The Colorado 7 - it sounds like some sort of wild west gang that robs stage-coaches rather than a kid-carting 4WD. But Holden's return to the full-size 4WD market, which been barren of a Holden combatant since 2004 (following the demise of the Suburban, Jackaroo and Frontera forays), builds on its utility foundations.
It heads back into the fray with a two-model, auto-only line-up devoid of any 2WD options, but there's no chance of it being mistaken for a soft-roader.
The LTZ is $50,490 - a $500 impost for the wagon body style over and above the dual-cab ute on which it is based, with the same drivetrain but less utilitarian rear suspension. The 7 sits on 18in alloy wheels and has power-adjustable and folding door mirrors, leather-appointed trim, power-adjustable driver's seat (a manually adjustable front passenger seat), a leather-wrapped steering wheel with cruise, audio and phone controls, an 8-speaker sound system (with a mini-USB plug that narrows its usefulness), climate control and four 12-volt outlets.
The drivetrain mirrors the load-lugger - a 2.8-litre turbodiesel four-cylinder, with double overhead cams, common rail direct fuel injection and a variable geometry turbo in use to produce 132kW and 470Nm. It happily toils with a trailer on the back and the extra load doesn't hamper its progress, but the shove doesn't feel as solid as the numberssuggest.
There's no manual transmission on offer, leaving the smooth-but-slow six-speed auto as standard, along with shift-on-the-fly 4WD. All of that adds up to a claim for combined cycle fuel use of 9.5L/100km, although our stint in the car, which included some towing duties to exercise the 3000kg braked towing capacity, saw that hit 11.9, still a worthy figure.
The old-school philosophy of the 7 extends to its body - which sits on a ladder frame chassis that has been reinforced for extra rigidity - although you still get some of the judder typical of such a set-up.
The ute is no oil painting and neither is the wagon, but then again, not much in the segment is going to rival an Alfa Romeo in the prettiness stakes. Vision forward is not obstructed greatly but the C and D pillars (and the tapering roof and belt-line) can give pause for thought before a lane-change, such is the thickness.
Purposeful, practical and utilitarian are adjectives more likely to be ascribed to the Colorado 7, which has downsized a little from its load-lugging guise. Length has come down by 469mm to 4878mm, width is up 250mm to 2132mm, height up 67mm to 1847mm and wheelbase has shrunk 251mm to 2845mm.
Cargo space ranges from a claimed 235 litres with all seats occupied, 878 litres when 5 are on board or 1830 litres when there's only two bums on seats. It could be more versatile and useful, but the third row doesn't fold into the floor, nor can it be removed; the second row flips forward or folds down, but it to remains installed.
The 7's donor vehicle scored five stars from ANCAP and the passenger version retains that rank - thanks to stability control, anti-lock brakes (with brakeforce distribution and emergency assist), dual front, front-side and full-length (points for stretching to all three rows) curtain airbags.
Rear parking sensors and a reversing camera (within the centre rearvision mirror) all add to the safety cred and the list also includes hill start and descent controls systems and a limited slip differential.
It's hard to reconcile the Colorado program with the US$2.5 billion GM spent on its development - the ute wasn't a big enough step up over the old model and the seven-seater wagon isn't going to re-shuffle any podium positions either. There's no arguing the company needs an SUV in the segment, but this one feels a little underdone.
I'd be very surprised if anyone ever mis-fuelled a Colorado 7 as the noise from the engine bay leaves you in little doubt as to the type of fuel required. It's not the prettiest SUV on the pricelist either, inside or out - the cabin is functional but feels a little underwhelming, as does the steering.
The Bluetooth is clumsy to use, the sound quality isn't great and it doesn't stream music through the sound system. If you're looking to do that you'll need a mini-USB input, which rules out more than it rules in when it comes to device options - why not a standard USB port? Cabin space is ample front and rear (as is the in-cabin storage) and there's good forward vision, but the aforementioned C and D-pillar blindspots are difficult to ignore, making the camera and rear sensors a mandatory inclusion.
Ride quality from the revamped rear end is better and it doesn't wilt under the weight of a decent towed load either. Off-road prowess has - like the safety rating - carried over from the ute variants.
With 217mm of ground clearance, low range, a limited slip diff and eletronic traction aids, the 7 is going to get much further off the blacktop than most will ever take it and completes most harder task without great fuss.
The automatic takes away much of the driveline snatch that can afflict the manual versions of this vehicle (and many of its opposition) but it is not the brightest spark for reaction to right foot input and has economy uppermost in its programming, so the manual change will need to be used for some dirtier work.
There's much to be said for being an all-rounder and the Colorado 7 gets mud in its wheelarches without fear of not making the return trip. It is also a decent drive in the daily grind of school runs, shopping trips and Saturday sport, but it's going into a battle somewhat underdone and up against capable, quality opposition.
Holden Colorado 7 LTZ
Price: from $50,490
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km
Capped servicing: 3 years/60,000km $295 (est)
Resale: 55% (source: Glass's Guide)
Service interval: 9 months/15,000km
Safety: 5 stars
Engine: 2.8-litre turbodiesel four-cylinder, 132kW/470Nm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic; 4WD
Thirst: 9.41/100km, on test 11.9 ; tank 76 litres; 252g/km CO2
Dimensions: 4.9m (L); 1.9m (w); 1.8m (h)
Spare: 16in steel spare
Mitsubishi Challenger LS
Price: from $45,490
Engine: 2.5-litre, 4-cyl turbodiesel, 131kW/350Nm
Transmission: 5-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Thirst: 9.8l/100km, CO2 259g/km
Nissan Pathfinder ST-L
Price: from $56,890
Engine: 2.5-litre, 4-cyl turbodiesel, 140kW/450Nm
Transmission: 5-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Thirst: 9l/100km, CO2 238g/km
Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander
Price: from $49,990
Engine: 2.2-litre, four-cylinder turbodiesel, 145kW/436Nm
Transmission: 6-speed auto, four-wheel drive
Thirst: 5.9l/100km, CO2 174g/km