2020 Chevrolet Colorado — Flexibility, capability, comfort and value

By Russ Heaps
Clanging Bell

(March 27, 2020) Long on versatility and capability, but short on driver-assist technology, the 2020 Chevrolet Colorado is up to meet a variety of roles and pocketbooks. Once upon a time, smaller pickup trucks based their popularity on being among the most inexpensive rides on the road. No flash, little comfort and modest utility, models like the Mazda B-Series/Ford Courier of the 1970s and 1980s weren't much to look at and bare bones at best, but they were cheap to buy and own. They were the darlings of delivery-truck fleets for auto-parts stores everywhere. To realize how times have changed, look no farther than the 2020 Chevrolet Colorado.

Unlike those bargain boxes of decades past, today's fleet of smaller (midsize) trucks – no longer so small, really – can attribute their popularity to being competent people and cargo movers capable of being decked out to the nines. When appropriately outfitted, they can tow impressive weights, seriously off road and look quite at home pulling up to the country-club valet.

Having spent time behind the wheel of several versions of the 2020 Colorado, I am ever more impressed with its styling, flexibility, capability, comfort and value. I am not so impressed with the quality of its interior materials that feel beneath the Colorado standards. Likewise, I'm not pleased that Chevy eliminated the available manual tranny for 2020. I understand it, but I'm disappointed in the decision.

What's New?

Chevy pretty much left Colorado alone for 2020. Other than shifting a feature or two from the options column into the standard-equipment column, Colorado returns unchanged. What is new, the locking tailgate can be locked/unlocked with the key fob in the LT, Z71, and ZR2 trim levels. Standard across the board is the new tire-fill alert to warn you when you've added the recommended amount of air to the tires.

What Are the Trim Levels and Pricing?

Chevy offers Colorado in five grades: Base, Work Truck (WT), LT, Z71 and ZR2. All prices are for the base engine, rear-wheel drive and Extended cab/Long Box configuration in each trim. Included is the factory delivery charge. Four-wheel drive is available on the WT (+$3,900) and LT (+$3,700), and standard on the Z71 and ZR2. There are numerous stand-alone options on all but the Base trim.

Anchoring the lineup, the Base trim with Extended Cab is $22,395. This is Colorado's version of bare bones grade, but still comes standard with the 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine and 6-speed automatic transmission, 16-in silver-metallic steel wheels, capless fuel filler, locking tailgate, six air bags, 3.5-in driver-info center, tilt steering wheel, front bucket seats with center console, full power accessories, manual climate control, 4-way power-adjustable driver's seat, rearview camera, Infotainment 3 System with 7-in color touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity, voice command, 6-speaker audio system, two USB ports, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto.

The WT rings the register at $25,895, adding such standard features as upgraded 16-in wheels, carpeted floors with carpeted floor mats, and split second-row seats with storage. It also opens the door to a multitude of options not available on the Base truck.

Next is the LT at $28,795 that adds 17-in aluminum wheels, body-color exterior accents, EZ-Lift/Lower tailgate, remote keyless entry, remote locking tailgate, 4.2-in color driver-info center, Chevrolet Connected Access capability, 8-in touchscreen, cruise control, HD radio, HD rearview camera, interior lighting, leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, steering wheel-mounted redundant audio controls, OnStar capability and satellite-radio capability.

Following the LT is the Z71 at $36,695, which loses the split rear seat with storage. It adds the V6 engine and 8-speed automatic transmission, 4WD, automatic-locking rear differential, hill-descent control, hitch guidance, off-road suspension package, upgraded 17-in aluminum wheels, heated outboard mirrors, fog lamps, manual sliding rear window, projector-beam headlamps, 4-way power front-passenger seat, automatic climate control, heated steering wheel, auto-dimming rearview mirror, rear-park assist, rear-window defogger, and wireless phone charging.

At the top of the Colorado heap is the ZR2 at $42,890, which loses the rear-park assist and the auto-locking rear diff, but adds back in the split rear seat with storage, as well as, driver-selectable full-locking front/rear differentials, trailer-brake control, tow-haul mode, trailering package, Off-Road Appearance Package and spray-on bedliner.

How Can Colorado Be Configured?

The possibilities seem endless, particularly if you are sitting in a dealership trying to decide the ideal Colorado for you. Available to all five trim levels are the Extended Cab with the 6-ft 2-in long box. All, but the Base Colorado can opt for the 5-ft 2-in short-box Crew Cab. If you want the Crew Cab with long box, you'll need to stick with the WT, LT or Z71 grades.

Colorado offers three engines and two transmissions that are somewhat tied into the cab configurations. Standard in the Base, WT, LT and Z71 is a 200-hp 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that generates 191 lb-ft of torque and can tow up to 3,500 lb. Distributing the power is a 6-speed automatic transmission. The government estimates its RWD mileage at 20 miles per gallon in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. Opting for 4WD drops those numbers to 19 mpg city/24 mpg highway.

Optional on the WT, LT and Z71, and standard on the ZR2 is a 308-hp 3.6-liter V6 that develops 275 lb-ft of torque and can tow up to 3,175 lb. An 8-speed automatic tranny sends power to the wheels. Estimated fuel numbers are 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway in RWD WT and LT models. It's 17 mpg city/24 mpg in 4WD WT and LT models. The numbers drop in the ZR2 AWD to 16 mpg city/18 mpg highway.

Optional on the LT and ZR2 is a 186-hp 2.8-liter turbo-diesel that generates 369 lb-ft of torque and can tow up to 3,493 lb. RWD LT versions get 20 mpg city/30 mpg highway, while 4WD LTs deliver 19 mpg city/28 mpg highway. In the ZR2 mileage drops to 18 mpg city/22 mpg highway.

How Does It Drive?

Thanks to its up-to-date underpinnings, the Colorado delivers a surprisingly smooth ride. Certainly smoother than its Toyota or Nissan rivals. If all you need out of your truck in the way of real work is making a few trips to the home-improvement store, you will probably be quite happy with the 4-cylinder engine that accelerates with moderate enthusiasm. Boasting that 26 mpg mileage on the highway is pretty darn good for a pickup. The steering is responsive, too.

Owners more serious about their Colorado's utility or get-up-and-go will be happier with the V6. It's about all the engine anyone needs in a midsize truck. Working well with the 8-speed tranny, the V6 is actually a blast to drive. Of course, the real workhorse of the bunch is the turbo-diesel that can tow a segment-topping 7,700 lb when appropriately equipped.

Serious off roading falls to the ZR2 grade. I've been over some fairly gnarly ground with this version and it can go just about anywhere it's pointed. Chevy has engineered it for off roading at speed and minor rock crawling. For more serious rock crawling, the ZR2 Bison sports several upgrades from American Expedition Vehicles, an aftermarket outfitter specializing in off-road equipment

Which One Is Best for You?

Truck owners are a different breed. And they certainly don't want to be told what to do, but if I were buying a Colorado, I'd go with the nicely equipped LT. It comes in well under $40,000 and provides a lot of bang for the buck. Heck, you can even include 4WD or move up to the V6 and still slide in under $41,000.