Chevrolet Colorado is a mid-sized pickup for people who do occasional hauling, tow light trailers, or need four-wheel drive to reach their favorite sporting site.
Narrower and lower than a full-size pickup but not necessarily shorter, Colorado offers two cabs: An Extended Cab with rear doors that open opposite the front and a Crew Cab with four conventional doors. Extended Cabs have two compact, forward-facing rear seats good for kids or child seats, while Crew Cabs use a three-person bench with head and legroom approximating the space of a full-size pickup with an extended cab.
All Chevrolet Colorado pickups have roomy bucket seats in front.
Load capacity ranges from 1,400 to 1,600 pounds, more than some full-size pickups. Maximum towing capacity is 7,000 pounds. As with all pickups you can’t carry and tow maximum weights simultaneously.
Useful Silverado bits that trickled down to the midsize Colorado include bed lights and cargo control systems, corner bumper step and rail grab handle, and a locking tailgate with backup camera. The primary compromise in pickup utility comes from wheel arches too close to put a 4×8 sheet flat on the bed floor; they’ll need to be carried above the wheels with some 2×6 or 2×8 cross planks. Tailgate opening width is about 55 inches so your quad or watercraft may fit.
The base model Chevrolet Colorado is powered by a four-cylinder engine, with manual transmission, rear-wheel drive, no back seats, vinyl upholstery and flooring, and few options. This is best for the most budget-conscious or as a blank canvas for a custom truck. Features and options progress upward through Colorado WT and Colorado LT to the Colorado Z71 top trim. A fully loaded 2015 Chevrolet Colorado will hover around $40,000.
A rearview camera is standard and you can get forward collision and lane departure warning systems, but at least for now you cannot get those warning systems on the Z71 with our favorite suspension setup. OnStar is available on most 2015 Chevrolet Colorado models and now offers 4G LTE communications and serves as a Wi-Fi hotspot. Data pricing varies on use and whether you are an OnStar subscriber. The pilot/machine interface is easy to use and includes Bluetooth streaming, text alerts, internet radio and so on.
Engines include a 200-hp four-cylinder and a 305-hp V6, almost all with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Both perform well. The four-cylinder tows up to 3500 pounds. Given the choice, we’d recommend the four-cylinder if you’re using your Colorado as a second car, V6 if you plan on towing or four-wheeling. EPA ratings are better than those of the similar-size Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma, but they’re also just one or two miles per gallon better than those of a full-size Silverado V6 or Ram HFE and lag behind ratings for a Ram 1500 diesel.
Colorado’s twin brother GMC Canyon has a much different appearance, slightly different trip computer/data screen operation and different packaging. It may appear to cost more but do the math: Canyon comes standard with alloy wheels, has a higher shipping charge and includes basic maintenance for a couple of years. If you want a more premium vehicle, go for the GMC, if you want more value, go for the Chevy.
Your debate between a Chevrolet Colorado Extended Cab with 2+2 seats or a Chevrolet Silverado regular cab with three seats, or Colorado Crew Cab V6 versus Silverado Double Cab V6, will come down to which gets top priority: cost and the features you want, styling or garage width consumed because loads, fuel economy and maneuverability are typically within 10 percent of each other.
Beyond its bowtie badges, squared fender apertures, tail lights and corner-step bumpers the Chevrolet Colorado doesn't share much styling with the Silverado from which it is derived. It looks much more a world truck than its brother, the GMC Canyon.
With no regular cab, the shortest Colorado is longer than some full-size pickups but typically a half-foot narrower and not as tall. A Colorado long-bed Crew Cab has the same wheelbase as some full-size four-door pickups and needs the same roadway to make a U-turn, but they'll all fit in a typical 20-foot long garage.
The rear view is typical pickup: bumper that doubles as a step, vertical tail lights and a none-too-discrete badge. A locking tailgate is standard and most can be optioned with assist so it lifts easily and doesn't crash open if you let it go. The rear view camera is here too, so don't grab the lens with your hand still holding a tool. A receiver hitch and 4/7-pin plugs adjacent the license plate are the tow package, but without it there is still a frame crossmember to avoid dragging the spare tire or rear bumper off obstacles.
Bed depth is nearly 21 inches regardless of length and 55 inches wide at the gate. More important the space between the wheel-housings is less than 45 inches, so ubiquitous 4×8 sheets of building materials will go in the back but they will not lay flat on the floor. There are moldings in the side to lay 2x6s across to make a deck for those 4×8 flats. Four tie-down loops are standard but there are 13 attachment points for accessory cargo management systems.
The profile of the Colorado is defined by the windshield slope, upswept rear side window base and character line rising behind the front wheel, some of it reminiscent of a Toyota Tacoma. No surprise the Colorado's roof is the only panel shared with Chevy's world truck. All that upswept styling leaves a tailgate chest-high to a six-footer, where you may see only the motorcyclist's helmet in the rear-view mirror.
A big-bar grille is the only semblance to family lineage up front, the angled-back lights and corners not nearly as blunt those on the Silverado. The projector headlamp and LED running light arrangement for upper trims looks better, and more aggressive, than the standard lights but lacking darkness we can't say which, if either, performs better.
Chevrolet Colorado's cabin is basic pickup in bucket seat form. Materials are appropriate for truck use and upper trims are nicer but don't expect anything like High Country luxury here. And if you don't like black and gray you're out of luck.
Visibility from the driver's seat is good. Even the price-leader has a power seat cushion for the driver, and some have that on both sides and welcome power lumbar as well; recline is manual across the board. There's plenty of room for those well beyond six feet, but some of those might wish for a longer seat cushion or a lower center armrest.
