Tim O'Brien | Jun 14, 2012 | 33 Comments


Things have suddenly gotten hotter among LCVs - that light commercial vehicle sector where the robust and rampant Toyota HiLux reigns supreme.

Holden's new Colorado, which hits showrooms this week and where its bruising tough-truck styling will do it no harm at all, is one fine 'fourby' ute.

It's not perfect, but vastly improved on the stolid but reliable and hard-working model it replaces.

Diesel only, the 2.8 litre crew-cabs we sampled at launch - LT and LTZ models - pulled like a train.

And, with a range starting at $26,990 for the cab-chassis DX, Holden has the Colorado range sharply priced.

The top-spec LTZ, at $51,990 with six-speed auto and 3.5 tonne towing capacity, slides in under Ford's top-spec (but better equipped) $55,390 Ranger XLT by a significant $3400.

In a single bound, from behind the pack, the Colorado has lept Nissan's 2.5 litre Navara, the Triton, VW Amarok and HiLux for capability, workhorse grunt and style.

Only the benchmark Ford Ranger and Mazda BT-50 cousins have it bested, but the Colorado wins on price over the Ranger, and shades both for muscular lines and on-road presence.


The interior

The gawky style and primeval layout of the previous Colorado's interior have gone. The new one is a thousand years more evolved and better-featured, and looks quite sharp.

Its commercial origins are evident, it doesn't have the quality surfacing or subtle sense of fashion of a modern passenger car interior, but trim materials and tactile surfaces are generally good.

The leather-bound sports multi-function wheel is very appealing; the right size, a good rim and nicely 'square-on'.

It's adjustable for rake only (not reach), but there's ample adjustment to the driver's seat (for height, backrest and squab) and it's easy to get set at the wheel.

Seats themselves are good, front and rear. Trimmed in appealing durable fabrics, in both LT and LTZ models, they are supportive although not deeply scalloped, and offer reasonable under-thigh support for comfortable travel.

The rear is particularly roomy - ample kneeroom there with a Collingwood six-footer (5'11") at the wheel - and easily accessed through the wide-opening doors.

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Seat-backs in the rear are not too upright (a failing with most twin-cabs) and not too short in the squab. Just two rear passengers get head rests, but each get proper lap-sash belts.

But there are some things we didn't like. The automatic shifter feels really low-rent, flimsy even, and the linear gate is un-illuminated - the shift information on the display ahead of the driver.

Also un-illuminated are the multi-function controls on the wheel (which kind-of defeats the purpose).

Some of the interior trim panels were also poorly aligned in one of the four cars we drove, leaving a hanging lip on the centre-stack and a gap to the left of the gear shift. You can expect these early-build peccadillos to disappear as the model matures.

That aside, the LT and LTZ models we drove come quite well-featured.

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Standard fit is cruise control, leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, air-con, power windows, Bluetooth, aux-in, six-speaker audio system with USB and iPod connectivity (eight-speakers in the LTZ), power windows, two 12V auxiliary power outlets.

There is also an alarm, and various dress-up features like body-coloured exterior mirrors with integrated side-turn signals, and, in the LTZ, side steps, fog-lamps, projector headlamps, and chrome exterior and interior door handles.

Holden is waiting on ANCAP test results, but the Colorado also comes well-featured for safety with four airbags (driver, front passenger, and full-length side curtain airbags), along with electronic stability control and ABS.

It misses out however on features like hill-descent control and 'trailer sway control' that list among the up-spec Ranger's safety armoury.


On The Road

Let's start with the engine: a 2.8 litre DOHC Duramax turbo-diesel producing 132kW and 440Nm of torque with the manual and 470Nm with the auto - the latter bettering the 3.0 litre diesel it replaces.

It's a modern and very muscular unit. At idle it's settled and free of the lumpy shudder that typifies some. It becomes a little intrusive when accelerating from rest, but softens to a gruff rounded hum on the highway.

The six-speed auto could be a little crisper on changes (we've not yet driven the five-speed manual), especially around town through the first couple of ratios, but, once up to speed it performs very well.

We like, in particular, the transmission's settled nature when on the move. It holds onto higher gears, using the masses of torque to keep things bowling along, rather than fidgeting around looking for ratios.

