2020 Holden Trailblazer review

The Holden Trailblazer is a rugged SUV that is excellent for serious off-roading and very good at towing. It seats seven, feels relaxed on the highway, and is strong on safety.

Trailblazer 014 Main Jpg
Score breakdown
Safety, value and features
Comfort and space
Engine and gearbox
Ride and handling
Things we like
  •   Strong engine
  •   Good off road
  •   Seven seats
Not so much
  •   Rides more roughly than less rugged SUVs

What stands out?

The Holden Trailblazer is an SUV-style wagon that is excellent for serious off-road driving and very good at towing. It seats seven, feels relaxed on the highway, and is strong on safety. The Trailblazer is a thoroughly revised and improved version of the Colorado 7, which it replaces, and is based on the Holden Colorado 4WD ute.

The demise of Holden means you may be able to secure huge discounts on remaining models including the Equinox. For more details, read: Holden slashes prices as final fire sales begin.

What might bug me?

The alarm that beeps whenever you open the driver’s door to get out, unless you have removed the key from the ignition switch. The alarm sounds even if the gearbox is in Park, the handbrake is on, and the engine is off. Where’s the safety issue here?

Having no easy way to play your favourite music, if you have not exported your CD collection to a phone (or similar device). The audio system doesn’t have a CD player.

And of course, how Holden's demise could have an impact on resale values. The good news is there should be no negative impact on your rights as an owner when it comes to parts, servicing, warranties and recalls.

For more details about how Holden's closure will impact Trailblazer ownership, see the 'Is it safe to buy a new or used Trailblazer with Holden shutting down?' section below.

What body styles are there?

Five-door wagon only.

The Trailblazer has part-time four-wheel drive, and dual-range gearing. On sealed roads, it drives the rear wheels only. Once off-road, you can select four-wheel drive or low-range four-wheel drive. The low-range gears help you to drive very slowly in difficult off-road conditions.

The Trailblazer is classed as a large SUV, lower priced.

What features do all Trailblazers have?

Cruise control, and Bluetooth phone connectivity. An audio system with a digital radio, at least six speakers, and auxiliary and micro-USB inputs for devices such as an iPod or phone.

Smartphone integration via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, which allows you to display and control some phone functions from the car’s touchscreen. For example, you can make calls, see text messages, and show on the touchscreen directions from a navigation app.

A reversing camera, which displays on the touchscreen a view from behind the car, and rear parking sensors, which warn of the proximity of obstacles when reversing.

Seven seats. Sidesteps, which make it easier to get in and out of the car.

Headlights that come on automatically when it gets dark. Daytime running lights, which make the car more visible, and foglights.

Shiny alloy wheels, which generally are lighter than steel wheels.

Electronic Traction Control, which helps on slippery surfaces and allows you go further off road.

Hill Start Control, which prevents the car rolling backwards when you are starting off on a steep hill.

Hill Descent Control, which helps you control the car on steep off-road descents.

Seven airbags, and Electronic Stability Control. (For the placement of airbags, and more on the Trailblazer’s safety systems, please open the Safety section below.)

The Trailblazer comes with a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

There is only one engine available for the Trailblazer, a 2.8-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder that has plenty of power.

It is a significantly revised version of the modern engine that powered the Trailblazer’s predecessor, the Colorado 7. Among other improvements, it now uses less fuel, consuming just 8.2 litres/100km in the official test (city and country combined). In real-world driving, it averages about 10.0 litres/100km.

This engine feels much smoother and quieter than it did in its previous form. What had been a generally unpleasant engine has been transformed for its role in the Trailblazer. It gets on with the job while making little noise and no fuss.

A six-speed automatic is the only gearbox option.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

Walk past the least costly Trailblazer, the LT, and spend more for a Trailblazer LTZ and you get a lot more luxury and some active safety.

The LTZ has an 8-inch touchscreen, instead of the 7-inch screen in the LT, and there is embedded satellite navigation, which means you don’t have to rely on your phone to get directions. The sound system is better, and uses an extra speaker.

Leather upholstery replaces cloth, both front seats are heated, and the driver’s seat is power-adjustable in six dimensions.

