2015 Chevrolet Colorado

DEL MAR, Calif. — 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 has undergone any significant upgrades in nearly a decade.

While the Tacoma's huge fan base will keep it chugging along, we see the Bowtie brand pulling away because by nearly every measurement the Colorado is a superior vehicle —horsepower and torque from its two available engines (check), towing capacity (check), payload (check), ride and handling (check), braking (check), quiet interior (check), passenger space including rear seats in the crew cab (check), gas mileage (check), standard and optional features (check).

As early evidence of the Colorado's expected popularity, truck buyers had placed 30,000 orders before the first new pickup reached a showroom.

“Many people like the ‘can-do’ spirit of a truck, but they want a vehicle that is easier to maneuver in traffic and easier to park at work or at home,” said Tony Johnson, Colorado marketing manager. “For them, bigger is not necessarily better. “Also, they don’t want to give up the latest in convenience and safety features, which aren’t available on current midsize pickups. For those customers, the new Chevrolet Colorado is the perfect choice.”

We were instantly impressed with the urgency the 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 242-horsepower five-cylinder engine it replaces. Once we got away from the beach community and on a stretch of highway, a push of the pedal resulted in a sudden surge of power. Likewise, merging onto Interstate 5 was a performance revelation. This horsepower and torque also translate into 7,000 pounds of towing capacity, best in segment.

We found the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that makes 200 horsepower and delivers 191 pound-feet of torque a solid base engine. For people not needing — or desiring — the bigger engine, the new powerplant should be a perfect fit. We took an extended cab outfitted with the four-banger on the same slow and fast route and were impressed at its capability to do all the chores of driving life in exemplary fashion.

Both engines are mated to a six-speed automatic. Gone forever, we presume, are GM's now-outdated four-speed transmissions. 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. Four-cylinder numbers have not yet been released.

We of a big body structure found the front seats exceptionally accommodating with maneuvering room between the door and the center console, and 45 inches of leg room. Also impressive is rear-seat leg room in the crew cab, which was not the case in the outgoing Colorado. As with all mid-sized trucks, the rear seats in the extended cab should be reserved for children or very small adults. That area is best suited for storing stuff.

We marveled at the solitude offered by the well-appointed and attractive cabin, due in part to the triple-sealed doors inlaid in the body sides improving aerodynamic performance resulting in a quieter interior. 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.

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.

Cab and bed configuration choices include an extended cab model with a 6’ 2” bed, a crew cab with a 5’ 2” bed and a crew cab with a 6’ 2” bed. With the tailgate down, the 6’ 2” bed allows hauling of eight-foot-long items.

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.

The Colorado has many selling points and we think one the biggest will be price. Chevrolet officials say the new pickup will come in from $6,000 to $10,000 less than a comparably equipped full-sized Silverado. Price has been one of the reasons the mid-sized segment has shrunk over the last decade — prices have edged so close to the full-sized truck, buyers have had one less reason to purchase mid-sized.

If the main goal of the new pickup was to leapfrog the competition, we concluded after a day on the streets, highways and interstates in this Southern California beach community that Chevrolet has met that goal, with room to spare.

— Jim Meachen