous model. We’re excited to see how it stacks up and whether it has the goods to go head on with the best vehicles in this segment.
Click on the Photos tab to see more images by Holden and Tom Fraser.