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Holden Trailblazer 2018 review

EXPERT RATING
7.3
Ute-based SUV wagons are getting better and Holden's Trailblazer is proof of that, but is another solid-not-special seven-seater going to stand out in an increasingly demanding market?

SUV wagons based on their ute stablemates are by no means a new thing – just look to Toyota Fortuner (based on HiLux), Ford Everest (based on the Ranger) and Isuzu’s MU-X (based on the D-Max) for evidence of that.

But the strategy is not always a successful one and these ute-based wagons have already gone through a stage or two of tweaking and refining in an attempt by car makers to shed some of the lingering ute-related niggles (such as work-focused suspension tunes) and improve the final products so they're better suited to a life of work and play.

The 2018 Trailblazer (formerly known as Colorado7, and based on the Colorado ute) is another clear sign that these wagons are indeed getting better, but are those improvements good enough to attract the cash of an otherwise ute-fixated public?

Holden Trailblazer 2018: LT (4x4)
Safety rating
Engine Type2.8L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency8.6L/100km
Seating7 seats
Price from$34,400

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

The Trailblazer is a solid-looking wagon – all clean, tight lines from front to back – and overall it has a real squat and substantial presence. If we’re going to get all ‘fancy Dan’ with our hyperbole: chrome-accented daytime running headlights swoop back along the chunky body to slick LED tail-lights. If we’re sticking to basics: the Trailblazer looks good.

  • If we’re going to get all ‘fancy Dan’ with our hyperbole: chrome-accented daytime running headlights swoop back along the chunky body to slick LED tail-lights. If we’re going to get all ‘fancy Dan’ with our hyperbole: chrome-accented daytime running headlights swoop back along the chunky body to slick LED tail-lights.
  • If we’re sticking to basics: the Trailblazer looks good. If we’re sticking to basics: the Trailblazer looks good.

Inside, the tweaked interior has a tidy if rather basic feel to it – but that’s not a bad thing in a wagon that will have to cop dirt and dropped ice creams amid the general chaos of day-to-day life.

The leather-trim seats add a touch of class to otherwise family friendly dimensions and environment.

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

Climbing in is easy enough with a sturdy "overhead assist handle" for all comers and goers.

All of the Trailblazer’s seats are mostly comfortable except they are quite flat and hard, which may prove a hindrance over longer trips. The driver’s seat is six-way electrically-adjustable and there is little in the way of lumbar support.

The second row will better suit two passengers than three for long-distance comfort but there is enough room all round – head, shoulders and legs – to avoid most complaints, for a little while anyway.

There is a fair bit of storage space in the cabin but some of it is awkward to access and actually use. There is a fair bit of storage space in the cabin but some of it is awkward to access and actually use.

Third-row passengers will need to be children or those of a shorter stature to cope with the ‘back of the bus’ squeeze – and even then trips should be kept to shorter distances to avoid an in-car riot. It’s not a terrible place to be, in the third row of this thing, but it’s not ideal either – pretty much in keeping with the rear-row offerings of its rivals.

Back up the front again and the dash design is clear, user-friendly and easy to get used to with day-in, day-out use.

There is a fair bit of storage space in the cabin but some of it is awkward to access and actually use. The glove box is big enough to cope with one or two handfuls of bits and pieces. There is a sunglass holder up near the rear-view mirror.

Passengers in the back also get air vents and manual aircon control.

There are two cup holders in front of the small centre console housing the USB port which, when used, eats into that available space.

All doors have a moulded bottle bulge, which wouldn’t cop our CarsGuide water bottle without forceful encouragement.

The second-row passengers get a fold-down centre arm-rest/cup holder when there’s no one sitting in the middle. Passengers in the back also get air vents and manual aircon control.

With all seats up, if you pack to the roof, there is 235 litres of cargo space at the very rear; with the 50/50 split-folding third-row seats folded down, there is 878 litres; with the second-row (60/40 split-fold and tumble) and the third-row seats down, there is 1830 litres of cargo space. There is a retractable cargo blind stowed away under the floor at the rear.

  • The second-row passengers get a fold-down centre arm-rest/cup holder when there’s no one sitting in the middle. The second-row passengers get a fold-down centre arm-rest/cup holder when there’s no one sitting in the middle.
  • With the second-row seats folded forward, it is easy enough to get into the third-row seats; no contortionist moves required. With the second-row seats folded forward, it is easy enough to get into the third-row seats; no contortionist moves required.