Automatic climate control holds a set cabin temperature, and a remote-start function allows you to warm up the engine and heat or cool the cabin before you get into the car.

Windscreen wipers operate automatically when it rains. Taillights use brighter and very long-lived LEDs. Fancier-looking 18-inch wheels replace the 17-inch wheels of the LT, and a tyre-pressure monitor alerts you (via a dashboard display) if you have a slow puncture.

Choosing the LTZ also brings you some sophisticated active safety features, namely Forward collision warning, Side blind-zone alert, Lane-departure warning, and Rear cross-traffic alert. (For more detail on these features, please open the Safety section below.)

(In June 2017, Holden offered a Trailblazer Z71 alongside the LTZ, initially in a limited run of 400 vehicles. The Z71 is a Trailblazer LTZ with a different look and Z71 badging.)

Does any upgrade have a down side?

The 18-inch wheels and lower-profile tyres on the Trailblazer LTZ aren’t quite as good off road as the 17s on the LT, and they also make the LTZ ride a little more harshly (because there is less rubber and air between the wheel and the road). In addition, the 18-inch wheels limit your options when replacing tyres, especially if you want tyres designed for off-road use.

White or bright red paint is standard. Other colours are an extra-cost option.

How comfortable is the Trailblazer?

The Trailblazer has a roomy and comfortable cabin, with well laid out and simple to use minor controls. The plastics used and the general fit and finish are much better than they were in its predecessor, the Colorado 7, and that gives the Trailblazer a feeling of quality that the Colorado 7 lacked.

However, while the steering wheel is adjustable for tilt, you can’t adjust it for reach. That could be a problem for some drivers, especially those with long legs. As well, the front seats feel a little flat and hard. You might wish for more support from both the seatbases and the seatbacks.

The sound system in the LTZ is clearly the better of the two but both sound good. Not everyone will be happy that neither version has a CD player.

The Trailblazer is easy and relaxing to drive. The engine is smooth and quiet for a diesel and has good power, especially from low speeds or when you first press the pedal to accelerate on the highway, which makes for easy and safe overtaking. The automatic gearbox is very good at picking the right gear at the right time and shifts very smoothly.

The Trailblazer is quiet inside and rides well at open-road speeds even when the roads become bumpy. However, on rough roads you need to correct the steering more than you would in an SUV with more car-like, independent rear suspension, because the Trailblazer has a less consistent, ute-style, suspension design with a solid rear axle.

What about safety in a Holden Trailblazer?

With seven airbags, electronic stability control, a reversing camera and rear parking sensors on both models, the Trailblazer is well served when it comes to safety. The more expensive LTZ has some additional features that can help you avoid crashes on the highway or when parking.

The Trailblazer’s seven airbags begin with two each for the driver and front passenger: one directly in front, and one on the outer side to protect the upper body from side impacts. The driver has a third, knee level, airbag in front to help prevent leg injuries. Finally, full-length curtain airbags extending down each side of the cabin protect the heads of all those sitting next to a window from side impacts. That includes passengers in the third row of seats.

The electronic stability control can help you bring a skidding car back under control. It is mandatory on all new cars.

The Trailblazer also comes standard with Trailer sway control, which can help you settle a trailer that has begun to swing from side to side behind you.

If you chose the more expensive LTZ, you gain Forward collision, Lane departure and Side blind-zone warnings, all of which help keep you safe on the highway.

Forward Collision Warning monitors the road ahead and warns you if it senses a looming obstacle – typically another car that has slowed suddenly. It sounds an alarm and flashes small red lights in a heads-up display on the windscreen, prompting you to brake. (Note that this will not apply the brakes for you: it is not autonomous emergency braking.)

Side blind-zone alert warns you of vehicles in the car’s blindspots – near a rear corner but not visible in your mirrors – via yellow lights on the side mirror and on the dashboard display.

Lane departure warning uses a mild vibration at the steering wheel and a dashboard light to warn you that you are allowing the car to drift out of its lane – perhaps because you are tired or distracted.

