Newly-launched Colorado is ready to multi-task as a farm worker - and as an urban family runabout
Holden's hoping to enjoy an abundance of riches with its new 15-model Colorado ute range.
The Aussie car company has been without the previous Colorado for months - at a time arch-rival Ford was soaking up orders for its new and well received Ranger.
Now, after months of delays caused by the floods in Thailand, Holden's range reinforcements are rolling off the boats and managing director Jeff Murray is delighted. He's looking at sales of at least 150 a month, enough to give Holden a 15-17 per cent bite of the overall commercial market.
"Hopefully, it'll be well over 150," he said at the Colorado's media launch in Queensland this week.
Whatever number Colorado achieves, it will be well ahead of the 10-15 monthly sales of Holden's other light commercial, the Commodore-based Ute.
"The attributes our customers expect and love in Holdens have arrived in bucketloads," Murray said.
But will availability bring sector-growing sales? On-road, the Colorado performs competently and handles predictably. Its unladen ride can be harsh, but no worse than some rivals. Despite being a good all rounder, and well-priced (see "Alphabet soup"), the newcomer fails to significantly move the ute segment forward: Holden needs something more to top the buzz created almost a year ago by Ranger and Mazda's BT-50.
Standard features on some Ranger-BT-50 models, such as trailer stability control, hill descent control and rear differential locks, are not on Colorado's list at all; neither is satnav.
However, early indications are that the Colorado's on a roll. Holden got hold of two early top-spec LTZ models to show at dealerships here. The modest roadshow snared more than 400 pre-orders. It turned out to be a better effort than the Australians' similar preview with a fleet of 50 Colorados which got 1500 pre-orders.
Most of those New Zealand orders were for the LTZ - an indication, Murray says, of the way the ute is developing as a do-everything family and business vehicle.
Holden's also joined the crowd with special Fieldays Colorado pricing, but the managing director admits it's not as low as some rivals: "There's a bit of a premium price for its newness."
He's realistic about Holden's fight to grow its share of the ute market. "There are some very good trucks out there, but we see Colorado more of a rival to the Ford Ranger and Mazda BT-50."
The Colorado was developed at General Motors' design centre in Brazil.
It's billed as the most important new Holden product in 2012.
Colorado has two key strongpoints to fight for sales growth. The 3500kg braked towing rating of all 2.8 litre models is the best in the business, matched only by ute versions of the Land Rover Defender.
Some rivals have cracked the 3000kg barrier, but Holden holds the bragging rights. The rating was achieved partly by fitting the "beefiest, brawniest towbar Holden has ever made".
All Colorados have an unbraked towing rating of 750kg, the same as their competitors.
Holden's claiming a one tonne payload for all Colorado models. Many "one tonne" trucks offer a capacity that falls short of the magic mark. Some Colorado variants can take up to 1.4 tonnes. All have a 3100kg gross weight.
Other inducements to buy include a wider range of automatics, electronic stability control on all models and competitive engines.
The two new engines (see "The Italian connection") are smooth, refined and compare well to their rivals. The 2.8 litre engine, fitted to all but the base model, offers overall fuel consumption of around 8.5 litres per 100km, depending on the vehicle, and CO2g per kilometre emissions in the low 200s.
The engines comply with Euro4 emissions standards but probably will be upgraded to Euro5 during what's predicted to be a "long" production life. Colorado is the first global model to use these engines, which share similar architecture.
The ute has bold exterior styling and is better looking than photos suggest. Its interior is pleasant but unremarkable, with an instrument cluster inspired by the Chevrolet Camaro.
Although rear legroom in double cabs is better than in the previous model, the interior lacks some of the clever storage space of the Ranger and BT-50. Keen to share some of the large market for ute accessories, Holden has put together a big range, some of them NZ-made, from canopies to air intake snorkels and dress-up bling.
The Italian connection
The ute's two diesel engines were designed by VM Motori, a company formed after World War II in the same region of Italy as Maserati, Ferrari and Lamborghini.
VM eventually ended up in the hands of Detroit Diesel Corporation. From there it went to DaimlerChrysler, the to Penske Corporation and now the Fiat group.
In New Zealand, VM engines have most notably been fitted to Jeep products.
The 2.5-litre and 2.8-litre units developed for Colorado were designed with significant input from the United States.
Dubbed Duramax, the 2.5 produces 110kW and 350Nm of torque and the 2.8 has 132kW and 440Nm of torque for manual versions, and 470Nm for automatics.
Holden's most extensive ute range ever is being marketed in four trim levels.
A new entry level single cab-chassis price leader at $38,400. Basic equipment includes vinyl flooring, a bench seat and16-inch steel rims. But it has such goodies as stability control, zircon, Bluetooth and a USB port.
Mid level model with bucket seats, carpet, cruise control, power windows and more.
The LX with manual or automatic, fog lamps and alloys.
Full-fruit model in Space Cab and Crew Cab configurations, including 17-inch alloys. Top model costs $61,900.