HSV is beginning a metamorphosis. After 30 years of assembling vehicles based predominately on locally made Commodores, the Aussie operation is stepping into 2018 with a dual cab trade ute. It’s called the Holden Colorado SportsCat by HSV, and it is a massive departure for the brand.
UPDATE 11 Feb, 2018: Pricing has been confirmed by HSV at $60,790 for the regular SportsCat and $66,790 for the SportsCat+.
First, the elephant in the room; the HSV SportsCat makes no more power than the standard Colorado Z71 Crew Cab on which it is based. It features the same 2.8-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder making 147kW and 500Nm, when mated to a six-speed auto. Take 60Nm off that peak torque figure for models fitted with a six-speed manual.
A lack of added engine performance – and the fact it’s a trade ute – will come as a surprise to long-time followers of the brand, but HSV is confident about its strategy to tap into one of Australia’s most lucrative market segments.
“I don’t think we’ve ever defined ourselves as the rear-wheel drive V8 car company,” says HSV managing director Tim Jackson.
“It’s about making exciting product, and that’s not just 474kW [GTSR] W1s. All sorts of product excites us that’s not necessarily defined purely by power level. We’re actually pretty comfortable after being through the process for two years that [SportsCat is] going to stack up really well.”
With that out of the way, let’s talk about what HSV has done to make the Colorado its own.
Two versions of the ute will be offered from January next year; a regular SportsCat, and the SportsCat+. HSV expects more than 50 percent of buyers to go for the more expensive SportsCat+. Pricing isn’t confirmed yet, but expect the figures to end up around $60K for the SportsCat, and roughly $65K for the SportsCat+.
For that spend both SportsCat models offer a lot more visual presence than a regular Colorado. The normal SportsCat (pictured in silver) presents a cleaner, more integrated design with a sleeker front grille and bumper intakes. SportsCat+ (pictured in red) is the most purposeful to look at and features its own front-end treatment and more heavily stylised add-ons, including a non-functional bonnet bulge and a rear sail-plane inspired by ski boats. Up front a lower bash plate, LED lamps and twin tow hooks on both models add utility as well as road presence.
Each SportsCat is taller than standard thanks to a 25mm front suspension lift and an all-new 285/60R18 Cooper tyre, developed with HSV, that adds another 20mm of ground clearance for a total of 251mm. Arch extensions either side of the ute house 18x10-inch forged alloys and keep the 30mm wider track within check. Strut bracing inside the arches adds rigidity.
Buyers of the SportsCat+ also get four-piston AP Racing front brake calipers as standard, which clamp down on 362mm rotors. A larger master cylinder is installed to reduce necessary pedal travel for greater feel.
Sports seats inside use a unique HSV seat base with larger bolsters, and are trimmed in leather and suede with red stitching. Perforated leather and suede highlight the dashboard. It’s otherwise standard Colorado Z71 fare, with the same level of specification that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, an 8.0-inch screen, a reversing camera, lane departure warning and remote start.
HSV threw us the keys to a handful of SportsCat prototypes, and opened up the Mt Cotton Driver Training Centre to have a play. It’s difficult to make any decisive verdicts about the ultimate success of the SportsCat program based on pre-production vehicles and closed course conditions, but the initial impression of the work HSV has carried out is positive.
On the road course the handling improvements are clear, with far better body control than is expected when cornering in this class of vehicle. A larger (33mm) swaybar across the front axle helped with cornering support, and in SportsCat+ models the presence of a rear swaybar (22mm) was noticeable with further improved roll control.
It’s certainly not a sports car and still needs armfuls of steering input to turn from lock to lock. The Cooper rubber at each corner hangs on reasonably well at normal road speeds, but does start to squeal quite early in faster cornering. Still, driven like a dual cab should be it’s a more competent package than a regular Colorado.
The increased front spring rate working in tandem with upgraded MTV dampers fitted front and rear hasn’t imposed on ride comfort in a pronounced way. Optional SupaShock suspension with external oil reservoirs is available for SportsCat+, and is similar to that first seen in the HSV GTSR W1.
That standard rear swaybar in SportsCat+ electronically decouples when low-range is selected to allow for full rear-axle articulation when off-road. Both SportsCat versions boast increased approach and departure angles of 32 and 24 degrees respectively, and handled a deeply rutted and rocky section of climbing with relative ease.
Avoidance manoeuvres under brakes on a wet skidpan highlighted the ESC improvements made by HSV, with the SportsCat maintaining composure despite both ends trying their best to get out of shape.
HSV’s engineering chief Joel Stoddart rightly pointed out that while enthusiasts can easily bolt aftermarket parts to vehicles in a similar vein to the SportsCat, it takes a company like HSV to tune the electronic systems to optimally support them, something it has done for the ESC in all three drive modes (2WD High, 4WD High and 4WD Low).
Unique personalisation options will be offered for SportsCat including a tub liner, load master and roof rack. Integrated rails on the hard tonneau cover and inside the tray accommodate a variety of accessories. Production will begin at HSV's Clayton facility from the start of next year.