IT’S BEEN a few years in the wilderness for Holden with its Colorado. On paper, the dual-cab ute has looked the business, but slip behind the wheel and it’s been far less convincing, something that was in sharp focus following the arrival of impressive newcomers from the likes of Volkswagen, Ford and Mazda.
Blame it on the GFC and cost-cutting by Holden’s parent company General Motors in the wake of its much publicised bankruptcy. In short, the Colorado was half-baked. Colorado sales haven’t been pummelled as much as may have been expected, but put that down to the strength of the brand, aggressive marketing and some tempting deals.
Now Holden is hoping the product can speak for itself off the back of this heavily revised model, which is no longer a ute but a truck … apparently. The basic body is unchanged, with a mild freshen up to the styling at the front and a new rear bumper. But beneath the skin, engineers have been hard at work to improve refinement and driving manners, while some extra tech and equipment sweeten the showroom deal.
For this test we’ve put it up against the sales leader, Toyota’s Hilux, a car that took top honours in our most recent ute comparison test. To match it against the Colorado Z71 we’ve gone for the top of the Hilux tree, the SR5.
TOYOTA HILUX SR5
TOYOTA’S Hilux has plenty to defend. It’s been the top seller for decades, but in 2016 it’s come under more pressure than ever thanks to an attack by the Ford Ranger. Nevertheless, the Hilux remains the top seller in the class to July 2016, something bolstered by the arrival of this new model late in 2015.
WHAT YOU GET
STEPPING into the flagship SR5 Hilux is a $56,390 proposition once you factor in the six-speed auto. For that you get a generous spread of sat-nav, digital radio, auto lights, auto air-conditioning and a seven-inch touchscreen. The Hilux also gets smart-key entry and push-button start, although the proximity key requires you to press a button on the front door handles to unlock it. A recent update adds the drawbar for the tow bar, though you still have to pay extra for the tongue and wiring.
Leather is part of the $2000 Plus pack that also brings an electric driver’s seat.
POWERTRAIN AND PERFORMANCE
FOR AN all-new engine, the 2.8-litre donk that slots under the bonnet of the Hilux, Fortuner and Prado is nothing to get excited about on paper. There’s 130kW to play with, along with a more convincing 450Nm.
It’s that torque and a well-mated six-speed transmission that endows the Hilux with solid performance. The torque peak arrives at just 1600rpm, so there’s plenty to play with without high revs. The transmission works with it nicely, with the torque converter slipping to help it settle into that sweet spot in the revs.
Push on and the Hilux’s four-pot also revs cleanly, ensuring decent, if not scintillating, performance. It’s also relatively refined for comfortable touring, while impressive claimed fuel use of 8.5L/100km ensures it’s a decent all-rounder.
HANDLING AND RIDE
THE Hilux feels stout and sturdy. The suspension is firm, particularly in the rear end, where successive high-speed bumps can have occupants jiggling around. Big hits, though, are shrugged off with ease, reinforcing the Hilux’s tough image. We’ve done plenty of driving with hundreds of kilos in the tray and the pay-off is in its ability to maintain composure when carrying a decent load.
No excuses for the hydrailically-assisted steering, though. It’s quite light, making for easy low-speed manoeuvring, but the downside is minimal feel at speed; not much of an issue on a freeway, but less endearing on snaking country roads where it’s difficult to get a taste for what’s going on at ground level.
Fortunately the whole thing is controlled well enough and the Hilux remains faithful and predictable in a wide range of conditions. The Dunlop Grandtrek tyres also provide respectable on-road grip.
When it comes to loads, the Hilux lags, although for most people not in a game- changing way; its 3200kg towing capacity (300kg less than the manual) trails class leaders, and the 925kg payload falls short of the tonne.
OFF-ROAD is where the Hilux wins back big points, and it starts with the basic hardware. Toyota has popped solid steel protection underneath, as well as 225mm of ground clearance along with an excellent 700mm of wading depth.
