One of the perks of working in my industry is that more often than not, a work vehicle will be provided in lieu of you needing to own a personal car. This has its pros, namely being that you escape the hassle (and cost) of insurance and registration, but also has its cons in that the choice of vehicle you drive is at the mercy of somebody who only cares about their bottom dollar.
Enter the Holden Colorado. When I was tossed the keys to the Summit White Holden, I was not expecting great things. Previous experiences with Colorados were not pleasing; the pre-facelift RG models were hobbled by an ancient, cheap interior design and questionable levels of NVH feedback to the driver. Had I been given the choice of dual-cab utes to buy, it's safe to say the Holden would have been well down the list. Let alone in LS spec as I, like most private buyers, would probably have opted for a higher grade of model given the choice.
Nevertheless, I've been driving this car for around 10 months now, and in that time have added 30,000km to the odometer, mostly on highways and freeways, mixed in with a fair dose of light off-roading necessitated by my job. I'm pleased to say it's grown on me, at least as much as a soulless, lumbering dual-cab ute could.
When you leave prejudices aside, the Colorado makes a glittering first impression and it has stacks of showroom appeal, which I suspect is why it's found favour with fleet buyers. It's definitely a sharp looker even in base spec, with the gloss-black highlights on the grille and daytime running lights standard on all models. The slightly flared wheel arches give the Colorado a tough stance too. It might not have the presence around the job site of a 70-Series, but it definitely looks the part.
Step inside the cabin and the Colorado will woo you further. Gone is the nasty hard plastic of the old model, and in is a new-look interior with a completely redesigned dashboard and instrument cluster; a new 7.0-inch touchscreen being the focal point. It's clear that Holden has spent most of the investment on the facelift inside, and it has paid off with a newfound sense of quality and an emphasis on ergonomics.
While others in this class overload with switches and doubly redundant buttons, the Colorado keeps it simple with only a few controls for the infotainment system below the screen. The switchgear, too, is top-notch with nice chrome touches around the air-conditioning and volume knobs.
Holden probably could have changed the ugly plastic transmission surround and the automatic gear selector, but this is a minor issue in an otherwise excellent base-model cabin. It isn't totally without detraction, however. There is still no steering reach adjustment, and the mediocre seats merely hold your bum off the floor, nothing more.
Changes to the transmission and the front suspension tune have also done wonders for the Holden inside, although the level to which NVH is suppressed could still only be considered acceptable at best. The tradie-proof vinyl flooring seems to let more noise into the cabin than carpeted models, and the leaf-sprung rear end regularly disturbs the peace over bumps in the road.
Not seeing fit to settle for making the Colorado a nicer place to be, Holden has also loaded it with a hefty array of technology, headlined by Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, for good measure. Through CarPlay, your base-model Colorado is bequeathed with functionality that's usually reserved for much higher-spec models, with sat-nav, voice control and the ability to browse through apps like Spotify all from your head unit. There's also a rear-view camera standard, which should surely be a must-have item to everybody by now.
There are no less than four power sockets around the cabin – two on the dash and two for the rear passengers. Holden cleverly hides the USB port in the centre console storage, forcing you to plug your phone in and stash it out of sight, and thus removing you of the temptation to further fiddle.
For those wondering what the LS really lacks over the higher-spec models, unfortunately it’s mostly safety kit. The LS missed out on the Auto Emergency Braking and Lane Departure Warning of the LTZ – two items that I’d like to see proliferate down the range. Otherwise, the LTZ comes with a larger touchscreen and a slightly different version of MyLink with a factory sat-nav system, but the capabilities are virtually identical to what’s accessible through CarPlay. The LS also goes without climate control and power-adjustable seats, but does include air-conditioning, hill descent and automatic headlights as standard.
Compared to the rest of the market, the Colorado stacks up very well in the competition stakes and its interior is above the course par. The quality of the interior is a match for that of the cheapest Rangers and Amaroks, and comfortably shades the base-model Triton and D-Max.
In something that will probably surprise many, the best part of the Colorado is the drivetrain, particularly the 2.8-litre turbocharged diesel four-cylinder, which appears to be severely underrated as an engine by many. While the outputs of the unit are not the highest and it isn't the strongest from idle, the Duramax is a willing, if vocal, performer that packs a surprising amount of grunt at mid-range revs, and also possesses a linearity of power delivery that is most unlike what would be expected from a heavily boosted diesel donk.
On both paper and in practice, the Duramax is simply the best engine available in a dual-cab ute at this pricepoint, and in fact one of the best available in a dual-cab, period. To find an engine that beats the hard-charging 2.8-litre for power and smoothness, you’ll need to opt for the superb V6 of the Amarok Sportline – a $50,000 proposition.
