“Don’t worry about small scratches,” he said, pointing to the scuffed-up door mirror.
This wasn’t going exactly to plan. The plan had me renting an international-market Chevrolet Colorado during my vacation in Thailand and delivering you, dear reader, with an early review of the truck on which to base expectations for the U.S.-market model before it hit the LA Auto Show. I get to write-off my rental and you get a review. Everybody wins.
I should have known it wouldn’t work out that easily. I should have known that deciding to rent from a local, family-run chain instead of one of the big international rental agencies would mean the cars wouldn’t necessarily be new. I should have known $40 a day, even with a favorable exchange rate, was too good to be true. I should’ve known something was amiss when there was no picture of the truck on the website. I should have known we’d already posted a First Drive story on the new international Colorado from a freelancer nearly two years ago.
What was ever-so-conveniently delivered to my hotel that morning was not the shiny new Colorado I was hoping for. It was a previous-generation truck, which means it was new sometime between 2008 and last year, though by the looks of the very uninspired styling in and out, it could well have been twice as old. In fact, it’s not really a Chevy so much as it is a re-skinned Isuzu D-Max (Isuzu and Chevrolet still have a close relationship internationally). The new truck, for what it’s worth, is not an Isuzu.
Forget the plan then. I’ve got an extended cab pickup with a diesel engine and a manual transmission and places to go. Thankfully, I’m also armed with a Garmin window-mounted GPS unit which has been set to English by the rental company. Unfortunately, it still occasionally dings and displays what appears to be a warning in a red box on the screen, but unlike literally every other label on the screen, it’s still in Thai rather than English. I still have no idea what it was trying to tell me. No bother, then.
Driving in Thailand is, as you’d expect, different than America and Europe. For one, they drive on the left side of the road and the right side of the car, British/Australian/Japanese-style. There are more scooters than even the densest European cities, though like the Europeans, they do a good job of avoiding you so you don’t have to worry constantly about avoiding them. In and around town, it’s not all that different than driving anywhere else, other than the propensity to double-park wherever it’s most convenient to the driver.
Out in the countryside, it’s a different story. Lane discipline is not a concept that’s made the jump from urban to rural. Cutting whatever lane lines you please on a multi-lane road is commonplace, so you have to be ever vigilant when overtaking, especially on corners. I’m going to give Thai drivers the benefit of the doubt and assume they’re all racing drivers at heart, always headed for the apex of the turn regardless of what the lines in the road say. It’s frustrating enough when people in the lane next to you slide halfway into your lane while negotiating a bend in the road. It’s downright terrifying when a van comes around a blind corner traveling the opposite direction in your lane while overtaking another van. I’m not entirely certain my truck had any airbags at all, and I’m glad there was no one in the next lane over.
Also absent on my truck was much evidence of tire tread. This made the drive to the top of Thailand’s highest peak, Doi Inthanon at 8,415 feet, all the more exciting. It tends to rain in Thailand on a daily basis and anyone from a wet or snowy climate can confirm that driving uphill in a rear-wheel drive truck with no weight in the bed and only 161 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque available is an adventure in peg-leg burnouts. At least it wasn’t as painfully slow as the 1.3-liter gas-powered Suzuki SJ413 (a two-door Samurai with a tiny bed) I’d rent later in the trip. I’m not sure if that was the 63- or the 66-horsepower model.
To be fair to the Colorado, it was a good little truck. Sure, there were no frills other than the radio, and I do mean no frills -- it didn’t even have a heater, though that makes sense since it’s never less than 78 degrees outside. When kept on the boil, the turbo diesel four-cylinder had enough power to get out of its own way and while the shift throws were long, the gates were clearly defined. When the road wasn’t wet, the truck even handled pretty well for what it was.
In summary, the plan didn’t work, I didn’t drive the new truck and you didn’t get a fresh perspective on a vehicle related to one available soon in America. Instead, I made some great memories in a utilitarian runabout and you got to read a mildly amusing story.
Everybody still wins. Mostly.