Driving Big: 2015 Chevy Colorado 4WD Z71

By Frank A. Aukofer, November 29th, 2014

There's an old saying in the car business that also applies to trucks: "You want a small car to drive big -- and a big one to drive small."

The 2015 Colorado pickup is the first of what could become a revival among pickups. It is classified as a "midsize," which is almost laughable because the Z71 Crew Cab model tested here is nearly 18 feet long. And with a longer cargo box, it stretches to almost 19 feet.

Nevertheless, this truck is way smaller than a full-size pickup and does drive small with a nimble feel, quick handling, tight turning circle, and a decent ride, even when empty. The tester is about 2 feet shorter than its full-size Silverado sibling and about 2 feet longer than the best-selling midsize Toyota Camry sedan.

With four doors, five-passenger seating, a quiet interior, and a 17/24/20 city/highway/combined mpg fuel economy rating, it could substitute for a family car, albeit one with an open-air cargo box capacity of 41 cubic feet, or about three times what you can carry in a midsize car.

The Colorado also qualifies as a hard worker: our test truck boasts a 1,590-pound payload, or more than three quarters of a ton. It also is rated to tow up to 3,500 pounds.

General Motors took a chance breaking into the midsize pickup truck market. Competitors like the Ford Ranger and Dodge Dakota fell out of favor with buyers and were discontinued, partly because incentives on full-size pickups narrowed the price gap to the point where a buyer could get one of the big boys for almost the same money as a midsize.

As a result, the midsize choices were reduced to two: Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier. And these trucks prove that buyers are still out there. Though largely unchanged for nearly a decade, they still sell in substantial numbers. The Tacoma is on a pace for sales of 150,000 in 2014. The Frontier is running at an annual rate of more than 72,000.

Overall, 12.5 million midsize pickups still ply U.S. highways, according to research by General Motors. So the idea was to appeal to those buyers, some of whom are put off by how big full-size trucks have become.

The Colorado is all-new, with three versions in various trim levels with rear- or four-wheel drive: Extended Cab, which has a 6-foot 2-inch cargo box, two small rear-opening back doors, and a couple of tiny back seats; the Crew Cab four door with a 5-foot 2-inch cargo box; and the Crew Cab with a 6-foot 2-inch cargo box.

There's also a Colorado Extended Cab rear-drive work truck that comes with the standard 200-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a six-speed manual gearbox. It has vinyl upholstery and floor mats but the $20,995 price tag -- the lowest in the lineup -- includes a rear-view camera, six-speaker audio system, and a power driver's seat.

The tested Z71 Crew Cab with 4WD is powered by a 305-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 with 269 lb.-ft. of torque mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. At the top of the model line, it boasts a long list of safety equipment, as well as the OnStar communications system, navigation, automatic climate control, attractive cloth seats with vinyl trim, remote starting, EasyLift tailgate, and assorted other comfort and convenience features. All that brings the suggested price up to $34,990.

The Colorado (and its GMC sibling, the Canyon) enjoy the exclusivity of being the only pickup trucks available with factory installed 4G LTE Wi-Fi connectivity. Up to seven devices can be connected through the OnStar system.

Although the Colorado is smaller than full-size pickups, it's still tall enough to require, for some people, a step up. Chevrolet dealers offer two types of fixed running boards, which work fine but protrude about 4 inches on each side of the truck, making the truck 8 inches wider down where you can't see them.

The Colorado is expected to be GM's midsize sales leader. Customers who want a somewhat classier ride can choose the Canyon, which wears a price tag that's about $1,400 higher.

With its combination of modern technology and maneuverable size, the new 2015 Chevy Colorado is poised to win new customers and conquer competitors.

Specifications

Base price $34,115 (as tested: $34,990)
Curb weight 4,380 lbs.
Displacement 3.6-liter
Engine type DOHC V-6 w/DI
Epa mileage rating 17 mpg city, 24 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 21 gal.
Horsepower (net) 305 at 6800 rpm
Overall length 212.7 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 269 at 4000 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Vehicle type 5-passenger 4WD midsize crew cab pickup
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