Holden Colorado 2012: Launch Review

Holden’s all-new Colorado finally faces up to some stiff new one-tonne competition

Holden Colorado LTZ 4x4 Crew Cab

Local Launch?
Lockyer Valley, Queensland

What we liked
>> Keen pricing and accessories list?
>> Beefy new 2.8 diesel and class-leading 3500kg tow capacity?
>> Bigger, quieter new-look body

Not so much?
>> Onroad dynamics fall short of segment leaders?
>> Key features missing from equipment list?
>> Hard interior plastics and build quality?

>> Holden's answer for new crop...
Delayed by up to six months by the 2011 Thai floods, Holden’s bigger new Colorado rides on a redesigned ladder chassis powered by GM’s new 2.5 and 2.8-litre Duramax four-cylinder turbodiesel engines.

The latest in a recent procession of new one-tonne utes, the new Brazilian-designed and engineered Colorado also comes with two transmissions (five-speed manual and six-speed auto) and two drive configurations (rear-drive 4x2 and four-wheel drive). With three body styles offered (Single Cab, Crew Cab and Space Cab – fitted with a rear-hinged rear door for the first time) and four specification levels -- DX, LX, LT and LTZ – there's plenty of choice for buyers.

Every Colorado in the range comes with a one-tonne payload and some models are able to carry up to 1.4 tonnes, but the Colorado’s trump card is a class-leading 3500kg towing capacity for 2.8-litre models (3000kg for the 2.5, which can also tow a 750kg unbraked trailer). Holden’s Melbourne-made 3.6-litre petrol V6 is no longer available in Australian Colorados and only the entry-level manual-only DX 4x2 Single Cab Chassis comes with the smaller 2.5-litre diesel.

No longer the mechanical twin of Isuzu’s D-Max, the Colorado shares the same new chassis as its cousin but now wears unique bodywork and comes with its own engines. The new D-Max continues with Isuzu’s 3.0-litre diesel.

Five years, 2.5 million test kilometres and $2 billion in the making, GM’s new light truck is one of its biggest ever commercial vehicle projects and cannot come soon enough for Holden, which claims Colorado customers are more loyal than buyers of any other model including the Commodore

Sales of the outgoing model have plummeted so far this year, with 4x2 sales slumping by almost 65 per cent to account for just 1.1 per cent of the segment, and 4x4 sales falling more than 55 per cent to represent a 4.1 per cent segment share. The old Colorado has been effectively in runout since August 2011, and so far this year languishes in fifth place in terms of sales in Australia’s booming light commercial vehicle market.

But Holden says it has already taken more than 1500 Colorado orders during its three-month pre-launch marketing campaign and Australia will be the single biggest destination for Thai-built models – making the Colorado Holden's most important launch of 2012.

>> Eager price points, but missing equipment
Holden released pricing for the new diesel-only Colorado in April, with the range opening at $26,990 plus on-road costs for the DX 2WD Single Cab Chassis 2.5 manual, and closing at $51,990 for the 2.8-litre LTZ 4WD Crew Cab auto -- $1300 more than the LT-R is replaces.

The LTZ range-topper comes with most of the fruit you’d expect. And it undercuts high-spec rivals like the Toyota HiLux SR5 ($53,490), Nissan Navara ST-X ($56,990), Ford Ranger XLT ($55,390) and the (for now) manual-only Volkswagen Amarok Highline ($52,990) and Ultimate ($58,490). Motoring.com.au understands an option pack will eventually be made available comprising many of those missing top-end features, including: leather seat trim, satellite-navigation and, potentially, a rear-view camera.

While the Colorado’s sub-$27,000 starting price is a substantial $4500 lower than the previous entry-level diesel Colorado and $1500 less than the discontinued 3.6-litre petrol variant, it still represents a $2500 premium over the equivalent single-cab/chassis diesel Workmate version of Toyota’s top-selling HiLux.

The 4x4 Single Cab DX costs $34,990 – $500 more than before – and an optional six-speed automatic is available for all models except the base DX Single Cab Chassis at $2000.

