Holden Colorado and Colorado 7 2014: Launch Review

words - Ken Gratton
More grunt, less grumble from Holden's quieter Colorado LCV and SUV

Colorado 7 LTZ, Crew Cab LTZ and Single Cab LX

Local Launch
Tallarook, Victoria

What we liked:
>> Impressive off-road ability
>> Much improved NVH
>> Good packaging

Not so much:
>> Occasional turbo lag with manual gearbox
>> Interior trim is durable but bland
>> MyLink quirks

>> Holden issues gag order for noisy engine
The 2014 model year update for Holden's Colorado pick-up and Colorado 7 SUV has arguably arrived a year late.

This is the vehicle we should have seen launched here in 2012. The light commercial vehicle (LCV) variants were released in Australia around the middle of last year and the Colorado 7 SUV followed in November. Neither LCV nor SUV were really a match for Ford's Ranger, which was more refined and at least as well packaged and durable.

An update for the Colorado range (including the Colorado 7 SUV) has brought some relief for buyers who liked the overall package but found details disappointing. Those have been addressed with the new model year update – the prime example being the noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) from the turbocharged Duramax diesel. In addition, Holden has dropped the 2.5-litre diesel engine available in some LCV variants and the five-speed manual transmission has been replaced by a six-speed box.

MyLink, Holden's connectivity system introduced in other new models over the course of this year, now makes its debut in the Colorado range, along with new driver assistance systems and improved occupant safety.

A new colour, Orange Rock, is introduced to the range with the updated models.

>> Safer, better equipped for a small step up in price
Holden has kept pricing where it was for the updated Colorado models, barring only a $200 price rise for the LCV variants with automatic transmission.

For the LCV range, the hierarchy comprises LX, LT and LTZ levels of trim, with one 4WD variant – the Colorado DX – aimed specifically at the man on the land. A bench seat for the single-cab body is an indicator of this model's utilitarian purpose, even to the extent of avoiding new accoutrements such as the MyLink system and safety features like the Descent Control System and the new side-impact airbags.

LX variants come equipped as standard with air-conditioning, electric windows/mirrors, rear parking sensors (excluding cab chassis body style), multi-function steering wheel with rake adjustment, variable-dwell intermittent wipers, six-speaker audio (four-speaker for single-cab models) with Bluetooth connectivity/audio streaming and USB/iPod input. Both front seats are manually adjustable in six ways (four ways for LX 2WD single-cab model) and the steel wheels measures 16x6.5-inch, fitted with 245/70 R16 tyres.

LT variants ride on the same tyres, but fitted to alloy wheels of the same dimensions of the steel wheels fitted to Colorado LX. In addition to the LX grade, the Colorado LT additionally offers front fog lights with chrome bezels and carpet in lieu of vinyl floor covering.

LTZ variants ride on 17x7.0-inch alloys shod with 255/65 R17 tyres. Extra features beyond the LT specification include: body-coloured door handles with chrome strips, chrome exterior mirrors, chrome tailgate handle, chrome rear bumper, LED tail lights, soft tonneau, alloy sports bar, side steps, reversing camera, power-folding exterior mirrors, leather-bound manual gear knob/chrome auto changer, six-way electrically-adjustable driver's seat, rear headrests (for crew cab models), climate control, chrome interior handles, front seat map pockets and sunglass holder.

2014 Colorado 2WD pricing:
LX 2WD single cab chassis manual $27,990
LX 2WD single cab chassis auto $30,190 (+$200)
LX 2WD crew cab chassis manual $33,990
LX 2WD crew cab chassis auto $36,190 (+$200)
LX 2WD pick-up manual $35,490
LX 2WD pick-up auto $37,690 (+$200)
LT 2WD pick-up manual $36,490
LT 2WD pick-up auto $38,690 (+$200)
LTZ 2WD pick-up manual $40,990
LTZ 2WD pick-up auto $43,190 (+$200)

2014 Colorado 4WD pricing:
DX 4WD single cab chassis manual $34,990
LX 4WD single cab chassis manual $35,990
LX 4WD single cab chassis auto $38,190 (+$200)
LX 4WD space cab chassis manual $40,490
LX 4WD space cab chassis auto $42,690 (+$200)
LTZ 4WD space cab pick-up manual $47,490
LTZ 4WD space cab pick-up auto $49,690 (+$200)
LX 4WD crew cab chassis manual $42,990
LX 4WD crew cab chassis auto $45,190 (+$200)
LX 4WD crew cab pick-up manual $44,490
LX 4WD crew cab pick-up auto $46,690 (+$200)
LT 4WD crew cab pick-up manual $45,490
LT 4WD crew cab pick-up auto $47,690 (+$200)
LTZ 4WD crew cab pick-up manual $49,990
LTZ 4WD crew cab pick-up auto $52,190 (+$200)

2014 Colorado 7 pricing:
LT 4WD SUV auto $46,990
LTZ 4WD SUV auto $50,490

>> MyLink delivers added convenience in a simplified interface
Little has changed in respect of the Colorado's design, other than Orange Rock – a new metallic colour available for 2014 models – being offered.

Interior accommodation has not changed to any large degree either, although the centre fascia is now home to the interface for the new MyLink system. Trim colouring and interior fit and finish are durable and workmanlike rather than particularly plush or stylish. That said, the seats were quite comfortable on rock-strewn tracks that would have had anyone bouncing around like a yoyo.

