We recently learned GM is going to bring a version of its global-market Colorado to the United States. As of press time, we had no details about the engines or cab variants that will be available here, but Daniel Fernandez, who writes for Asian Auto, the leading English-language motoring magazine in Malaysia, had the opportunity to drive the 2012 Colorado that just went on sale in Thailand. It's most likely an indicator of what the American Colorado will look -- and drive--like. -- Ed.

We are in northern Thailand in the province of Chaing Rai for the test drive and launch of the all-new Chevrolet Colorado. The plan is to drive this all-new pickup truck over a mix of tarmac, gravel, and sand. Until now, most trucks sold in Thailand have been bare-bones models, built for low cost and solely for work duty. They lack a few important elements necessary to take in more sales from urban dwellers. They don't have the interior and ride comfort levels of a car, rear leg- and shoulder room for three adults, carlike interior features, or the all-important cabin noise insulation from the hard-working diesel engine. There's one other factor needed for urban success: It is essential to reduce the cost of running diesel-powered pickups, which consume more diesel when driving in the city, where urban start-stop traffic reduces the trucks' ability to save on fuel.

Most of these issues have been resolved with the introduction of the latest product from Chevrolet. The engineers have taken part of the new Chevrolet Captiva (a crossover sold in Europe, Asia, and Australia) dashboard and the gauge cluster from the Camaro to make the Colorado cabin user-friendly and modern. Chevrolet has introduced a new pair of class-leading diesel engines from GM's powertrain factory in Rayong, Thailand, as well as debuting a segment-first truck-chassis system. This redefines the global Colo-rado as more than just a traditional pickup: It's a pickup truck with an SUV interior and ride.

General Motors has announced the Colorado is coming to the U.S. We hope it retains the global truck's styling.

ON THE HIGHWAY
The Colorado's compromises in urban conditions are kept to a minimum. It offers easy entry and exit, thanks to its SUV height and a design that focuses on practicality and refinement. It's built with an ultra-rigid steel frame structure, which means ride and handling are much more akin to a conventional road car than many like-minded four-wheel-drive pickups.

Under the skin is an SUV-style control-arm suspension with coil springs and a stabilizer bar for the front. The rear has a semi-elliptical leaf spring live axle. On tarmac, the Colorado turns into corners very well, considering its tall 70-series tires, and it never feels lethargic when hustled along in city traffic. Its straight-line cruising stability is also exceptional, as we managed an easy 140 km/h (about 87 mph) on the highway with negligible wind and tire roar. The fingertip feel through the power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering is smooth and well-damped, and responsive front-wheel disc brakes (with standard ABS with PBA) return the braking performance of a SUV.

Another surprise is the automatic six-speed gearbox, which is exceedingly smooth with no hint of an abrupt kick-down prevalent in other pickup trucks. Even in manual mode, the gearbox works well, and its electronics help prevent balky gearshifts (an indicator will appear on the information display). The engine we tested is a 2.8-liter common-rail turbodiesel (180 horsepower at 3800 rpm with a peak torque of 347 lb-ft at 2000 rpm), and proved powerful enough to haul our fully loaded Colorado up the steepest slopes and around the tightest corners as we raced up the Mae Salong hill to Doi Chang Moob on the outskirts of Chaing Rai to the Thai-Burmese border.

The Chevy Colorado is built with an ultra-rigid steel frame and an SUV-style control-arm coil-spring suspension.

OFF-ROAD
We got a challenging off-road route to tackle using the stock trucks we had driven on the highway, and the Colorado completed the course with little or no issues. No one -- not even the die-hard 4x4 enthusiasts in the group -- had anything negative to say about the truck's off-road capability. Apart from the expected jolts and bumps over some rougher sections, the Colorado met the route's challenges rather well. The impressive torque from the new diesel engine allowed the truck to ride up steep, rocky inclines with little effort, needing only slight nudging of the accelerator pedal, and the ABS and panic brake assist easily managed the descents. The drive mode selector goes from rear- to four-wheel drive with a simple twist of the electronic knob selector located below the gear shifter.

WELL-DRESSED
This Chevy's looks are sufficiently rugged, with aerodynamic efficiency that accomplishes the neat trick of being robust and sporty at the same time, with SUV-like shoulders over the front wheel arches that complement the hammerhead headlamps. A set of foglamps is integrated into the front bumper, below which resides a metal skidplate to protect the powertrain from damage during tough off-road excursions.

Three cab configurations are offered: crew, extended, and regular. Only the crew cab was available for this test drive, and the cabin has a generous amount of space. The overall fit and finish and level of features within the spacious cabin are impressive and include the SUV-quality dashboard and a hands-free connectable Bluetooth CD/MP3/WMA sound system that is iPod- and USB-ready. The overall sound quality from this combination is good.

The airbag steering wheel has buttons to control the audio system, and the steering column and driver's seat are adjustable for reach and height. Smallish pockets in the front doors contain cup/bottle holders that can accommodate most beverage sizes. Some shortfalls include a console between the front seats positioned too far aft to serve as an armrest. Then there's the shallow, two-tier glovebox, whose bottom tier is so narrow that only a small PC tablet and service manual will fit. The top tier is of little use.

SAFETY FEATURES
For the Asian market, the Colorado comes with two airbags (LTZ version only). Safety features vary among models, and only the LTZ gets traction control, stability control, and panic brake assist, which increases braking force and triggers the ABS; hydraulic brake assist; cornering brake control (an extension of the ABS, TCS, and ESC systems to help the driver maintain control when the brakes are applied mid-corner); and hydraulic brake fade assist, which increases braking pressure when the system detects brake fade.

This new Colorado is sure to help GM's sales figures in this region. It comes with a bold, evergreen look that will not fade quickly, a decent-sized cabin, family-friendly interior features, and a powertrain that is frugal with diesel while producing impressive performance for the midsize pickup segment. In Asia, where this truck just went on sale, it's expected to be a clear sales winner, spanning the market from families to contractors.


2012 Global Market Chevrolet Colorado LTZ 4x4 Crew Cab
Base price range N/A
Layout Front-engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door pickup
Engine 2.8L/180-hp/347-lb-ft turbodiesel DOHC I-4, 4 valves/cyl
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Wheelbase 121.9 in
Length x width x height 210.5 x 74.1 x 70.3 in
Curb weight 4450 lb (mfr)
GVWR 6834 lb
Max payload capacity N/A
Max towing capacity 7716 lb
EPA city/hwy fuel econ Not rated
On sale in Asia Currently