The 2WD Crew Cab pick-up variant costs $35,490 in LX specification ($2000 less than before) while the new Crew Cab Chassis variant starts at $33,990. Holden has dropped the 2WD Space Cab, with 4x4 versions now available in 2.8 diesel-only LX and LTZ guises. The 4WD LX Space Cab costs from $40,490 ($200 less than before) while the 4x4 Crew Cab can be had from $42,990 in LX cab-chassis form – $1800 less than before.

The base 2.5 manual-only DX comes well equipped, including a circa-210mm of ground clearance, sump guard, 16-inch steel wheels, a split front bench seat, vinyl floor trim, air-conditioning, power windows, Bluetooth connectivity, USB input with iPod connectivity, 12-volt power outlet, alarm and two flip keys.

In addition, 2.8 LX models offer the six-speed auto option, cruise control, multi-function steering wheel controls, a leather-clad steering wheel, body-coloured exterior mirrors with side turn signal, power mirrors, front bucket seats, carpet floor trim, four-way adjustable driver’s seat (Single Cab), six-way adjustable driver’s seat (Space and Crew Cab) and six speakers (Space and Crew Cab).

LT variants gain 16-inch alloy wheels and front foglights, while the top-shelf LTZ comes with 17-inch alloys (including the spare), projector headlights, front foglights with chrome surround, chromed and power/folding exterior mirrors with side turn signal, chromed exterior and interior door handles, a chromed rear bumper and tailgate handle, LED tail-lights, soft tonneau cover, alloy sports bar, side steps, electronic climate control, a leather-clad manual gearshifter, chromed auto gearshifter, eight-way electric adjustable driver’s seat and, on the Crew Cab, eight speakers.

In addition to 26 model options, the new Colorado will also be available with no fewer than 38 genuine accessories, more than two-thirds of which were designed, developed and engineered in Australia. The line-up includes a snorkel for the 2.8 litre diesel range, steel bull bar, body-coloured hard tonneau covers, alloy sports bar and nudge bar, steel and aluminium trays, a canopy with unique glass areas and a new fully integrated tow bar kit.

The add-ons are grouped into packs, including the $490 Essentials Pack (comprising carpet or rubber floor mats, headlight and bonnet protectors, slimline weather shield), the $1880 Trade Pack (tow bar kit, nudge bar and cargo liner), the $3185 Crew Cab-only Predator Pack (nudge bar, sports bar, three-piece hard tonneau cover, cargo liner and rear parking sensors) and the $4215 Nullarbor Pack, which comes with a tow bar kit, nudge bar or steel bull bar (unavailable until late 2012), the somewhat unattractive snorkel kit (2.8 only), driving lights and cargo liner).

Seven exterior paint colours are available: with 4x2 models offered only in metallic Black Sapphire, metallic Nitrate silver, metallic Royal Grey and solid Summit White, and 4x4 models also available with metallic dark Blue Mountain, metallic Oceanic light blue and the signature Sizzle bright red metallic. Prestige paint costs $550 extra.

>> New body, chassis and engines?
The new Colorado continues its basic body-on-frame architecture, but is based on a clean-sheet ladder chassis design featuring eight cross-members, independent double-wishbone coil-spring front suspension, a leaf-sprung live rear axle and hydraulic rack-and-pinion steering.

The common-rail Duramax four-cylinder turbodiesel are all-new and feature a cast-iron block and alloy DOHC cylinder-head, with the entry-level 2.5-litre DX engine setting no new benchmarks by offering 110kW at 3800rpm and 350Nm from 2000rpm. In 4x2 manual-only guise, the 2449cc engine returns fuel economy of 7.9L/100km and CO2 emissions of 212g/km.

Despite offering more performance, the larger 2.8 – fitted as standard across the rest of the range – is more efficient in mid-range LX 4x2 Crew Cab Pick Up manual form (7.8L/100km, 209g/km), while the top-line LTZ 4x4 Crew Cab Pick Up auto returns 9.1L/100km and 243g/km.

Holden is quick to point out that with a manual transmission the new 2776cc diesel delivers 10 per cent more power and 40 per cent more torque than the 3.0-litre Isuzu engine it replaces, with 132kW on tap at 3800rpm and 440Nm available from 2000rpm. Matched with a six-speed auto, the 2.8 offers an even beefier 470Nm. Both engines comply with Euro 4 emissions standards and come with an average 2.5-star Green Vehicle Guide rating.

