BUYERS GUIDE - UTES & CAB CHASSIS MEDIUM
Although post-2012 Holden Colorado and Isuzu D-MAX utes were structurally similar the powertrains weren’t, with Colorados having different engines and transmissions from D-MAXs.
Upgrades were made in 2016, 2017 and 2019, before an announcement that the Holden brand and the Colorado would disappear from the market in late 2020.
It may seem odd that post-2012 Colorado models were down on engine displacement in comparison with their three-litre predecessors and post-2012 D-Max competitor, but the Duramax 2.5-litre and 2.8-litre engines were signs of the times.
The Duramax branding is well known in the USA, where GM’s lack of diesel expertise has been boosted by Isuzu-made V8 diesels for US-market pickups and V6s for SUVs.
However, the four-cylinder Duramax engines used to power the post-2012 Colorado were not from Isuzu but were Italian VM Motori designs, similar to those used in some Chrysler products. A version of the 2.5-litre was used to power London taxis.
GM bought a 50-percent equity in VM Motori from Penske Corporation in 2007, but later sold its share to Fiat-Chrysler.
We’d love to know how much money Roger Penske made directly and indirectly out of General Motors since he bought the company’s large diesel engine business for a song in the 1990s – subsequently selling it to Daimler in 2000 – but retaining control of its subsidiary, VM Motori that he’d bought in 1995.
Penske Corporation sold its remaining equity in VM Motori to Fiat in 2011. In late 2012 Fiat acquired all of VM Motori, making the Duramax line uncertain for GM’s future.
In July 2016 Isuzu Ute and GM went their separate ways, ensuring that GM had to find a new chassis for the Colorado/Trailblazer range. As we now know, that ain’t gonna happen.
Some major Colorado Duramax engine components were produced in Italy and shipped to Thailand for assembly, although there was a 2019-abandoned schedule for total Thai production. Colorado transmissions were GM-sourced five-speed manual and six-speed automatic.
Colorado pricing was a tad on the high side for a vehicle range that lacked the safety credentials and technical inclusions of the Ford Ranger/Mazda BT-50 and VW Amarok line-ups.
In June 2013 Holden increased the appeal of the Colorado range with the release of a special edition Thunder pack.
Colorado Thunder included nudge bar, towing package, soft tonneau cover, front carpet floor mats, one-piece rear carpet floor mat, bonnet protector, slimline weather shields and Thunder badging.
The Colorado Thunder pack was available on LX 4×4 Crew Cab Chassis and Pick Up, and LT and LTZ 4×4 Crew Cab Pick Up models.
Holden offered the Thunder pack at no additional cost on Colorado 4×4 LT Crew Cab with special drive away pricing of $39,990.
In late 2013 more Colorado upgrades were announced. The Duramax was upgraded to a claimed 500Nm, when mated with the optional automatic transmission. A new six-speed manual was introduced, replacing the five-speed, but torque remained at 440Nm with this box.
Model Year 2014 Colorado also introduced Trailer Sway Control and Hill Start Assist across the entire Colorado range, as well as a Descent Control System on all Colorado models except Colorado DX. In November 2014 The Holden Colorado was given a number of model year 2015 updates.
There was ‘Comfort Suspension’ on the Colorado LTZ ute, an optional premium interior upgrade for the LTZ Crew Cab ute and a new acoustic package to improve powertrain noise across the entire range. All variants retained 2014 pricing.
The new Comfort Suspension had revised spring rates and damper valving, plus a stiffer front stabiliser bar. The changes were said to improve ride balance and road isolation, resulting in a smoother, more comfortable ride, particularly on urban roads.
There was also an upgraded instrument panel and centre console, and soft touch door trims and armrest.
The entire Colorado range also benefitted from wind-noise improvements after intensive testing and development, including work done at the Monash wind tunnel facility. There were also refinements to Hill Descent Control (HDC) and Hill Start Assist (HSA).
A new acoustic package was said to reduce powertrain airborne noise, making highway and urban driving quieter and a more comfortable and enjoyable experience.
