If you are looking for a new one-tonne ute, you couldn't have picked a better time to go shopping. All of the main players have been upgraded within the past 12 months, most of them with new-generation models, so competition is fierce and prices are sharp. Holden's new Colorado range is a good example.
VALUE & MODELS
Prices start at $26,990 for a DX cab-chassis two-wheel drive manual, a drop of $4500, and stretch to $51,990 for an LTZ crew cab four-wheel drive automatic, a rise of $1300. Yet the new models are more powerful, have a higher towing capacity and more features as standard, such as side-curtain airbags, stability control and a maximum five-star safety rating.
The Colorado has the highest repeat purchase of any Holden, so owner loyalty is high. And while the 2012 models trail the class leaders for engine output and refinement, they look purposeful, have strong performance, comfortable and spacious cabs and generous load specifications, including a class-leading towing capacity.
There are no less than 26 models on offer, including three body styles, four trim levels and a choice of two engines, two (4x2) or four-wheel drive (4x4) and manual or automatic transmission.
Only the entry-level DX cab-chassis manual comes with the 110kW/350Nm 2.5-litre turbo diesel engine. All the rest, the LX, LT and LTZ, have the 132kW/440Nm (auto 470Nm) 2.8-litre twin-cam turbo diesel. The 2.5 tows up to 3.0-tonne and the 2.8 is rated to pull 3.5-tonne, although towing capacity has become a game of one-upmanship in the ute market.
Like all ratings, the towed mass is dependent on the gross combination mass, in this case 5500kg in the 2.5 and 6000kg in the 2.8. If, for example, the 2.8 is fully loaded to its gross vehicle mass of 3100kg; the maximum towing mass is 2900kg. On test were a 28 LX 4x2 tray and a 2.8 LX 4x4 crew cab, both with the six-speed automatic transmission.
The 2.8 is an impressive engine with plenty of punch from rest, strong mid-range response and gutsy lugging ability under load. Noisy on idle and audible around town, the engine settles down to cruise, quietly pulling about 1700rpm at 100km/h in sixth gear.
The Colorado is a good size, not too big or too small and is easy to place in tight spaces. The suspension is well sorted with a reasonable balance between load carrying and comfort. There is some joggle and rear-end bounce over bumps but it improves with a load.
In line with the larger cabin, the wheelbase has grown 46mm to 3096mm, but the optional extended wheelbase of 3200mm on the previous cab-chassis models has gone, so in the crew cab, most of the tray and load sits behind the rear axle, with obvious weight distribution issues. Tray dimensions are mid-range for this class but the crew cab tub has only four tie-down points and no 12-volt outlet.
Steering offers reasonable feedback and the turning circle is a par for the class 12.7m, but low gearing means there is plenty of wheel twirling in tight spaces.
The automatic is smooth and decisive and in 4x4 models it has clever programming that allows it to descend steep slopes in low-range first gear at crawl speed without running away, thereby rendering hill descent control, with its incessant chattering and extra brake wear, redundant.
The interior is spacious with generous head, hip and legroom and comfortable, well-padded seats, including the rear bench in the crew cab. The manual seat adjustment on the LX is a better fit for tall frames than the electric adjustment on the high grade LTZ.
There are plenty of storage bins and pockets, including a split-level glovebox and cup holders in the rear doors. Storage behind the rear seats in the single cab is adequate for soft bags and small items.
The new Holden Colorado has a higher towing capacity and more features as standard.
Holden Colorado LTZ
Price: from $49,990
Engine: 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel
Transmission: five-speed manual; six-speed automatic
Body: 5.12m (L); 1.88m (W); 1.78m (H) WEIGHT 2058kg
Thirst: 7.9L/ 100km, CO2 213g/km