More often than not, we’ll speak of an SUV as being a vehicle that can comfortably address a wide range of tasks. An automotive multi-tool, ready to tackle every facet of your life.
Occasionally though, a car just isn’t going to be an all rounder. A batsman who can’t bowl if you will. They are still on the team for their core talent, just don’t expect them to be great at everything.
This is the case of the 2016 Holden Colorado 7 Trailblazer, which, like Liam Neeson, has a particular set of skills, and given the model is currently in run-out, these skills are what we will focus on.
Buyers have a wide choice of seven seat SUVs on the market, and if your needs prioritise urban liveability, refinement and modern safety and infotainment technology, then the Colorado 7 is probably out of the running.
Cars like the new Mazda CX-9 and Kia Sorento both address paved-road suburban family duties better than the Holden ever will, but if you need to deal with the triple-T – touring, towing and tracks, then the more rugged Colorado 7 is a much better option.
Launched in 2012, the Colorado 7 as its name suggests, is the seven-seat SUV variant of the RG-Series Holden Colorado ute. The model-name is being retired and the next generation of Colorado-based wagon will simply be called the Trailblazer, matching the name it uses in other markets.
The ‘Trailblazer’ edition badging on our test-car (based on the top-spec LTZ) is a not-very subtle way of transitioning buyers into the new name.
With revised 18-inch alloy wheels, dark-framed headlamps, tinted bonnet protector and the ubiquitous special edition floor-mats, the Trailblazer pack throws a bunch of extra value at the LTZ for a list price of $52,240 – $750 more than the standard LTZ.
But it wouldn’t be a run-out without some sharper pricing, and this is where things get more interesting for the big wagon.
Holden is offering the C7 Trailblazer from $45,990 drive away. That is about a $10k (factoring in on-road costs) saving from retail and actually less than the list price of the entry level LT model when it launched in 2012.
Bundle that with an offer of a five-year warranty and 75,000 Frequent Flyer points (almost enough for a return-flight to LA) and it starts to make even more sense.
Powered by a 147kW 2.8-litre four-cylinder Duramax turbo-diesel engine, the Colorado 7 has a class-leading 500Nm of torque. It picks up speed well for a 2.2-tonne truck and with peak torque available from 2000rpm, responds well to throttle inputs.
Longer touring runs suit the Colorado's drivetrain and it will settle into a low 8L/100km consumption cycle reasonably quickly. We even saw a sustained average (of about 150km of flat-terrain cruising) of just 6.9L/100km – lower than Holden’s claim of 7.7L/100km.
The Duramax can drone a bit at about 1500rpm when under light throttle (a regular experience with cruise control active) but you do get used to it. Cabin noise on standard interstate highway surfaces is reasonably quiet (72dB at 100km/h) but naturally rises as the tarmac quality drops.
The six-speed auto is matched well to the turbo-diesel and you can tip it across to manual shift mode if you need to hold a gear for longer when towing. We found it shifted smoothly and selected gears well in automatic mode, particularly when touring.
You get an impressive 3000kg tow rating with the Colorado 7 too, so big 'vans and boats are no hurdle if towing is your thing. We’ve had all manner of things on the back of Colorados over the years – from giant off-road caravans to a rescued Lada Niva on a tandem trailer – and have always found this a strong point of the platform.
Drop off the highway onto some winding B-roads and the C7 feels remarkably well sorted for a wagon of its size. It's no Cayenne though, and pushing a bit hard will initiate some tyre squeal, but it can ‘drive’ well enough to provide a bit of mild entertainment – passenger tastes for ‘entertaining’ driving notwithstanding.
The steering isn’t what you would refer to as ‘sporty’, with feedback pretty dull regardless of surface, but it’s light and manageable enough to not cause strain or irritation on longer drives.
Venture out of civilisation even further, and the Colorado 7’s 4WD capability comes into play, where it shows itself as a rather capable truck.