Four-wheel drive models come with a two-speed transfer case with electronic shift-on-the-fly 4x4 selection at speeds of up to 112km/h, while braking is via 300mm front discs and 295mm rear drums.

Other key numbers are a 12.7-metre turning circle, 30-degree approach angle, 22-degree departure angle and, on pick-up variants, a 23-degree ramp-over angle. All Colorados have a gross vehicle mass (GVM) of 3100kg and while the 4x2 2.5’s gross combined mass (GCM) is 5500kg, 2.8 models have a 6000kg GCM.

Service intervals are 15,000km and Holden has capped the first four scheduled services for the first three years or 60,000km at $295.

>> Bigger in all directions
All new Colorados ride on the same longer 3096mm wheelbase and while the Single Cab is longer overall than before at 5147mm, Super Cab and Crew Cab pick-up models are longer again at 5347mm. All models also measure 1882mm wide and 1780mm high, though the Single Cab is 5mm higher at 1785mm.

That liberates almost 10mm more front headroom at 1014mm, with Space and Crew Cab models offering 1005mm. All models come with 1049mm of front legroom, while the Space Cab offers 739mm of rear legroom and the Crew Cab has a lengthy 914mm. With more rear head room (973 v 950mm), the Crew Cab’s rear bench offers plenty of room for adults and its seat base flips up in two sections to reveal small storage areas.

Comparing the dimensions of the new Colorado load area will need to wait until we can get the key ute market competitor together. But the we can tell you the dual-cab pick-up's tub isn’t as deep as the Ranger’s and can’t swallow a pallet like the Amarok’s.

>> Side curtains and stability standard
Unlike the top-selling HiLux, all Colorado models will comes standard with potentially life-saving electronic stability control and full-length side curtain airbags – in addition to twin front airbags and four-channel antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), front seatbelt pre-tensioners with load-limiters and front seatbelt height adjusters. Crew Cab models also offer three rear child seat anchors.

That’s a pretty comprehensive standard safety kit that Holden unofficially expects will receive a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating (a vast improvement on the old Colorado’s three-star rating), matching Ford’s new Australian-designed and engineered Ranger line-up, its Mazda BT-50 mechanical twin and, in Australia, Volkswagen’s standard-setting Amarok, which will soon offer single-cab and automatic options to go with its manual-only dual-cab.

However, while the decision to fit all Colorados with side curtain airbags that protect the heads of both front and rear occupants – and to match the Ranger, BT-50 and Amarok with stability control as standard range-wide – is commendable, front and side airbags are unavailable.

Standard security features include an alarm, remote central locking, engine immobiliser, two flip keys and a tailgate lock for pick-up models.

>> Ready to rumble with HiLux
Naturally, the new Colorado’s fiercest competitor is Toyota’s top-selling HiLux. But in addition to luring back its own loyal Colorado/Rodeo customer base, Holden hopes to steal plenty of sales from the number one choice for private and small business buyers, Nissan’s Navara. It’s also intent on making big inroad to the 4x4 ute segment, which now comprises 80 per cent of all ute sales.

Keen pricing will help it do so, but like its Japanese-brand Thai-built rivals, the new Colorado will face stiff competition from below, in the form of Isuzu’s own new D-Max, which launches here next week, as well as SsangYong’s new Actyon ute, Mahindra’s upcoming new Genio ute and Chinese one-tonners from Great Wall and, soon, ZX Auto.

>> Below-par dynamics spoil the party
Holden finally has a big new one-tonne workhorse of comparable size to formidable fresh rivals. And faithful Colorado/Rodeo owners will love the redesigned Colorado’s vastly improved road presence, fronted by a bluff twin-element grille and resplendent with all the chromed add-ons that top-spec 4x4 dual-cab buyers now expect.

Alas, much of that new-found street-cred comes from the new ute’s extra size, rather than a unique personality like that presented by the bolder Ranger and Amarok, or even the smiley-faced BT. The angular look of the previous Colorado/D-Max wasn’t for everyone but at least it was unique, which is something that can’t be said for the Colorado’s somewhat generic styling. Indeed, from the rear, you’d be hard pressed to pick it as the all-new Colorado.

