Engine: 2.8 litre Duramax in-line four cylinder common rail-direct injection turbo-diesel
Power: 132kW @ 3800 rpm Torque: 470Nm @ 2000 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic with sequential manual shift option
Suspension: (F) upper and lower wishbone, coil springs (R) leaf springs, live axle
Payload: 1186 kgs
Towing: 3.5 tonne (braked)
Economy: 9.1 litres/100 kms
Price: $46,490 (plus on-road costs)
Holden says that its all-new Colorado one-tonne ute is a “truly global vehicle” with the strength and versatility required to meet the needs of customers in more than 60 markets worldwide.
Not that that there’s anything unusual about that, given that other one-tonne trucks produced by Toyota, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Ford/Mazda, Volkswagen etc in this increasingly competitive vehicle market are also designed with the highest volume of global sales in mind.
The design and development of GM’s new one-tonner, which reportedly cost the corporation $2 billion, was managed by an international design team which included Holden engineers.
Executive Director of Engineering, Greg Tyus, claims the Colorado amassed 2.5 million kms of testing across five continents. It was essentially designed in Brazil with input from Thailand and Australia.
The base chassis frame architecture is shared with Isuzu’s new D-Max. From there, the Isuzu and GM products diverge to a far greater extent in drivetrains than the joint development program by Ford and Mazda with their latest Ranger/BT50 offerings, which differ mainly in body designs (do they ever!) and interior trim.
The Colorado is built in GM’s assembly plant at Rayong in Thailand and its Duramax four cylinder turbo-diesel engines are produced for this truck (the D-Max uses Isuzu engines) at GM’s engine plant right next door.
The bold styling, particularly the big bullnose front, has strong American influences with those unmistakable twin-slot design cues from Chevrolet’s giant Silverado pickup. There is nice continuity in the side profile, too, with a distinct wedge-shaped pressing that runs the full length of the side panels and visually ties the style-side box to the cab.
Our test vehicle
The new Colorado is sold in three body styles – Single Cab, Space Cab and Crew Cab – across four model grades – DX (4×2 only), LX, LT and LTZ. That adds up to 26 different model combinations, all with a minimum one-tonne payload rating.
There are also two powertrain options, starting with the entry level 2.5 litre turbo-diesel rated at 110kW power/350Nm torque with a 3.0 tonne (braked) towing capacity. The 2.5 engine is only available in the 4×2 DX.
Top level is the larger 2.8 litre turbo-diesel, with 132kW of power and 470Nm of torque when teamed with the six-speed auto but reduced to 440Nm when matched with the five-speed manual gearbox. The 2.8 boasts a class-leading braked towing capacity of 3.5 tonnes.
Our test vehicle was a DX model (entry level for the 2.8 range) with six-speed automatic transmission and fitted with several items from the new Genuine Holden Accessories range. These included a lock-up canopy, cargo liner, tow bar kit, bonnet protector and thick rubber floor mats to keep our grubby boots off the carpet.
Life with a canopy
We were glad to get a hold of this LX with a factory canopy installed, because it provided a valuable insight into life with a one-tonne pickup that we don’t normally get to experience.
The Holden canopy made from the latest lightweight composite materials is a tough, well designed and good looking option, with lockable swing-up rear and side windows and sliding front glass panels which when retracted allow you to clean the rear window of the truck cab.
A canopy is great if you need to carry things out of the weather or want the extra security of a lockable and spacious load area (the tailgate also locks). Or, with the tailgate down and all the glass open, a breezy place where you can sit out of the hot sun at a picnic, the beach or local footy match.
However, there are several other practical issues to consider, that you may not be aware of:
Water and dust
Even though the canopy is well sealed around all its joints and windows, there are no rubber seals around the truck’s steel tailgate. This lets water and dust leak into the load area, which depending on your load (cardboard boxes, mattresses etc) could cause some minor damage.
Dirty rear glass
There is no heater/demister to clear the canopy’s rear screen on frosty mornings. There is also no wiper/washer, which means that when a film of dirty water inevitably starts to build up on the glass there is no way you can clean it while driving.
On several occasions during our test, the rear glass got so dirty that we couldn’t see through it which meant relying totally on the door mirrors. This is annoying when driving and potentially dangerous when reversing, particularly given the number of driveway-related incidents involving small children and SUVs these days.
And given the lack of a reversing camera or at least Rear Park Assist sensors as standard equipment on any Colorado model right up to LTZ (although RPA is available as a factory accessory for $620), Holden and any other one-tonne truck maker that doesn’t have these fitted as standard equipment would be well advised to look at what is now a glaring safety omission.
The canopy is also equipped with a bright interior light which is handy when the sun goes down. However, it is controlled by a switch mounted on the light’s base, so you could easily walk away for the night with a push of the central locking key fob behind you and not realise you’d left the light on.
We did it once at dusk but fortunately noticed it several hours later and avoided a potential flat battery, but only because we took the bins out that night.
If you need to carry stuff that’s longer than the load floor, like the wheelbarrow and step ladder shown above, you can’t close the tailgate unless you rest the handles and legs up on top of the tailgate. But because you then can’t close the rear window lid, this means you have to drive with it raised. And you can’t lock it when you leave it, either.
What will it carry?