Both the LCV and SUV models have gained MyLink, an infotainment system integrating app-based music (Pandora, Stitcher and TuneIn) and satellite navigation (BringGo) through Bluetooth connectivity with the user's smartphone. Now available as standard in 70 per cent of Holden's model range, MyLink can pair as many as five phones, store 1000 contacts and provide voice control of the SIRI EyesFree system. Other than an initial display of temperament by BringGo, the satellite navigation app run through MyLink, there was no cause to complain whatsoever.

Further details about PACKAGING, MECHANICAL and SAFETY can be found in our launch reviews of the 2013 Colorado and Colorado 7, plus road tests of the LCV and the SUV.

>> Duramax 2 and six-speed manual enhance driving experience
Holden has ditched the 2.5-litre diesel previously available in the Colorado LCV range. All models now are powered by a revamped 2.8-litre engine ('Duramax 2'), which develops 147kW (15kW more) and 500Nm (30Nm more) when coupled to the six-speed automatic transmission. Manual variants make do with 440Nm, but in both cases the torque curve is wider than before and higher across the rev range – other than the peak output figure for the auto variants.

The increased output is the result of an extensive engine upgrade program, which consists of increased fuel pressure in the common-rail fuel delivery system, a water-cooled turbocharger and new engine control algorithms. Miba coating during the engine manufacture process for the balance-shaft gears results in increased longevity and reduced clatter at idle, by limiting the backlash in the gears.

The six-speed automatic has scored recalibration to ensure what Holden calls 'shift stabilisation' on hills (meaning less hunting between fifth and sixth uphill), and grade braking control for added engine braking while descending.

Towing capacity continues to be 3000kg for the Colorado 7 and 3500kg for the LCV.

>> Driving aids in five-star models a case of overkill?
All Colorado 7 and Colorado crew cab variants have been rated five stars by ANCAP, but single and space-cab variants are rated four stars only.

That situation hasn't changed with the introduction of the 2014 models, but active safety has been improved with new driver assistance features – Trailer Sway Control, Hill Start Assist and Descent Control System.

The superseded Colorado 7 did come with Descent Control System, but this feature is now standard for all LCV variants too, barring the DX 4WD. That variant also misses out on the new side-impact airbags fitted to the front seats of all other variants in the combined LCV and SUV ranges.

>> Plenty of rivals in busy segments
With the 2014 model year upgrades, the Colorado and Colorado 7 have moved up in the field and are now acceptably good alternatives to other light trucks and SUVs that are directly comparable on the basis of price, packaging and specification.

Among those rivals are the Ford Ranger, Mazda BT-50, Nissan Navara D40, Volkswagen Amarok and the Isuzu D-MAX, of course, since the Isuzu is built by the same firm that builds the Colorado and Colorado 7 for Holden. Much of the Isuzu's design and technical specification is shared with the Holden Colorado.

SUVs that are comparable to the Colorado 7 include the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, Mitsubishi Challenger, Toyota FJ Cruiser and Toyota LandCruiser Prado. In due course Ford will bring out the Everest, which is based on the Ranger, and Isuzu has its MU-X in the works. For the moment however, the Colorado 7 is a strong contestant in this segment.


>> Capable off-roaders, comfortable tourers
To the disappointment of one or two journalists fronting up for the Colorado drive program earlier this week, there was no mention of changes to suspension or steering for the revised LCV and SUV models.

Fortunately, and given the heavy-duty offroad aspirations of both the light truck and the SUV, the different Colorado variants proved equally adept in touring mode on the freeway run to Tallarook, north of Melbourne. From there the Colorados spent practically no time on bitumen other than the return leg to Holden's HQ in Port Melbourne.

As a tourer the Colorado (and Colorado 7, by extension) was much quieter than before. It's still obviously a diesel, but the engine clatter has been substantially diminished and the turbo whine now appears to now be non-existent.

Ride comfort on the road was good and steering offered prompt response and decent feedback – as long as you accept that both vehicles are primarily intended for heading off the beaten track.

We had previously criticised the automatic Colorado LCV for its tendency to hunt between gears on even moderate grades (of the kind encountered on freeways!), but there was no evidence of that in the new models, suggesting the manufacturer has found the right calibration for the automatic with the 2014 update.

Once out in the bush, all variants impressed with the way they shrugged off rocky, rutted inclines, with barely a scrape underneath. So ground clearance, approach and departure angles all passed with flying colours.

Automatic variants locked into low-range and first gear crawled down steep grades, rarely needing the Descent Control System, engine braking was so fierce. The manual variants were equally adept. Descent Control System rarely fired up and was occasionally overridden, because it held to a speed that was slow almost to a fault.

At no stage did the 2.8-litre engine feel overwhelmed by the tortuous climbs. On a few occasions second gear felt too high a ratio, even in low range, and the gap between it and first was apparent at such times. Shifting manually in low range or leaving the revs fall too far would send the turbocharger to sleep every once in a while, but torque was certainly abundant when the hairdryer was hard at work.

The Colorado's electronically-controlled on-the-fly transfer was reluctant at times to change from 4H to 4L or back, even with the vehicle stationary, transmission in neutral, steering wheels pointing straight and clutch depressed. There were also some clanks heard from the general direction of the clutch when the transmission was in low range. Shift quality for the manual variants wasn't astoundingly good, but tidier than I recall of Ford's Ranger.

I came away from the drive impressed by the changes wrought on the Colorado – especially the SUV. Subtle though it may seem on the face of it, the upgrade has improved NVH considerably and the added performance and extra gear have undeniably kicked a goal for driveability. Colorado and Colorado 7 are now vehicles you can justify cross-shopping with the competition.

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Published : Thursday, 24 October 2013
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