Holden Special Vehicles (HSV) is a company commonly associated with tweaked Commodore V8s, HSV’s main game since its arrival in 1987. With the demise of the locally built Commodore and indeed any Commodore with a V8, HSV has now turned its expertise to the Colorado ute which just happens to be Holden’s best seller.
HSV has taken the Colorado dual-cab 4x4 and produced two models, the SportsCat and SportsCat+. Both get a new off-road-friendly taller wheel and tyre package and beefier front springs, the combination of the two providing around 45mm of lift at the front, 20mm of lift at the rear and a wider track.
The rear springs remain stock, while MTV dampers are fitted all ’round. In an important piece of engineering HSV has braced the front spring/damper strut top mounts, which helps eliminate chassis flex in this critical area and achieves better suspension control.
The SportsCat+ (as tested here) then adds larger brake rotors and four-piston AP Racing callipers up front and a rear swaybar that automatically decouples when low-range is engaged. The price for a SportsCat+ starts at $68,900, with our test vehicle adding a couple of options (sailplane and tub liner) to take the price to $70,500 (plus on-road costs).
Despite its association with high-performance engines, HSV has left the Colorado’s 2.8-litre four-cylinder diesel untouched in the SportsCat. Not that it’s a problem as the 147kW/500Nm engine lives up to the promise of its on-paper outputs to deliver plenty of punch when needed, all helped by what is a very sporty and proactive six-speed auto.
The slightly taller gearing and increased rolling resistance of the new wheel/tyre combination, plus the extra weight and increased aero drag, will mean some diminution in performance from a standard Colorado, but it’s not noticeable.
What you do notice, and something that’s less pleasing, is the fact this engine is somewhat noisy and harsh compared to more recently designed diesels which are becoming more refined and less diesel-like with each new model.
Much of HSV’s chassis work has gone into producing a more sporty on-road drive, which the SportsCat delivers; but this comes at the expense of ride quality, which is on the firm side. Plenty of tyre noise, too, on some road surfaces.
Suspension control is very good – even at higher speeds on poor roads – and the SportsCat feels better the harder you drive it. Terrific performance from racing-quality brakes, too.
The SportsCat’s extra ride height and robust Cooper Zeon LTZs make for worry-free driving on the roughest tracks, given there’s less chance of damaging the undercarriage or shredding the sidewall.
The SportsCat isn’t overly endowed with wheel travel, but effective traction control helps it get over the gnarly bits without fuss. The gearbox’s shift protocols also work well off-road, as does the sequential-style shift in the gearbox’s manual mode.
Set-Piece Hill Climb
The SportsCat managed to clear our set-piece climb without much fuss. You can put that down to its more aggressive tyres and good performance from the electronic traction control. Before the Colorado’s MY17 upgrade the traction control didn’t work too well off-road, but that was one of many things Holden engineers addressed very successfully at the time.
HSV then recalibrated the system for the SportsCat. The SportsCat’s auto decoupling rear sway also comes into play here, as it restores the rear wheel travel to what it would be. The SportsCat doesn’t have a rear locker, but it didn’t need one to clear the climb.
Cabin, Equipment and Safety
The SportsCat retains the simple dash layout and controls of the Colorado, but isn’t notably well-finished. Most of our judges complained of the hard seats and the lack of reach adjustment for the steering wheel. Like the Colorado, the SportsCat’s rear seat is mid-field in the dual-cab ute class in terms of room.
Standard equipment includes leather trim, heated front seats (with electric adjust for the driver), sat-nav, auto headlights and wipers, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a rear-view camera. Safety kit runs to seven airbags, tyre pressure monitoring, lane-departure warning and forward-collision alert.
The SportsCat itself hasn’t been ANCAP tested, but the Colorado, with the same safety features and body structure, is five-star rated.
The SportsCat comes with two heavy-duty recovery hooks up front, but their shape means thicker shackles can’t be used. As with most utes there are no rear recovery hooks. The SportsCat has the same 3150kg GVM as the Colorado and therefore a lower payload, given the higher kerb weight. It does have a higher (6300kg) GCM; although, max tow rating stays at 3500kg.
The SportsCat comes with a hard tonneau complete with a quick-release system for easy removal, though this requires at least two people. The soft-open tailgate is a nice touch.
Like the other ‘modified’ ute on the shortlist (the Ranger Raptor), the SportsCat paid the price for its modifications with increased fuel use, though not to the same extent as the Ford.
HSV engineers have managed to make a ute that is both better on-road and better off-road than a standard Colorado, a fair achievement in anyone’s books as these two ideals are generally mutually exclusive.
Finding 2019's best 4x4 on 4x4 of the Year 2019
2019 HSV COLORADO SPORTSCAT+ SPECS:
Engine: 2.8-litre inline-4 turbo-diesel
Max power: 147kW at 3500rpm
Max torque: 500Nm at 2000rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
4x4 system: Dual-range part-time
Kerb weight: 2274kg
Towing capacity: 3500kg
Tyres: 285/60R18 120S
Fuel tank capacity: 76L
ADR fuel consumption claim: 8.7L/100km
On-test fuel consumption: 11.7L/100km
Base price: $68,900 (plus ORC)
As tested: $70,500 (plus ORC)