The 2016 Colorado LS-X included 16-inch aluminium wheels; front fog lights; sports bar; bonnet protector and carpet. Pricing at launch was priced $37,990 drive-away, including free automatic transmission and three years’ free servicing.
In May 2016 the redesigned 2017 Chevrolet Colorado made its public debut in Brazil, giving Australians an indication of what was on the horizon for the Holden Colorado later in 2016.
Following the Bangkok reveal of the GM Australia-built Colorado Xtreme show vehicle, the redesigned 2017 Colorado was introduced with fresh styling, increased technology and an extended range of accessories inspired by the show vehicle.
Holden launched the 2017 model in late August 2016. We weren’t invited to the launch and we couldn’t get the press information and specifications until late September.
Funny people at Holden and we forecast trouble for the brand in the post-Commodore era, with some dealers already planning in 2017 to abandon the Holden franchise entirely.
However, here was the facelifted 2017 Colorado lineup at launch:
The new model had revised suspension settings, with a larger front stabiliser bar and changed front and rear spring rates, and new body mounts. Holden claimed improved road isolation, comfort, body motion and roll control as a result.
Another big engineering change was electric power steering, with a faster steering rack ratio and fewer
New tyres were fitted across the range, with a new compound and revised tread pattern to improve wet weather performance and ride comfort.
Wind noise improvements were said to result from an increase in front side glass thickness from 3.5mm to 4.0mm and additional and enhanced exterior seals and mouldings.
The Fiat-made 2.8 L Duramax diesel engine carried over and was fitted with a Euro 5-compliant particulate filter.
Engine noise was said to be reduced by an acoustic pack: metallic one-piece timing cover; injector insulator; oil pan insulator and twin balance shaft relocation.
The Colorado’s six-speed manual and auto boxes carried-over, but the auto was fitted with a Centrifugal Pendulum Absorber (CPA) torque converter. This was similar in operation to a dual-mass flywheel and absorbed torsional vibrations before they could damage the transmission.
The final drive ratio on the manual transmission models was changed from 3.73 to 4.10, resulting in improved drivability and lift-off torque, especially when towing. Towing capacity remained at 3500kg.
The 2017 Colorado LS had: six-speed manual transmission; 16-inch steel wheels; vinyl interior flooring (carpet on LS Space Cab); n ew MyLink infotainment system with seven-inch colour touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto Phone Projection, Digital Audio Radio (DAB+), USB input with iPod connectivity; steering wheel mounted controls; six- speaker audio (Crew Cab); air conditioning; two second-row ISOFIX (Crew Cab); cruise control; r ear park assist with Reverse Camera (wiring provisions available for cab chassis variants); LED Daytime Running Lamps (DRLs); a uto on and off halogen reflector headlamps; Limited Slip Differential (LSD); seven a irbags; E lectronic Stability Control (ESC); Hill Start Assist (HSA); Trailer Sway Control (TSC); Hill Descent Control (HDC); body coloured exterior door handles and mirrors; power adjustable exterior mirrors; remote window operation (via keyfob) and two 12V power outlets in centre dash.
The LT scored additionally: 17-inch aluminium wheels; carpet interior flooring; front fog lamps and side steps.
The LTZ added: 18-inch aluminium wheels; eight-inch colour touchscreen with satellite navigation; seven-speaker premium audio (Crew Cab); r emote vehicle start via keyfob (auto transmission); front park assist; climate control; Forward Collision Alert (FCA) with head up warning; Lane Departure Warning (LDW); Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS); manual levelling headlamps; LED tail lights; sports bar; soft tonneau cover; Electrochromatic (light sensitive) rear view mirror; rain sensing windscreen wipers; six -way adjustable electric drivers seat; front passenger sunglass holder and dual reading lamps.
Leather-appointed seat trim with heated front seats were optional.
The Z71 scored: grey metallic aluminum wheels; sports bar and side rails with Z71 graphics; unique soft tonneau cover; leather-appointed seat trim with heated front seats; Z71-embroidered front seat headrests; Z71 hood decals; black exterior door handles, exterior mirrors and side mouldings; unique front fascia with integrated nudge bar; gloss black front grille and roof rails.
