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Holden Colorado 2020 review: Z71 off-road

The Holden Colorado Z71 is a lifestyle-accessorised version of the Colorado. It has stickers, a sailplane sports bar and a stack of other Z71-specific gear … but underneath it’s still a Colorado. And there’s nothing wrong with that – the Colorado itself is a quiet achiever in the ute market: it has a solid rep as an all-purpose ute and it sells well.

So, how effective is the Z71 as an off-road tourer? Read on.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

The Z71 auto 4x4 dual-cab has a list price of $57,490 MSRP. Our test vehicle is $59,260 MSRP because, over and above its comprehensive list of Z71 features (and those from cheaper variants), it has an electric brake controller ($740), and a towing package ($1030).

The Z71-specific features include a heap of style-based stuff, such as black fender flares, new front fascia, roof rails, and stickers on the bonnet, as well as 18-inch grey alloys (on Bridgestone Dueler H/Ts), sailplane sports bar, and black highlights everywhere – including exterior door handles, mirrors and tailgate handle. 

  • The Z71 wears 18-inch grey alloy wheels. The Z71 wears 18-inch grey alloy wheels.
  • The side mirrors receive the blackout treatment. The side mirrors receive the blackout treatment.
  • The black highlights also extent to the roof rails. The black highlights also extent to the roof rails.
  • At the rear is a sailplane sports bar. At the rear is a sailplane sports bar.
  • The Z71 scores a new front fascia. The Z71 scores a new front fascia.

But the Z71 buyer gets plenty of useable real-world stuff such as roof rails, soft-drop tailgate, fold-away tonneau cover, and decent underbody protection.

There’s also a leather-wrapped steering wheel and leather seats (the front ones are heated).

The cabin is reasonably comfortable. The cabin is reasonably comfortable.

It has a 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel Duramax engine, six-speed automatic transmission, a part-time 4WD system and a rear limited slip differential.

If that’s still not enough outdoorsy gear for you, don’t despair because there are plenty of genuine Holden-designed, -engineered and -tested accessories, including frontal protection bars, LED light bars, extended sports bars and more, that are available for your Colorado.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

The Colorado is a good-looking unit, so it follows that the Z71, the Colorado line-up’s top dog*, should be the best-looking vehicle in the entire range. And it is. Look at the photos yourself and make up your own mind. (The Z71 Xtreme is more expensive, but it’s essentially a Z71 equipped with the Xtreme Pack. 

The Z71’s roof rails, side steps and fold-away tonneau cover add functionality to the flashiness. 

The Colorado is a good-looking unit. The Colorado is a good-looking unit.

Under its slick exterior, the Z71 sits on a steel ladder-frame chassis.

There may be no mechanical differences between the Z71 and other similarly-powered Colorado utes, but this is not merely a sticker-pack special – this is something at least a bit more substantial than that. Don’t believe me? Read on.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

How practical is the space inside?

The Z71 has a Colorado carry-over interior, which is nice and simple, and includes some Z71 branding stitched into the front seats.

For starters, there are grab handles for the driver and front passenger – I’m a big fan of grab handles.

The dash is a basic layout – but made family-friendly with expanses of tough plastic and soft-touch leather – and it has everything you need. The centre console houses an 8.0-inch colour touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and standard nav

Inside,  the 8.0-inch colour touchscreen comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Inside, the 8.0-inch colour touchscreen comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

There is a USB port in the centre-bin, and there’s a 12V socket in the back of that bin which back-seat passengers can access.

The cabin is reasonably comfortable; the front seats – in fact all of the Z71’s seats – err on the side of firm rather than being well-cushioned. But, even in the back seat, when I sat behind my driving position, I had ample head- and leg-room.

There are the usual collection of storage spaces around the cabin – sunglasses, glove box, door pockets, seat-back pockets – but a long centre-bin lid impedes access to the cupholders in between driver and front-seat passenger, and there are no cupholders in the back seat’s fold-down centre arm-rest.

In the back seat I had ample head- and leg-room. In the back seat I had ample head- and leg-room.

There are shallow storage spots under the rear seats, one of which contains your jack etc.

Overall fit and finish is impressive without being spectacular, but that’s fine with me.

What's it like as a daily driver?

The Z71 is 5361mm long (with a 3096mm wheelbase), 1872mm wide and 1800mm high.

It has a steel ladder-frame chassis, double-wishbone front suspension and leaf-spring live rear axle, so it’s more aligned with heavy-duty work than smooth on-road performance. 

However, the Z71 is quite settled over most surfaces, including highway bitumen and rough back-road backtop, and at most speeds – rather impressive for an unladen ute.

The Z71’s on-road performance and refinement are generally not as polished as segment leaders. The Z71’s on-road performance and refinement are generally not as polished as segment leaders.

Steering is a bit floaty, with some play in it, and there is noticeable understeer on corners.

The engine is one of the torquiest in the current-day ute mob – only matched by V6 utes such as the VW Amarok or Mercedes X-Class – and it delivers that torque quite evenly and smoothly across the rev range.

The model featured below is the Holden Colorado Z71.

