Holden Colorado 7 LTZ v Isuzu MU-X LS-U v Mitsubishi Challenger LS review

Take one 4x4 ute, remove the original body from the chassis, shorten the wheelbase, replace the rear leaf springs with coils and the rear drum brakes with discs, and then add a wagon body. Well Mitsubishi, Holden and Isuzu have done exactly that, turning their respective Triton, Colorado and D-Max utes into the Challenger, Colorado 7 and MU-X.

The Line Up

  • Mitsubishi’s Challenger is the oldest vehicle here, released first in 2009. The Challenger was then updated in 2011 and then again in 2012. 
  • In mid-2013 the 2nd Generation Challenger received another facelift and gained its current look, the model range was simplified and the seven-seat option was also dropped.
  • The Colorado 7 and the MU-X are much newer and share common chassis/body DNA although they employ completely different powertrains and differ also in many details like suspension specifics and ancillary equipment.
  • Isuzu’s MU-X, which shares its basic chassis and body shell with the Colorado 7, arrived just after the revamped Colorado 7 and has been unchanged since.
  • The relationship between the MU-X and Colorado 7 exactly mirrors the relationship between the D-Max ute and the Colorado ute.

Power 

Mitsubishi Challenger LS

4x 4 Comparison IMG_2565

Powered by a 2.5-litre four-cylinder diesel that first appeared in the Triton ute in 2009, a few months before the Challenger was launched. In the Triton it replaced the long-serving 3.2-litre four-cylinder diesel and, despite the smaller capacity, it claimed more power and torque. Mated to the standard five-speed manual, this engine is rated at 131kW and 400Nm but with the five-speed automatic, as tested here, the maximum torque is reduced to 350Nm.

Specifications

  • Engine - 4cyl turbo diesel
  • Capacity - 2477cc
  • Power - 131kW @ 4000rpm
  • Torque - 350Nm @ 1800rpm
  • Gearbox - five-speed automatic
  • 4X4 System - dual-range full-time+2WD
  • Crawl Ratio - 28.2:1
  • Construction - separate chassis
  • Front suspension - independent/coil springs
  • Rear suspension - live axle/coil springs
  • Tyre/wheel spec - 265/65R17 112S 
  • Kerb Weight - 2051kg
  • GVM - 2710kg
  • Payload - 659kg
  • Towing capacity - 3000kg
  • Seating capacity - Five
  • Fuel tank capacity - 70 litres
  • ADR fuel consumption* - 9.8 litres/100km
  • On-test consumption - 12.7 litres/100km
  • Touring range** - 501km

_____________________________________________________________

Holden Colorado 7 LTZ

4x 4 Comparison IMG_2572

The Colorado 7 has a slightly bigger 2.8-litre four-cylinder diesel from Italian diesel specialist VM Motori. This is essentially the same engine as seen in the Jeep Wrangler. The Colorado 7 claims a substantial 147kW and 500Nm and is backed by a six-speed GM auto, the only gearbox option available with this vehicle.

Specifications

  • Engine - 4cyl turbo diesel
  • Capacity - 2776cc
  • Power - 147kW @ 3600rpm
  • Torque - 500Nm @ 2000rpm
  • Gearbox - six-speed automatic
  • 4X4 System - dual-range part-time
  • Crawl Ratio - 36.4:1
  • Construction - separate chassis
  • Front suspension - independent/coil springs
  • Rear suspension - live axle/coil springs
  • Tyre/wheel spec - 265/60R18 110T
  • Kerb Weight - 2205kg
  • GVM - 2820kg
  • Payload - 615kg
  • Towing capacity - 3000kg
  • Seating capacity - seven
  • Fuel tank capacity - 76 litres
  • ADR fuel consumption* - 9.2 litres/100km
  • On-test consumption - 11.2 litres/100km
  • Touring range** - 629km

____________________________________________________________________

Isuzu MU-X LS-U (auto)

4x 4 Comparison IMG_2579

With a bigger engine again, a 3.0-litre four-cylinder diesel that claims 130kW and 380Nm. This Isuzu diesel is the latest iteration of the engine used in the previous generation D-Max and Colorado and in the last of the Holden Rodeos. The MU-X comes with either a five-speed manual or the five-speed automatic as tested here. The auto in question is made by Japanese automotive component supplier Aisin and comes from the same gearbox family. 