That potent diesel means the Colorado is completely untroubled by hills and quite responsive when asked to overtake or if needing to hustle along.

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The ride is best described as a compromise.

A leaf-sprung rear under a large empty tub (for our testing) plus a 3.5 tonne towing capacity, mean that it's pointless to expect 'car-like' comfort and handling.

But don't infer from that that the ride is expressly poor or a handful at the wheel on broken roads - it's not.

With coil springs with independent double wishbones up front, the Colorado tracks quite well.

It's not in the Ranger's or Amarok's class - each of which are really very good - but while there is some bounce and jiggle without a load, there is reasonable compliance at the front end and the ride is adequately isolated and not uncomfortable.


Towing And Off-Road

Of course, it's built for a load. Put a wheelbarrow, some builder's clobber and work tools in that tub, or an off-road bike, and the ride will be transformed.

We had a 3.0 tonne load hitched behind for one leg of the launch: a mini-excavator and trailer, plus three passengers in the cab. The Colorado hauled it with relative ease.

Overtaking (of course) was out of the question, and progress away from the line was considerably dampened, but we were surprised at how capably it performed.

This is a truck for a big job - it is the segment leader for towing capacity. The crew cab offers 1552mm tub length and 1532mm width (with 1122mm between the wheel arches).

Off-road, although the circuit was not especially challenging, the Colorado performed very well. Low range provides good crawling ability to pick a line up and over obstacles, and, held into first or second for descents, engine braking performance is very good.

Approach angles are very good, and ramp-over angles are excellent. However, the tow bar fitted to our test vehicle for this part of the drive fouled a couple of times when climbing out of washouts.

Moving between vehicles meant that it wasn't possible to take a meaningful fuel consumption reading, but Holden is claiming 9.1 l/100km combined fuel use.


First Drive Verdict

As we noted at the outset, Holden's new Colorado is one fine 'fourby' ute. A longer test, and a look at the five-speed manual models, will give us some better insights into its strengths and weaknesses.

But, on the basis of this drive of the LT and LTZ, we would confidently recommend that you place the Colorado high on your short list. Especially if shopping for a tough workhorse that can also be comfortably pressed into use as a versatile family car.

At the moment, in the light commercial vehicle sector, it's a battle for the minor placings: you need more than a better ute to beat the HiLux.

But the Navara is vulnerable, and it's been galloping out of Nissan showrooms. Vulnerable too is the Triton, which is suddenly looking a little tired and underdone. And the Amarok is nobbled with a manual-only drivetrain (for the moment) and a hard-working 2.0 litre diesel.

So there's a lot of opportunity there for the Colorado.

We'd put it behind the Ranger and BT-50 for all-round value and capability, but it has them both shot to bits for bruising, tough-truck style.



4x2 SINGLE CAB Body Engine Transmission RRP
DX Cab Chassis 2.5L TD MT $26,990
LX Cab Chassis 2.8L TD MT $27,990
LX Cab Chassis 2.8L TD AT $29,990
LX Cab Chassis 2.8L TD MT $33,990
LX Cab Chassis 2.8L TD AT $35,990
LX Pickup 2.8L TD MT $35,490
LX Pickup 2.8L TD AT $37,490
LT Pickup 2.8L TD MT $36,490
LT Pickup 2.8L TD AT $38,490
LTZ Pickup 2.8L TD MT $40,990
LTZ Pickup 2.8L TD AT $42,990
DX Cab Chassis 2.8L TD MT $34,990
LX Cab Chassis 2.8L TD MT $35,990
LX Cab Chassis 2.8L TD AT $37,990
LX Cab Chassis 2.8L TD MT $40,490
LX Cab Chassis 2.8L TD AT $42,490
LTZ Pickup 2.8L TD MT $47,490
LTZ Pickup 2.8L TD AT $49,490
LX Cab Chassis 2.8L TD MT $42,990
LX Cab Chassis 2.8L TD AT $44,990
LX Pickup 2.8L TD MT $44,490
LX Pickup 2.8L TD AT $46,490
LT Pickup 2.8L TD MT $45,490
LT Pickup 2.8L TD AT $47,490
LTZ Pickup 2.8L TD MT $49,990
LTZ Pickup 2.8L TD AT $51,990

Note: pricing excludes on-road costs.

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