Marcus Craft road tests and reviews the 2016 Holden Trailblazer LTZ with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

If Australia’s SUV market was a Marvel superhero movie, Holden’s Trailblazer would be Hawkeye. Other superheroes have enormously impressive superpowers; Hawkeye, a skilled archer, can merely loose an arrow well. Solid, (mostly) dependable, nothing fancy. But that’s not a major issue for this Holden because while its rivals are tarted up and tech-heavy, the Trailblazer – essentially a rebadged, rejigged version of the Colorado7 with enough styling, mechanical and chassis tweaks to justify a new name (the origins of which are as American as apple pie, or Chevrolet) – continues that solid, middle-of-the-road seven-seater tradition.

Its pricing – positioning it nicely among its many rivals, such as the pricey Ford Everest, Toyota Fortuner, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport and Isuzu MU-X – hits close to the bullseye.

Price and features

The Trailblazer is available in entry-level LT spec ($47,990, excludes on-road costs) and, our tester, the LTZ ($52,490, excludes on-roads). That pricing pits the Trailblazer squarely against the Pajero Sport and Fortuner and undercuts the Everest by more than $7000. Those bucks get the buyer a solid vehicle – sharing much of the Colorado ute platform – as well as a fair amount of new gear, including safety tech and more.

The new Holden MyLink multimedia system, running via a clear, easy-to-read and use 8.0-inch screen, is a good unit. MyLink includes satnav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

I still reckon the Trailblazer is a fine daily driver that’s spacious, comfortable and easy to drive.

LTs and LTZs have LED daytime running lights, dusk-sensing headlights and a reversing camera. Remote start is also possible.

Engine and transmission

The Trailblazer LTZ has a 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine. It produces 147kW at 3600rpm and 500Nm from 2000 to 2200rpm. It has a six-speed auto and easily switchable four-wheel-drive transmission operated through a dial.

Design

From the outside, a lot of the new big SUVs share a generic look: sleek from front to back with a bit of healthy chunk to give the vehicle some substance. Many of them look so similar these days that you’d be forgiven for thinking that every Friday all the SUV designers in the world fly into, say, Dublin for after-work drinks and to swap all of their ideas with each other on the back of a coaster. It wouldn’t need to be a big coaster. 

Sure, the front end has been slapped around a bit to jazz it up but the whole rig still looks a bit dated, just as the Colorado7 did. Maybe I’m just a grumpy old bastard. The Trailblazer looks fine; nothing groundbreaking, nothing hideous, just fine.  The cabin’s interior continues that theme. It’s neat and tidy but some of the materials used still feel like they’re on the wrong side of cheap. “Leather-appointed”* seats (the front ones are also heated) are a nice touch in the LTZ. (*Holden’s description, not mine.)

A fair bit of hoopla has been made about the all-new dashboard and instrument panel, and it is an improvement over what came before, but not in an earth-shattering way.

Practicality

Having said all of that Debbie Downer stuff, I still reckon the Trailblazer is a fine daily driver that’s spacious, comfortable and easy to drive. Steering-wheel-mounted controls include audio and phone. There is a USB port (one only) up front, three 12V sockets, as well as the usual collection of controls (climate and more) on the centre console. The MyLink system is clear, bright and easy to work through any of the functions.

There are handy spaces for odds and ends – glove box, deep wells with room for bottles in the doors, and cup-holders in between the front seats – but there are no cup-holders elsewhere up front and few other spots for gear such as keys, phones, or an Infinity Stone. The seats are supportive – there was no whinging from front or rear passengers over a four-hour round trip – although the driver’s seat could do with more cushioning under the thigh.

There is enough head and leg room throughout; even the third row is bearable for average-sized adults over a shortish distance. ISOFIX points in the second row are easy to access and use.

With the third row in position, cargo space is 235 litres; 878 litres (third row folded down); and 1830 litres (with second row folded down). The Trailblazer is rated to tow 3000kg (braked) and 750kg (unbraked). Its roof rails are rated to cop 100kg.

Safety

The Trailblazer has a five-star ANCAP rating. It has seven airbags (now including a driver’s knee airbag) and electronic stability control (incorporating ABS, EBD etc), reversing camera, rear parking sensors, forward collision warning, blind-spot alert, lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, and tyre-pressure monitoring.

Driving – on-road

First up, the Trailblazer has a non-driving-related function which grates: when you open a door, the front windows automatically slide down a bit. This action is aimed at reducing air pressure when you close the doors. It’s annoying but not so annoying that we ventured into the driver’s manual to try to find out if it can be switched off.

From there, the news gets better. The electrically assisted steering (not hydraulic any more) has tilt but not telescopic adjustment and is light and precise for a seven-seater SUV. That steering, in combination with Holden’s much-vaunted transmission and suspension changes, as well as the introduction of new tyres, have made the new Colorado7, er, Trailblazer a tighter, more refined unit to drive.

Throttle response is impressive – with plenty of get-going punchiness for take-offs and safe overtaking – and the auto is an improved box, yielding smooth changes through the gears and holding them when required. Road-sticking ability was also a revelation: we threw it in and out of twisty back-country roads – bitumen and gravel – and were very impressed; only ever finding a hint of body roll.

Holden has touted improved NVH levels in the shift from Colorado7 to Trailblazer but engine noise, tyre thrum and wind rush through the front end are still a touch intrusive, although they can easily be drowned out with the sound system. The LTZ rides on 18-inch wheels and Bridgestone Dueler H/T tyres.

Driving – off-road

The Trailblazer sits on heavy-duty chassis rails, which makes it a bush-ready beast out of the box. Tweaks to the original suspension set-up – double wishbones at the front, five-link live axle at the rear – have improved the ride on bitumen, but it could be harsh when driving on the gravel roads and slow-going bumpy stuff we tackled.

The improved six-speed auto is, as mentioned, slick on the road, and it’s even more at home in the bush, helping to make easy work of hill climbs and terrain crawling. Add that to a stack of off-road tech, including auto hill-start assist, hill-descent control and limited-slip diff, and the Trailblazer is a real trouper in the rough stuff. 

It does not have a diff lock, however, which will upset blokes with dust in their beards.

The numbers – 12m (turning circle), 218mm (ground clearance) and 600mm (wading depth) – as well as the Trailblazer’s approach (28 degrees), departure (25) and ramp break-over (22) all check out for off-road touring.

Fuel consumption

The Trailblazer has a 76L fuel tank. It has a claimed fuel consumption of 8.6L/100km (combined). On test, the computer was showing 9.5L/100km; while we recorded 9.9L/100km of mixed driving (mostly bitumen with about 30km of gravel road and about 5km of hard 4WDing).

Ownership

The Trailblazer has a three-year/100,000km warranty; this includes 12 months of roadside assistance and lifetime capped-price servicing. Its service intervals are set at nine months/15,000km. Service costs are $349 for the first one and $409 each time for the next three.