WHEN I first laid eyes on the Holden Colorado 7 my immediate reaction was “she’s not pretty.” There’s something odd about the way the C-pillar rises up to meet the roof, and then a poorly integrated haunch pulls the hitherto smooth shoulder crease back down, dropping towards the rear light cluster.
It is clearly the compromise inherent in converting a workhorse ute into a 7-seater SUV. By the end of our week together, I found the styling less offensive, but the other niggling issues meant I didn’t pine for her when she was gone.
To be frank, Holden seems to have put precious little effort into converting the ute version to an SUV. The attention to detail is lacking when it comes to a vehicle which will be used for school runs, family holidays and trips to the shops, not just lobbing tools or cement bags in the tray.
It’s not just lacking in the styling stakes either, although there are countless examples of other manufacturers crafting well-styled vehicles from ute underpinnings (think Kluger and even the Colorado 7’s separated-at-birth sibling the Isuzu MU-X).
There are a number of small but important details that such an experienced and consumer-focused brand should have resolved. Like the way the faux-chrome gear lever detail reflects the sunlight into your eyes as you drive (why not leave it black?), or the omission of any clip or holder in the sun visor for car park tickets, or the absence of reach adjustment for the steering wheel.
Speaking of the steering wheel, which we were, it feels as though it has been lifted from a 2005 Rodeo. Hard plastics abound in this cabin, which although eminently sensible in a ute, simply aren’t up to standard in a modern 7-seat family SUV.
That being said, the Colorado 7 is clearly being made to a price-point, and the list of kit on paper stacks up nicely. At $50,000 for the LTZ (tested), comes with a long list of standard features. Bluetooth, climate control, steering wheel controls, rear view camera, plenty of storage space and power windows are all here.
From the driver’s seat, however, the integration all seems a little clunky. Buying an infotainment screen off the shelf and installing it in the dash probably saves Holden some coin, but the touch screen is too far to reach, and there are precious few short cuts to it from the steering wheel.
The round, blue climate control display looks great on first glance, but it becomes apparent after a while that it’s a victory of form over function – separating the buttons out a little, making better use of the dash space, and some colour-cues could increase usability.
Under the HVAC controls is a panel where two 12-volt outlets reside. Oddly, there was a spongy feel to the panel. When testing the outlets, it felt as though the panel was bending under the light pressure. Again, it was just another window into the cost-conscious mentality of Holden as they were putting this car together.
In an age where Holden has few premium offerings (until the re-badged Opels arrive), its competitors are volume-selling Japanese and Koreans, as well as fast-improving Chinese. Regrettably for those who are nostalgic about the Australian Holden nameplate, the Koreans (let alone the Japanese) have advanced beyond the quality of the Colorado 7.
As I discovered while driving nearly 600km in testing the Colorado 7 and listening to country radio stations, Holden’s marketing team is relying on pulling power to sell the vehicle. The mountainous torque will definitely put the SUV on the short list of buyers who want a relatively cheap, Australian-branded SUV with enough pulling power to drag a caravan at 110km/h on the freeway – and pull like a freight train it does.
The 147kW, 500Nm power-train in the 6-speed auto will be more than enough for most families or caravan towing nomads. Put your foot down and it will (a little too easily) spin the wheels and dart into the line of traffic, or speed up to overtake that errant truck on an uphill stretch of freeway. The brakes are a little less responsive, however, requiring a real jab of the foot to bite, and really took some getting used to.
Country miles demonstrate how effortlessly the Colorado 7 swallows the miles, as it was put through its paces on a round trip from Sydney to Canberra, through sunshine, rain and even hail.
The front pews couldn’t be described as luxurious – if you have legs you’ll find your knee knocking on the protruding edge of the centre console – and the difficulty of finding the perfect driving position with no reach adjustable steering wheel count against the Colorado 7, but overall it performed well on the long trip.
Let’s face it: if it is a load-lugger for long trips you’re looking for, the Colorado 7 is worth taking a look at. Also on the list should probably be Ford’s Territory and Hyundai’s Santa Fe. Both have the feeling of a bit more quality and thought put into their interiors, and more stylish exteriors, but ultimately attention to that detail is up to you.
Our test vehicle was provided by Holden Australia. To find out more about the 2015 Holden Colorado 7 LTZ, contact your Holden dealer.