The base-level four-cylinder engine has been bored out from 2.8 to 2.9 liters, and the 2007 model produces 185 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque. That's 10 horsepower and 5 more pound-feet than 2006. The optional five-cylinder engine has been enlarged from 3.5 to 3.7 liters for 2007, for 242 horsepower and 242 pound-feet, up about 20 over the 2006 figures.
Other improvements for 2007 include a smoother-shifting automatic transmission, a more powerful 125-amp alternator, a standard tire-pressure monitor, and brighter interior trim.
Chevy Colorado was designed for comfort and favors roominess, ride comfort and fuel efficiency over traditional truck virtues such as payload and towing capacity. That's a strong selling point because mid-size trucks are often bought as alternatives to cars, and their owners want more hip room, leg room and head room. Most are willing to sacrifice bed length for cab room.
We think the trade-offs have paid off. The Chevrolet Colorado rides smoothly and feels refined. Order the five-cylinder engine and it accelerates smartly. The Crew Cab features a roomy back seat that's surprisingly comfortable and not bolt-upright. Yet the Colorado fits into tight parking spaces, something that can't be said of full-size pickups. Like all the trucks in this category, the Colorado is substantially smaller and more maneuverable than full-size pickups such as the Dodge Ram or Chevy Silverado. These are important benefits because even those who frequently use pickups to perform genuine truck duties spend most of their time driving with an empty bed.
But don't get us wrong: The Colorado isn't a car with a bed. In fact, the Colorado provides all the trucking capacity most owners will ever use. It has a six-foot bed with Regular and Extended Cabs, and a five-foot bed on Crew Cabs. A properly equipped Colorado is rated to tow 4,000 pounds, enough for transporting ATVs, dirt bikes, personal watercraft, bass boats, and small camping trailers. For most consumer needs, Colorado is more than enough truck to get the job done.
Colorado also offers a utilitarian Regular Cab work truck, a relatively inexpensive vehicle for buyers who want a tool for their work. All told, about a hundred permutations of the Colorado are available, giving buyers lots of choices to fit their needs.
Chevrolet Colorado Z85 LS Regular Cab 2WD ($14,910); Z85 LS Extended Cab 2WD ($17,510); Z71 LT Extened Cab 4WD ($21,890); Z85 LT Crew Cab 4WD ($23,810); ZQ8 3LT Extended Cab 2WD ($24,060); Z71 2LT Crew Cab 4WD ($25,670)
Colorado looks like a downsized and slightly Picasso-ized rendition of the full-size Silverado, beginning with its bold chrome horizontal-bar grille and multi-lens headlamps. The lamp assembly has a flying wedge contour, higher at the outside, and houses high and low beams, daytime running lamps and turn signals. On models so equipped, fog lamps are inset into the bumper.
Overall, the Colorado has a clean, modern look. The fender bulges are angular and aggressive, more so than Silverado's. The leading edge of the front fender flares isn't finished elegantly, however. Reach-through door handles allow a full handful of grip for easy opening, even with gloves.
The Crew Cab looks well balanced despite the extra cab length. Cargo boxes are 6-foot, 1-inch on Regular and Extended Cab models and 5-foot, 1-inch on Crew Cabs. A two-position locking tailgate, which opens to 55 degrees or to fully horizontal, provides more cargo utility. When the tailgate is partway down, the Colorado can carry a 4-by-8 foot sheet of plywood flat, supported by the wheel wells and the rear edge of the tailgate.
Ride height varies by suspension grade and has a dramatic effect on the truck's appearance. The ZQ8 Sport models look slammed with their lower ride height; although with 18-inch wheels for '07, their minimum ground clearance is just about an inch less than that of the standard 2WD Colorado. The standard Colorado has about 7.4 inches of ground clearance with 2WD and 7.7 inches with 4WD, varying slightly with cab style. The Z71 off-road suspension raises the ground clearance to around 8.8 inches, with 2WD or 4WD.
All Crew Cab and Extended Cab models ride on a 126-inch wheelbase, while Regular Cab models ride on a 111-inch wheelbase. Overall length is 207 inches for all but Regular Cabs, which are 192 inches long. Overall height is about 65 inches for the standard Z85 suspension, 68 inches with 4WD.
Chevy Truck dealers offer a range of accessories, including a bed extender, hard and soft tonneau covers, tubular assist steps and splash guards. All can be installed at the time of delivery and can be financed as part of the deal.
Otherwise, however, Colorado's interior is swathed in hard plastic that's not finger friendly but should prove to be durable, important in a working truck. Inside door releases feel solid and sturdy, but have the same hard feel. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is well cushioned, however, and feels good in hand and should remain comfortable for the long haul.
The optional front bucket seats are wide and soft, and lack lateral support, whether upholstered in cloth or leather.
Each door panel has a molded map pocket contoured for a bottle or can. The center console has cup holders that look capable of handling a variety of drink containers. The center armrest opens into a small storage space, big enough for a large wallet, but it wobbles when pushed. A small tray on the console is useful.
