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2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71: Smaller, but not necessarily less capable

By Chris Chase

Feb. 27, 2015

It’s easy to get frustrated at the increasingly massive size of full-size pickups: they’re tall and hard to load people and cargo into, and their added mass makes them rolling blind spots for drivers sharing the road in smaller vehicles.

A mid-size truck such as the Chevrolet Colorado (and its GMC Canyon twin) is a welcome solution. This scale of truck is not new: this is the second generation of these trucks, and they share the marketplace with the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier. What’s surprising is that GM has jumped back into the mid-size game, given the runaway popularity of full-sizers: GM’s Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, Ford’s F-150 and Dodge’s Ram brand have a tight hold on the truck segment, sales-wise, and it’s been rumoured for some years that the days of small- and mid-size trucks were numbered.

Pros & Cons

  • + Ride comfort
  • + Automatic transmission
  • + Touchscreen display
  • - Not much low-end torque
  • - No graceful way to get in or out
  • - Rear seat space
Read the full review
  • Walkaround

    The Colorado’s smooth lines seem at odds with its mission as a work vehicle, but that’s only in comparison to the industry norm, which favours sharp edges and mine’s-bigger-than-yours grilles that border on the ridiculous; here, you get a front end that wouldn’t look out of place on a crossover like the Traverse. The rear is where you see a stronger family resemblance to the larger Silverado.

    This new Colorado casts a shadow not much smaller than full-size trucks did 20 years ago, a refreshing change from the current truck segment’s in-your-face mindset of late.

  • Interior

    Much like a Tacoma I tested a few months ago, the Colorado has step bars to ease entry and exit, but their height makes them better at getting in the way than anything else. To a point, it’s understandable: if they were much lower they’d limit the truck’s ground clearance in off-road situations, but I’d sacrifice that for a truck that’s easier to get in and out of.

    Things are better once you’re inside: the front seats are comfortable, if a little short in the bottom cushion, and there’s plenty of headroom, helped by my test truck’s lack of a sunroof.

    If you’re used to full-size crew cab trucks, you’ll be disappointed in the Colorado’s rear seat, which offers about as much legroom as a roomy compact car. The rear seats fold up out of the way, but discard any hopes of creating a flat load floor for bulky items: under the seat is a storage bin that holds the tools for changing a flat tire.

  • Tech

    Trucks have gone just as high-tech as cars: my Colorado tester had Chevy’s MyLink communications and entertainment system, which is notable for striking a good balance between touchscreen functions and hard buttons below the screen. It also seemed largely unfazed by cold weather, with little lag or delay in functionality on even a minus 25-degree morning.

    Colorado scores another tech plus with its three USB ports. The one in the centre console is the only one that connects a device to the stereo, but the two on the rear of the armrest are handy for charging other devices while on the move.

  • Driving

    Whatever GM’s suspension engineers did here, they did it well: the Colorado rides surprisingly smoothly, with a lot less of the pitching around that an unloaded truck normally does. That contributes to a truck that’s very easy to live with on a daily basis: visibility is good, the steering is light, and the tight turning circle makes the Colorado quite manoeuvrable.

    In crew cab form, only the truck’s overall length becomes an issue in tight parking situations; you’ll be grateful for the standard backup camera.

    My only doubt about driveability has to do with the engine. GM’s 3.6-litre V6 is a good motor, but is a better fit in a sport sedan like the Cadillac ATS or CTS than in a pickup: there’s not a load of low-end torque, so quick acceleration requires high revs and lots of noise. There’s a rumour of turbo diesel power coming to this truck at some point (evidence of its compatibility is seen behind the fuel door, where there’s a blank spot for a diesel exhaust fluid filler neck), and it would be a better fit than a high-revving V6.

    In Z71 trim, the Colorado includes a locking rear differential, and it works well, aiding traction on slippery surfaces. That’s a notable thing because, while my tester had 4WD, it’s not an automatic system. You have to twist a dial to select four-wheel mode and it can’t be used on dry pavement, so anything that improves grip in, say, snow, of which there was a lot of while I had this truck, is a valuable thing.

    In 4WD form, the V6 is rated at 13.5/9.8 L/100 km (city/highway); cold weather pushed my city average well into the 16 L/100 km range, and an 800 km highway trip saw an average of 11.4.

  • Value

    My tester was a Crew Cab 4WD model with the Z71 off-road package, which starts at a tick over $36,000, but options added more than $3,000 to that. This is where you’d think the argument for a mid-sizer starts to fall apart: for $40,000, you could score a plenty nice full-size truck with higher payload and towing capacities.

    However, a Colorado 4WD Crew Cab will tow 3,175 kg with the optional trailering package, and will carry up to 721 kg worth of payload, which stands up pretty well to a V8-powered Silverado 4WD’s 871 kg payload and 2,903 kg tow rating. Start kitting out a Silverado and this $40,000 Colorado looks like a bargain: the Silverado Double Cab (with less rear seat room than the Colorado Crew Cab) starts at $35,000 with its 4.3-litre V6 and 4WD.

    Keep in mind that the Z71 model is the top Colorado trim; if you can live without its off-road add-ons, you can save a couple thousand bucks with the LT, which is otherwise decently equipped. There’s a base model called WT (for “work truck”), but be warned that it doesn’t include much in the way of creature comforts. We’d peg the LT as the best value of the bunch, which is why the truck I drove doesn’t score super marks in that category.

  • Conclusion

    A mid-size truck will never be a beast of burden to the same degree as a full-sizer, but there are buyers out there for whom a smaller truck is all that’s necessary. The smaller footprint and lower price are a bonus for those buyers, never mind not being forced to buy more vehicle than you need. If you miss the way trucks used to be – both in terms of size and simplicity – GM’s got a truck well worth looking at in the Colorado.

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