After six requests we finally managed to get hold of a road test vehicle and we couldn’t understand Holden’s reluctance to let us have one, because it tested very well.
Apart from the usual accessories people fit to their utes the Colorado needed only additional underbody protection and a set of decent shock absorbers to make it bush-ready.
In June 2019 Holden added the LSX entry-level model to the MY20 Colorado line-up, having proved itself as a limited edition special in MY19.
The top of the line Z71 Colorado picked up fender flares, a bash plate and a ‘soft drop’ tailgate.
The mid-range LTZ gained leather trimmed seats and the front ones were heated.
A new fleet customer focussed, tow bar equipped LTZ+ variant payload was re-rated to just under 1000kg, meaning it was accessible to customers wanting a Colorado on novated leasing.
Colorado Z71 and LTZ also gained DuraGuard spray on tub-liners as standard equipment.
Research into customer preferences produced factory backed Colorado accessory packs known as Tradie, Farmer, Black, Rig and Xtreme.
The 2019 Tradie pack had a towing package, side and rear steps, a roof tray, 12V auxiliary power, floor mats, canvas seat covers, weather shields, bonnet
protector and cup holders.
That was it for the Holden Colorado, unfortunately. The GM Thailand plant was sold to China’s Great Wall brand in early 2020 and when Australian-market stocks were depleted there were no more.
HSV launched its SportsCat versions of the Colorado in December 2017. HSV’s niche design and engineering capabilities meant that the Colorado SportsCat featured styling and chassis enhancements.
The SportsCat launched with a RRP of $60,790 and the SportsCat+, with premium suspension and braking equipment, started at $66,790.
Compared with the Holden Colorado Z71 model the SportsCat scored: SupaShock suspension; 30mm track increase; 45mm front ride height increase; larger brake master cylinder; Cooper Zeon LTZ Pro Sports All-terrain tyres (285/60 R18); 18-inch x 10-inch six-spoke forged aluminium wheels; unique front fascias, grilles and fender flares; LED fog lamps; tubular side-steps; hard tonneau with ‘soft open’ strut and quick-release mechanism; sports bar; jasmine leather and Windsor suede SV seats; leather-wrapped steering wheel with red highlight stitching; perforated leather and suede dash-pad trim; red stitching highlights; SportsCat floor mats and recovery hooks.
The SportsCat+ got: a de-coupling anti-sway bar; sports suspension; front AP Racing forged four-piston brake calipers with 362mm discs; machine-faced matte black wheels; and a bonnet bulge.
Options for both HSVs included a tub-liner, Load Master, eye-bolt and a roof rack.
Special sell-out deals were available from HSV in early-2020.
Check out our Colorado LTZ video test:
On and off-road in the 2014 Colorado
Back in 2014 we were invited to the Colorado press launch.
We didn’t have an issue getting comfortable behind the different models’ steering wheels, but some of the testers felt that telescopic steering, in addition to standard tilt adjustment, would have been useful.
Ergonomics were very good, with audio and phone buttons on the left steering wheel spoke and cruise control on the right; well-placed gear levers; centrally-positioned temperature controls; and power window and mirror controls near the driver’s right hand.
Top-shelf models scored a centrally-positioned, circular climate control centre and, while to us it jarred somewhat with the rest of the interior layout, scored well in customer assessment tests, according to Colorado’s interior designer, Kirsty Lindsay.
As expected, the GM six-speed automatic box shifted almost imperceptibly and, with a healthy 470Nm on tap, provided a smooth flow of torque through the driveline under all on and off road conditions.
All the test vehicles were unladen, until it came time for tow-testing, so performance was sparkling.
Rodeo/Colorado ride and handling has always been ahead of most of the competition and the 2014 model continued that tradition.
The manual transmission had a torque limitation and so the engine in front of the stick-shift box was ‘de-torqued’ to 440Nm, which is still a very respectable figure. There was ample torque to cover the gaps between the ratios and progress on and off road was excellent.
