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Holden Colorado 2020 review: Z71 towing

The Holden Colorado is a quiet achiever in the ute market: it has a solid rep as a work-and-play vehicle, generally records positive results in objective editorial reviews and comparisons, and it sells well.

But how does a Z71 do as a tow vehicle? 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, black highlights everywhere – including exterior door handles, mirrors and tailgate handle.

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.

The Z71 wears 18-inch grey alloy wheels. The Z71 wears 18-inch grey alloy wheels.

There's also a leather-wrapped steering wheel and leather seats.

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.

Bonus: 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 probably available for your Colorado.

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.

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's black highlights everywhere, the roof rails, side steps and fold-away tonneau cover add functionality to the flashiness.

The Z71 scores a new front fascia. The Z71 scores a new front fascia.

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 more substantial than that. Don't believe me? Keep reading.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The Z71 has a 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel Duramax engine (147kW at 3600rpm and 500Nm at 2000rpm), six-speed automatic transmission, a part-time 4WD system and a rear limited slip differential.

Under the bonnet is a 2.8-litre turbo-diesel making 147kW/ 500Nm. Under the bonnet is a 2.8-litre turbo-diesel making 147kW/ 500Nm.

How practical is the space inside?

The Z71 has a Colorado carry-over interior, which is nice and simple, with some Z71 branding stitched in 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.

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

There is a USB port in the centre-bin, and there's a 12V socket in the back of that bin for back-seat passengers.

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.

The tray is 1484mm long, 1534mm wide (1122mm between the wheel-arches) and 466mm high. Back there, you get Premium DuraGuard Spray–on tub liner, which seems sturdy and durable, as well as four solid tie-down points.

What's it like as a daily driver?

The Z71 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.

Having said that, 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.

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

It’s more aligned with heavy-duty work than smooth on-road performance. It’s more aligned with heavy-duty work than smooth on-road performance.

The engine is one of the torquiest in the current-day ute mob – only matched by V6 utes – and it delivers that torque quite evenly and smoothly across the rev range. 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 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 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.

  • For our towing loop, we borrowed a Jayco Journey Outback (model no: 21.66-3) from our good mates at Jayco Nowra. For our towing loop, we borrowed a Jayco Journey Outback (model no: 21.66-3) from our good mates at Jayco Nowra.
  • This Outback has a listed tare weight of 2600kg, with a 260kg towball download, and a travel length of 8.3m. This Outback has a listed tare weight of 2600kg, with a 260kg towball download, and a travel length of 8.3m.
  • The Z71 auto has a claimed payload of 987kg, an unbraked towing capacity of 750kg and a braked towing capacity of 3500kg. The Z71 auto has a claimed payload of 987kg, an unbraked towing capacity of 750kg and a braked towing capacity of 3500kg.
  • It has a maximum downball weight of 350kg. It has axle load limits of 1450kg (front) and 1850kg (rear). It has a maximum downball weight of 350kg. It has axle load limits of 1450kg (front) and 1850kg (rear).

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 absolutely fine.

But, on this test, our aim was to focus open on the Z71's ability to tow, so that's what we spent the lion's share of our time doing.

I reckon this Colorado could handle even more weight comfortably if we demanded that of it. I reckon this Colorado could handle even more weight comfortably if we demanded that of it.

For our towing loop, we borrowed a Jayco Journey Outback (model no: 21.66-3) from our good mates at Jayco Nowra. This Outback has a listed tare weight of 2600kg, with a 260kg towball download, and a travel length of 8.3m.

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

For the record, the Z71 has a listed kerb mass of 2163kg, a GVM (gross vehicle mass; the maximum your vehicle can legally weigh, fully laden) of 3150kg, and a GCM (gross combined mass; the maximum your vehicle and trailer combination can legally weigh) of 6000kg.

With two blokes (about 170kg total – I blame Christmas!) and camera gear (10kg) onboard the Z71 (2163kg), and the caravan (2600kg) hooked up, we had an approximate total weight of 4943kg, so we were still 1057kg shy of the 6000kg GCM.

The Z71 auto has a claimed payload of 987kg, an unbraked towing capacity of 750kg and a braked towing capacity of 3500kg. It has a maximum downball weight of 350kg. It has axle load limits of 1450kg (front) and 1850kg (rear).

Utes are often marketed as great towing vehicles and much hoopla is made of their 3500kg towing capacity, if that is the listed figure. But, as we all should know by now, that maximum towing measure means little if the manufacturer has not taken into account other crucial figures such as what other weight is onboard, as well as the vehicle's GVM (gross vehicle mass), GCM (gross combined mass) and other factors.

On fast dirt tracks and gravel roads its suspension soaks up the worst of undulating terrain. On fast dirt tracks and gravel roads its suspension soaks up the worst of undulating terrain.

When we hitched up the caravan, the front axle of the Z71 rose 15mm, and the rear drooped 25mm under the burden – that's a bit of a drop and on the verge of what's real-world satisfactory when towing.

The good news is that the Z71 is a solid and stable towing platform – its steel ladder-frame chassis is more than robust enough for heavy-duty towing – and I reckon this Colorado could handle even more weight comfortably if we demanded that of it.

Prior to our long regional highway loop, we drove a few kms of dirt track and light corrugations and the Z71 easily kept everything under control, even through rougher patches. Fair enough, we weren't breaking any land-speed records but then again, who'd want to while you're towing a near-3000kg load?

In general terms, the grunty turbo-diesel engine just keeps the whole ute-and-van combination trucking along nicely and, even though it tends to be noisy, the engine never feels like the burden is too much for it.

The Z71 is a solid and stable towing platform – its steel ladder-frame chassis is more than robust enough for heavy-duty towing. The Z71 is a solid and stable towing platform – its steel ladder-frame chassis is more than robust enough for heavy-duty towing.

The auto is a clever unit and one of the better transmissions in the ute segment, offering near-seamless shifts when needed. That intuitive application comes into play especially nicely when the Z71 tackles long slow up-hills and downhills, during which controlled acceleration and smooth momentum become even more crucial to safe towing.

Another bonus is the fact you can monitor tyre pressures (the Z71's not the caravan's) while on the move via the dash display.

There were only a few instances here and there during which the combo was ever so slightly put off its load-lugging game, but the application of trailer brakes and sway control tech helped to iron out those moments of mischief in seconds.

How much fuel does it consume?

Our dash display read 7.9L/100km, but we recorded actual fuel consumption on test of 9.7L/100km. It 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.

On our towing loop, of more than 200km total, the dash was showing 14.5L/100km, but we recorded an actual fuel-consumption figure of 15.5L/100km. Expect an approximate driving range of 460km (according to our on-test fuel consumption), factoring in a 30km safety buffer.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

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 does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

Holden offers a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty across the Colorado range, with servicing required every 12 months or 12,000km. Capped price servicing applies over seven years/ 84,000km with the average annual cost over three years working out to be $405.

The Holden Colorado Z71 is a pretty decent towing machine, handling all aspects of general load-lugging duties with a quiet reliable efficiency. In simple terms, it kept the whole ute-and-van combination trucking along nicely.

The Z71 is a solid Colorado package all-round with some welcome flashiness to its functionality.

$57,190

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

3.6/5

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