The Colorado LTZ utility has been softened down for modern city-first tastes. How successful is the schmoozing?
Pros: Looks good, big cabin, muscular engine and smooth auto, excellent deck dimensions, superb towing ability.
Cons: Engine still gets shouty, mapping app occasionally recalcitrant.
Our road test rating: 4.3/5
Design and engineering:
Since launch in 2012, the Colorado utility has undergone not just one update, but two.
There’s been one major change – the Duramax 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-assisted engine being given a big fizz up – then a more recent minor follow-up sharpen specific to the $59,990 LTZ manual crewcab flagship tested here.
So much ongoing revision activity is rather unusual; one-tonners generally don’t get much more adjustment attention beyond the usual mid-life revision, often occurring halfway through a 10-year cycle.
The latest refinements are not huge but are enough to remind that Holden appears dead-set on a process of virtually continuous improvement for a rig that, at the heart of it all, is still a brilliant associate for towing, taking off road and generally operating in the manner it was foremost designed to be.
For the flagship LTZ grade, which in this market accounts for 65 percent of Colorado business and is overwhelmingly favoured by recreational buyers, there’s a more comfortable ride, heated leather seats and a black glossy ‘piano’ finish on the console.
Overall, though, it still looks the same. Which means there’s still never any iota of doubt about what you’re getting. Some one-tonners seek to interpret as being ‘car-like’. Some, the Colorado included, doesn’t bother with that nonsense. It’s a truck that’s especially truck-like. How refreshing.
Powertrain and performance:
The Duramax 147kW/500Nm 2.8-litre four-cylinder engine has always been a modicum of muscularity - as you would expect with a unit that presents almost all its torque from 1600rpm.
However, it’s also been a gruff and loudly spoken character, and one request from owners was for that aspect to be toned down a bit. Holden has managed to meet this challenge, but not by playing with the engine. Instead, they’ve simply loaded up on more sound-proofing.
It runs more quietly at cruise and brings extra reassurance in low-range, low gear mud toiling, where the auto’s recalibration to add extra engine braking assistance adds to the confidence.
More grunt, more gulp? Despite the boost in power and torque, some variants have maintained fuel economy, while others – including the thirstiest variant, the 4x4 LTZ auto crew cab - have improved slightly.
You don’t buy a diesel ute or off-road wagon for a car-like experience, so don’t be surprised by the rumpty (when unladen) ride. It’s simply a reminder that utes by necessity have to be small trucks and the obvious belief that traydecks can become full car substitutes is difficult to fulfil when the donor vehicle has a leaf-sprung rear and a body-on-frame design tailored for hefting a big load on the deck, hauling substantially more off the hook and, in four-wheel-drive form, leaving formed roads behind.
So a truck is a truck is a .. well, you get the point. Yet Holden says owners who took part in a brand-orchestrated survey that precipitated the 2015 mechanical revisions called for change. They wanted a smoother ride, less engine noise. Translation: They wanted Colorado to become more like the category-topping Ford Ranger, its Mazda near-twin the BT-50 and Volkswagen’s Amarok.
A tough ask? It still bucks a bit over bumps and you still know when it is coming up the driveway yet .the gain over the first gen traydeck is there. Quite patently there is less abruptness, more yield.
Ride, refinement and quality:
We’ve really already covered the first two. The ‘q’ word also needs to be taken into context. You’ll always find robust interior plastics in a family truck, but GM’s were originally particularly hard in feel and cheap in look and in appearance and ergonomic strength, it failed to match a certain Detroit-born rival’s design elegance.
Now they’re a lot closer. True, it’s still utilitarian – and so it should be, given the primary role – yet though the elemental durability of the setting is pretty obvious, it’s not as boofy as it started out. They’ve found some glossy piano black and soft-touch materials to site around the centre fascia and middle console, which now proudly features a seven-inch touchscreen that projects different infotainment and entertainment functions including phone-based MyLink applications.
I’m not much interested in the music and radio apps (Pandora and Stitcher) but the BringGo sat nav has always seemed a great route to achieving cut-price and effective mapping, not least when the initial package is free. So I ensured it was loaded to my smartphone for this test. And, yes, it’s worth going with, though not quite as foible free as I’d thought. First, you do need to remember to bring a USB cable because this aspect (unlike those for phone and audio) won’t Bluetooth. Also, while initial linkup proved seamless, reconnecting during a trip – after the ignition was turned off then on again – was occasionally troublesome. But the mapping is great and if you’ve got a phone with reasonable computing grunt, go for it. The other plus of the big screen is that is provides a decent reversing camera view; a bonus not just in urban usage but also when hooking up a trailer.
Practicality and packaging:
Big cabin. Big tray. These are big selling points. Though also mounted high and potentially in need of more tie-downs, the tray nonetheless appeals in offering a one tonne payload. Towing capability is near the top of its class at 3.5 tonnes (350kg towball download). Could the hill descent control cope with a fully loaded vehicle towing the maximum? Holden assures it will, but advises discretion.
Speaking of cartage, the front chairs are comfortable – and did I mention they’re now heated - and offer full adjustment while the back bench is also well contoured and has adequate knee and head room.
How it compares:
No argument, there are still several rival utes that are more suave. But Colorado’s rough diamond aura has definite appeal and, despite still being loud, this engine is nonetheless a true heavy-duty toiler. So good enough? Actually, for me, it really is. That the Colorado retains more plaid shirt purity that some rivals keeps it alluringly ‘real’ for me. It’s a truck that isn’t afraid to say so.