With the second-row seats folded forward, it is easy enough to get into the third-row seats; no contortionist moves required.

There are two 12-volt outlets in the centre dash; one at the back of the centre console (for second-row passengers); and one in the rear cargo area.

Up top, the roof rails are rated to carry 100kg.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

The Trailblazer is available in three spec levels, each with a market-competitive price: base-spec LT (from $47,990, excluding on-road costs), LTZ (which we tested; from $52,490) and the limited-edition Z71 (from $53,490).

But those prices soon start to climb when you add in accessories such as all-weather floor mats ($130 for a pair), boot lip protector ($80) and a rigid cargo barrier ($960). Our test vehicle had a Power Blue (prestige paint) colour on the exterior, at a cost of $550.

All models have the 2.8-litre turbo-diesel engine and six-speed automatic transmission. The 4WD system is a dual-range part-time shift-on-the-fly set-up.

The LTZ gets an upgraded eight inch touchscreen. The LTZ gets an upgraded eight inch touchscreen.

The LT’s standard features include cloth seat covers, 17-inch alloy wheels, a seven-inch touchscreen to go with its Holden MyLink infotainment system, Apple Car Play and Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity, front fog lamps, signature daytime running lights, side steps, limited slip diff, rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera.

The LTZ gets all of that (although its touchscreen is eight inches) and more: integrated satnav, blind spot alert, forward collision alert and heated front seats and leather-appointed seat trim. It has 18-inch alloy wheels.

The Z71 has all of that gear as well as a distinctive sports look, replete with black bonnet, black mirrors, black exterior door handles, Z71 leather-appointed trim and 18-inch black alloy wheels.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   8/10

The 2.8-litre turbo-diesel engine punches out 147kW at 3600rpm and its big-gun 500Nm at 2000rpm and is well-matched to a six-speed automatic transmission. This Trailblazer is, on paper, a very good tow vehicle with so much torque available and from down so low.

Its towing capacity is 3000kg (braked), but I’d prefer to see how it fared in a real-world tow test before I pass judgement.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

Claimed fuel economy is 8.6L/100km (combined). We recorded 9.6L/100km fuel consumption after 200km of mixed driving, including about 30km of gravel tracks, and 10km of hard off-roading. As mentioned earlier, it has a 76-litre fuel tank.

What's it like to drive?   7/10

The LTZ is 4887mm long (with a 2845mm wheelbase), 1902mm wide (excl mirrors), and 1846mm high. It has a kerb weight of 2203kg.

Its turning circle is 12m but it feels like more of a cumbersome beast when trying to manoeuvre in the bush or in the city, though not enough so for that characteristic to be any sort of deal-breaker.

The tilt-adjustable, electrically assisted steering lacks any reach-adjustment, which is annoying, but it can still be counted on to deliver a precise feel – light at low speeds, heavier at high speeds – when pushing the Trailblazer along at a fair clip on open roads or in and out of corners.

There is a fair bit of storage space in the cabin but some of it is awkward to access and actually use. There is a fair bit of storage space in the cabin but some of it is awkward to access and actually use.

Acceleration seems livelier now; there is more off-the-mark oomph for take-offs and safe, smooth overtaking, even on long gradual climbs, than before. The torquey engine and six-speed auto – with its smooth changes and gear-holding when appropriate – make for a high-achieving combo.

Ride and handling seem better than in Colorado7 guise although the tweaked suspension – Aussie-tuned coil-spring front and coil-spring live-axle rear – and Bridgestone Dueler H/Ts tyres* may account for some of that. However, we did feel some body-roll while driving along back roads, unlike the last time we were in a Trailblazer LTZ. (*The Trailblazer has a full-sized 18-inch spare.)

The locally tuned suspension is, at times, a bit too firm; when we hit heavy bumps and deep potholes on rough gravel tracks several times, we were unsettled because the Trailblazer’s suspension bashed its way over and through.

NVH levels on open-road bitumen can still tend towards the rougher side of things with diesel engine clatter, tyre roar and wind rush clattering a tune on your ear drums.

We completed a series of emergency braking scenarios – on bitumen and dirt – and the Trailblazer’s disc brakes – 300mm at the front and 318mm at the rear – helped rip us into a controlled stop.

  • With all seats up, if you pack to the roof, there is 235 litres of cargo space at the very rear. With all seats up, if you pack to the roof, there is 235 litres of cargo space at the very rear.
  • With the 50/50 split-folding third-row seats folded down, there is 878 litres. With the 50/50 split-folding third-row seats folded down, there is 878 litres.
  • With the second-row (60/40 split-fold and tumble) and the third-row seats down, there is 1830 litres of cargo space. With the second-row (60/40 split-fold and tumble) and the third-row seats down, there is 1830 litres of cargo space.

