Everyone loves an underdog story. From the Western Bulldogs taking the 2016 AFL Premiership flag, to Daniel-san taking out Cobra Kai for victory in the 1984 All-Valley Karate Tournament. We like to see a long shot come good.
Arguably then, this year’s best rags-to-riches story in the working-pick-up world, has to be the mid-life update of the 2017 Holden Colorado LS.
Once seen as a tough but basic pick-up that offered a solid value proposition, the changes to the Colorado’s design, interior, driveline and suspension now pitch it as a bonafide contender in the growing 4x4 pick-up sales race.
For numbers fans, the category is showing year to date growth of 9.6 percent over the same period in 2015, with Colorado sales increasing 7.2 percent year-on-year to see it now as the fourth top-selling model (behind Hilux, Ranger and Triton).
The Holden Colorado LS is the most basic of four double-cab pickup trim levels (LS, LT, LTZ and Z71), and the one that forms the bulk of fleet-buying purchases.
Unlike the Toyota Hilux which offers a less powerful 2.4-litre diesel in its entry level model (110kW/400Nm against the 2.8-litre in the SR model with 130kW/450Nm), the Colorado’s engine is shared across every single variant in the range.
The 147kW/500Nm 2.8-litre Duramax turbo diesel engine isn’t the newest lump on the market but it still offers a big chunk of torque (beaten in class only by the new Volkswagen Amarok V6), peaking at just 2000rpm.
It is a real strong point of the Colorado platform, and helps sell the argument that the lower specification levels of the Holden ute are where the real value lies.
While the engine itself didn’t change in the mid-2016 update, the six-speed automatic gearbox was adapted to include a centrifugal pendulum absorber (CPA) which dampens driveline vibration, allowing the Colorado to exhibit better throttle response and transmission of power to the ground.
The gearbox (auto is $2200 option) manages everything well enough while on the move, and is substantially smoother than before. We did note though, despite the CPA, a minor vibration under light load when cruising between 1500 and 2000 rpm.
As before, the Colorado LS has an on-the-fly capability to switch from high-range rear-wheel to high-range four-wheel-drive. You can engage a low-range four-wheel-drive when stationary, but there is no separate locking differential.
From the outside, the front of the Colorado saw significant change with new headlamps, LED running lights and grille assembly doing a lot to modernise the nose of the Holden ute. From the side or back though, there are no changes at all.
The LS still runs cheap looking 16-inch steel wheels, which we think would benefit from taking a leaf from the HiLux’s book and changing to some black-finished, wide rim steel items or even just some basic Sunraysia type rims. If the Colorado is as much for play as it is for work, a simple change of rolling stock will help you drop the ‘just back from the mine’ look.
The tub and rest of the body design are shared with other Colorado models. There are black, plastic rub strips on the doors and a simple window protection frame at the back of the tray too. You can option up a range of steps, flares and bars if you like too.
It looks more American than it used to, thanks to the big front grille, and is available in six colours, with only Summit White (like our car) and Absolute Red not attracting a $550 premium-paint fee.
Inside, the new dashboard and infotainment system do a great deal to make this NOT feel like the most basic ‘mine spec’ version of the Colorado.
The materials are much nicer and more ‘chunky’ in their feel. The simple air conditioning controls are big, easy to turn knobs, and while there isn’t as much storage as in the pre-update car, there is still plenty of places to put things.
A big glovebox, dash-top cubby, phone tray, door bins, large cup holders and a centre console cubby all help give you somewhere to put stuff, although there is no sunglasses holder (there is a clip that held my glasses nicely). We do miss the cup-holders by the dash vents, although clip-on items are now available as an accessory.
The seven-inch colour touch screen supports device projection for both Android Auto and Apple Carplay, but there is only one USB point available in the central cubby between the seats. There is a pair of 12-volt outlets in the front of the dash, and another in the rear should you need to charge other items though.
Quality of the screen is good and the native system even features DAB digital radio for punching out the best of the 90s through the six speaker stereo. There’s even a standard rear-view camera with guidelines, and rear sonar ‘beepers’.
In front of the driver is a multifunction digital display that offers trip and economy data as well as fluid life-cycle, temperatures and servicing information.
Even the Holden steering wheel isn’t bad in this spec, offering controls for audio and telephony functions as well as cruise control.
The seats are cloth-trimmed and comfortable enough, the floors are covered in basic ‘hose out’ vinyl, which, while not attractive, is easy to clean. Only the passenger gets a grab handle on the roof or a mirror on their sun visor too.
In the back, space is good enough for three adults and offers great head and knee room. There’s a central arm rest and a single 12-volt outlet, air vents under the front seats and bottle bins in the doors.
You can flip up the seat base in 60:40 configuration if you are using the cab to transport a load, and there are storage compartments under the floor which house the jack and tools for the full-size spare wheel.
On the move, the Duramax hustles the Colorado along surprisingly well. That powerband above 2000rpm, and the lessened vibration from the CPA, really help get the big guy moving, so much so that both photographer Tom and I were surprised at how quickly it gathered pace.
Touring driving sees the Colorado very much at home, and the cabin volume is reasonably quiet considering the lack of carpet to absorb sound. It’s comfy and relaxing to drive, and the ride well suited to the more casual undulations of a highway surface.
Holden claims a combined fuel consumption cycle of 7.9L/100km, and 9.4L/100km in town, but we managed somewhere closer to 10L/100km over the week. That said, a longer highway drive saw it dip in to the very low 7L/100km range
Around town too, once you get used to the size of the pick-up (it's 5361mm long), it is quite easy to live with. You feel the front suspension compress softly over bumps and then the rear hit a bit more firmly, to be expected with the stiffer leaf springs in the back. You don’t have to work hard when driving it, which moves the dynamic behaviour of the Colorado up toward Ranger territory.
The new electrically-assisted steering makes U-turns a lot easier now too, and the rear-view camera means parking is a breeze.
But where many utes, even the older Colorado, would tend to jump around a bit at the back when driven without a load, the new car just seems so much more settled. We ran a small load in the tray (around 150kg) and felt this settle even further. It really is remarkably well behaved over uneven urban surfaces, and a big step up on what we are used to from the Holden pick-up.
We also put the Colorado through some unsealed and light off-road driving, where again it just dealt with it happily. On loose gravel, in two-wheel drive, the traction control assistance can be felt keeping the car in check around bends or more extreme corrugation. Switching to four-wheel drive simply further enhances the feeling of stability of the big truck.
But where the older Colorado seemed to garner a bit more favour, was in the value stakes.
The Colorado is still pretty cheap to run, at just $349 per service with 15,000km intervals, but it isn’t the price leader from the showroom floor.
This new car, in its basic form, lists for $44,990 plus options and on-road costs, but Holden is currently offering it for $47,434 (auto) drive away. That makes it almost $9000 more than the Mitsubishi Triton GLX+ ($38,490 drive away) and $7000 more than a Volkswagen Amarok Core.
Sure, the Holden has more power and torque, and a few gadgets and gizmos up its sleeve, and we know that you can tend to garner a better deal by simply walking into a Holden dealer, but there are lots of choices out there for buyers at the moment.
The 2017 Holden Colorado LS is a low-frills, honest, hard working truck. It has gone through the most impressive mid-life update we have seen in a long while, and now makes a really solid proposition in the capability stakes. Just push for a good deal to keep value closer to that $40k mark, and last year's underdog might well become this year's champion.
Click on the Photos tab for more images by Tom Fraser and James Ward.