Reviews

Ford vs Holden 4WD Utes

We compare the Holden Colorado and Ford Ranger 4WD utes

The Holden Colorado and Ford Ranger are similar in some ways – both are nearing the end of their respective model lives, are built in Thailand, and are one half of a twin (the Isuzu D-Max and Mazda BT-50 respectively). They are both three-litre turbo diesel, five-speed manual and well spec’ed utes, with many of the specifications carrying over to the base model single cabs we most see on farms across the country.

HOLDEN COLORADO

Holden has a 10 model Colorado line-up, with three 2×4 and seven 4×4 in the range. Due a facelift later this year, the LT black double cab ute is an exceedingly easy vehicle to live with. The Colorado, at the listed price of $52,500 for the five-speed manual (four-speed auto adds $2100), is one of the most complete trucks on the market.

Standard interior fitments not matched by some other competitors include Bluetooth, cruise control, cruise computer and a push-button select 4WD that has stood the reliability test, having been released on the Rodeo more than six years ago.

On the road

There is a distinct diesel hum at the legal open road limit that, while not obtrusive, is certainly a reminder of the motive power. I have come to appreciate the easy going nature of the truck. You need to stir it through the gears to get performance on steeper roads and for towing, of which it’s capable of moving 3000kg braked, but the easy shift gearbox is well weighted. Combined with a light clutch, this makes for relaxed travelling; even when empty the ride is firm. The tail doesn’t bounce about except on metal surfaces where a stab on the 4WD high button will tidy it up immediately.

Fuel use varies from 9.3L/100km to nearly 11L, depending on load road conditions and how much of a hurry you’re in.

Off the road

Engaging 4WD or low is easy and quick, the standard LSD takes care of the forward motion when one of the leaf sprung rear wheels leaves the surface, and low first will idle feet over most obstacles.
With careful driving most Holdens, even on road tyres, cope with the deep and wet sticky stuff.

I took the Colorado over our farm test track, which includes steep hills, creek crossings, cross axleing ditches and some rough undulating ground, as well as the odd rabbit hole. Nothing caused an issue, with the low ratio button easily finding the best engine braking cog.

The removable tow bar dug gouges in the dirt at some entry points, though it didn’t impede progress and never felt stressed or felt like stalling the ute. The side steps weren’t bent or disruptive in “normal” farm driving.

Interior

The front seats are supportive and comfortable, but there is no lateral support for the back seat passenger.

The Colorado is well set up, with large exterior rearview mirrors, electrics for windows and mirrors, as well as remote central locking, cruise control and Bluetooth.

The cruise computer is awkward to use near the speedo, needing a finger pressed down on it each time you want change the info. It was accurate, however, and a valuable addition.

The load area of the tray, backed up by a removable liner as an option, is easy to access. It has a lock on the tailgate so you can add a lockable plastic lid or a canopy for extra security.

FORD RANGER

The Ford range extends over nearly 20 models and variants, from the 4×2 single cab 2.5-litre 105kW to the three-litre Wildtrack with the 115kW 380Nm turbo diesel that powers all the rest of the range. The range includes cab chassis, wellside, single cab, super cab and double cab models.

The original Ranger was released nearly six years ago and updated in ‘09. It remains a firm favourite of fleet buyers, with rural servicing companies purchasing large numbers of them. I drove both the Ranger XLT and the Wildtrack that retails at $60,812.

On the road

The taut chassis complements the front independent, double wishbone/torsion bar suspension and rear leaf springs to provide a remarkably comfortable ride, laden or empty. Allied to the torquey three-litre turbo diesel, it gives a real sense of a strong performer.

Although Ford makes no claims of improvements to the Noise Vibration and Harshness (NVH) readings, the overwhelming feeling is one of a much quieter and more compliant ute. This was evident in both the 2.5-litre, two-wheel drive and the five-speed auto. The four-cylinder diesel motors are well matched to the work expected of the Ranger and, like most common rail diesels, are quiet on the move.

Loaded with 1410kg for either variant, the ride remains the same, but the balance of the weight needs to be kept as far forward as possible on the double cab.

The 2.2m long flat deck 2WD also shrugged off a load, and also carried some building materials with ease.

I also hitched up a horse float and two horses, with a gross trailed weight of 2.5 tonnes. As with most diesels, take off is slower than a petrol equivalent, though hills seldom slowed proceedings as the peak torque occurs at 1800rpm. The three-litre Ranger’s 380Nm of torque and 115kW provided ample though not neck snapping acceleration.

Off the road

In April 2009 I drove the Ranger over steep, rocky climbs, slow, muddy tracks and some trick ditches, and the 4WD drive performed admirably.

There’s no petrol model, but I have always been a strong proponent of diesel automatics as the torque characteristics match well and this was proven when I briefly drove a borrowed auto offroad. I flicked the rotary dial mounted beneath the transmission selector (easier to engage than the manual) into low ratio and selected second and the Ranger went where it was pointed. Across and along dry creek beds and over the fallen logs and branches, the 207mm ground clearance ensured little terra firma rubbed the well protected undersides.

Interior

The Ranger is well set up for five people, with upholstered and contoured front and rear seats. Belts for five and a good air conditioning system are standard, as are ABS, remote central locking, and air bags. Entertainment via an iPod/six-stack CD/radio stereo and fast glass is standard in the 4WD XLT.

The Wildtrack double cab 4WD comes complete with many options such as integrated roll bars, 18-inch alloys, sliding roller shutter tray covers, special graphics, and interior gauges for altimeter, inside/outside temperature gauge and a compass, all mounted high above the centre of the dash.

The verdict

Both utes provide versatility, comfort, reasonable economy and are well proven.

The best ute in this comparison depends on your needs. Both provide excellent ride and handling, and satisfactory (though not class-leading) performance. Both will be reliable and handle 3000kg on a braked trailer, in manual form. If you’re happy to swap the cogs yourself, the Colorado with cruise control, cruise computer and Bluetooth for $3000 is the answer. If you need an auto then the five-speed auto Ranger eclipses Holden’s four-speed model in both performance and fuel consumption. The best option may depend on the deal you do with your local dealer.

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