Holden catches up with Colorado ute update

Local Holden engineers have played a significant role on the world stage with their contribution to the successful 2017 Colorado update. In a pointer to Holden’s future direction, development work on the Colorado was an international joint venture.  GM Brazil led the project with substantial input from Holden and GM Thailand.  Final testing was conducted in and around Holden’s Lang Lang Proving Ground in Victoria.  Now the vehicles are being built in Thailand.

This isn’t an all-new vehicle and might not even be classified as a major overhaul, but it’s certainly more than just a minor facelift.  Updating Colorado has been a well-thought-out, targeted operation designed to address the shortcomings of the previous model. 
 

13 models cover all bases

Over the past decade the humble ute has generally morphed into a small truck and sales have doubled. Consequently owners’ requirements and expectations are now far greater and they’re looking for their ute to be anything from the basic workhorse or a family-friendly lifestyle vehicle to an off-road warrior or a comfortable tourer to pull a large caravan. 

To meet the variety of demands, Holden has 13 Colorado models, in single-cab, space-cab and crew-cab configurations on either a chassis or pick-up base.  The four equipment grades are LS, LT, LTZ and Z71 in a price range of $29,490 (plus on-road costs) through to $54,990.  In any variant available with a six-speed manual, the six-speed auto adds $2200.  

Based on first impressions from the launch program, where we were introduced to crew-cab pick-up versions of the high-end 4x4 LTZ (expected to be the top seller) and Z71 over a range of on-road, off-road and towing situations, the Colorado displayed massive improvements in the way it looks, feels, drives and even sounds. It has been transformed from a budget-focused battler to a serious, attractively priced contender in a category where the competition is tough. 
 

Fresh new design

There has been cosmetic surgery at the front to smarten up the exterior appearance but the improvements are most evident in the cabin.  A redesigned dash, well-placed controls and high level of infotainment technology have a modern, easy-to-use appeal, while the upgraded trim materials and greater attention to detail in the build quality creates a premium look. The standard equipment level, even in the basic LS version, would put top-of-the-range models from just a few years ago to shame, and the higher grade LTZ and Z71models are certainly dressed to impress. All variants have a five-star ANCAP safety rating and drivers will appreciate the standard reversing camera and rear parking sensors on all models. The added safety of forward collision alert, lane departure warning and front parking sensors are excellent features on LTZ and Z71 models.  

Cabin space is good and even after a long drive there were no complaints about the front seat support and comfort. In the back, leg room is not an issue but the seats are mounted close to the floor, promoting quite a bent-knee seating position which tends to reduce the amount of thigh support.
 

A better drive

But the most impressive changes are beneath the surface, in the driveline, steering and suspension. Colorado retains its tough, high-riding, off-road appeal and truck-like towing ability, but the 2017 model is a far more refined and civilised vehicle for everyday use around town and on the open road.  This is where the targeted approach has paid dividends.

The Duramax 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine puts out 147kW at 3600rpm and a brutish 500Nm of torque at 2000rpm for the automatic (440Nm in the manual), one of the highest outputs in the class.  Development work on the engine and transmission focused on a smoother operation, reduced fuel consumption and achieving Euro 5 emission standards, as well as making better use of the strong power and torque it was producing.  There were a number of internal tweaks to the engine but the most noticeable improvements come from a sophisticated new Centrifugal Pendulum Absorber torque converter, a wide spread of gear ratios in the six-speed automatic and revised shift calibrations to match. New engine, transmission and chassis mounting further reduce the NVH (noise, vibration and harshness), and so while Colorado still might not be the smoothest or quietest vehicle in the class, it is much better than the previous model.  The performance feels more responsive and is delivered in a strong progressive manner – a big plus for the all-round drivability.
 

Fuel economy needs work

Official fuel consumption for the LTZ automatic is 8.7L/100 km (down from 9.1L/100km) but that’s still not outstanding, as a couple of its peers are down in the 7s although without the same strong performance. By the very nature of this type of vehicle, the varying loads, wide range of operating conditions it can encounter and different driving styles means that consistently getting close to the official consumption in real-world driving is optimistic.

Holden engineers were heavily involved in co-development of the greatly improved steering and suspension.  Colorado displays a new-found driving ease around town and a more confidence-inspiring surefootedness over the variety of road and track conditions a truck of this size is likely to encounter.  It all starts from the steering feel, with re-calibration of the electric power-assisted steering and a faster steering rack providing a quicker response and much better sense of connection with what is happening at the wheels.  Suspension changes include revised spring rates, a bigger front stabiliser bar and new shockers.  When the going gets tough off-road, Colorado remains very capable. 
 

Hefty towing abilities

The 3500kg towing capacity with 10% maximum ball load equals the best in class, and trailer sway control is standard across the range, while sharper steering helps manoeuvrability.  The final drive ratio in the manual version was lowered for better launch performance and drivability, particularly when towing.

Colorado has taken a massive step forward in driving refinement, features and build-quality.  A price advantage over most similarly equipped competitors also helps but it’s taking on some well-established and highly credentialled models. The 2017 version is not quite a class leader but has plenty of ability, and attractive pricing provides good value for money.

Personalising the vehicle has become a big part of ownership for many buyers in this category.  To accommodate the demand, Holden engineers have also developed and thoroughly tested an extensive range of genuine accessories, designed specifically for the latest Colorado.
 

Holden Colorado LTZ Crew Cab Pick-Up 4WD

Engine: 2776cc turbo-diesel.

Transmission: 6spd manual or 6spd auto.

Drivetrain: Dual-range four-wheel-drive. 147kW@3600rpm. 500Nm@2000 (auto), 440Nm at 2000rpm (manual).

Safety: 5-star ANCAP rating. 7 airbags. Forward collision alert with head-up warning. Lane departure warning. Hill descent control. Dusk-sensing headlights. Rain-sensing wipers. Hill start assist. Reversing camera. Front and rear parking sensors. Tyre pressure monitoring. ISOFIX fittings.

Standard features: 8-inch colour touch screen. Satellite navigation. Digital radio. Bluetooth. Apple CarPlay & Android Auto. Climate control. Six-way electric driver’s seat. Front fog lights. Daytime running lights. Soft tonneau cover.

Fuel economy: 8.7L/100km (auto); 7.9L/100km (manual). 76-litre fuel tank.

Towing: 3500kg braked trailer maximum, 350kg towball limit.

Price: $50,490 (manual), $52,690 (auto), plus on-road costs. Range $29,490-$57,190.

Written by RACV
October 21, 2016