Holden's Colorado 7 a serious SUV

Last updated 11:48 14/12/2012
15-DriveHoldenColorado7-01.jpg
FAIRFAX NZ
TOUGH TORQUE: New Zealand’s growing SUV market is the perfect environment for Holden to introduce the Colorado 7 off-roader with its serious four-wheel-drive capabilities.

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OPINION: Holden is strengthening its model lineup in the fast-growing SUV segment of New Zealand's new vehicle market. The first example launched is the Colorado 7. Rob Maetzig files from its Australasian launch.

By this time next year, Holden expects to have at least four models in the sport-utility-vehicle sector of New Zealand's new-vehicle market.

Already the Australian headquartered company has the Korean-sourced Captiva 5 and Captiva 7 in the sector's medium-large segment and, from this month, it will add a new large model called Colorado 7.

As the name suggests, this vehicle is an SUV version of the Colorado ute and, in fact, both were designed by General Motors in Brazil and are built in the same factory in Thailand.

Later next year, another important SUV will arrive. It will be a small-medium model called Trax, which will be sold in this part of the world as a Holden, but will also be sold in other countries as a Buick, a Chevrolet and even an Opel.

In Australasia, it will compete against the likes of the Mitsubishi ASX and the Nissan Qashqai.

It is all part of a grand plan by Holden to be a stronger player in a market segment that is growing rapidly as motorists opt for the lifestyle benefits of SUV-style vehicles.

At a media function in Melbourne last week, Holden New Zealand managing director Jeff Murray said New Zealand's total SUV market was up 37 per cent this year, and was on track to see 26,000 such vehicles sold by the end of December.

If that happens, those sales will represent one in every four new vehicles retailed this year.

The large SUVs accounted for more than 41 per cent of the category's sales, Murray said, and in that large segment, SUVs priced less than $70,000 were enjoying the best sales growth of all.

So it was the perfect market environment for Holden to introduce the Colorado 7, which will retail for $62,900 for an entry LT model and $66,900 for a higher-specified LT-Z, he said.

"We're confident we're going to hit the sweet spot in the large SUV market, because we're going to have two vehicles in the segment.

"The Colorado 7 will strengthen Holden's SUV portfolio and will provide a serious four-wheel-drive alternative in the rapidly expanding SUV market."

It is a serious four-wheel-drive, as a drive programme quickly proved.

The plan was for journalists to drive the Colorado 7 from GM-Holden's Melbourne headquarters to inland mountain country. The evening the New Zealanders arrived, a big electrical storm hit Victoria and dropped plenty of rain, which meant that, despite the hot and sunny conditions the next day, conditions were flooded and slippery.

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However, the Holden handled it all. We were able to traverse rough tracks up and over a heavily forested area of national park, even though the Colorado 7s were shod with road tyres.

In fact, I negotiated the roughest uphill section without even using the four-wheel-drive system's low ratio, leaving it instead to the power and torque produced by the 2.8-litre turbodiesel engine to get us through.

All this proved that the new Colorado 7 is a truck.

So it should be too, because it has been developed straight off the Colorado ute, with the only real concession to providing more of a soft-roader than ute ride being the installation of a coil-spring rear axle to replace the ute's leaf-spring setup.

But that's OK, says Holden, arguing that it is the Captiva that fulfills the soft-roader requirements.

Instead, this model effectively replaces the Jackaroo of 10 years ago, and has been designed for sturdy workhorse roles.

It has genuine off-road credentials, thanks to a full ladder chassis, up to 231mm ground clearance, full on-demand four-wheel-drive and the low-down grunt that comes via 470 newton metres of torque. As a result, on the open road this Holden doesn't have the same on-seal ride as, say, a Ford Territory, but it isn't far from that, thanks to comfortable seats, a spacious interior and a high level of specification. When it comes to moving off the road, then this Colorado 7 will have a clear advantage.

Overall, that's why Jeff Murray is forecasting monthly sales of between 150 and 170 of these vehicles.

The Colorado 7 has a bodyshell that is identical to the Colorado ute, from the nose through to the B-pillar, but from that point the ute tray has been replaced with SUV styling big enough to allow the vehicle to feature three rows of seats and a small 235 litres of cargo space.

That can increase to a very good 878 litres when the third row is folded down into the floor and, if the second row is tumbled, it grows further to a huge 1780 litres, and when the row is tumbled and folded, there is even more cargo space at a capacious 1830 litres.

It has an array of safety features, including dual front and full-length side curtain airbags, electronic stability control, rear parking sensors and reversing camera, all of which have helped the vehicle achieve a five-star ANCAP safety rating.

Powering the SUV is the same Duramax diesel engine as that under the bonnet of the ute, and it is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. It's a meaty if quite noisy engine, featuring an Old-World clatter at idle. But it can haul, and that's what is important for this new truck.

The Colorado 7's all-wheel-drive system can be engaged on the fly, although the vehicle must be stationary to drop down into low ratio.

It also has a limited-slip differential and hill descent control to help it take on tough terrain.

Even at the LT level, the Colorado 7 is well specified, with standard items including side steps, 16-inch alloy wheels, front fog lamps, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth, and a six-speaker audio system with USB and iPod connectivity.

The LTZ has 18-inch alloys, leather seat trim, six-way electric adjustability of the driver's seat, eight-speaker stereo, climate-control air-conditioning and some extra chrome detailing.

All in all, I must admit I was quite pleasantly surprised by this new Colorado 7. I had expected it to be simply an SUV version of a ute, but it is more than that - so much so that I was among members of the attending media who questioned Holden's wisdom in naming it the Colorado 7 instead of pinching the Trailblazer badging from its Chevrolet equivalent.

But what is in a name?

More important is that, although this new SUV isn't going to set the world alight for its on-road comfort and ability, it is sure going to impress for its capabilities off the road, and that is exactly what Holden is expecting of it.

HOLDEN COLORADO 7

POWER PLANT: 2.8-litre Duramax in-line four-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine, 132kW at 3800rpm, 470Nm at 2000rpm.

RUNNING GEAR: Part-time 4WD system with dual range and two-speed transfer case. Six-speed automatic transmission with Active Select. Independent double wishbone front suspension, five-link live axle rear suspension. Limited slip differential, hill descent control. HOW BIG: Length 4878mm, width 2131mm, height 1820mm, wheelbase 2845mm, ground clearance 219mm (LT) and 231mm (LTZ).

HOW MUCH: LT $62,900, LTZ $66,900.

WHAT'S GOOD: Honest new SUV with solid off-road ability. Attractive pricing.

WHAT'S NOT: Nothing out of the ordinary on the road. Rear bodyshell design a little clumsy.

OUR VERDICT: Holden is not describing the Colorado 7 as a soft-roader, and that's a good idea. This is a truck, and a capable one too.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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