The LTZ also has a Rear cross-traffic alert, which is helpful when you are reversing out of a parking spot or driveway. It monitors the space to each side behind you, and warns you of an approaching vehicle by sounding an alarm and flashing a light in the reversing camera display.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the Trailblazer five stars, its maximum safety score, in August 2016.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

The Trailblazer is built on a commercial vehicle platform that is robust enough for tough off-road driving but that does not prioritise sharp and precise on-road handling.

However in creating the Trailblazer from the Colorado 7, Holden’s engineers have added electric power steering, which is light at parking speeds but weights up to preserve stability as speeds rise, and have tuned the suspension specifically for Australian roads. The result is a car that keen drivers will still find enjoyable to drive just about anywhere.

The engine also offers enthusiastic performance. The automatic gearbox is sporty and forward-thinking in the way it selects gears, and shifts smoothly.

The Trailblazer is very capable off-road, helped by its dual-range gearing (which allows you to drive comfortably at a very slow pace) and the truck-type rear suspension (which shines on rough terrain). It can get your family to camping locations and the like that would be beyond the reach of alternative SUVs designed mainly for on-road use (which tend to have independent rear suspension, less ground clearance and only single-range gearing).

How is life in the rear seats?

The main rear seat of the Trailblazer is good for two adults and a child but is on the tight side width-wise for three adults, and could do with more legroom for tall passengers. There is however good headroom. It has are attachment points for three child seats.

The third-row seating is roomier than that offered in some similar vehicles and is good for children and small adults.

The Trailblazer is a good height for helping small children in and out of child seats.

How is it for carrying stuff?

The luggage area is accessed via a single top-hinged tailgate. The cargo space is not as big as it seems from the outside the car, because the third-row seats, even when folded down, eat into it.

On a more positive note, the three-person middle row of seats folds 60-40 and the two-person third-row folds 50-50. That adds versatility, allowing you to tailor the car’s interior for carrying people or gear or both.

The Trailblazer has a 3000kg maximum tow rating with a 300kg maximum towball download, which is average for a medium-sized ute-based 4WD wagon and much better than most car-based SUVs. That is enough to legally tow a loaded two-horse float or a large tandem-axle caravan. The Trailblazer’s engine also feels well up to towing its maximum rating, and its gearbox is well suited to towing.

Where does Holden make the Trailblazer?

All Australian-delivered Trailblazers are made in Thailand.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

Perhaps full-time four-wheel drive, which means all four wheels are driven all of the time. That can make it safer to drive on wet or otherwise slippery sealed roads. The Ford Everest has full-time 4WD, for example, while the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport has the option of full-time 4WD. (The Trailblazer’s 4WD can only be used off-road, on very slippery unsealed roads, or on snowy roads.)

Possibly a rear differential lock, which can help you go further off-road. The Toyota Fortuner has this feature, for example, as do most other ute-based SUVs.

A CD player. You still get one of these increasingly rare devices with a Ford Everest, for example.

If getting well off the beaten track does not attract you, and you do not have a need to tow big loads, you might also consider diesel-powered SUVs built more like cars, such as the Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento. These don’t have the off-road ability of the Trailblazer, but they ride and handle more smoothly on the road.

On the other side, if you wanted a seven-seat 4WD that was even more capable off-road than the Trailblazer you could opt for the more expensive Toyota Prado.

I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

The Trailblazer LTZ is the better buy. If offers a lot more luxury and safety than the LT.

Is it safe to buy a Trailblazer now that Holden is closing down?

If you can get a good deal on a Trailblazer as part of the Holden fire sale, there is good reason to feel confident that parts will be available and that servicing and the warranty will be covered.

Australian consumer law requires that a brand supports its products for at least seven years, while General Motors – the parent company of Holden who are behind the closure – have stated that it will extend warranty and service support for 10 years. The company says it will establish a national after sales network to support existing customers for at least the next 10 years. And remember, you don’t have to service your Trailblazer at a Holden dealership to guarantee warranty coverage.

For more details, read: What does Holden's axing mean for its customers.
Score breakdown
Safety, value and features
Comfort and space
Engine and gearbox
Ride and handling
Things we like
  •   Strong engine
  •   Good off road
  •   Seven seats
Not so much
  •   Rides more roughly than less rugged SUVs


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