The PX Ford Ranger is considered the current benchmark for one-tonne trucks, so a fair comparison with the entry level LX Colorado Crew Cab would be the entry level XL Ranger Double Cab.
They both have one-tonne plus payloads and similar braked towing capacities that exceed 3.0 tonnes. However, the Colorado’s maximum 3.5 tonne rating just pips the Ranger’s 3.35 tonne figure. Fact is, we’re splitting hairs here about an extra 150 kgs, because any braked towing figure between 3.0-3.5 tonnes is plenty for trucks the size and weight of the Colorado.
In key dimensions, the load floor length of the Colorado pickup’s load box (1484mm) is 65mm shorter than the Ranger. In practical terms, that can mean the difference between being able to close the tailgate with a wheelbarrow laying straight or having to carry it diagonally across the load floor to allow enough room to close it. The load box at 1534mm is also 25mm narrower than the Ford’s.
The distance between the wheel arches inside the load area is 17mm narrower than the Ranger at 1122 mm, so standard 900mm-wide builder sheets will lay flat between them and the standard 1100mm x 1100mm Asian pallet will also squeeze in there with 11mm each side to spare.
Interior comfort and safety
The interior is spacious with all controls easy to use and identify (manual version shown above). The leather-bound steering wheel is a nice touch, the column is adjustable for tilt only and the driver’s seat has enough adjustment for different shapes and sizes to get reasonably comfortable.
It’s also loaded with Bluetooth connectivity, USB input with IPod connectivity and MP3 compatible CD player.
There’s plenty of room on the rear bench seat, too, with generous window glass and sufficient rake on the backrest for a comfortable seating position. There’s also enough head room for 1.8 metre tall blokes like us, with long torsos and boofy heads.
The location of the B pillar relative to the back seat can still make getting in an out a bit of a squeeze if you’re 1.8 metres tall with size 12 boots on, but overall the ergonomics of the Crew Cab are easy to get along with.
The Crew Cab’s passenger survival cell has earned the maximum five-star ANCAP crash safety rating, with its use of high strength steel side intrusion beams combined with driver/passenger front airbags and full length side-curtain airbags.
Where will it go?
The Colorado is designed to go anywhere the current generation of global one-tonners can go, with on-the-fly selection of high range 4×4 and low range being as quick and easy as turning the knob on the console another notch.
The Colorado’s two-speed transfer case and limited slip differentials will get you in and out of most off road situations, even though it lacks the Ranger’s more sophisticated ELD (Electronic Locking Differential) and HDC (Hill Descent Control) designed to cope with some more extreme off road challenges.
How’s it drive?
The Colorado has good, rattle-free build integrity and a solid feel on the road. It feels big, too, being the same length as the Ranger but about 80 kgs heavier and 140 mm wider. The Duramax’s 470Nm of lazy turbo-diesel torque belies the fact this Crew Cab weighs just over two tonnes (2019 kgs).
The engine can feel a bit harsh and noisy when revved firmly between 2000-3000 rpm. We produced a best fuel consumption figure of 10.5 litres/100 km combining local road commuting, off road driving and highway use. Holden claims a best of 9.1.
The automatic transmission is a smooth operator up and down the ratios, with the optional sports shift available if you need to hold gears longer during heavy haulage or towing.
However, this sequential shift design (like Mitsubishi) is the opposite of the more usual code of pulling the stick backwards to shift up and pushing it forward to shift down, which may or may not be an issue depending on driver preference.
The Colorado also has Electronic Stability Control across all models incorporating ABS, EBD (Electronic Brake Distribution) and TCS (Traction Control System); a suite of features that is quickly becoming standard issue in one-tonne pickups given their dual work and play roles.
Ride quality was generally good on the different roads and dirt tracks we tested it on, with front coil springs replacing the torsion bars used in the previous Isuzu-based models and the usual big leaf springs and live axle under the rear. For a truck designed to carry more than a tonne and tow up to 3.5 tonnes, the unladen ride quality is a good compromise.
If we could suggest any improvements to the Colorado’s driving experience, it would be to tighten up the overly soft or vague feel of the steering. A more direct, higher ratio with less turns lock to lock would be ideal. It currently feels more like a recirculating ball-type steering box than a rack and pinion.
Whilst we understand the need for these controls to have a certain amount of compliance to absorb the abuse of rugged off road use, in our opinion the Aussie-designed and engineered Ford Ranger currently sets the bar at where these compromises should be.
In a nutshell, for a vehicle designed by an international team, it feels like there’s too much American influence here. If that is the case, we hope Holden’s Australian engineers have more input when the first Colorado upgrade comes around. And that applies to its Colorado 7 truck wagon derivative due by 2013.
Even so, the new Colorado represents a generational leap ahead of its Isuzu-based past. It’s a solid, well-built truck that offers class-leading towing capacity and five-star passenger safety with plenty of model choices and accessories to tailor it to suit most needs and tastes.
And it slots into that familiar mid-$40,000 price bracket in which its competitors from Ford, Mazda, Nissan, Toyota, Isuzu etc all compete for buyers in, so it’s just made that decision even harder. TJ
For detailed specifications on the Holden Colorado LX 4×4 Crew Cab and other models, check out Holden’s official website at: www.holden.com.au