New 2015 Chevrolet Colorado

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. 
  • 2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 Front Three Quarters
  • 2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 Rear
  • 2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 Rear Profile
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.

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