The Chevrolet Colorado and its corporate twin, the GMC Canyon, have tag-teamed the midsize truck market here in the U.S., causing a storm of attention with both consumers and media, while making rivaling automakers reevaluate their existing products.

Toyota, for example, has already debuted a heavily refreshed Tacoma for 2016 and Nissan is rumored to have a new Frontier waiting in the wings. While Toyota still has a slight lead over GM in terms of sales to date, the Colorado and Canyon are picking up speed, selling nearly some 37,000 trucks to Toyota’s 39,000 Tacomas so far this year.

Now I recently got to spend a week with the 2015 Colorado and put it through its paces, doing nearly every conceivable truck-like duty save for towing. My tester came loaded to the gills in the Z71 trim package, the V-6 engine and six-speed transmission, and $1,720 worth of optional extras.

As expected the Colorado held its own, but for the full report and tons of detailed info, keep reading.

Continue Reading for the full review

  • 2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 - Driven
  • Year:
    2015
  • Engine:
    V6
  • Transmission:
    six-speed automatic
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    305
  • MPG(Cty):
    17
  • MPG(Hwy):
    24
  • Torque @ RPM:
    269
  • Energy:
    Direct Injection
  • Displacement:
    3.6 L
  • 0-60 time:
    7.4 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    98 mph
  • Layout:
    Front Engine, 4WD w/ Low Range
  • Price:

Exterior

2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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Chevrolet designers have certainly done their homework here. The Colorado looks fun and sporty yet stern and serious, all at the same time. Its chiseled, handsome exterior gives plenty to look at while admiring how incredibly purposeful the design is. Frilly stuff is nearly non-existent while every inch is shaped to complete a job. The Colorado has spent a lot of time in the wind tunnel, as evidenced by the large lower air dam and the active grille shutters lurking just behind the bowtie. Even the rear wheels have air deflectors.

The Colorado looks fun and sporty yet stern and serious, all at the same time

The purposeful design carries around to the Colorado’s business end. The five-foot, two-inch bed on my tester came coated with the optional spray-on bed liner. A bevy of tie-down hooks come ready to hold cargo while the bed walls and fenders comes with slots for 2x4s, ready for a two-tier storage system. And in case you drive with the tailgate down, the bulkhead sports a bowtie, showing off its Chevy-ness. Like the Silverado, the Colorado comes with the intuitive CornerStep bumper and stake-pocket hand-grab. The system is by far the easiest to use for getting into and out of the bed.

Down below the bed lies the trailer hitch receiver. It’s accompanied by both a four- and seven-pin wiring connector located just left of the license plate. That location, though a smidge farther away from the trailer, works well at keeping the wiring connectors clear of damage from road hazards or off-road debris. Speaking of towing things, the Colorado Z71 comes standard with front tow hooks. The frame-mounted hooks loop through the bumper, yet are well exposed for access during a recovery event. Off-road adventures are a breeze for the Colorado, not only thanks to its 4WD system and aggressive all-terrain tires, but its high-riding body and admirable ground clearance, too.

2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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The only issue the truck plaguing its capability is its approach angle. Thankfully, Chevy has designed the plastic air dam to be easily removed – or so I read. My tester came with the fasteners screwed down from the top, making it impossible to remove the air dam without first removing the bumper. (See Photo) Even still, the plastic is soft enough to deform when abused off road rather than breaking.

Interior

2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 - Driven High Resolution Interior
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2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 - Driven High Resolution Interior
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2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 - Driven High Resolution Interior
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Like the outside, the Colorado Z71’s interior is very purposeful. Its design is utilitarian yet caters to the urban cowboy as well. Much of the interior is covered in soft-touch plastics that seem easy to clean, but are somewhat mid-grade in their feel. The dash gets majority of softer materials, while the door panels are relegated to harder plastics.

The controls are well placed and easily readable, with a very intuitive center stack with seat heaters, a bank of rocker switches, the simple HVAC controls, and the optional 8-inch MyLink infotainment system. MyLink proved easy to use and looks modern in its design. Its DVR-like radio play-back function is easy to get spoiled to.

