Update propels Holden Colorado ahead

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Extending well beyond the cosmetic, the Colorado's reworking also improved its comfort, refinement and safety credentials. Photo: David Thomson

Holden versus Ford equals Commodore versus Falcon. For as long as most of us can remember, this equation has defined the fiercest rivalry in New Zealand and Australian automotive circles.

How times have changed: the Falcon is no more, and the Commodore - at least as an Australian-manufactured car - is soon to follow. Large saloons have long since been supplanted at the top of the sales charts by SUVs and, even more so, by a vehicle of humbler origins, the light commercial ute.

So much so that, year-to-date, Ford's only model in the new-vehicle top 20 is the Ranger ute, which also happens to be this country's top- selling new vehicle bar none. Holden has better spread, with its Captiva SUV and Commodore making the top 20. Yet both are eclipsed on the sales charts by the company's Colorado ute, which so far in 2017 is New Zealand's third- favourite ute and fourth-favourite new vehicle of any kind.

One of the reasons the Colorado is going great guns is a substantial update of the current model. Extending well beyond the cosmetic, this reworking also improved the vehicle's comfort, refinement and safety credentials.

A focus on these areas addresses the appeal of light commercial utes, which goes well beyond the utilitarian. This appeal is most evident in flagship variants, of which the $66,990 Z71 4WD is Colorado's exemplar.

Strikingly finished in white and black and fitted with the $3220 optional lockable hard tonneau load cover, the test vehicle hit the mark. Sitting proud on black alloys, festooned with body kit, fitted with roof rails, and with most of its bonnet adorned with black decals, it fairly drips visual street cred.

An interior makeover is also part of the recent Colorado update, with a new dash and centre console design and more upmarket trim. If a car-like cabin look and finish are what you are after, then Toyota and Mitsubishi have the edge with the flagship versions of the Hilux and Triton, but for those who prefer a more conventional yet well-finished ute feel, the Colorado Z71 will not disappoint.

The rear seating position is low but with plenty of legroom, a fold-down centre armrest and ISOFIX child safety seat anchor points. When carrying capacity takes precedence, the rear seats fold up to provide a substantial load space within the cabin, behind the front seats.

Up front, the driving position suffers from a lack of reach-adjustment for the steering wheel, a criticism that can also be levelled at the Ford Ranger. The Z71 would also benefit from bigger, more useful storage cubbies in close proximity to the driver.

The large centre-mounted multimedia touchscreen is excellent. As well as being the main interface for the Z71's standard satellite navigation and phone (with text-messaging display), it is the access point for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, both of which are part of the latest version of Holden's MyLink function.

Other standard features include climate control air-conditioning, a seven-speaker sound system, leather trim, power-operated heated front seats, auto headlights, LED running lights, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control and front parking assistance. The centre display screen is also the display for the reversing camera. The safety features list for this five-star crash-test performer includes seven airbags (the odd one out being a driver's knee bag) and forward collision alert and lane departure warning systems.

The normal Drivesouth appraisal regime involves getting into a test vehicle and then pushing the start button (or turning the key) to bring the engine to life. The Colorado Z71 also offers the more interesting option of starting the vehicle before climbing in. This is achieved via the key fob in a two-stage process that involves activating the lock/unlock function, and then holding down the self-start button on the fob for a few seconds.

It is not as gimmicky as it sounds: think of those cold, frosty winter mornings when it would be so much nicer to stay indoors until the windscreen has defrosted, and the cabin reached a toasty temperature. Similarly, the ability to close the Z71's windows as part of the remote locking system is genuinely practical.

At the heart of the Z71 is the same 2.8-litre turbo-diesel engine that features elsewhere in the Colorado range. Peak outputs of 147kW and 500Nm are class competitive, albeit with peak torque compressed into a narrow band from 2000rpm to 2200rpm.

While the engine is a carry-over from the previous Colorado, it has been extensively reworked to improve refinement and reduce emissions. A new and more sophisticated torque convertor that delivers refinement and efficiency gains has also been fitted.

Combine its drivetrain changes with a revised steering system, a substantial retuning of the suspension and extra sound deadening, and no wonder the latest Colorado feels quite different from its predecessor on the move.

The gains in aural refinement and ride comfort are striking on sealed roads, around town and on the highway. Engine noise, wind roar and tyre rumble are all very well contained. The steering and suspension changes also make the Z71 a much easier machine to drive and it soaks up major and minor surface imperfections better than before.

The test vehicle also acquitted itself well on unsealed roads, although the Z71's wide, low- profile tyres tended to float on heavily metalled gravel. Looking at those tyres, its fancy body kit and relatively sparse underbody protection, I shied away from an initial plan to run the Z71 over some rugged unmetalled farm tracks; yes, it has a low-ratio 4WD system (selected, like normal 4WD, by twisting a knob behind the gear- shift), but there is no lockable rear differential.

While this does not mean the Z71 could not manage a strenuous off-road workout, the reality is that it is much more likely to be found hauling a boat trailer (it is rated to tow 3500kg braked) than blazing a trail in the back country.

Update propels Holden Colorado ahead
At a Glance
Overall: ★★★★
Design and styling: ★★★★+
Interior: ★★★+
Performance: ★★★★
Ride/handling: ★★★★
Safety: ★★★★★
Environmental: ★★★★

For: Good looks, much-improved comfort and refinement
Against: Still room for improvement in driving position
and cabin storage
Verdict: An appealing flagship for the revised Colorado

Price: $70,210 (as tested with $3220 optional lockable
hard tonneau)
Engine: 2776cc in-line four-cylinder turbo-diesel,
max power 147kW@3600rpm,
max torque 500Nm@2000-2200rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic with dual-range
Brakes and stability systems: Disc brakes,
Safety rating: Five star Ancap
Wheels, tyres: Alloy wheels, 265/60 R18 tyres
Fuel and economy: 8.7-litres per 100km on ADR
combined cycle, capacity 76 litres
Emissions: CO2 230g/km on combined cycle
Dimensions: Length 5347mm, width 1882mm,
height 1780mm



RATING (4/5)