From a standing start and with your foot pressed flat to the floor, only the inadequate rear tyres and light rear end will stop you from getting off the line quickly before the traction-control system corrals you into line. Once off the line, the rate of the acceleration is quite remarkable, and you almost forget that the Colorado is a two-tonne light commercial vehicle. Almost. Yeah alright, nah, not really. Still, it is quite quick for its intended purpose. Fuel consumption was also better than I expected, with a perfectly reasonable average of 8.6L/100km.
The transmission, too, is much improved from the old model, with GM clearly taking care to iron out the jolts from the gearbox on downshifts. That being said, it's still not the most refined unit, as mistimed shifts can sometimes jar through the cabin ambience.
Teaming the smooth-operating Duramax engine with this transmission makes for an easy to drive ute around town, with very predictable power delivery. For those with a heavier right foot or those simply too impatient to sit in a lane of traffic, the transmission won't kick down as early as you think and likes to hold gears under heavy acceleration, which also enhances its easy-to-drive credentials.
I probably don't do enough towing to recommend the Colorado as a tug, but for those who are likely to do the occasional tow of a two-tonne trailer, the Colorado is well up to the task, feeling rock solid and stable even at 110km/h (if you're happy to burn through that much fuel – which I am, as my boss pays for it). However, the fuel efficiency of the Colorado seems to suffer more from towing than others in its class. With two tonnes on the back and travelling at a reasonable 80km/h, fuel consumption can blow out to 14L/100km.
While the Colorado has made some great leaps forward in comfort and maintained the strengths of its drivetrain, it still hasn't quite matched the Ranger or the Amarok in either ride or handling. The steering of the Colorado is still quite vague by my standards and there's little feedback to the driver, although it is well weighted and easy to turn while parking.
The ride on the Colorado is a Jekyll-and-Hyde proposition as with most dual-cabs; the coil front being well dampened and compliant, and the leaf-sprung rear wallowing like a drunken elephant, more noticeably so when unladen. This detracts both from comfort and from handling, and anybody taking their Colorado on twisty roads should check their own ability (and common sense) before trying to keep up with smaller cars.
While the swell of torque from the Duramax may propel you out of corners with aplomb, the brakes are merely adequate for LCV purposes, and the Colorado rolls into corners like a ferry in high seas. This definitely isn't a driver's car.
Things fall apart further for the Colorado on inner suburban roads too. Some utes, the Triton in particular, are relatively easy to manoeuvre around tight places, but the Colorado is toward the larger end of the size spectrum, and it’s difficult to get a gauge on where the physical limits of the big Holden are, particularly the front bumper.
The turning circle of 12.7m is probably no worse than the competition, but it makes for painful experiences in shopping centres. If you intend to spend a lot of time trying to parallel park in front of your favourite coffee shop, I’d be looking elsewhere. Like, not-at-dual-cab utes elsewhere.
When off-road, the Colorado performs to about the par for the class with good, but not great, ground clearance and adequate traction. The Colorado's 4x4 system can be controlled using the dial on the centre console, which is both easy and ergonomic to use. Pleasingly, there's low-range available in 4x4 mode too.
Disappointingly, there's no diff lock, which may mean serious off-road junkies should look elsewhere, although the electronic torque distribution system of the Colorado does a decent job of keeping the car moving in muddy situations and mercifully keeping my pants clean for another afternoon.
The capable off-road hardware of the Holden is let down by some truly awful tyres fitted to the base model. My LS arrived on a set of Bridgestone Dueler H/Ts that were just rubbish. Anybody even pondering getting mud on their tyres at any point during their ownership cycle should take their ute straight into the tyre shop for a set of all-terrains.
After switching to a set of Dueler A/Ts, control on slippery surfaces is improved significantly. Despite giving away around 0.5L/km in fuel economy and a reasonable amount of tyre noise at speed to the highway variant, it's an upgrade I'd definitely recommend.
As far as ownership goes, Holden provides for a relatively pleasant experience, although the service intervals are too short for my liking. To service your Colorado, you'll need to front up every nine months or 15,000km. On a reliability front, there have been no issues or faults to report thus far, and the Colorado has stood up to the test of time with no squeaks, rattles or other defects popping up to date.
If you were to buy a Colorado, even as a private buyer, I would recommend you do so in LS spec provided you could get a deal for under $40,000. At this pricepoint, with this engine and with these features, the Holden is excellent value. Likewise, if you were in the market for a dual-cab 4x4 utility for less than $40,000, the Colorado LS is difficult to pass up.
While it may not be overly well equipped or the cheapest offering, the Colorado shapes up as the best all-round package on the market. Holden has got the fundamentals right with a pleasing cabin, a strong drivetrain, and all the technology that you need. If you can tolerate the short servicing intervals, look no further.