The Holden Trailblazer sometimes falls off the radar in a discussion about rough-and-ready $50K 4x4s. But it probably shouldn’t.
You could mount a solid case that Holden’s Trailblazer is one of the market’s sales under-achievers, battling to match fellow light ute-based wagons the Isuzu MU-X, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, Ford Everest and Toyota Fortuner.
Indeed, Isuzu, a much smaller company in the grand scheme than Holden’s parent GM, is selling three-times more MU-Xs than what the Trailblazer is currently managing, despite the pair sharing a number of key components.
Is it a lack of market awareness? The wrong badge? Poor marketing? Who knows. What we can say is the Holden is certainly not without its positive attributes, if what you want is a body-on-frame 4×4 with seating for seven and a diesel engine made for towing…
We’re revisiting it here not because there’s anything new, but simply because we haven’t touched one in a while and try to keep every review on the site as ‘current’ as we can.
The best way to think about the Trailblazer is as a Colorado ute/pick-up turned into a wagon, with more passenger-friendly rear suspension but unmistakable commercial origins, setting it apart from a monocoque, car-like Toyota Kluger or Mazda CX-9.
That means you’re supposed to get it dirty.
Here we’re testing the Trailblazer in its mid-tier LTZ-spec grade, with a nominal RRP of $52,490, which is on a par with an entry-grade Everest Ambiente. It’s also cheaper than the Isuzu MU-X LS-T.
With that said, all of these 4x4s are subject to regular discounts and campaign pricing, so it’s variable. You should be able to pick up a low-km demonstrator Trailblazer LT-Z for under $50K drive-away. It’s a big lump of 4×4 for that money.
Driving the Trailblazer is the same 2.8-litre turbo-diesel engine used in the Colorado and made by Italian firm VM Motori. It makes 147kW peak power at 3600rpm and a class-topping 500Nm of peak torque (pulling power) at 2000rpm, about 1200rpm above idle point.
It’s matched as standard to a six-speed automatic with manual override for towing/off-roading. There’s also a two-speed transfer case operated via a rotary dial that switches you from rear-wheel drive on sealed roads to low-range (4L) or high-range (4H) wheel you’re off-road, the latter on-the-fly.
It’s a pretty potent engine, actually. Rolling acceleration is excellent, and it takes little time to get up and running, even with a heavy trailer connected.
Trailer weight capacity is 3000kg provided you have an electronic brake controller unit doing its thing, 500kg less than the Colorado’s on account of its heavier kerb weight (2.2t). Commendably, Holden’s ESC also comprises a trailer-sway control system.
It’s a little coarse, however. Out test car had an unusually high (for a press loan car) 20,000km on it, and there were some vibrations through the cabin and wheel at idle. It’s not a refined, fuel-saving diesel donk like a Kia Sorento’s – it’s made to work.
We averaged fuel use of 9.6L/100km over our 300km test loop, comprising highway and urban roads, and some off-road trails. With the 76L tank full, this would give you a range of just under 800km between servo stops.
One of the Trailblazer’s assets is its ride and handling balance, thanks to a rework from Holden’s Victoria engineering team at the time the Trailblazer replaced the pre-update Colorado 7. Like the Ford Everest, it was tuned in Australia, and loves our roads.
The Colorado’s load-bearing rear leaf springs are gone, replaced by a coil-sprung, five-link live-axle set-up that, while not the last word in sophistication, gives the right amount of articulation. There are double wishbones at the front.
Click through to our gallery for many more photos of the Trailblazer in off-road testing.
The Trailblazer floats over sharp hits like potholes or corrugated gravel without jiggling cabin occupants needlessly, while the body settles back into equilibrium after speed bumps or lateral cornering forces as well as could be expected for a body-on-frame behemoth.
The electric-assisted power steering is effortless around town, much less resistant than the hydraulic set-up in an MU-X, though traditionalists still prefer the latter. School run mums should beg to differ, there. The turning circle is 12m. Stopping the Trailblazer are 300mm/318mm front/rear discs.
