The Holden Colorado 7 large SUV will become the Holden Trailblazer as the brand attempts to shift itself into a more premium part of the market ahead of next year’s exit from Australian manufacturing.
A facelifted version of the large seven-seat off-roader — wearing a face lifted from US carmaking giant General Motors’ Chevrolet sub-brand – will importantly still feature a Holden badge when it arrives here. It’s due on sale in Australia in September.
Shortly after, Holden is expected to make an announcement about bringing more variants of the Astra – a European-designed city-friendly hatchback – to Australia in a move clearly designed to replace the Australian-built Holden Cruze with a more premium model.
In 2017 comes the big move, with the European-designed Opel Insignia due to take over from the Holden Commodore large car as what the brand hopes will follow in the Commodore’s shadow to become Australia’s favourite Holden.
The Colorado ute-based Trailblazer, though, will be the first taste of what is to come from what is shaping up to be a much more premium feel to Holden’s showroom.
“Any car we bring into the portfolio we work hard to make sure it’s a winning product,” Holden managing director Mark Bernhard said.
“When you have a chance to get in the [facelifted] Colorado you’ll understand just how good that product is.
“It’s has certainly had great reviews, particularly from Brazil already (where the SUV was overhauled for this facelift) and all the feedback we’re getting is that it’s a fantastic product.”
According to Holden, the Thai-built Trailblazer will be “a significantly different vehicle” to the Colorado 7.
Apart from the new Chev-styled look that gives Holden’s design a more international edge – you shouldn’t have too much trouble recognising the car in any of the international markets in which it will sell – Holden says the facelift makes the Trailblazer more “luxurious”.
That runs to more chrome trim, LED daytime running lights that make the Trailblazer more visible to oncoming traffic, different “dual-grained” plastics on the dash, as well as a shift to contrasting leather trim used for the seats.
As well, Holden says the Trailblazer will have “significant improvements to driving comfort” while keeping plenty of off-road ability.
Under the bonnet, Holden is expected to use an upgraded version of its 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engine, however, on-paper performance falls from 147kW to 132kW, and torque from 500Nm to 470Nm for versions of the Trailblazer fitted with a six-speed automatic gearbox.
If Holden decides to introduce a five-speed manual gearbox version – the carmaker did add a handful to its Colorado 7 fleet when the vehicle was introduced in 2014 but quickly dropped it in favour of an auto-only line-up – torque will drop to 440Nm.
The big question for prospective Trailblazer buyers, though, will be price. Holden’s all-wheel-drive only Colorado 7 range currently kicks off from $47,990, compared with $41,740 for the 3.0-litre V6 diesel-engined, rear-wheel-drive Ford Territory that will disappear from showrooms in October as the US-owned brand winds up its Australian carmaking business.
The seven-seat Isuzu MU-X, a wagon version of the D-Max trade ute powered by a larger 3.0-litre four-cylinder diesel, starts from $40,500 for a rear-drive model, and the Ford Ranger trade ute-based Everest, powered by a 3.2-litre five-cylinder diesel engine, starts from $54,990 with AWD.
Toyota, meanwhile, prices its Hilux-based Fortuner seven-seat off-roader - powered by a new-generation 2.8-litre four-cylinder diesel - from $47,990.
Nissan don’t offer a diesel version of its off-road friendly seven-seater. Instead, it has a petrol-electric hybrid version of its Pathfinder, priced from $42,990, reflecting the reality that some buyers will never take their rugged off-roader down anything more challenging than a winery’s gravel driveway.
We’ve already had a glimpse of what added technology has done to Holden’s ability to price its cars competitively, with the new-generation Holden Spark pricing at the higher end of the city-friendly hatchback segment, based on the cost of making it one of the most technologically advanced cars in the segment.
Holden can get around this problem by introducing cheaper rear-wheel-drive versions of the Trailblazer to woo those buyers who like wineries more than they like the great outdoors.