Specifications

  • Engine - 4cyl turbo diesel
  • Capacity - 2999cc
  • Power - 130kW @ 3600rpm
  • Torque - 380Nm @ 1800-2800rpm
  • Gearbox - five-speed automatic
  • 4X4 System - dual-range part-time
  • Crawl Ratio - 32.6:1
  • Construction - separate chassis
  • Front suspension - independent/coil springs
  • Rear suspension - live axle/coil springs
  • Tyre/wheel spec - 255/65R17 116S 
  • Kerb Weight - 2168kg
  • GVM - 2750kg
  • Payload - 582kg
  • Towing capacity - 3000kg
  • Seating capacity - seven
  • Fuel tank capacity - 76 litres
  • ADR fuel consumption* - 8.4 litres/100km
  • On-test consumption - 10.5 litres/100km
  • Touring range** - 674km

Performance 

More significant than any performance difference here is the way the three engines mate to their respective gearboxes and their refinement and noise levels.

The Colorado 7’s diesel isn’t particularly quiet or refined but the gearbox does have the smartest shift protocols and does what you want most of the time.

Whereas the Isuzu’s engine is relatively refined and quiet and on this count is the best here. The gearbox is also smooth shifting but often seems too keen to select a taller ratio and in give-and-take driving in hilly terrain it can often be too indecisive. 

And the Challenger’s engine is the smoothest of the three but still rather noisy, while the gearbox lacks the communication with the engine of the other two, particularly the Holden. Of the three it’s the one you are most tempted to drive in the gearbox’s manual mode something that’s encouraged as it’s the only vehicle here with steering wheel shift paddles.

On - Road

None of these wagons offer anything that’s special in terms of on road handling or ride quality, which is largely a reflection of the fact that they are all born out of commercial vehicles.

Of the three, the Challenger is slightly lighter and smaller, and feels sportier. But it also has the firmest ride and the least road-noise isolation. But it does benefit considerably from its ‘Super-Select’ 4x4 system, which effectively combines the attributes of full time and part time 4x4 systems. Like any conventional full time 4x4 (e.g. a Toyota Prado), the Challenger has a centre diff so it can be driven in 4WD on high traction (sealed road) surfaces, something you can’t do with a part time 4x4, as per the other two vehicles here. With the Challenger you can select 2WD, something you can’t do with a conventional full time 4x4.

All of these vehicles are much more stable and predictable in four-high on loose and corrugated gravel, but where the Colorado and MU-X demand that 2WD be selected every time you hit a sealed road, the Challenger is happy either way.

Off - Road

All three vehicles are genuinely capable of going well off road, even on the standard tyres, provided you don’t run into too much mud. Change the tyres to something more aggressive and perhaps fit a bar for some frontal protection and improved approach angle, and they are all good to go. 

The Challenger is a little different from the other two in as much as it has a driver-switched rear locker as standard. But this is perhaps not the universal ‘fix it’ that you may think, as engaging the rear locker cancels the electronic traction control (ETC) on the front axle as well as the rear axle. That means you have the choice of ETC front and back, or a locked rear axle combined with an open front axle.

Interior and Safety

Once again the Challenger is the odd man out here. Where the other two seat seven, the Challenger seats five and has a smaller cabin overall. It also has a four-star ANCAP safety rating whereas the other two are five-star ANCAP – despite all three having six airbags and electronic stability and traction control.

The Verdict

In this company, the Challenger is very different from the other two but above all feels like an older design despite its technical features such as its Super Select 4x4 system, rear locker and paddle shifters. There’s also no doubt that it’s better as a manual than an auto and of all the variants of the three vehicles here, the base-spec manual Challenger is the cheapest, at least in terms of list price.

If the Colorado 7 appeals on paper due to its much stronger power and torque numbers, then you’ll probably be disappointed as it doesn’t live up to either, especially its 500Nm claim. However, it still has the best performance, the smartest gearbox and the backing of Holden’s extensive dealer network. But it’s not the winner here. 

That honour goes to the sharply priced and well-equipped MU-X, which feels more refined and more comfortable, and does more with less. Unlike the Holden, it also comes with the option of a manual gearbox.

 

For the full review pick up a copy of 4x4 Australia's #371 December Issue.

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