The Holden is pretty adept off-road as well, though the side steps mess with clearance, and keener off-roaders may want to swap out the 265/60R18 110T Bridgestone Duelers, given the propensity to slip about on really wet clay/mud. A full-size spare is mounted under the body.
Holden claims a 28-degree approach angle, 25-degree departure angle and 22-degree break-over angle. There’s 218mm of clearance and a maximum 600mm wading depth.
It’s all pretty idiot-proof. There’s a helical LSD, hill-descent control, rollover mitigation and hill-start assist to help out, you can grab 4H on-the-go, and if you pull up and pop the gearbox into neutral, the 4L gearing engages quickly.
The bluff bonnet makes forward visibility limited over crests, but that’s not uncommon. For occasional adventures, an unmodified LTZ will take you every bit as far as its competitors will. Holden may have downsized its dealer network, but it still has a stronger-than-average presence in regional Australia should things go pear-shaped.
The Trailblazer’s cabin feels very much like a Colorado’s, meaning it lacks touches for the tactile-minded but comes with plenty of equipment. The chunky American-style design of the bold buttons should appeal to the core demographics, though the plastic and ‘leather’ trims feel pretty downmarket. This is not uncommon for GM product, we’d add.
Standard stuff includes Remote Start, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with sat-nav, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto phone mirroring, a ‘premium’ audio system, fake-feeling ‘leather-appointed’ seats with heating, climate control, tyre-pressure monitor, digital radio, crisp-enough Bluetooth, dusk-sensing headlights, and rain-sensing wipers.
There are also seven airbags, plus a 2016 ANCAP five-star crash rating. Other safety amenities include a rear camera, front/rear sensors, and a good array of tech including lane departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring – a little light in the big side mirrors if something is hovering at your rear three-quarter.
There’s no AEB, but there is a forward collision alert unit above the instrument binnacle that flashes and beeps if you’re not braking quickly enough to avoid an object. All this tech should appeal to grey nomads off on a long adventure, in particular.
A big gripe is the lack of telescopic adjustment on the steering column, which reduces the ergonomic breadth. It’s the same story for the Everest and MU-X. We’d also like pricier LED headlights in place of the halogen units, given their superior illumination in dark regional areas.
The back seats offer roof-mounted air vents, plenty of storage areas and access to a 12V outlet for a USB charging adaptor or similar. There are also ISOFIX points for child seats, and the big side windows are easy to see out of.
The middle seats rather elegantly scrunch forward and slide on rails with one lever, giving decent access to the third row, which offers sufficient space for two teenagers. Like the MU-X, the Holden is a proper seven-seater. When these back-most seats aren’t in use, they fold flat, unlike the Fortuner’s clumsy seats that clip to the roof.
Cargo space with all seven seats in use, up to the roof, is 235L, though the actual floor is only big enough for smallish cases by surface area. Fold the back seats and this grows to 878L. There’s also a spot to stow the cargo cover, though the floor is high as a result.
From an ownership perspective, Holden has a standard three-year/100,000km warranty, though it’s in the habit lately of offering five-year terms. Haggle for that. You also get free roadside assist for the warranty term and can take a 24-hour test drive.
The service intervals are nine months or 15,000km – better than the Fortuner’s six-month/10,000km intervals, but inferior to the MU-X and Everest’s 12-month/15,000km. Holden capped-price servicing will cost, by visit, $299, $399, $479, $479 and $299. Quite reasonable.
Which brings us to the conclusion. There’s no real reason why the Trailblazer sells in such lowly numbers, beyond a lack of recognition or perhaps something lacking in Holden’s reputation – all the more reason to buy with that five-year warranty…
It’s a little rough around the edges, but it’s also big, spacious, capable and well-equipped, everything it says on the box. It’s also more affordable than the Everest, bigger inside than the Pajero Sport, and has more tech than the Isuzu.
Click through to our gallery for many more photos of the Trailblazer in off-road testing.
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