If you missed me – and you all know who you are – I'm back! A much-needed vacation had me out of test cars for a few weeks and out of cars completely as I braved public transport in Euroland. But here I am back in car country, or should that be truck country? This week it's the latest and newest mid-sized truck offering, a new generation Colorado by Chevrolet (and of course also available is the GMC twin Canyon). A truck to compete with the Toyota Tacomas and Nissan Frontiers of the world, which are really the only choices left in the segment.
I reviewed that Toyota Tacoma not too long ago and I wasn't really all that impressed. The Tacoma felt old and needing of an update (which it is getting), so here lies the perfect opportunity for GM to create conquest sales and grab those looking for a mid-size truck and hopefully convert them and perhaps upgrade them to full-size on their next purchase.
Sorry that it's dirty in the pictures, no car washes are open when it's constantly below -20 celsius and the attempted wash is solidly frozen on -- unfortunate but such is life in Canada. But hey real truck guys expect your truck to be dirty and gross, right?
So what do I have exactly? Well my tester is a 4WD model Z71 packaged Crew Cab. It is powered by a 3.6L V6 engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, GM uses this powertrain in a slew of cars from Chevrolet to Cadillac and Buick in between, this combo puts out 306 hp while the standard 2.5L engine is also available that puts out a rather slim 200 hp. As equipped my tester is capable of towing 7,000 lb (V6 with max tow package) which is more than adequate for most hobbyists. Even I could tow my full-size enclosed trailer and race car and be within those numbers.
I don't have much "trucking" to do this week but I will do my best to put this little truck through its paces and more importantly determine if I could live with a mid-size over a full-size at nearly the same price.
3 years/60,000 km; 5 years/160,000 km powertrain; 6 years/160,000 km corrosion perforation; 5 years/160,000 km 24-hour roadside assistance
Pricing: 2015 Chevrolet Colorado Crew Cab
Base Price: $36,050
Options: Audio System, 8-inch touchscree -- $795; Bose stereo upgrade -- $685; Engine Block Heater -- $100; Heavy-Duty Trailering Package -- $275; Side-steps (offroad) -- $780; Bed-liner, $525; Spray-on Bed liner, $525; Wheel Locks, $60.
A/C Tax: $100
Price as tested: $41,065
I might make a lot of enemies this week, as a lot of people seem to really love these new trucks from GM, but I am yet to be convinced. I'm not saying I hate this vehicle in any way, and I do find that vehicles tend to grow on me a little over the course of a week, but so far I'm still a little "unexcited" about this truck. At over $40,000 for my test model, I expect a nicer interior for one. I will say that it is not ancient artifact quality like the Tacoma, but the interior seems low rent, especially when you compare it to a similarly equipped Sierra or Silverado from the same price range.
If you look at other manufacturers the interior of the Ram 1500 (yes I know it's a full-size) is so much better. If I'm spending this much coin and getting a smaller truck, at least make me feel like I'm getting something extra for the money, perhaps a more comfortable and nicer interior. What is here is laid out well, easy to reach and control and I do like the big buttons that look like toggles for hill descent, traction control, etc.
Today I parked beside both a previous generation Canyon and an Escalade, and let me tell you, this Colorado is obviously so much bigger than the last generation and not much smaller than a full-size truck. I was also close to a few older full-sized Sierras and the Colorado seemed larger than those, at least height-wise (those trucks did look wider and a little longer).
But more about my tester; if you are looking to purchase one of these, please skip the running boards. They are far too high to be useful, my pants are now nicely salt stained. The Tacoma had the exact same issue – these trucks are just not quite tall enough to need them, but perhaps just slightly too tall for shorter people to feel comfortable reaching into, but I'd rather stretch a little than have to avoid those rails, especially in tighter parking spaces where you can't easily swing the door out wide and jump out.
The non-flat rear floor is a deal breaker for a lot of people, but the storage under the seats is nice for smaller bags or groceries if you want to hide them from view.
The interior may be controversial but I don't think the drive will be. I've driven my fair share of trucks recently and I have to say the Colorado impresses in a few categories you do not expect from a truck. The ride quality is good -- it balances very well between "truck" feel and car-like ride smoothness. It still has a stiff suspension to be able to carry a load in the bed, yet not harsh or abrupt over railroads or uneven pavement.
I actually almost forgot for a moment I was driving a truck as I approached a downhill curve at over 80 km/h and turned in... Then realized, "oh c**p this is a truck!" But phew, all was well and I did not careen off the road into a fireball of death. Turns out, the Colorado handles rather well and can be fun to drive. But it is still a truck, so the turning radius isn't the greatest and it is long, so parking it can take a few attempts to line yourself up, but it isn't unwieldy or anything.
The throttle response and gearing seem to certainly be "truck-like." Even with the 3.6-litre engine in my tester the Colorado feels sluggish and sounds like it is having a hard time getting out of its own way. But really, the power is there, it's just the noise intruding into the cabin is so violent you do not want to press the throttle any further for fear it will explode -- V8 for me please.
I have found the road noise to be rather un-GM-like as well. Most late model GM vehicles I have driven are vault-like quiet, but not this truck. Road noise is abundant and so is wind noise, you can really notice it as you speed up and have to crank the stereo just to hear it. Then of course you slow down and realize the radio is blaringly loud, and the HVAC fans are also extremely noisy. Even after being up to temperature and the fans on fairly low they are noticeably loud, on first start up the fans rumble and moan in the cold -- I haven't heard that before on a new car.
I also received a lovely check engine light on start up this morning, I checked and it looks to be a fuel pump computer code. Most likely related to the cold morning start once again -- but for a vehicle with only 6,000 km on it, it's discouraging.
Well maybe I was expecting more, as a good many people seem to really like this new Colorado, but for me it seems to have missed the mark a little bit. I came into this test drive expecting a mini-Silverado, especially after reading review after review where journalists said almost exactly that.
But for me it was obvious that this is more than just a smaller truck, costs were cut to make it less expensive, although it isn't priced that much less than its larger brother. In terms of a mid-size truck, though, it is the newest design on the market and it shows, especially in its ride quality.
It was a cold week this week, so as expected fuel economy suffered and I only averaged 14 L/100 km, not much less than that of the larger more powerful Silverado, or its competition. But as many informed me this week, they like a smaller sized truck -- so that is a good sign for GM, Toyota and Nissan, the only players in this field.
For me, I'd buy the bigger truck as I still live in a world where bigger is better, but I can understand if you want something smaller -- and if you do the Colorado is worth a hard look, especially against the aging competition.