Toyota has also put plenty of effort into the basic design. Like most dual-cabs, the rear overhang means it’ll scuff its tail on steeper stuff, but the tow bar brackets bear the brunt, while the rear bumper is tucked well out of the way. Up front, too, the protruding snout has enough of an angle to it so you can attack some seriously steep pinches.
The part-time four-wheel drive system has a good reduction gear for slow speed work, and it doesn’t take long to establish that the traction control is beautifully calibrated. Sure, it’ll spin wheels, but with brakes quickly applied it soon sorts out where the traction is.
We tried it through a sloppy mud hole and while it was threatening to get bogged, it trudged on, helped by engaging the rear diff lock, which eked out the last hints of traction to help it scramble its way out. Up a tricky rocky climb, too, the Hilux simply worked its way over each obstacle, pausing occasionally but easily ambling up. Combined with great articulation, it makes for an impressive off-roader.
CABIN AND ACCOMMODATION
TOYOTA has done a great job with comfortable yet supportive pews. It’s the start of a good driving position that includes full adjustability to the steering wheel and decent vision. We’re less convinced by the touchscreen, with its push buttons and shiny screen that easily collects dust.
Slide into the back seat and the Hilux is less accommodating. The rear seat is quite upright, something that encroaches on head room. At least there are sizeable grab handles to make it easier to drag yourself in there.
THE Hilux is a solid ute that gets better the more you punish it. Yet despite its reputation for ruggedness and reliability, it’s losing market share. Blame that on improvements in the competition and also a realisation that other brands make tough trucks. Still, there’s plenty to like about the Hilux.
HOLDEN COLORADO ZY1
Scroll down the specs list suggests Holden’s taking few gambles with this latest Colorado. Even in LTZ trim it’s well catered for, matching the SR5 for basic amenities but upping the touchscreen to eight inches, while also throwing in Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which allow the use of some apps through the screen.
Step up to the Z71, at $54,990, and you also get a tonneau cover and leather trim. The black wheels, mirror caps, door handles and bonnet stickers also give it some bush bling, while the body coloured sports bar is a welcome change from the long-favoured chrome.
POWERTRAIN AND PERFORMANCE
Engine changes for the Colorado are limited to refinement and meeting next level of emissions standards, so no changes to the 147kW and 500Nm peaks from the 2.8-litre engine sourced from Italy’s VM Motori.
Not that it desperately needed more grunt. The 500Nm on offer ensures there’s substantial thrust, something accentuated by the new torque converter that locks up at very low revs. On a country road it will effortlessly rely on its low rev pull, holding 1600rpm or 1800rpm without complaint. By the time the full force arrives at 2000rpm the Colorado has a performance edge.
Having that direct link between your right foot and a substantial pool of torque somehow accentuates the feeling that there’s plenty on offer, but it’s all about the mid-range. Rev it harder and the 147kW will briefly make itself known before the transmission steps up a ratio. That six-speed does a slick job shifting between gears, too, decisively and smoothly plucking the right one.
It’s not the quietest engine around but is a huge step up on where the Colorado has been. At an official 8.7L/100km, fuel use is slightly up on the Hilux – although not to the point of being any serious disadvantage.
HANDLING AND RIDE
Extensive work has been done on the Colorado’s on-road manners, and it shows. Key to the changes are a revised steering ratio that ensures sharper responses. Combined with a new electric power steering system, it makes for more consistent and reassuring feedback. The Colorado builds nice weight through flowing corners, while remaining light during low-speed manoeuvring.
The Colorado now behaves well over bumps, too. New dampers and a revised rear leaf spring set-up deliver a good blend between comfort and control. It’ll still bound around in the rear over repeated bumps and is no Amarok in its outright comfort, but it settles quickly and still performs well with weight in the tray. The 18-inch Bridgestone rubber is also worth a mention, with revisions bringing decent levels of grip that add to the overall confidence.
That the Colorado also has impressive load figures is a win; at 1007kg it’s rated to carry 82kg more than the Hilux, and its 3500kg tow capacity matches the class leaders.
