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The SportsCat Series II is perhaps not the kind of HSV we've grown accustomed to over the years. But that’s ok. Because HSV is no longer the brand we’ve grown accustomed to, either. Their core product has changed, you see. And so their core buyer has changed right along with it.
In fact, HSV sees itself as almost starting again; rebuilding its customer base (and even its newsletter subscriber base) as it shifts from power-soaked Commodores to imported Camaros and this: the Holden Colorado-based SportsCat Series II.
It looks tough, and has better equipment and finishes than the Holden, but there is not one kilowatt of extra power on offer from its diesel - yep, diesel - engine.
“We see it as performance, just a different kind of performance,” HSV tells us, pointing to the ute's off-road chops rather than any blistering power figures.
So does this Colorado-turned-SportsCat live up to HSV’s history? And more importantly, does it paint a rosy picture of HSV’s future?
|HSV colorado 2020: Sportscat V|
HSV has sold around 1200 SportsCats to date, and so they had a sizeable pool of people to chat to when plotting this Series II update. The brand hosted feedback sessions with current owners, potential buyers and those who had already bought a rival ute, asking what they'd like to see HSV do differently this time around.
The answer? More HSV.
Which is why this Series II ute is plastered with HSV logos no matter where you look, from the dash trim, floor mats and seat backs, to the giant stickers on the side and rear of the ute. Little chance of mistaking this for a regular Colorado, then.
Elsewhere, though, the front-end desing is unique to HSV, and the brand has focused on adding black wherever it could to add a sense of tough to the SportsCat. It's why the number plate surround and front skid plate has gone from silver to black, and the wheels are blacked-out, too.
The matte-black Sailplane desing was inspired by wakeboarding boats, and the body-coloured hard tonneau (which lifts like a hatchback’s boot) gives the rear a complete, all-of-a-piece look.
Inside, the SportsCat Series II harks back to HSVs of old, with big, comfortable seats with side bolstering so high you almost need a ladder to climb over them, branded suede inserts in the dash and a better, sportier steering wheel. Parked side by side, the difference between this and the Colorado on which it is based are noticeable.
Perhaps the most noticeable change between this and the Holden, though, is the ride height. While the Coloardo has a nose-down style, the SportsCat has been raised by 45mm at the front, giving the HSV a flatter, sportier road stance.
The pitch from HSV here is that the SportsCat is a best-of-all-worlds proposition; one that is sportier on the road, but no less capable off it.
The key specs are on-par for a dual-cab ute, with a braked towing capacity of 3500kg, and a payload (with passengers) of 876kg (auto) and 869kg (manual).
All SportsCats get on-the-fly 4WD with low range, a limited-slip differential and a sump guard, while SV models also get a clever de-coupling anti-roll bar that, when on the road, stiffens the chassis for better handling, but then automatically disconnects when low range is engaged so off-road capability isn’t impacted.
HSV says there's 251mm of ground clearance, and quotes approach, departure and ramp breakover angles of 32, 24 and 27 degrees.
Having just spend time wrestling with the sliding cover that rolls out over the Ford Ranger's tray, I love the HSV solution, with its hard cover hinged towards the cabin, so it opens upwards like a regular boot. The slow-dropping tailgate is a knee-saving touch, too.
The SportsCat line-up has been condensed and renamed for this Series II release, with the Look Pack and SportsCat+ renamed the SportsCat V and SV.
The SportsCat V wears a $62,490 sticker, while the SV ups the asking price to $66,790. Swapping the standard manual gearbox for a six-speed automatic adds $2200 to the price, but you can also delete some features on the V trim (the hard tonneau and sports bar) to reduce the manual-equipped asking price to $59,990.
To put that into perspective, the Colorado Z71 on which this SportsCat is based wears at $57,190 sticker price.
So what do you get for your extra spend? Toughness.
