Chevrolet is patting itself on the back and most of the automotive media are ladling on the praise for Chevy’s new “mid-size” pickup, the Colorado.
The later probably has more to do with ad dollars being spent in the national publications, but there’s some justification. Yet let’s not go too full-bore crazy here, this is simply a slightly smaller pickup.
First, the idea of a mid-size truck has been out there a while, witness the Dodge Dakota. Years ago, Ford and Chevy both made compact pickups too, the S-10 in Chevy’s case. DO NOT confuse the Colorado with the S-10.
As trucks have gained popularity, they, like cars, have grown in size and stature. So this second generation Colorado is still big, just not as big as a full-size Silverado.
Let’s take some stock of the differences. But first note that the Colorado comes in two styles, Extended Cab and Crew Cab. Gone is a Standard cab without extra cargo room behind the front seat. Extended cabs now are the norm. The bright red test truck was the crew cab, which gives you full-size rear doors and a second row bench seat. This allows five people to ride in the Colorado comfortably, with rear seat room being particularly generous.
But here are the numbers you need to consider. The Colorado rides on a 140.5-inch wheelbase, just three inches shorter than a full-size Silverado. A Colorado is 224.9 inches long, just 5.1 inches shorter in length than a Silverado. The width is where you’ll notice the most difference when riding in a Colorado, as it is just 74.3 inches wide, about 5.7 inches narrower than Silverado. You’ll notice that in a lack of elbow room. More on that in a minute.
So dimensionally the Colorado is slightly downsized from a Silverado. One hopes that pays off in fuel economy and price. Well, one out of two ain’t bad!
Pricing is less. A base Colorado Crew Cab, known to Chevy as a Work Truck model, begins at $25,205, including delivery. For that you get a 200-horse 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine. A base Silverado 1500 Crew Cab begins at $35,425, including delivery. It features a 285-horse V6.
For our purposes here let’s consider gas mileage too, which I know is less a concern at this moment as a gallon has dipped below $2. But the tested Colorado Z71 4WD with long box averaged 18.0 miles per gallon for me in 750+ miles of driving, including a long highway run to Cable, Wis., and back. None of my truck-driving buddies were impressed as they can get nearly that in a full-size Silverado when not towing. I wasn’t towing.
The EPA rates this model at 17 mpg city and 24 highway, which is about the same as a V6-powered Silverado Crew Cab with 2-wheel-drive. My Colorado had 4WD. Even so, I was expecting well over 20 mpg. The first long run I made in this WAS in zero-degree weather and on that one it averaged just 16.75 mpg. In a 300-mile run when the temperature climbed into the teens, I got 19.0 mpg, so only moderately better.
So any economy you’ll get most likely will come from the purchase price.
How does it drive? Like a pickup.
Ride is the Colorado’s strong point with a less bouncy truck ride than many I’ve tested. Rough roads create some bounce, but it’s well controlled and generally a pleasant ride. I also like the handling as the steering is moderately responsive, much less vague than a full-size pickup. Steering effort though is fairly heavy, even when it 2-wheel-drive mode.
Braking is fine too, with four-wheel discs, and stability and traction control are standard There’s an easy to use knob on the dash to the wheel’s left to allow the driver to choose 2- or 4-wheel-drive, and a low setting is available too. That all works well and I did get to drive this in snow several times. Traction was fine.
Power is sufficient with Chevy’s new 3.6-liter V6. It creates 305 horsepower and 269 lb.-ft. of torque. It feels strong when you mash the gas pedal, but in normal driving the 4,450-lb. pickup feels heavy and loves to downshift when you slow for a moment and then accelerate again. That creates a bit of hesitation as the 6-speed automatic goes through the downshift and then creates a fair amount of engine noise.
Cruising on the highway you’ll notice the interior is fairly noisy, as is the Silverado interior. There is a roar from the road noise that requires you to speak loudly to other cab occupants.
Still, the exterior looks sportier and more interesting than the more blocky and chunky Silverado models. That counts for something in the cool factor, and you can be sure Chevy is aiming this at younger truck buyers who are going for an image enhancement as much as needing pickup functionality. Colorado’s interior is clean and masculine looking too.
There’s a macho dash with squared styling and a big touchscreen mid-dash. The test truck featured gray and black cloth/leatherette seats and a black dash along with fake carbon fiber trim on the console and door armrests. Seats are firm and fairly sculpted, with the butt pocket being tight. Larger drivers will definitely want to move up to Silverado.
I noticed too that I felt more confined in this cockpit than the Silverado’s. The door armrests seem to push right up against me and my right arm found itself sitting on top of the console-mounted gearshift lever a lot. I’d prefer to see that lever move forward and the storage area at the front of the console moved behind it. That would create a roomier feel and make the open console storage bin more useful.
Gauges are simple and straightforward with a tach and speedometer separated by digital info area including trip info that’s controlled via a stalk to the left of the wheel. Wipers are on a stalk to the right. There are dual automatic heat dials on the center stack too. I found the automatic heater slow to warm my feet and then it would turn the fan speed down after warmup, allowing the feet to cool back down.
This model does come with a standard back-up camera and three-level heated front seats. There’s a remote to unlock doors too, but the truck was key-start, not push button. That’s fine with me, but was surprising.
Another surprise was how much flex there is in the Colorado’s hood. A rider commented that it was distracting and I agree. On a windy day I watched the hood wiggle for the entire 6-hour drive I was making. Might not bother you, but watch it during your test drive to see if it is a distraction.
The red test truck added a $500 premium Bose sound system, plus a $495 package with 8-inch touchscreen with navigation and Chevy’s MyLink audio system. A $250 trailering package put the options at $1,245. Add that to the base $34,415 sticker along with an $875 delivery fee and the truck ended up at $36,535. A comparable Silverado would be several thousand dollars higher.
On the truck usefulness front, the payload here is 1,520 lbs., while a base Silverado crew cab has a 1,800 lb. payload. This will tow 7,000 lbs., while the Silverado will tow 9,400 lbs. Also note that the locking tailgate is an EZ Lift-and-Lower model so it won’t bang down when you unlatch it. Also there is a corner step in the rear bumper to help you load the bed more easily.
Final word? Colorado is a fine driving pickup, but only marginally downsized from the full-size Silverado. If you need or want a pickup, but wish to pay less than for the large ones, this will do. If you’re thinking you’ll save a lot of gas, well, forget about it.
FAST Stats: 2015 Chevrolet Colorado 4WD Z71 Crew Long Box
Hits: Somewhat smaller pickup with comfortable ride, moderately responsive steering and better looks than full-size models. Less expensive than full-size and macho looking dash, standard back-up camera, easy adjust 4-wheel-drive, roomy second row seats.
Misses: Feels heavy like bigger pickups, gas mileage not much better, noisy interior, downshifts a lot when you need more power, tight seat butt pockets, flexing hood can be distracting and interior slow to warm, especially feet.
Made in: Wentzville, Mo.
Engine: 3.6-liter SIDI V6 VVT, 305 hp
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Weight: 4,450 lbs.
Wheelbase: 140.5 in.
Length: 224.9 in.
Payload: 1,520 lbs.
Tow: 7,000 lbs.
MPG: 17/24 (EPA)
MPG: 18.0 (tested)
Base Price: $34,415
Dealer’s Price: $33,569 (includes delivery)
Premium Bose audio system, $500
Chevrolet MyLink audio system w/-inch color touchscreen & navigation, $495
Trailering package, $250
Test vehicle: $36,535
Sources: Chevrolet, www.kbb.com