The area that’s received little attention with the Colorado is its off-road ability. Tweaks to the traction control calibration are about it. That means the same 222mm of ground clearance – a whisker shy of the Hilux’s – the same 600mm wading depth and the same part-time four-wheel drive system.
In medium terrain the Colorado performs well, scrabbling up rocky trails and slushing through mud, but push it harder and its limits become clearer.
The traction control, for example, isn’t as smart at figuring out which wheels have traction, which can lead to excessive wheelspin. On one extreme hill climb the Colorado simply wouldn’t crest it; the wheelspin it induced slid it sideways on to another part of the track that was impassable. After three attempts we gave up.
Through mud, too, it really could have done with a locking rear diff. The limited slip diff has advantages in some situations, but it was momentum that ultimately got us out of a bog.
However, the Hill Descent Control system is excellent; engage it and you can easily adjust the set speed by accelerating or braking. It’s super-simple and very effective, snorting away like a rhino clearing its nose as the system automatically grabs brakes on steep drops.
Yet the Colorado’s basics aren’t as well thought-out as those in the Hilux. The approach angle, for example, is 28.6 degrees, which is excellent but slightly shy of its rival.
But it’s the tail that needs more thought. The departure angle is 23.2 degrees (versus the Hilux at 26) and the step on the bumper is ready to catch whatever it is you’re coming off, which in turn could lead to broader bumper damage. It’s not an ideal set-up and one that requires caution when positioning the tail.
Underneath, too, the plastic protection towards the front of the undertray isn’t as sturdy as the steel on the Hilux.
CABIN AND ACCOMMODATION
The Colorado is a mixed bag inside. It’s ergonomically superior to the Hilux thanks to its prominent audio buttons, and the layout is fresh and user friendly, sitting relatively high on the centre console. The sizeable icons on the touchscreen are also more logical, while the smartphone connectivity is a win.
But it sheds some points once you settle into the front seats. Lateral support isn’t great, and the steering wheel doesn’t adjust for reach, making it harder to fine-tune a comfortable position. It’s only a minor gripe, but the indicator stalk is too far from the steering wheel, too.
In the rear, there are no grab handles for getting in, but once there there’s a fraction more headroom than in the Hilux; in part because the angle of the seatback is greater, something that has advantages for longer journeys.
If points were awarded for improvements the Colorado would be a class standout, but the reality is that these changes bring the Colorado into the mix with the class leaders.
Performance, on-road dynamics and value are its standouts, although there’s room for improvement when it comes to off-road smarts.
It’s been a long time since we’ve had so many good things to say about a Colorado, but the updated model is a big improvement. For the first time in a long time the Colorado deserves to be taken seriously. It’s a great ute … sorry, truck.
And while there’s room to improve its off-road nous, it’s still a capable vehicle in the rough stuff. For much outback touring and the majority of off-road work it’ll match the Toyota Hilux.
But if you really want to get serious off-road then the Hilux is still tough to beat. Clever design and engineering makes it a seriously impressive vehicle over challenging obstacles.
Ultimately, though, the aftermarket will cater for some of the Colorado’s oversights for those looking to more seriously test it.For most people, most of the time the Colorado is a more complete machine, one that delivers with on-road poise and ability. Plus, you get more for your money.
To watch how they performed head-to-head view the video of the Holden Colorado challenging the Toyota Hilux.
|TOYOTA HILUX SR5||HOLDEN COLORADO Z71|
|Engine||2.8-litre 4-cyl turbo-diesel||2.8-litre 4-cyl turbo-diesel|
|Max Power||130kW @ 3400rpm||147kW @ 3600rpm|
|max Torque||450Nm @ 1600-2400rpm||500Nm @ 2000-2200rpm|
|gearbox||six-speed automatic||six-speed automatic|
|4x4 System||dual-range part-time||dual-range part-time|
|Tyre spec||265/60R18 110H||265/60R18 110T|
|Fuel tank capacity||80 litres||76 litres|
|ADR fuel claim||8.5L/100km||8.7L/100km|
|Test fuel use||N/A||N/A|