2015 Chevrolet Colorado First Drive
Chevrolet's Tacoma-Fighter Proves Promising
While standing at the rear end of a 2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 crew cab with four-wheel drive and the long truck bed (a mere whiff of the truck world's whimsical configuration possibilities), it becomes obvious. This is not a "small" truck by traditional terms. And, after driving it, I can say that's OK.
It's not just the bed length -- the longest among midsize pickups by 0.5 inch over the Toyota Tacoma -- throwing me off, either. With the box measuring 74 inches long (61.7 on the crew cab's standard bed) by 55.5 inches wide at the tailgate by 20.9 inches tall, General Motors is leaving lots of cubic footage at the Colorado and GMC Canyon driver's disposal without the footprint of a full-size truck. Those beds will be hauling fallen leaves, empty water bottles, and all the free air they can handle the majority of the time, but knowing there's space available can be mighty reassuring.
Chevy says its new midsize pickup's customers are "very diverse" with an "active mindset," in the words of Colorado marketing manager Tony Johnson, which is a not-so-secret code that there will be as many purchasers looking to commute during the workweek and then haul/tow their playthings during the weekend as there are folks wanting to commute throughout the week and then only ever set foot in the bed because some stray pinecones have been rolling around for a few too many days. The latter consumer is ideally matched with the base 2.5-liter inline-four with a reasonable 200 horsepower and 191 lb-ft of torque, which proved to be a solid engine in an LT extended cab with rear-wheel drive (starts at $26,045) we took for a spin.
All the basic, desirable truck traits manifested. The 2015 Colorado's I-4 is punchy off the line and revs willingly, and the six-speed automatic can shift up and kick down quickly without bucking the cabin. Feedback from the Mando rack-assist electric power steering is surprisingly good, and the Colorado's standard four-way powered driver's seat (seat back recline is manually adjusted by lever) means humans of all heights and appendage lengths can find their perfect sitting distance from the steering wheel. The two back seats are best suited for adults in a pinch -- the crew cab's three-person bench is substantially better -- and the interior is generally pretty spacious (especially headroom). Outward visibility is excellent, even from my low-to-the-floor seating position.
Overall, size is seen as a big selling point. At nearly six inches narrower than a Silverado 1500, the 2015 Colorado feels comfortable navigating tight city streets where cyclist lanes aren't far from the passenger side mirror. The low-effort steering at stop-and-go speeds is one of the differentiators from the Nissan Frontier and Taco -- both of which are basically a decade old -- as are the on-road refinement while unloaded and the interior's quietness on the highway (plaudits to triple-sealed doors, liberally applied sound deadeners, and dedicated aerodynamics effort), build material quality, and technology feature count. As you'd expect from a truck, the solid rear axle hops and pitches around on single- and two-wheel impacts, but the ride and handling team has a done a great job minimizing the bump harshness and the sound of the bed shaking that enters the cabin. Did you know there's OnStar 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot functionality (powered by AT&T, subscription required), an 8-inch touchscreen (LT and Z71), and a $395 Safety Package with Forward Collision Alert and Lane Departure Warning (optional on LT)? I think the last new Frontier I drove (a 2012 model) didn't have a USB port.
The 3.6-liter V-6 packing a stout 305 hp (44 over Frontier, 69 over Tacoma) and 269 lb-ft of torque (3 over Tacoma, 12 less than Frontier) likes to rev, and the engine calibration is unlike the Japanese competition. Mated to four-wheel drive and a six-speed auto in a crew cab, the V-6 is quite docile in the initial accelerator pedal travel -- "car-like" was how I mentally catalogued it. The Nissan and Toyota, with their 4.0-liter V-6s, are jumpier off the line and feel as if they're itching to pull something heavy or get you on your way super fast. The contrast isn't bad, just different. Getting deeper into the Colorado's gas pedal spurs it to life, where you'll spin it to 6,800 rpm for peak power. The Frontier hits max power at 5,600 rpm, whereas the Taco needs 5,200 rpm.
The V-6 truck's steering works well, though it is more isolated from the road than when the I-4 is onboard. The six-speed auto is eager to get into higher gears in relaxed driving conditions, so it's promising to see the transmission can rapidly shift down when the right foot heads for the floor. The $250 Trailering Package fluffs maximum towing capacity to 7,000 pounds, as long as the V-6 is doing the huffing and puffing.
Our next step is to take delivery of a few Colorados for a comprehensive mix of instrumented, towing, and Real MPG testing. Then we'll have a fuller picture of what the incredibly encouraging new wave of small trucks are all about.
|2015 Chevrolet Colorado|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, RWD/4WD, 2-5-pass, 4-door pickup|
|ENGINES||2.5L/200-hp/191-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4, 3.6L/305-hp/269-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|TRANSMISSIONS||6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic|
|CURB WEIGHT||3900-4450 lb (mfr)|
|LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT||212.7-224.9 x 74.3 x 70.3-70.7 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.5-9.0 sec (MT est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||17-20/24-27/20-23 mpg|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY||169-198/125-140 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.86-0.99 lb/mile|
|ON SALE IN U.S.||Currently|
Wanna See My Bed?Since the Colorado and Canyon's dimensions are important to driving its appeal in the marketplace, we were curious if the trucks were physically designed as compactly as possible. We learned it came down to these factors: There was never going to be a regular cab model in the U.S. due to insufficient demand, and there were targeted front and rear legroom specifications and box sizes that pushed the GM midsizers to where they are today.
Visually, the height of the new Colorado and Canyon's boxes makes the trucks look bigger than their predecessors and current competition. Have a look at the specs table below to see how different trucks' boxes compare. The Frontier is widest at the tailgate, but the whole truck itself is narrower than all but an extended-cab Tacoma with rear-wheel drive. Appropriately, the Chevy's roll-formed steel box works happily with the standard Corner Step rear bumper and EZ Lift and Lower damped tailgate (available on Work Truck and LT, standard on Z71) for optimal utility.
|2015 Chevrolet Colorado||2015 GMC Canyon||2015 Nissan Frontier||2015 Toyota Tacoma||2012 Colorado/Canyon|
|PICKUP BOX L x W x H||61.7-74.0 x 55.5 x 20.9 in||61.7-74.0 x 55.5 x 20.9 in||59.5-73.3 x 58.8 x 18.0 in||60.3-73.5 x 53.4 x 18.0 in||61.1-72.8 x 52.4 x 18.6 in|
|WIDTH BET. WHEELHOUSES||44.4 in||44.4 in||44.4 in||41.5 in||42.6 in|
|PAYLOAD CAPACITY||1410-1590 lb||1450-1620 lb||913-1471 lb||1175-1500 lb||1168-1422 lb|
|TOWING CAPACITY||3500-7000 lb||3500-7000 lb||3500-6500 lb||3400-6500 lb||1900-6000 lb|
Where's the Diesel?The highly anticipated 2.8-liter Duramax inline-four is due for the 2016 model year, and it's about a year out from launching. There should be no shortage of updates (final power output, fuel economy estimates) between now and then.
Last we heard, the truck engineers had very recently wrapped up an early development long drive with the diesel engine. They took a Ram 1500 EcoDiesel along in order to swap notes, as they found many positives in the Ram's powertrain integration. The GM crew has its own objectives to meet and, of course, it feels the pressure to produce big numbers that make for big updates. We'll keep our eyes peeled.