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Holden is in hot water. After going through a massive transformation of stopping domestic production and having a fairly vapid reception to new models, its numbers have dropped through the floor. This is pretty much across the range, save for the Colorado.
Amongst a competitive mob of forever-evolving utes, the Colorado has managed to hold over 1000 sales every month. It’s beaten by four other manufacturers in that segment, but it's still a very important product for Holden.
What was once a simple recipe of diesel power, 4WD driveline and some stout suspension, the 4WD ute needs to really sing and dance in order to keep buyers' attention. And while the old Colorado was a decent jigger at a good price, the competition quickly overtook it. Holden was quick to respond with a solid refresh of the Colorado in 2017, which made some big and important changes and tweaks.
Before the Amarok V6 turned up a couple of years ago, Holden’s 2.8-litre ‘Duramax’ diesel four-pot was your ticket to ultimate torque bragging rights around the high table. We have the automatic with 500Nm available, coming on at 2000–2200rpm. If you get the manual gearbox, you lose peak torque but gain a wider rev range of 440Nm at 1600–2800rpm, and 147kW is the peak power figure coming into play at 3600rpm.
Don’t let the ‘Duramax’ marketing fool you: rather than being related to the earth-shattering 6.6-litre real Duramax V8 that was co-developed by General Motors and Isuzu, the Colorado’s engine is from Italian ancestry. VM Motori is responsible for the Colorado's power, ever since Holden and Isuzu went separate ways. Fuel economy for the Colorado is pretty decent at around 9.5L/100km on our combined run of mostly highway and some off-road driving.
It’s a great engine to drive, delivering the torque in a nicely controlled manner for as much progress as you’d want in a dual-cab ute. It performs quite similarly to the 3.2-litre Ranger in terms of power delivery and rev range, but gets beaten by the V6 Amarok (and V6 X-Class, when it arrives).
Although it’s fast to respond and churn out plenty of torque, not much noise makes its way into the cabin. Revs stay around the 2000rpm mark (unless you really peg it), and rest around 1750 at the 110km/h cruise. Refinement through the rest of the driveline really helps as well.
Rather than the power coming on really hot and heavy, a retuned throttle and gearbox set-up gives you a much more refined and progressive (ergo usable) delivery of power. Along with being of good benefit on the blacktop, this helps off-road as well. You can modulate the right foot easily for slow crawling, leaving you to concentrate on wheel placement.
Gearing and compression braking in low-range, by the way, are quite good as well. You only start to rely on braking (or a half-decent hill descent control system) when thing get very steep and scrabbly.
What’s great to see under the bonnet is an alternator mounted nice and high, and a big cylindrical air filter drawing oxygen in sensibly from within the wheel arch. The listed wading depth is 600mm.
The underbody is protected firstly by a plastic cover below the radiator and over the steering, which turns into a well-mounted pressed steel plate around the differential. It’s reasonably organised and protected, but not the best in class. But at least there aren't any obvious weaknesses underneath.
Another set-and-forget element that works in the Colorado’s favour is the rear differential. It’s the only ute in the segment that rocks a limited-slip differential in the rear, which does work like three-quarters of a locking differential off-road. The other quarter gets handled pretty nicely by the off-road traction-control system. It’s not as good as the HiLux's system (which I reckon is the best), but is still pretty good, holding onto momentum fairly well regardless of wheel lifts.
We took some time testing the Colorado out on some slow, rutted tracks, and found it fairly hard to fault compared to the competition. Articulation is good from the rear end, while staying typically IFS stiff at the front.
While something like a very good traction-control system working in unison with a fully locking differential will still be a better overall system, the Colorado shouldn’t be overlooked for lacking a rear locker. I found myself to be bottoming out around the front differential mostly as the first point of limitation.
Throttle control in low-range is nice and easy, despite the big hit of torque coming on at 2000rpm. It’s easy to slowly peg yourself along tricky tracks, and light electric steering is also a big benefit when crawling along.
What’s important to note is the LSD brings some tangible benefits on-road as well, especially when you’ve got a fair heft of easily accessed torque running to lightly weighted rear wheels.
While other utes struggle to put any power down before slipping into a single-pegging, torque-robbing mess, the Colorado takes off quite smartly without losing anything to wheel spin, even when turning corners. Combine the LSD benefit with a surprisingly quiet and refined engine, smooth gearbox and decent ride, and you’ve got an overall package that is very adept on-road.
Tyres are Bridgestone Duelers with a highway-terrain tread pattern. LTZ and Z71 get a 265/60R18 alloy wheel set-up. For a smaller diameter, you’ll have to go to LT (17-inch alloy) or LS (16-inch steelie). The tyres on the LTZ are pretty good, with a decently thick tread design up to the squarish shoulder. The dry, rocky conditions meant we weren’t able to stress the tyres out too much, other than one very steep climb that took a couple of attempts.
In LTZ spec, the Colorado holds a 2121kg kerb weight. From a 3150kg GVM, you have a nice stout payload of just over 1000kg. It’s a good number, and supported by a 3500kg towing capacity.
A 6000kg GCM means your payload gets decimated to only a few hundred kilos, and towing is reduced to 2850kg when the vehicle is at full payload. This is because the GCM (Gross Combination Mass) isn’t high enough to accommodate both maximum payload and towing capacity at the same time. This is roughly par for the course in this segment – not overly better or worse than others in the competition. It’s also worth noting Holden’s warranty is a good one, going for five years and unlimited kilometres. That matches the best offerings of other 4x4 utes available.
The LTZ gets you practically all that the Colorado range offers. There is the Z71 specification that sits at the top, but all of those changes are only of the aesthetic variety. For the LTZ, you get a pretty functional and nicely laid out interior, with a good 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto included.
It’s an interior that’s comfortable and not overdone. The worst criticism I can bring is that the graphics and design of the infotainment operating system feel a bit dated compared to others.
When it’s compared to the Ranger XLT, HiLux SR5 and Navara ST-X, the Colorado LTZ does strike a good compromise between price and inclusions. Safety tech like lane departure and frontal collision warning is nice to have, but it’s lacking adaptive cruise control and will be outgunned by autonomous braking pretty soon.
The important stuff – like a torquey engine, big payload, good on-road comfort and solid off-road performance – is, most importantly, covered off well by the Colorado. It doesn’t seem to get the same accolades and sales success as other utes, which is a bit of a shame because it is a really good overall unit.
If you’re in the market for a 4WD ute, we reckon you should definitely try out the Colorado.