Holden Colorado 7 is a serious SUV

NOT A SOFT-ROADER: Holden's new Colorado 7.
NOT A SOFT-ROADER: Holden's new Colorado 7.

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


POWER PLANT: 2.8-litre Duramax in-line four cylinder turbocharged diesel engine, 132 kW at 3800 rpm, 470 Nm at 2000 rpm.
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.
SEATS SEVEN: Holden's new Colorado 7.
SEATS SEVEN: Holden's new Colorado 7.

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.

Down here, it'll compete against the likes of the Mitsubishi ASX and the Nissan Qashqai.

It's all part of a grand plan by Holden to be a stronger player in a market segment that is rapidly growing 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 pointed out that New Zealand's total SUV market is up 37 per cent this year, and is 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.

Murray further pointed out that the large SUVs account for more than 41 per cent of the category's sales, and that in that large segment, SUVs priced less than $70,000 are enjoying the best sales growth of all.

So it's 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 4x4 alternative in the rapidly expanding SUV market."

It is a serious 4x4 too, as a drive programme quickly proved.

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

But the Holden handled it all. We were able to traverse rough tracks up and over a heavily forested area of national park, despite the fact 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 4WD, and the low- down grunt that comes via 470 Newton metres of torque.

As a result, out on the open road this Holden doesn't have the same on-seal ride as, say, a Ford Territory. But it isn't far away from that, thanks to comfortable seats, a spacious interior, and a high level of specification. And 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.

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 smallish 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.

There's 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 has 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.

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. The vehicle also has a limited slip differential and hill descent control to help make it capable of taking on some pretty 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 gets 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 a 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 Colorado 7 instead of pinching the Trailblazer badging from its Chevrolet equivalent.

But what's in a name, I suppose.

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's exactly what Holden is expecting of it.