A vastly bigger cabin tends to make up for that, with dual-cab models offering acres of rear legroom and all examples delivering an enormous amount of extra shoulder and headroom, although the Ranger’s higher roof makes it even more cavernous. The B-pillarless Space Cab is tighter in the rear, but its rear seatback is also reasonably reclined.

The Colorado’s interior design is less derivative too, but swathes of hard-to-touch yet surprisingly flimsy plastic surfaces tend to take the shine off an otherwise well laid-out and highly ergonomic work station. We also found the seats overly firm and too high, especially on models with electric adjustment.

The one-touch lane-change indicator function is handy, but the LCD radio read-out looks cheap, adding to the impression of inferior cabin quality and ambience.

There are grab-handles galore, plus bottle-sized door pockets, pop-out cupholders at either end of dash, two gloveboxes, a dash-top lidded compartment and extra storage under the centre armrest and steering wheel, but there’s no excuse for the lack of telescopic steering wheel adjustment. No, the Ranger doesn’t get one either, but the Amarok does.

Holden’s new workhorse should prove a hit with boaties and other trailer-towers, thanks to the class-leading 3500kg capacity of all 2.8-litre versions, which outdo the 3350kg capacity of 3.2-litre diesel Rangers and the 2.0-litre Amarok’s 2800kg. The base 2.5 DX wasn’t available to test at launch, but all the 2.8s we drove made light work of an assortment of (sub-3500kg) trailer loads.

Key features are missing, like a 12-volt rear power outlet and the Amarok’s clever load space light, plus a rear diff lock and hill descent control. It’s doubtful the latter will be missed however, since the Colorado comes with suitably short low-range gear ratios, which combined with decent ground clearance to make crawling up and down the reasonably steep hills around Queensland’s Lockyer Valley a cinch.

In fact, although we can’t comment on the 2.5, GM’s new 2.8 Duramax diesel is probably highlight of the latest Colorado, offering muscular performance right across its rev-range without ever feeling or sounding stressed, even if it fails to match the V8-like torque the Ranger delivers from idle. And both the short-throw five-speed manual and smooth-shifting six-speed auto – with manual shift mode – are well matched to its seamless torque delivery. We saw fuel consumption of about 10.5L/100km in most vehicles we drove, which makes the 2.8’s flexibility even more remarkable.

Refinement is another Colorado hallmark, with engine and road noise taking as big a step backward as its cabin steps up in size, although wind noise varied between near-silent to raucous at speed in the models we drove.

While it’s suitably slow-geared, the Colorado’s steering is also nicely weighted, surprisingly responsive and – for a truck – reasonably communicative. But that’s where the Colorado’s handling prowess ends, because GM’s new light truck falls short of the class-leading Ranger and Amarok when it comes to on-road dynamics.

The Colorado’s suspension tune is as compliant as the Ranger’s and noticeably softer than the firm BT-50 set-up, making off-road work and corrugated gravel roads a breeze. But on the bitumen all dual-cab models we drove lacked the poise and precision of the Ford/Mazda and Volkswagen offerings, skipping about at the rear-end over mid-corner road lumps, lurching over bumps like an old-school off-roader even in a straight line and conveying plenty of head-shake at the mere sight of any surface irregularity.

The unladen single-cab Colorado we drove presented even more suspension bump shudder and fore-aft pitch, making it feel decidedly agricultural when measured against its more accomplished rivals.

In short, although it’s noticeably improved over the decade-old model it replaces, the new Colorado makes other body-on-frame vehicles – like the Ranger and Amarok, and off-road wagons like the Prado – feel like passenger cars. It’s probably better than the Navara, Triton or HiLux, but Ford and Volkswagen have raised the one-tonne bar so high in terms of on-road dynamics that the Colorado will be a decided let-down for anyone that cares to back-to-back them.

Whether that – or the few missing items of equipment – is enough to sway buyers away from it remains to be seen, but the new Colorado’s bullocking new diesel, equally beefy dimensions, keen pricing and Holden badge are certainly its most redeeming features.

More photos of the Holden Colorado at www.motoring.com.au

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Published : Friday, 15 June 2012
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