Chevrolet Colorado — New benchmark for mid-sized pickups

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Chevrolet's goal was to leapfrog the competition with its all-new 2015 Colorado mid-sized pickup. Actually that's not such a lofty goal. There are only two major players left in the shrinking segment — the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier — and neither have undergone any significant upgrades in nearly a decade.

In fact, the Colorado represents the first all-new mid-sized pickup in the U.S. market since the Dodge Dakota and Ford Ranger were phased out in 2010 and 2011 respectively. The newest Chevy is a significant upgrade from the previous generation Colorado — last produced in 2012 — in overall size, driving dynamics, interior quality, horsepower, fuel economy, and payload and towing, sacrificing little when compared to the standard half-ton.

For instance the full-sized Chevrolet Silverado with a 6.5-foot bed of 20 years ago is actually shorter than the new Colorado. Although the Colorado crew cab with a 6-foot-2 box, and a length of 224.9 inches (it should fit in the garage) and a 140.5-inch wheelbase, is large by 1995 standards, it's still 15 inches shorter than the comparable 2015 Silverado 1500. Cab and bed configuration choices include extended cab and crew cab models with a either 6’ 2” or 5’ 2” beds.

The Colorado carries a modern design with dramatic styling, and the well-appointed and attractive cabin is car quiet due in-part to triple-sealed doors and improved aerodynamics. Also, sound-deadening materials are used extensively, and designers paid special attention to the lower back of the cab structure to cut down on wind noise.

We were instantly impressed with the 3.6-liter V6 that Chevrolet figures will be chosen by more than 70 percent of buyers. It generates 305 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque, a big increase from the five-cylinder engine it replaces. A push of the pedal results in a sudden surge of power, and merging onto fast-moving highways was a revelation. The horsepower and torque also translate into 7,000 pounds of towing capacity, best in segment.

For comparison purposes, the Colorado crew cab with the V-6 engine has been measured from 0-to-60 in 7.1 seconds with a quarter mile time of 15.5 seconds at 91 mph. Stopping performance is also good measured at 131 feet from 60-to-0.

We also drove the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that makes 200 horsepower and delivers 191 pound-feet of torque in extended cab format and found it a solid base engine. For people not needing — or desiring — the bigger engine, the smaller powerplant should be a perfect fit and capable of accomplishing the chores of life.

Both engines are mated to a six-speed automatic. For those who just adore a manual transmission or who are looking for the lowest priced Colorado, there is a six-speed shift-it-yourself available.

Gas mileage has been addressed by Chevrolet resulting in segment-leading numbers of 18 mpg city, 26 highway and 21 combined for the V-6 with rear-wheel drive, and 17/24/20 for all-wheel. The 4-cylinder has been EPA-rated at 20/27/22.

As with all pickups, the Colorado comes in a myriad of configurations. Models and trim levels include Work Truck (WT), LT and Z71. The off-road-inspired Z71 features a gunmetal grille surround — a change from the chrome standard on the other models — projector headlamps and 17-inch aluminum wheels with all-terrain tires.

As you might expect from a new model, the Colorado is loaded with the latest technology and infotainment features. Chevrolet MyLink is standard on LT and Z71 models. It combines with OnStar to bring connectivity technology to Colorado at a time when more and more consumers are buying smartphones. MyLink complements the safety and security of OnStar with information and entertainment that’s seamlessly connected, allowing intuitive smartphone integration into the vehicle so that hand-held phones may be safely stowed while driving.

One of the reasons the mid-sized segment has shrunk over the last decade is that prices edged so close to the full-sized truck, buyers had one less reason to purchase mid-sized. While Colorado has many selling points we think one of the biggest will be its pricing coming in from $6,000 to $10,000 less than a comparably equipped full-sized Silverado.

Prices start at $20,995 for a regular-cab two-wheel drive 4-cylinder work truck with manual transmission. Our extended cab WT manual test truck with a convenience package and a MyLink system priced out at $23,415. The V-6 work truck with automatic transmission starts at $24,535. The more popular LT trim crew cab starts at $26,045 for the 4-cylinder with automatic and at $27,280 for the V-6. Our 4X4 LT crew cab test truck with V-6 and several desirable options carried a bottom line of $37,830.

Base price: $20,995; as driven, $37,830
Engine: 3.6-liter V-6
Horsepower: 305 @ 6,800 rpm
Torque: 269 foot-pounds @ 4,300 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive: four-wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 140.5 inches
Length: 224.9 inches
Curb weight: 4,450 pounds
Turning circle: 44.6 feet
Towing capacity: 7,000 pounds
Payload: 1,520 pounds
Fuel capacity: 21 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 24 highway, 17 city, 20 combined
0-60: 7.1 seconds (Car and Driver
Also consider: Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier

The Good
• Powerful, fuel efficient engines
• Quiet, attractive interior
• Excellent tow rating
• More manageable size

The Bad
• No diesel engine option

The Ugly
• Top trim models can exceed 40 grand