Instruments are traditional white-on-black with orange needles. They are easy to read and don't hide their functionality with artsy markings. This practical approach continues to the center stack. No ground-breaking innovation here, just straightforward knobs and dials that don't require a postgraduate degree to operate. Turning on the dome light requires fumbling around for a small thumbwheel, however, which we found difficult while navigating in pre-dawn darkness. For this reason, we recommend the optional electrochomic (automatic-dimming) rearview mirror, which features map lights, compass and outside temperature display. Light switches on mirrors often lead to thumbprints and frequent mirror adjustments, but in this case they're a step up.
The Crew Cab's back seat is surprisingly comfortable, particularly when compared with the back seats of old-generation compact Crew Cabs. There's a reasonable amount of leg room, especially with a little cooperation from those sitting in front, and the seat is comfortably high. The seatback angles back slightly, making it more comfortable than the bolt-upright backrest found in some other pickups. The wide cabin provides enough shoulder room for adult males, but don't expect the width of a full-size pickup. Getting in and out of the back seats is a little awkward because the door is relatively narrow and you have to swing your feet in to clear the wide B-pillar (the post between the front and rear doors).
Forget about sitting in the back of an Extended Cab. It has back seats, but they're only good for hauling kids short distances. The rear seats flip down, providing a good place for cargo and with modifications it would be okay for a medium-size dog. The rear doors are rear hinged, meaning they swing open suicide-style.
Up until 2007, the standard Colorado engine has been a 2.8-liter inline-4 rated at 175 horsepower. It delivered acceptable acceleration, and seemed adequate for most mid-size pickup-truck duties, particularly when paired with the five-speed manual transmission. We expect the new 2.9-liter version, with 185 horsepower at 5600 rpm and 190 pound-feet of torque at 2800 to perform better, but not dramatically so.
For 2007, the optional inline-5 displaces 3.7 liters and develops 242 horsepower and 242 pound-feet of torque, up from 220 and 225 for 2006. That might make more of a difference, although it's still a bit weak compared to the optional 4.0-liter V6 engines in the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier, both of which rate north of 260 pound-feet of torque. Dodge Dakota's top V8 boasts 310 pound-feet of torque now, and will have 320 for 2008, but the Dakota is a bigger, heavier truck. In the Colorado's defense, we should point out that the inline-5 sustains its peak torque over 90 percent of its rev range, which is important when hauling heavy loads or towing trailers. The maximum towing load for the Colorado with the five-cylinder engine and automatic transmission is 4000 pounds, compared with 6500 for the V6 Tacoma, 6100 for Frontier, and 7150 for the max-V8 Dakota. On the other hand, Colorado runs happily on 87 octane regular. Toyota recommends (but does not require) premium for its V6.
A five-cylinder engine is an unusual configuration for a U.S. vehicle, but German automakers have been using them for years. Mercedes-Benz offered five-cylinder diesels in the '70s, and Audi's premier engine was in inline-5 from 1977-91. More recently Volvo has adopted the straight-five idea. All of these engines produce a distinctive, siren-like sound at full throttle, and so does the five-cylinder Colorado. At cruise, however, GM's five-cylinder is quiet, and there's no indication that it's anything out of the ordinary. If you like inline-6 engines better than V6s, then you'll like the inline-5 just fine. It's much more responsive than the four-cylinder and delivers quicker acceleration. It's also smoother. Just don't mention the number of jugs it has in a cowboy bar.
Both Colorado engines were derived from the Vortec 4200 inline-6 used in the Chevy TrailBlazer. GM lopped cylinders off the six to get the five and four. These are modern engines featuring all-aluminum construction, dual overhead camshafts with four valves per cylinder, variable valve timing, electronic (drive-by-wire) throttle control, and a high 10:1 compression ratio.
For 2007, both Colorado engines are not only larger (thanks to a bigger, 3.76-inch cylinder bore), but greatly improved, with larger intake and exhaust valves, revised cam profiles, new 2M electronic control module, and a number of refinements to reduce noise.
Colorado accelerates decently in traffic and the Hydra-Matic 4L60-E four-speed automatic should shift even smoother in '07, thanks to a new input speed sensor. But goose it on loose gravel or dirt, and the traction control system shuts down the power and the Colorado bogs. We discovered this when trying to merge into fast-moving traffic from a pebbly roadside. The traction control override button, located high on the dash, can be used in such a situation, but obviously you'll need to think that through in advance. In snow, however, the traction control should help in taming the pickup's lightly loaded rear end.
The brakes are big and m
Chevy Colorado offers the increased roominess of the newest generation of mid-size pickup trucks. Anyone looking for a smaller truck that's not cramped on the inside, but is still capable of handling a respectable load or pulling a lightweight trailer, should find the Colorado a good choice. Load three dirt bikes on a trailer, and assorted gear in the bed, and three bikers and a couple of hangers-on can head to the track. Or take the kids to soccer practice and bring home a dozen bags of mulch. The Colorado handles it all with aplomb.
John Matras filed the original report from rural Pennsylvania; with NewCarTestDrive.com editor Mitch McCullough reporting from Southern California; and John Katz in Pennsylvania.