The Duramax turbo-diesel can, however, be noisy, and because of that it seems like it’s working hard, though it never feels too stressed, even when towing a caravan that has a caravan with a tare (empty) weight of about 2600kg

There’s plenty of life in terms of acceleration with active pedal-feel but, when it comes time to pulling up to a fast stop on front disc and rear drum brakes, the brake pedals are rather spongy.

the Z71 is quite settled over most surfaces, including highway bitumen and rough back-road backtop. the Z71 is quite settled over most surfaces, including highway bitumen and rough back-road backtop.

The six-speed auto is generally spot-on for all duties, although it did occasionally down-shift with an extra violence of action when it didn’t really need to.

Ride and handling are pretty good, with its Aussie-tuned suspension (including traditional-ute leaf-springs at the rear) doing a decent job of sorting everything evenly, and it was only ever rattled by very severe bumps, wash-outs, and ruts at lower speeds, i.e. during low-range 4WDing.

The Z71’s on-road performance and refinement are generally not as polished as segment leaders, but that’s nowhere near a deal-breaker.

What's it like for touring?

Off-road, the Z71, or more generally the Colorado, is quite capable.

On fast dirt tracks and gravel roads its suspension soaks up the worst of undulating terrain. And it’s effective enough during sustained bouts of low-speed 4WDing without ever being a rock-crawling beast – which is fine because any ute worth its weight is ultimately a compromise between on-road manners and off-road capability.

There is plenty of low-end torque, delivered fairly evenly, and it’s easy to maintain steady, controlled momentum with a throttle that’s not too touchy, even over bumpier terrain. And steady controlled momentum is essential to safe 4WDing.

Off-road, the Z71, or more generally the Colorado, is quite capable. Off-road, the Z71, or more generally the Colorado, is quite capable.

On steep 4WD-only tracks, the Z71 proved its efficacy in the rough stuff time and time again. It tackled a particularly tricky uphill climb riddled with deep ruts and back down again, with minimal fuss. I thought it’d have trouble on this hill, but its performance was a real pleasant surprise.

Its Duragrip traction control system, which incorporates the rear limited slip differential, work well together on dirt, sand, and even through some deep-ish mud holes I put the Z71 through.

That limited slip diff is effective enough for 4WDing, but, by its very nature, an LSD is designed to limit the amount of wheel-slip, so it only fully engages once a wheel starts to lose traction, which is not ideal because when that happens you lose crucial forward momentum – and on steeper terrain or over severe obstacles that can turn a challenging situation into an unforgiving one.

I’d experienced an issue with the Z71’s hill descent control on a ute comparison last year. On that occasion the issue (that it wouldn’t engage) was swiftly resolved and, on this most recent test, there was no strife at all.

The Z71 proved its efficacy in the rough stuff time and time again. The Z71 proved its efficacy in the rough stuff time and time again.

In terms of its suitability for touring, the Z71 has a claimed payload of 987kg, an unbraked towing capacity of 750kg and a braked towing capacity of 3500kg, with a downball weight of 350kg.

The tray is 1484mm long, 1534mm wide (1122mm between the wheel-arches) and 466mm high. It's not wide enough for an Aussie pallet (1165mm by 1165mm).

It has a Premium DuraGuard Spray–on tub liner, which seems sturdy and durable, and it has four solid tie-down points.

The tray is 1484mm long, 1534mm wide (1122mm between the wheel-arches) and 466mm high. The tray is 1484mm long, 1534mm wide (1122mm between the wheel-arches) and 466mm high.

The Z71’s sailplane, at the front top edge of the tray, looks cool but you can’t use it as a tie-down point for any loads, which puts it squarely on the wrong side of useless when it comes to improving the load-space’s cargo-carrying versatility.

How much fuel does it consume?

Fuel consumption is listed as 8.7L/100km (combined). Our dash display read 7.9L/100km, but we recorded actual fuel consumption on test of 9.7L/100km. The Z71 has a 76-litre fuel tank, so expect an approximate driving range of 753km (according to our on-test fuel consumption), factoring in a 30km safety buffer.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating? What does it cost to own?

The Colorado line-up has a five-star ANCAP rating as a result of testing in 2016.

Safety gear includes seven airbags, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, Forward Collision Alert), Lane Departure Warning, a tyre-pressure-monitoring system, Hill Descent Control, Hill Start Assist, Trailer Sway Control and Roll Over Mitigation.

What warranty is offered?

The Holden Colorado Z71 is a solid all-round package: it looks pretty sharp, drives nicely on and off-road and does everything with a reliable efficiency. 

If you're in the market for a Colorado and like a bit of flash with your ute's functionality, then the Z71 is an appealing option.

$57,190

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

3.5/5

Adventure score

3.6/5

adventureguide rank

  • Light

    Dry weather gravel roads and formed trails with no obstacles, very shallow water crossings.

  • Medium

    Hard-packed sand, slight to medium hills with minor obstacles in all weather.

  • Heavy

    Larger obstacles, steeper climbs and deeper water crossings; plus tracks marked as '4WD only'

Price Guide

$57,190

Based on new car retail price