Clearly, given all of the earned hub-bub about the 2015 Ford F-150, one could have been fairly confident that this trail-breaking truck would win the Motor Trend Truck of the Year Award.
The 2015 Chevy Colorado did.
If there is something that can be said about the 2015 Chevy Colorado is that it is ground-breaking not in terms of body materials (it is a steel truck, after all, and even though it is using advanced steels in its structure, it isn’t as radical as the shift to aluminum as executed by Ford) but from the standpoint of being a midsize truck that is completely contemporary.
Chevrolet (like Ford) has been known for the past several years for full-size pickups. In fact, there hasn’t been a new Chevy Colorado since model year 2012.
There have been a variety of arguments put forth regarding why the Detroit Traditionals (GM, Ford, Ram) stopped producing midsize trucks (with the two from the other guys being the Ford Ranger and the Dakota). One of the big arguments is that they make more money on full-size trucks, so why not build them. Another is that the midsize trucks grew in size and content such that their sticker prices were not all that far away from full-size trucks so that when someone would go into a showroom, they’d probably learn that for a few bucks more a month they could get a Silverado rather than a Colorado, so why not go in that direction?
Meanwhile, Toyota and Nissan—two companies that certainly have not have had as much market traction for their full-size trucks as the other three—have been producing and selling their midsize trucks with good results: Toyota, according to Autodata, delivered 155,041 Tacomas in 2014 and Nissan 74,323 Frontiers. (While that last number may not seem like much, know that even though the Euro-style small van like the Ford Transit Connect is becoming increasingly popular, especially for people who might otherwise opt for something with an open bed, last year Ford sold 43,210 units. So 74K is non-trivial.)
So Chevy is back with a fresh truck, one that is a challenge not only to the Tacoma and the Frontier, but to the Silverado, as well.
That is, not everyone needs—or wants (vide the Toyota and the Nissan trucks)—a full-size truck. They’re looking for something smaller.
Note well: smaller. Not small.
Because the Chevy Colorado is not a small truck.
The one I drove, with a Crew Cab and a small (i.e., 5-ft, 6-in.) box has a wheelbase of 128.3 in. and a length of 212.7 in. To be sure, that’s smaller than a comparable Silverado with a Crew Cab and its small box (5-ft., 8-in.): its wheelbase is 143.5 in. and length 230 in., or about a foot difference.
Still, the Colorado is probably big enough for plenty of people, which makes it all the more competitive both from the standpoint of the competitors in the market and giving a run in the showroom to its BIG brother.
While fuel economy right now is not a huge concern for most people (although I suspect that people who run contracting companies—whether it is a single truck or a fleet—keep a keen eye on the effects of the price at the pump on their bottom lines, and they are probably looking at the recent decline as nothing more than making up for the hits they took in their bank accounts for the past few years), it is notable that the Colorado as-driven, with its 3.6-liter engine and all-wheel-drive capability, has EPA sticker numbers of 17 city, 24 highway, and 20 mpg combined. In my real-world driving, when the temps in Detroit were generally in the 20s, which means the heater was blasting and the seat heaters on high, I averaged 18.1 mpg, which is really good under the conditions, to say nothing of the fact that this is a truck that weighs 4,380 lb.
The 305-hp V6 is mated to a Hydra-Matic 6L50 six-speed automatic.
All of that said, I must say that under hard acceleration at-speed (i.e., driving along at 70 mph and then getting on the accelerator for a pass) I found that there was a bit too much in the way of hesitation for the powertrain to get to where it really needed to be. Still, other all other conditions, there was no problem whatever.
While it may seem somewhat interesting to note that the Colorado has a six-speed automatic (a few years ago, plenty of sedans came with just five speeds, and the 2015 Tacoma just has five), it seems similarly interesting that it has electrically assisted power rack-and-pinion steering (like the Silverado, incidentally. The Tacoma? No electrical assistance.)
One of the key aspects of a midsize pickup is its maneuverability, especially compared with the bigger trucks. Electrically assisted steering (and the standard rear-vision camera) really makes things like dealing with parking a whole lot less stressful.
One area where those who are interested in a truck for work and a truck for personal transportation converge is in the area of “connectivity.”
The former want this connectivity because, well, it is useful for purposes of work.
The latter want it because it’s expected for their plugged-in lifestyle.
Colorado delivers in the form of OnStar 4G LTE Wi-Fi, which turns the vehicle into an hotspot on wheels.
(In addition to which there is Chevrolet MyLink, an infotainment system that’s deployed through the interface of an 8-in. color touch screen in this vehicle that uses natural voice recognition technology so that you can “tell” it what to do, as in placing calls or switching radio stations or the like without having to use canned, robotic statements.)
And as we’re on the inside of the truck, it is evident that the interior designers took a contemporary approach to a truck interior, one that is as fashionable as it is functional (fashion without function would lead one to think of this as a faux truck, its capabilities notwithstanding; function without fashion would be appealing to a limited number of people at most).
It isn’t going out on much of a limb to suggest that Chevy is going to have a hit on its hands with the Colorado.
Engine: 3.6-liter, DOHC V6 with direct injection
Material: Cast aluminum block and heads
Horsepower: 305 @ 6,800 rpm
Torque: 269 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Steering: Electrical power-assist rack-and-pinion
Wheelbase: 128.3 in.
Length: 212.7 in.
Width: 74.3 in.
Height: 70.6 in.
Payload: 1,590 lb.
EPA: mpg city/highway/combined: 17/24/20 mpg