Holden Colorado breaks cover
Potential work ute owners have never had it so good. With brand new Fords, Mazdas and Volkswagens already here, along with revamped Toyotas, Isuzus and Nissans, the choice of mid-sized pickup truck has never been more varied.
Punters will soon be able to opt for four, five and six-cylinder diesels, from four to eight-speed automatic transmissions and such a choice of cab and deck sizes that if you can't find what you're looking for, the only excuse would have been that there was nothing new from General Motors to please dyed-in-the-wool Holden buyers.
There will be soon, because by the middle of the year, an all-new mid-sized truck platform initially developed by GM's Brazilian operation will arrive. The new Colorado truck will be built in Thailand for most markets and the version intended for New Zealand and Australian markets will enjoy input from Holden, particularly in terms of chassis refinement, ride quality and on and off-road handling.
From driving three pre-production models recently in Victoria, I can report that even among our star-studded manifest of new work trucks, this is an impressive range. It has a tough, muscular look, with GM's split corporate Chevy grille and crisp, blade-like sculpting to sharpen what could have been quite slabby flanks.
Holden has not revealed final technical specifications for the Colorado, mainly because some elements are yet to be finalised, but the company has confirmed that the model will feature a choice of 110-kilowatt, 350-newton- metres, 2.5-litre and 132kW, 440 to 470Nm 2.8-litre Duramax turbodiesel fours, with six-speed automatic or five-speed manual transmission choices for the larger engine, and manual only for the smaller one.
There will be two-wheel-drive or selectable four-wheel-drive versions in single, extended-cab and crew cab forms, and the 2.5 and 2.8-litre Colorados will have maximum towing capacities of 3000 kilograms and 3500kg, respectively.
Flexible and able to deliver a good slice of accelerative torque when needed, the 2.8-litre units I tested were about market average in terms of the way their power and torque whisked the Colorado along. The manual car's gearing is a little compromised, for to give the car an economical, circa 1500rpm top-gear cruising gait at 100kmh, the engine felt as if it could do with six gears rather than five. With many other utes already going to six speeds, Holden may need to look at this.
Shortening the final drive to compensate would, of course, compromise fuel economy.
While some markets will offer petrol versions of the ute, the two-diesel choice is expected to be the staple in most parts of the world.
Holden has also confirmed the presence of an SUV model to be called the Colorado 7, which will be a more civilised, fully enclosed version of the ute, with seven seats and switchable low and high range all-wheel-drive setup.
Standard equipment has been finalised, with all Colorados taking ABS, electronic brakeforce distribution and electronic stability control, along with twin front and side-curtain airbags.
In addition to standard air-conditioning, the Colorado will include Bluetooth connectivity, an auxiliary plug and USB port and two auxiliary power outlets.
Internationally, the Colorado is to be made available in entry-level LS, mid-range LT and the top-spec LTZ versions. What alphanumerics will be used for specification levels in Australia is as yet unknown, but it is expected that workaday, mid-range and deluxe standards of trim and equipment will be on offer.
Driving the car, the only real bugbear for me is that I couldn't get set into a really decent driving position, because the Colorado offers only tilt adjustment for the steering column and no movement for reach. Thus the wheel for me was just a little too low at its maximum height.
However, I was impressed with most other aspects of the Colorado.
The dash plastics are tough and hard, but seem well cinched together, and the design is cleverly curved, so that there's no reflection in the windscreen. Sensibly laid out and nicely designed sets of air-conditioning and sound-system controls look as if they would be appropriate for the gloved working hands.
With more people using a modern ute day to day, the crew cab model provides civilised and spacious accommodation for a typical family, with pleasingly large and supportive front seats and sufficient leg and shoulder room to suit two to three in the rear.
Some rear seating areas in utes have too high a floor level for comfort. Thankfully, the Colorado appears to offer a backside to lower leg seating relationship that means that my 1.88-metre frame can sit quite cosily in the rear.
But back to driving. All three of the trucks I drove were impressively refined and quiet, but the star of the show was the base crew-cab model I sampled. Shod with pressed-steel 16-inch wheels, rather than 17-inch alloys, I preferred its demeanour over rippled roading and pock-marked surfaces. This version of the ute offered smooth shake-free progress, while its hydraulic power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering managed to provide effective feedback through the wheel rim, without it degenerating into kickback.
The alloy-wheeled versions were a tad less cosy on bumps, but provided a similar steering feel.
What appears to be a much stiffer body and frame than that of the previous, Isuzu-based Colorado conspires with the more direct steering and wider front and rear footprints to give the Colorado a very solid, confident demeanour on country roads and highways.
It changes direction predictably and, unlike many leaf- sprung trucks, doesn't appear to pitch or bounce on suburban speed bumps very much. I did find that the standard stability control could have a job catching up with the car on loose or low-friction surfaces while cornering, but engineers explained that refining such a setup is exactly what the test mules I was driving were for.
Unfortunately, serious off- roading was not part of my pre- production exposure to the Colorado, because these are rather precious machines at the moment, being used for information gathering and research and development.
As Holden executive director of planning Peter Keley explains, the Australian and New Zealand market chassis setup for the new Colorado will "book-end" the global specifications for the model, with the more workaday setup at the other end of the shelf, as it were.
This rather proves the effectiveness of Holden's engineering input, as lifestyle and sporting versions of the new pickup around the world will be able to use Australian chassis settings, and so they should - they're pretty impressive.
Beyond saying mid year, Holden can't give me a definitive date for the Colorado's arrival .
I would say it will be on the money in terms of ability when it arrives, but there's an awful lot of decent machinery that could be picked up by potential customers before that. Hurry up, Holden!
Powertrain: In-line turbodiesel engines: 2.5L - 110kW at 3800rpm, 350Nm at 2000rpm. 2.8L - 132kW at 3800rpm and 440Nm (manual) 470Nm (automatic). five-speed manual, six-speed automatic transmission.
Chassis: Independent front suspension, multi-link rear with leaf springs. Hydraulic power assisted rack-and-pinion steering.
Safety: Front, driver, passenger and curtain airbags. ABS traction control and ESP.
Dimensions: L 5347 to 5367mm, H 1687 to 1772mm, W 1790 to 1870mm, W/base 3095mm, F/track 1510mm, R/track 1570mm, clearance 238 to 289mm, weight circa 1800kg.
Pricing: To be confirmed closer to launch date.
Hot: Chunky styling; roomy cabin area; intuitive controls; ride and refinement.
Not: Only five speeds in manual; hard dash plastics; lack of wheel reach adjustment.
* Verdict: Holden's take on the mid-sized ute segment is impressive, but can't get here soon enough.