We’ve become used to the ‘hill hold’ function that’s available on an increasing number of new vehicles, including Mazda BT-50 and Ford Ranger manual-transmission utes, but it wasn’t available on pre MY 2014 Colorados.
Another item that 4×4 enthusiasts may miss is an optional rear differential lock. However, electronic traction and stability control were standard inclusions.
We checked out the traction aids and found the traction control system prevented wild wheelspin and stability control kept 4×4 models pointed in the right direction, even when we provoked errant behaviour.
Having played with the manual and auto boxes we were curious to see how the manual box would handle the Colorado’s class-leading towing capacity of 3.5 tonnes.
Holden provided trailers loaded to 2.5 tonnes gross for this evaluation and the test route was over hilly ground, on secondary roads, with some town driving thrown in.
As expected, the six-speed auto made very light work of this course and we were very impressed with the automated downshift program that gave useful engine braking as we washed off speed on descents and when approaching corners.
Although the auto version was our preferred towing vehicle the manual model was no slouch.
Given the torque restriction on manual-box models and the lack of additional traction aids we feared that off-road ability might be somewhat compromised in comparison with other market-leadership aspirants – Ford/Mazda and VW – but the Colorado proved to be very useful on work sites and off-road.
The manual-transmission model had excellent engine braking in high and low range and the automatic transmission’s clever downshift program made it surefooted on steep downgrades as well.
In some off-road conditions it’s desirable to cancel stability control and that’s easily done with a push on the control button. By holding that button down it’s possible to cancel traction control as well, leaving the rear axle limited-slip differential to control wheelspin.
In extreme off road conditions the Colorado’s lack of a rear diff-lock option and hill descent control might see it disadvantaged alongside some of its competitors.
The 2014 rear suspension arrangement – leaf springs slung over the axle, not under it as previously – dide wonders for belly clearance and the new coil-spring front end had reasonable under-wishbone ground clearance as well.
In summary, the post-2012 Holden Colorado was a worthy successor to its predecessor and brand-loyalty-inspiring Rodeo ancestors, but didn’t have the goodies list of its competitors.Changes made throughout 2013 kept it competitive.
The 2001 Holden Rodeo Range included an LT Sport Space Cab in petrol and diesel variants, Auto V6 Crew Cabs and immobiliser security.
The top-of-the-range LT Sport Space Cab had two-tone paint treatment, chrome sports bar, wheel arch flares, multi-reflector headlamps, side steps, matching chrome-finished mirrors and door handles,16 x 7 five-spoke aluminium wheels and 245/70R tyres.
The Rodeo LX 4×4 Diesel cab/chassis model had its bucket seats replaced by a squeezy three-seat bench.
Interior appointments on LT Sport models included a leather wrap steering wheel.
The three-litre Rodeo diesel range arrived in 2002 with a new iTD engine generating maximum power of 96kW at 3800rpm and peak torque of 275Nm at 2000rpm (automatic transmission models) and 265Nm at 2000rpm (manual transmission models) – 30 percent more power and up to 18 percent more torque than the outgoing 2.8 engine.
These power and fuel efficiency improvements were achieved through a high-pressure Bosch VP44 fuel injection system and a top-mounted intercooler.
Holden claimed a nine percent improvement in fuel economy on a mixed city/highway cycle over the 2.8-litre turbo diesel engine, which was already recognised as the 4WD ute fuel economy leader.
The new engine could be coupled to an automatic transmission option in Crew Cab models. The giveaway on Rodeos powered by the 3.0-litre turbo diesel was a bonnet-mounted air intake.
The early-2003 RA Rodeo was wider than its direct competitors, with the longest cab/chassis wheelbase and the widest track. Rear trays were deeper and wider than any competitor’s. Polyethylene 76-litre fuel tanks were standard across the range.
Rodeo performance was boosted with the introduction of two new petrol engines – a class-leading 3.5-litre (147 kW of power at 5400rpm and 280Nm of torque at 3000rpm) V6 and a 2.4-litre 4-cylinder, with 94kW at 4800rpm and 207Nm of torque at 3200rpm.. Rodeo’s proved 3.0-litre intercooled turbo diesel had increased torque of 291Nm at 2000 rpm (auto) and 280Nm (manual).
