When it comes to making a decision on what type of car to buy, price, comfort, ability and ‘fit for purpose’ are paramount. That last category, is why the affordable family tow wagons segment is now considerably busy.
SUVs that can haul a load are particularly suited to our active lives and that is why the Holden Trailblazer sits among a host of reasonably priced vehicles such as the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, Ford Everest and Toyota Fortuner, as well as the most direct competitor (for me anyway), the Isuzu MU-X. The towing capacity and internal space of these vehicles allows owners to load the car and attach all manner of leisure vehicles to the back such as caravans, camper trailers and boats.
The Holden Trailblazer started its life as the Colorado, and while it maintains the underpinnings of the ute-based Colorado, the name change came into effect in 2016 as the manufacturer searched for more appeal and sales. Holden also made some slight body and major internal changes which you can read about here.
Externally, the look is not significantly different to the previous model, and to my eye at least, the overall appearance of the car is not especially attractive. In fact, I would say that all of the above competitive set have some questionable credentials when it comes to being easy-on-the-eye. Once you’re in the car though, you can’t see how bad you look, so that’s something.
Our task, slightly easier. Attach a near-two-tonne boat, jump behind the wheel and head up to Forster in NSW to take part in a fishing competition.
The Holden Trailblazer has a tow rating of three tonnes, so with our boat weighing in at just a shade under two, there’s more than enough margin between the maximum and our chosen tow weight. Being under two tonnes, it also means we do not need electric brakes on the car or trailer under NSW regulations.
If you were to tow something heavier, such as a large caravan, you will have to fit electric brakes and an electric brake controller fitted in the car cabin. It’s easy enough to add post-purchase, though.
The first task when getting ready for any trip is to pack the car. Our boat has an electric motor which cannot be towed in place with the cover on, so we slid it into the back of the car. Two large eskies, tackle bags, gear bags, clothes and fishing rods also fit in the car. We didn’t so much pack than throw in a whole heap of stuff, yet it all fitted easily.
The rear seats in the Trailblazer LTZ fold flat creating a cavernous interior. This is a seven-seater, although in my experience the third row is rarely used and so represents excellent storage space when not needed.
It may be a small point, but we did find the back of the seats are not solid, but rather cloth over a frame in parts, so anything heavy such as an esky with small rubber legs tends to get caught in the framework of the back of the seats. It’s a minor annoyance, but it’s an annoyance just the same. And, combined with the lifted floor height to accommodate the luggage cover when not in use, it makes sliding gear in an out a little more difficult than it should be. The rear door is also quite heavy and you feel a little like you have to slam it to ensure it’s closed properly.
Before taking delivery of the LTZ we have on test here, I had spent time in the lower-spec Trailblazer LT which, I’ll be honest, I found relatively underwhelming. It felt basic, and perhaps even a step back in time.
The LTZ though, is a little more refined and adds an 8.0-inch screen, leather seat trim, blind-spot warning, forward collision alert, rain sensing wipers, and satellite navigation. These make the overall cabin experience a little more welcoming.
I did find the automatic opening window, which slides down just a slither when you’re getting in and out a little odd and unnecessary. It is an attempt to reduce air pressure to make opening and closing the door easier but I’ve never had a problem in any car without this feature. Maybe they could do something with the boot lid instead.
On the road, the seats are not super comfortable; more just acceptable. They seem to lack some support under your thighs and lower back and a few times I noticed I was shifting in the seat to find a more comfortable position on the four-hour drive. I didn’t exit the vehicle feeling any pain, I just felt they could have been a little more supportive.
While driving though, the armrest between the front seats is at the perfect height and the opposing one on the door also the perfect place to rest your other arm. The steering is adjustable up and down and but has no reach adjustment. All that said, it’s by no means exhausting to drive.
The engine powering this vehicle is the same 2.8-litre, four cylinder diesel generating a healthy 500Nm of torque. To most that will not mean a whole lot but it manifests itself in the towing or hauling ability of the car.
To most people this translates to power and with 2000 kilograms on the back of the car, the Holden Trailblazer LTZ still comes to speed with a relaxed but sure feeling. In fact it towed remarkably well considering I have towed this same boat with a Toyota Prado, VW Touareg, Jeep Cherokee and old Landcruiser.
I’d say it was better than the Jeep which for some reason seemed to encourage the trailer to sway a little from side to side at anywhere near 110 km/h. It may have something to do with the tow height, but without a side-by-side comparison, it’s difficult to be sure.
The power is available low down in the revs so the engine doesn’t strain to get going from a standing start. It eases away almost as if there is nothing attached to the back. This makes it excellent in and around town, and even better on the freeway where it stays at speed easily, yet still has some in reserve. It also means the revs will remain lower, making for better fuel consumption. Our fuel use sat somewhere around 12.8L/100km, and that was with the boat on the back. Not too shabby.
The suspension accepted the additional weight well and while driving the steering is well balanced with the electric-assisted steering remaining light at lower speeds, yet firm with good feedback at higher speeds.
The light steering makes easy work of moving a trailer around, as I experienced once we arrived at our destination and I had to turn the rig around and reverse 200 metres down a curved driveway. While my cohorts settled into a beer after our arrival, I was left to use the mirrors, rear-view and the car’s ability to get the rig into place for the evening.
Despite the lack of assistance of any kind, it was handled with ease. The large mirrors allow you to catch the trailer quickly before it skews out too far to the side while the rear-view camera adds an additional angle that can be very useful. Even on the ramp launching amidst 60 other competitors, the Trailblazer reversed true and found a spot in the busy four-lane launch facility.
The Trailblazer is a tall thing, for sure, but despite its height, it has an acceptable level of body roll while driving. It’s not refined, sure, and it is better than older style 4x4s, but it does retain a little of that experience. I would expect that sudden changes of direction at speed will result in some lurching from side to side.
The suspension overall isn’t as cloud-like as say, a Landcruiser, yet it is also not as hard or road-like as the European tourers. It sits neatly in the middle of the two and is more than comfortable and sure of itself. The LTZ also comes with tyre pressure monitoring, should you need it.
Overall the Holden Trailblazer LTZ is an excellent tourer… and tower. Its primary appeal will be to those looking for a cost effective tow vehicle that will allow them to add additional weight on the back without unsettling the driving experience. It’s capable and in this guise has enough to keep you interested and more than happy.