Off-road, we had a ball because the beefy Trailblazer seems a much better fit for gravel-track fast blasts and slow-going bush driving than it does for any jaunts in the stop-start city.

Our drive loop included a decent bit of four-wheel driving – coastal sand, bush tracks peppered with rocks of all shapes and sizes, and shallow mud in a dried-out dam. Drive modes can be switched via the centre console dial between 2H, 4H and 4L; high range modes are actually represented by an ‘up’ arrow on the dial; low range is a ‘down’ arrow. Bonus: the Trailblazer’s 500Nm of torque is readily available from way down low.

The Trailblazer has a limited slip diff, 218mm of ground clearance and a wading depth of 600mm, which was never tested as our usual creek crossings were so bone-dry they were more like puddles. Approach, departure and ramp-over angles are 28, 25, 22 respectively.

Its armoury of off-road tech – auto hill-start assist, hill-descent control and more – make it almost unstoppable, straight out of the showroom, for anything demanded of it on a light- to medium-difficulty adventure weekend.

The Trailblazer has a full-sized 18-inch spare. The Trailblazer has a full-sized 18-inch spare.

Its 76-litre fuel tank, however, hinders any claim it has to off-road touring potential.

The Trailblazer has 3000kg towing capacity (braked); 750kg unbraked.

Note: Holden has persisted with a system which, when you open a door, the front windows automatically slide down a bit, an action aimed at reducing air pressure when you close the doors. It remains annoying but we still weren’t annoyed enough to actually bother to check the owner’s manual for a possible hack to switch it off.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / 100,000 km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   8/10

The Trailblazer range has a five-star ANCAP rating. The LTZ has seven airbags, and electronic stability control (ABS, EBD etc), rear view camera, front park assist, rear parking sensors, forward collision alert, blind-spot alert, lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, a tyre-pressure monitoring system and trailer sway control.

The second row has three child restraint anchor points and one ISOFIX child restraint anchor point.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   7/10

The Trailblazer comes with a three-year/100,000km warranty. Lifetime capped price servicing includes a free inspection at one month, then $299 (at nine months/15,000km), $399 (18 months/30,000km), $479 (27 months/45,000km), $479 (36 months/60,000km) and so on.

(At time of writing, the LT was being offered for $45,990 driveway with a seven-year/175,000 warranty.)

Potential problems might include cumulative driveline wear and tear from people towing heavy loads (horse floats, boats etc).

Verdict

The Trailblazer is a solid all-rounder and deserves the consideration of those in the market for a decent seven-seater 4WD. It does everything well without ever really excelling at any one thing.

Is it fantastic? No. Is it a game-changer? No. Does it represent pretty good value for money in the grand scheme of things? Yep. 

The pick of the bunch for me is the LTZ – solid, off-road capable, and suburbs-friendly with just a hint of leather-appointed class. In the LTZ, you get everything worthwhile in the Trailblazer mob and if you’re a family man you won’t feel the need to fork out an extra $1000 for the Z71’s try-hard window dressing.

The Trailblazer is a mostly comfortable SUV wagon, stacked with features and is well worth your consideration if the Isuzu MU-X, Pajero Sport and Toyota Fortuner don’t float your boat.

What do you reckon? Get a new one of these, or spend your money on a second-hand LandCruiser?

Pricing Guides

$42,400
Based on 155 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$34,400
Highest Price
$56,415

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
LT (4x4) 2.8L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $34,400 – 40,990 2018 HOLDEN TRAILBLAZER 2018 LT (4x4) Pricing and Specs
LT (4x4) (5YR) 2.8L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $38,280 – 45,100 2018 HOLDEN TRAILBLAZER 2018 LT (4x4) (5YR) Pricing and Specs
LTZ (4x4) 2.8L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $37,000 – 53,990 2018 HOLDEN TRAILBLAZER 2018 LTZ (4x4) Pricing and Specs
LTZ (4x4) (5YR) 2.8L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $42,020 – 49,390 2018 HOLDEN TRAILBLAZER 2018 LTZ (4x4) (5YR) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.3
Design7
Practicality7
Price and features7
Engine & trans8
Fuel consumption7
Driving7
Safety8
Ownership7
Marcus Craft
Editor - Adventure

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