With coil springs on all corners, the Colorado 7 handles the rough stuff well and while it will bounce around over corrugations, it maintains a sense of stability even on rougher or muddier tracks.
You can switch from two-wheel drive (rear) to four-wheel drive high-range on the fly or even stop and shift to neutral to engage low-range four-wheel drive gearing. There is no separate differential locker but there is a hill descent control system for more adventurous terrain.
Vision out of the Colorado is good, and the driver’s seat is electrically adjustable to help get that height position just right. The seats (with two-stage heating) are pretty basic and could do with a bit more lumbar support, but we found them still comfortable after even some longer stints behind the wheel.
The cabin itself is feeling dated – and is one of the major update areas for the new 2017 Trailblazer wagon. There is still excellent storage from the twin glove-boxes and dash-top cubby but the materials are hard and feel cheap.
The digital climate control dial is very easy to use even if the circular design isn’t to all tastes.
You miss out on more modern inclusions like automatic wipers and headlamps, and any driver assistance tech, but the cruise control and trip computer controls are easy and intuitive to reach while on the mood.
The Colorado 7 features the eight-inch Holden MyLink infotainment interface. We’ve talked about this a lot over the past few years, and it seems to have settled into the ‘basic but liveable’ category – not unlike the Colorado itself.
You get Bluetooth phone and audio which work quite well, plus support for USB connection (in the centre console) and internet streaming audio via Pandora. One interesting tidbit we might add, the C7’s factory antenna has exceptional FM radio reception range.
You don’t get navigation support or CarPlay-type projection functions, or any other car/trip information though. However, there is an integrated rear-view camera which makes backing up to a trailer hitch a piece of cake.
We will say that the volume buttons that you need to tap up and down or slide the level on the screen might have seemed cool in a future-tech presentation some years ago, but they are frustrating to use while on the move. Like an older central heating thermostat control, we’d recommending finding a level you are happy with and not touching it again.
As noted earlier in the review, the weaker points of the Colorado 7 are mostly seen around town. Yes it is a seven-seater and while there is good room in the third row for bigger kids and even adults, it really should be noted as being a five-seater with a boot, or seven-seater with a tailgate accessible glovebox.
With all seats up there is just 235-litres of space back there, and with a box that holds the parcel blind raising the height of the load floor, you have to be careful when opening the tailgate that all your stuff doesn’t fall out.
The upside is, if you have the third row deployed there won’t be all that much stuff anyway.
You can expand the load area with a 50:50 split third row and 60:40 middle row to an ample 1830-litres though.
The seats themselves are easy to fold right up the back, and the centre will flip and tumble to allow access. Levers and handles to move everything back requires a bit of effort – so make sure you feed the little-ones their Wheaties.
Both rear rows score roof-mounted vents and there is even a fan control in the middle. You get cup holders and storage all round, but there are no USB points – although there are a couple of 12-volt outlets, including in the boot.
The seats are pretty comfortable and the middle-row legroom is excellent.
We put a lot of miles on the C7 Trailblazer, on highway, to the ski fields and even off-road. In all situations it was a reliable, comfortable wagon. It’s not all that new or flashy, but it does come across as a whole lot of truck for the money.
There is a lot of choice for car buyers out there, and while everyone’s priorities are different, budget and risk still weigh heavily for many Australians.
The 2016 Holden Colorado 7 Trailblazer isn’t the most modern or refined SUV on sale, but if you need that triple-T capability, it tours and tows with the best of them and is very capable off the beaten track.
The run-out pricing makes it excellent value and is what lifts the rating to a 7/10, and considering the warranty period, service costs and expanse of Holden dealers around the country, the C7 should be a low risk buy too.
So if you are thinking of spending the kid’s inheritance and heading off on the grand tour of Australia, do take a look at the big Holden while the deals are sharp. It might not be a do-it-all Swiss Army Knife, but with strong capability in a couple of key areas it’s a solid and value-packed spork.
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