Hardy SUVs: how does Holden's Trailblazer compare with the rest?
A taste of Holden's Trailblazer has us thinking of utes-with-boots...
Acres of internal room, good off-road capabilities, Holden's MyLink infotainment system Driver's seating position hard to get right, less ground clearance than competition
The updated Holden Colorado is an excellent ute that kicks into touch memories of its not-quite-there predecessor.
No, this story isn't about the Colorado, but the SUV that sits on the same underpinnings.
The Trailblazer is (for now) Holden's biggest SUV in terms of footprint. Its Colorado-derived chassis and four-wheel drive system also make it the carmaker's most capable.
It has more torque than anything else in the segment (500Nm), thanks to the powerful 2.8-litre Duramax turbo diesel under the bonnet; the same unit that powers the Colorado, natch.
That torque figure is handy for towing; with a three-ton braked capacity listed, these sorts of SUVs remain popular for those for whom "recreation" is defined by something motorised on a trailer.
On-road, the Trailblazer still feels a bit truck-ish; a by-product of the ladder-frame chassis underneath the bodyshell. But that's possibly the point. This isn't a soft-road SUV, after all.
Yes, it has niceties, such as Holden's excellent touchscreen-accessed MyLink infotainment system in the centre stack.
Yes, the LTZ model has tasty 18-inch alloys, nice leather heated front seats and plenty of soft-touch material surfaces.
Yes, even the third row of seats allows occupants the not-to-be-sniffed-at luxury of legroom.
But it's still a big, usable SUV. It's not agricultural, but power and space are high on the USP list.
With the third row of seats folded down, the Trailblazer offers 878 litres of luggage space up to the roof, or a massive 1830 litres with seats three to seven stowed.
You also know this isn't aimed at the school-run market when a wading depth (in this case 600mm) sits prominently in the brochure.
Ground clearance of 218mm fits with the rest of the Trailblazer's head-for-the-hills character, although when compared with rivals it's the most low-slung of its ilk.
Like any segment worth its weight in registrations however, other brands are keen for a slice of the action. The ute-with-a-boot sub-section remains a bit of a footnote to the unstoppably expanding SUV market as a whole, but the Trailblazer does have its competitors ...
HOLDEN TRAILBLAZER LTZ
ENGINES: 2.8-litre four-cylinder Duramax turbo diesel (147kW/500Nm)
PRICES: $58,990 (LT), $62,990 (LTZ)
Let's start with the underdog first. Wait ... the underdog?
We don't mean that in terms of capability or standard specification.
We just mean it with reference to brand exposure. The Isuzu MU-X is possibly the ute-with-a-boot you've not yet considered. A bit like the D-Max ute it's based on, really.
We've long thought the D-Max the best value-for-money double-cab ute around. It's tough, capable, comfortable and, because we're not above being impressed by big tyres and bullbars, it can be tricked out with all those sorts of accessories, without breaking the bank.
Also, the D-Max and MU-X are built by a manufacturer, which, predominantly these days, builds trucks. This works for us on a pure credibility level, too.
The MU-X features a 3-litre turbo diesel pushing out 130kW peak power and 430Nm of torque, meaning the Trailblazer has the gutsier engine. The MU-X will give you better ground clearance for accessing the hill country though, and offers the same 3000kg braked tow rating as the Holden.
But it'll cost you more; another $3000 over and above the Trailblazer LTZ (at $65,990). However, it isn't the most expensive ute-with-a-boot here.
Let's get the big stumbling block with this one out of the way first. The Ford Everest is available in two grades (Trend and Titanium) and both, when compared with the rest of the ute-with-a-boot market, are priced exorbitantly.
Why is this? In most respects the Ranger-based Everest stays true to the template; it has seven seats, proper off-road capabilities, a heavy-duty tow rating, along with decent amounts of comfort, convenience and safety. But then, so does the competition.
Yet you need to spend $75,990 ($10,000 more than its nearest rival) to get into an Everest Trend. Or you can fork out a whopping $87,990 for the Titanium truck. You can buy a seven-seat Land Rover Discovery Sport for less than that.
The Ford has less power and torque than the Holden, although it has a higher payload of 702kg (the Trailblazer's is 617kg). But that's about where the pluses and minuses game ends for the Everest. The competition is cheaper, but on the whole, no less capable.
We took an Everest camping the summer Ford's biggest SUV debuted and, we'll admit, it is a great vehicle to drive and carry a heap of kit in for a long distance.
There is plenty of space on board, with even the third row seats feeling roomy enough. It's also probably the most settled on the road, with an impressive degree of road noise mitigation measures at work, meaning it's the least "ute-like" vehicle here. You could do the Auckland-Wellington run with a quick leg-stretch at Ohakune, and get out at the other end feeling perfectly human.
But is all that worth an extra $10k, minimum? With the capabilities and feature sets of its segment rivals in the picture, we're not so sure.
Remember that Toyota Hilux Surf, with 300,000km on the clock, that your neighbour had as a battered boat launcher? This is its swankier, better-equipped grandchild.
Based on the Hilux, the Fortuner is powered by a 2.8-litre turbo diesel, just like the Trailblazer, although its engine suffers from a deficit of power (17kW) and torque (50kW). This means the Toyota's braked tow rating is less; 2800kg versus the three-tonne capacity of the Holden. It boasts a better wading depth and a load more ground clearance than the Trailblazer (279mm versus the Trailblazer's 218mm). Lots of off-roading prowess here, too.
The best card the Fortuner plays is that, unlike the competition, you can choose from three different grades. And there's even one with a manual transmission.
Unusually for Toyota, buy the right Fortuner and you'll pay the least for your ute-with-a-boot. One version can be had for mid-$50k, while the Limited grade (ie. the top one) is lineball with the Trailblazer LTZ at $62,990.
We like the off-road credentials the Fortuner presents, as well as its exterior looks. When weighed up against the competition, it features the right amount of premium gear for the most economical outlay.