Rodeo was also the only ute in its class to offer rack and pinion power steering as standard. Braking performance was improved, LT models were equipped with ABS and remote central locking and CD players were standard on LX and LT models. Electronic ‘shift on the fly’ was standard on all 4WD Rodeos.
Towing capacity across the Rodeo range was 2000kg. The new cabins provided 42mm more leg room, 40mm more shoulder space and 34mm more head room than before. Seats were taller and deeper, and front seat slide was increased by 40mm to 200mm. Rear doors on Crew Cab models had increased opening angles and rear legroom was extended by 60mm. LT Space Cab offered two rear jump seats, with seat belts.
In 2006 Holden installed its Global V6 3.6-litre Alloytec engine in place of the previous 3.5-litre V6 engine. The new engine produced 157kW at 5300rpm, an increase of 10 kilowatts over the previous engine and peak torque of 313Nm at 2800rpm, an increase of 33Nm. The new engine warranted a trailer towing rating of up to 2500 kilograms, with automatic or manual transmission.
The 2008 Colorado was launched a few months ahead of the mechanically identical Isuzu Ute D-Max. Both vehicles replaced the former Holden-badged Rodeo, causing some confusion in the ute marketplace. Here’s why it happened.
The Isuzu D-Max and the Holden Colorado are badge-engineered utes, in much the same manner that Mazda’s BT-50 and Ford’s Ranger are mechanically identical, but aesthetically different. However, while Ford has a controlling interest in Mazda, making that arrangement quite tidy, the D-Max/Colorado pairing is messier.
Isuzu’s four-cylinder KB ute range that was badged ‘Rodeo’ from the 1980s was originally produced in Japan and exported globally, including into Thailand. By the 1980s Isuzu had light and heavy truck production and marketing agreements with GM that eventually culminated in GM control of Isuzu. The Asian meltdown of the 1990s saw GM relinquish its control of Isuzu, but some production and marketing agreements remained in place.
Isuzu utes have been selling in Thailand from 1957 and local production by Isuzu Operations Thailand (IOT) began in 1974, in parallel with Japanese production. In 2002, the remainder of Isuzu Rodeo ute production was transferred from Japan to Thailand. In 2004 GM began production of the Chevrolet-badged Rodeo vehicle design in Thailand.
The IOT-owned D-Max brand is built in Samrong and the GM-owned Colorado is built by GM Thailand in Rayong. GM pursued this new-plant initiative in 2004 to bolster its flagging market shares around the world.
Once its Thai plant was in full swing it was logical for GM to sell the Colorado in Australia, through Holden dealers, but that move cut IOT‘s former product channel into Australia – one of the largest ute markets in the world. Hence, the birth of Isuzu UTE Australia Pty Ltd (IUA), to bring in the IOT-built D-Max. The outcome is Holden dealers selling the GM-built Colorado and 40+ newly appointed IUA dealers selling the IOT-built D-Max. Both companies have previewed 2012 models that have no common componentry and are built in different plants.
The 2008 Holden Colorado line-up was well specified, with driver and passenger airbags on the entire range and ABS with EBD (Electronic Brakeforce Distribution) standard on LT-R and all LX 4WD variants.
Diesel power came from a 3.0-litre four-cylinder common rail turbo engine, with peak torque of 360Nm at 1800rpm and maximum power of 120kW at 3600rpm and all 4WD variants had three-tonnes towing capacity.
A sports variant, the LT-R, featured sports bars, soft tonneau cover, side steps, front fog lamps, 16-inch aluminium wheels and sports interior trim. The LT-R 4WD had Bluetooth capability and Rear Park Assist.
Our extensive solo-vehicle and tow-testing of Holden Colorado utes shows that they need very little in the way of bush mods to go virtually anywhere.
We’d suggest a long-range replacement fuel tank, a snorkel and a suspension lift similar to the one we evaluated on the mechanically similar D-Max. A front-end diff lock would be nice, for severe trails.