Outside, you’ll find 18-inch forged alloys (black, of course) wrapped in all-terrain Cooper rubber, as well as a redesigned front fascia and grille, LED fog lamps and the hard tonneau and sports bar. Inside, expect HSV sports seats with mountain-high bolstering, a new leather-wrapped wheel and a new suede dash element. The 8.0-inch touchscreen is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto equipped, and you get a seven-speaker stereo and dual-zone climate control.
All SportsCats get on-the-fly 4WD, a limited-slip differential and a sump guard, while SV models also get a clever de-coupling anti-roll bar. The SV trim also gets better brakes, with HSV fitting AP Racing calipers at the front, along with increasing the size of the rotors and brake master cylinder.
The SportsCat still serves up the same power as its Colorado sibling, with a 2.8-litre Duramax turbo-diesel engine good offers 147kW and 500Nm (or 440Nm with a manual).
It arrives with a six-speed manual as standard, but can be optioned with a six-speed auto (which also unlocks that extra torque).
HSV says the SportsCat will sip 8.6L/100km on the combined cycle, and emit 228g/km of CO2. Each is fitted with a 76-litre fuel tank.
“We see it as performance, just a different kind of performance.” That's the word from HSV on its updated SportsCat, an obvious nod to the fact that this Colorado-based ute is missing the one key attribute that defined HSVs of old - more power.
Instead, it’s intended to strike a balance between on-road manners and off-road chops, with HSV changing the suspension and brakes to get the best of both those worlds.
It’s easy to write all of that off as marketing guff, but after a day spent putting the HSV through its paces at Holden’s proving ground outside Melbourne, you can’t help but think they’ve somehow managed it.
One of the Colorado’s best features is its easy-going nature when driven on the road, with Holden’s engineering team tweaking the ride and handling to produce a car-like feeling on Australia’s mostly dodgy road surfaces.
And the good news here is that HSV hasn't changed that feeling - they have enhanced it.
Pushing the SportsCat to above the legal speed limit on a track designed to mimic a genuine road saw the newest HSV acquit itself surprisingly well. A sports car this ain’t, and yet the ride especially manages to blend comfort with control, sitting mostly flat through bends and leaving you confident you're going to burst out the other side of a corner roughly where you were expecting to.
The steering still has that vagueness common to off-road-focused vehicles, but Holden’s tuning arm has produced a confident, composed drive experience, which does elevate the base Colorado's sportiness.
Perhaps most impressive, though, is the SportsCat’s ability to switch from road to rough track, pushing through an off-road course every bit as challenging as a car like this will ever get asked to face, without so much as breaking a sweat. From water crossings to wheel-articulating bumps and steep, muddy hill climbs, the SportsCat devoured all with serious ease.
There are some drawbacks, of course. The engine can feel loud and gruff, especially when really pushed, and it produces not much in the way of top-end speed for all its fanfare. The low-end nature of the diesel engine ensures the SportsCat feels punchy enough on take-off, but it quickly runs out of puff, and the climb from around 65km/h to 100km/h does feel like it's taking its sweet time.
But despite all the HSV stickers, you can't lose sight of the fact that this is still a ute, and one that can carry, tow and tackle an off-road run, and so you still find yourself pleasantly surprised by the performance on offer, rather than disappointed by the lack of speed.
5 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
Like the Colorado, you will find seven airbags, forward collision warning, lane departure warning and front and rear parking sensors with a reversing camera - but no AEB.
The Holden Colorado donor car wears a five-star ANCAP rating, awarded in 2016. The HSV is untested, but you might expect the same result.
The SportsCat is covered by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, and requires servicing every nine months or 12,000kms. HSV does not offer capped-priced servicing.
Tough-looking when standing still and a treat to drive on- or off-road, the HSV SportsCat ticks plenty of ute boxes. Yes, you need to redefine your sense of performance (and there are wet weeks that feel faster), but out-and-out speed is hardly the sole purpose of a dual-cab ute.
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