Extended Cab rear seats are accessed by aft-hinged doors you can open to nearly 90 degrees when the front doors are open. The big clamshell opening makes it easier to load kids or child seats in the minimal rear buckets, or slide awkward objects in. Clamshell doors are less convenient in tight situations, such as parking lots, however. Rear seats in Extended Cabs are for kids of short-term less-than-average-height adults; competitors are in the same boat. There is some storage below the seat cushions, though the separate release seems unnecessary when you could just lift the cushion past a detent.
Crew Cab rear occupants are treated much better and your 6-foot-plus correspondent got in without becoming stuck in the roof. A 6-foot passenger could not comfortably get in with the same size driver, but for a small family this is plenty of space.
The Colorado dashboard echoes that of the Silverado, with switches for the headlights and four-wheel drive functions moved beneath the left vent rather than next to it. We prefer the ergonomic alignment here, and there's good visibility of instruments. Gauge gradations are blue and the small cluster offers data on oil pressure, transmission fluid temperature, fuel economy and most truck controls; it's run by the menu and end-button on the signal stalk.
Center-stack display screens vary by model from a 4.2-inch monochrome to 8-inch color with navigation. All the infotainment functions work well, including Siri eyes free, the 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot and text alerts, and there are plenty of input choices, our only wish was more choices in map scales.
The console shifter uses a +/- thumb rocker for manual gear changes, after you've moved the lever to M.
Cupholders and storage areas in the center console, doors and glovebox were more than sufficient for our traveling circus.
Unlike the full-size Chevrolet Silverado truck, the Chevrolet Colorado uses car engines, a 200-horsepower four-cylinder or a 305-horsepower V6. The four-cylinder can be found in the Cadillac ATS, while and the V6 is similar to what's in the Camaro. So, refinement and high-revving power are not issues in the Chevrolet Colorado.
But they do have a minimum of two tons to haul around. The four-cylinder drives around town well enough and cruises easily on the highway, but even with its 4.10:1 axle ratio any call for power will bring a few downshifts and lots of revs. We found our freeway merge was approaching 60 mph at 6000 rpm in second gear. The 6-speed automatic is programmed for economy and upshifts at the first opportunity, so it shifts frequently in undulating terrain or winding roads where you vary throttle often.
Shifts are firm and reassuring, neither hammered home nor slush-like. The 6-speed manual price-leader is so rare we didn't get to sample one and expect real-world economy wouldn't be appreciably better than the automatic.
The V6 revs even more than the four, more than once making a full-throttle shift in the tachometer's red zone (6500 rpm, but peak power is at 6800) and amusingly it felt no more refined in those reaches. The V6 clearly makes more power than the four (with 40-percent more torque), but it's also geared 16-percent higher and similarly programmed for economy so it behaves quite similarly.
Using Tow/Haul mode on the V6 acts like a sport mode, not upshifting at first chance and was our choice when not just cruising highways or plodding through traffic. It rev-matches for cleaner downshifts and has grade-control braking, but we recommend trailer brakes for any weight of consequence.
All Colorado models use the same all-disc brake package, with a nice firm pedal, quick response and good modulation. You might think a lighter 2WD four-cylinder would stop better with the same brakes but don't plan on it; most pickups stop just as well with some weight in the back.
Steering assist is electric and has decent directional stability with no dead zones off center and adds effort quickly so you're aware of cornering forces. There's plenty of roll stiffness so the body rarely leans much in corners, it changes directions well, for a truck. We thought 2WD four-cylinder models offered the best handling.
Ride quality is solid in these pickups. An empty truck does have some rear-end kick on bumps, common for vehicles designed to carry 1400-1500 pounds, and perhaps more noticeable here than in some full-sizes because payload is a greater percentage of truck weight. As is often the case, we found the Z71 suspension setup gave the best comfort/handling compromise.
We were pleasantly surprised how solid the Colorado felt. The Extended Cab models had none of the squeaks, rattles and groans that usually result from a 25-square-foot hole in the side of a body structure. Indeed, the Colorado is far and away the quietest pickup in its class. It seems quieter than a lot of cars and SUVs as well.
Colorado 4WD uses an electrically switched part-time system with low-range; there is no on-highway 4WD automatic mode. Any Colorado except a 2WD automatic can be flat-towed, such as behind a motorhome, but none is approved or recommended for snow-plow use.
Load ratings range from 1410 to 1590 pounds, less with any weighty options or passengers aboard. All Colorado models are rated for a 3,500-pound trailer; a V6 with tow package is rated to 7,000 pounds. The top GCWR (truck, trailer and everything in them) is 12,500 pounds: a well optioned truck, 1400 pounds of friends, gear and trailer tongue weight and a 6,000-pound boat. It handled a 4500-pound trailer with no problems. For routine trailer loads at 6,000 pounds or boxy camper shells we'd step up to the heavier Silverado and better mirrors.
The Chevrolet Colorado boasts better EPA numbers than mid-size competitors and we observed everything between 14 mpg and 23 mpg. However, a V6 Silverado is only 1-2 EPA mpg behind, a Ram 1500 diesel is better, and we expect the F-150 2.7 to come very close, so don't consider this 75 percent of a full-size pickup and expect to get 25 percent better mileage.
Chevrolet Colorado brings a new standard of refinement and contemporary safety features to the mid-size pickup market, with a size that may be just right, like Goldilock's porridge. If you don't need a three-person bench seat or a flat-floor for 4x8s, it's just the combination of payload, towing and 4WD to replace a 10 or 15-year-old full-size half-ton.
NewCarTestDrive.com G.R. Whale filed this report after his test drive of Chevrolet Colorado models near Del Mar, California.