In just six years, utes have gone from transport favoured by tradies and farmers to now being the vehicle of choice for many city dwellers.
In 2010, ute sales in New Zealand totalled just 10,000. These days one in five new vehicles sales in this country is in this segment.
But six years ago, the name “ute” covered single cab and double cab varieties. Now the big five-seater crew cabs are often classified as trucks or, as Holden NZ prefers, pick-up trucks.
And six years ago the most luxurious of accessories in the utes would have been cupholders. Now you can have heated leather seats and reversing cameras.
A frequent top-selling vehicle in New Zealand is now the Ford Ranger ute used around town or for trips with the stand up paddle board to the beach, or with mountain bikes to forest tracks.
To reiterate this change in consumers and their use of utes, when Holden launched its Colorado recently there wasn’t one tradie featured in its glossy sales brochure. Instead it featured urban settings and lifestyle use.
The facelift Colorado is priced from $39,900 for the entry level single cab LS to $66,990 for the five-seater Z71 crew cab automatic.
“We have been able to maintain carry-over pricing for two-wheel drive models and just a $1000 increase for four-wheel drive variants,” said Holden NZ managing director, Kristian Aquilina.
“The value equation offered by Colorado is better than even before, with new standard features equating to thousands of dollars of added enhancements.”
The new model features a new interior and redesigned exterior, as well as improvements to ride comfort, cabin quietness, vibration and handling. It also gains MyLink system with colour touch screen and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, auto headlights, LED daytime running lights, seven airbags and electric power steering are standard across the range.
The top of the range LTZ and Z71 trims add a new level of safety and convenience with Front Park assist, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, tyre pressure monitor, power folding exterior mirrors and rain-sensing windscreen wipers.
The Colorado also recently gained a five star Ancap safety rating,
The facelift Colorado comes with Holden’s 2.8-litre diesel engine plus payload and towing capability, at 1-tonne and 3.5 tonnes respectively. There are six speed manual and automatic transmissions plus two and four-wheel variants.
The hard-working capacities were shown at the motoring media launch in Christchurch during in a city drive with a variety of towing and weighty contractor-style items placed in the tray of the Colorados.
One Colorado had to tow a digger on a trailer that weighed a total of 2.5 tonnes, while a roller and trailer combo was 2 tonnes. On the back tray of two the vehicles were payloads of 200kg and 550kg.
The task showed the difference in driving capacity and the ability to tow on steep roads around the Port Hills.
Holden has realised that to gain traction in this popular segment you have to be more car-like than tradie-friendly so the Colorado has had enhanced ride and handling. It has a lighter feel around the city and at low speeds but on the motorway the handling firms up.
Day two saw the Colorados head to Lees Valley, where low range four-wheel-drive was engaged on the mountain climb up a dirt track and hill descent control was used downhill.
Both circuits — city and country — were to prove the Colorado’s usage to the extreme but back in Auckland, I tested a Colorado LTZ to see what the vehicle was like to live with in urban settings.
Sitting on 18in alloys and with sports bars, the LTZ was priced from $60,990 and came with cloth seats, forward collision alert and head up warning, lane departure warning plus front and rear park assist.
Thanks to the reversing camera, I could fit the 5361mm long truck in my carpark space without having to make a 10-point manoeuvre.
A spring clean-up of my property saw the Colorado put to utilitarian use rather than snowboarding for the weekend — as per Holden’s glossy brochure.
A great place to check out motoring trends is your refuse centre on weekends. Where once it was dominated by station wagons towing laden trailers, now the majority of vehicles dumping their rubbish and gardening surplus are utes.
Two full loads of looped branches and gardening debris, plus a trip to the refuse centre with broken household wares, proved the Colorado’s everyday use — plus ease of driving at city speeds and at over 100km/h.
My negative about the LTZ was minor; it only had four hooks in the tray rather than six to secure netting or to tie down loads. So if you had flimsy cargo such as branches, your netting would secure only the front and rear, not the sides. That meant we had to use a tarpaulin to cover the gardening debris and then secure the net in the four hooks.
As I said, only minor. And I’d probably pay the $4000 more for the Z71 and its heated leather seats that would be more user-friendly and could easily be wiped down, especially after muddy trips to the refuse centre.