2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 - Driven High Resolution Interior
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2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 - Driven High Resolution Interior
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2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 - Driven High Resolution Interior
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The dash gets majority of softer materials, while the door panels are relegated to harder plastics

The Crew Cab proved large enough for four adult passengers. Rear seat room is adequate, but obviously not as accommodating as the Silverado’s rear seat. Clever under seat storage offers plenty of room for things like tow straps, trailer hitches and tools. Loading larger items is best done by folding the rear seatbacks flat, creating a flat storage area. The only down side is the decreased vertical storage area compared to and the drop-off between the seatback and the front seats.

Up front, the driver enjoys a thick, leather-wrapped steering wheel with speed controls on the left and redundant radio controls on the right. The headlight and 4WD controls are down low to the left of the wheel. Behind the wheel, the analog gauges are clear and easy to read, but are rather dull and uninspiring to look at, even in context with the rest of the interior. The center display does show plenty of important information and is easy to navigate.

Beyond the gauge cluster looking dull, complaints did arise from several areas. A rattle had already developed around the steering column, despite the truck having less than 2,000 miles, the release on the gear shifter pinches fingers if grabs a certain way, the driver’s floorboard lacks a dead pedal for left-leg support, and the lack of a push-button start is surprising at this price point.

Still, the interior serves its purpose well and is a generally welcoming place to spend time.

Powertrain

2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 - Driven High Resolution Drivetrain
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2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 - Driven High Resolution Drivetrain
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2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 - Driven High Resolution Drivetrain
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The Colorado comes with two engine options: the base 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder and the optional 3.6-liter V-6. Ordering the Crew Cab with 4WD and the Z71 trim package automatically includes the V-6, as was the case in my tester.

The 3.6-liter V-6 is a familiar engine found in everything from the Cadillac CTS to the Chevy Traverse crossover. It’s been around a while, but is still powerful and efficient. That’s thanks to Variable Valve Timing and direct fuel injection. The V-6’s aluminum block and cast aluminum heads also help to keep weight down.

Within the Colorado, it produces 305 horsepower at 6,800 rpm and 269 pound-feet of torque at 4,000. It’s mated to the Hydra-Matic 6L50, six-speed automatic transmission with manual shifting capabilities. Tow/Haul mode and Auto Grade Braking are standard as well.

2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 - Driven High Resolution Interior
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2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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Speaking of towing, the V-6 Colorado is able to lug 7,000 pounds worth of trailer around when equipped with the towing package. That’s an impressive 1,100 pounds more than the base towing capacity of the 4.3-liter V-6 Silverado. Payload is an equally impressive 1,590 pounds. Those figures certainly suggest the Colorado is more half-ton than midsize, though its other dimensions suggest otherwise.

Mated behind the transmission is a two-speed, manually activated, electronically controlled transfer case. Gearing options include conventional 2WD with power supplied to the rear wheels, 4WD high range, 4WD low range, and neutral. The Eaton G80 automatic locking rear differential is standard on the Z71 and makes off-roading a breeze.

Other electronic gadgetry includes trailer sway control, downhill decent control, hill start assist, and Stabilitrak with rollover mitigation.

Driving impressions

2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 - Driven High Resolution Interior
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Behind the wheel, the Colorado feels like a crossover SUV rather than a pickup truck. It’s solid construction, quite ride, and nicely weighted steering combine for some very pleasant dynamics. The V-6 provides adequate power while the 6L50 transmission offers up smooth shifts. The sprint to 60 mph comes in 7.4 seconds, which is respectable, but the V-6 does feel a bit underpowered at higher rpm.

Behind the wheel, the Colorado feels like a crossover SUV rather than a pickup truck

Outward visibility is excellent, with plenty of side and rear glass to eliminate blind spots. When in reverse, the rear-view camera offers excellent visibility, along with dynamic markings. The side mirrors are large, adding to the good view. The driver’s side mirror even comes with a convex blind-spot mirror.

Driving along, the truck offers a quiet ride. The doors are inlaid into the cab and have triple seals to prevent any wind noise. The off-road ready Z71 suspension makes short work of bumpy streets and grooved pavement. Surprisingly, body roll is kept to a minimum, with the meaty tires giving way to understeer long before the truck feels top heavy.

Fuel economy is rated by the EPA at 17 mpg city, 24 mpg highway, and 20 mpg combined, however my averaged landed at 18.8 mpg. Now granted, that was an overall average that included some off-roading and 0-to-60 mph tests. The truck also only had 2090 miles on the clock when I gave it back, so perhaps mileage would improve after a proper break-in.

Competition

Toyota Tacoma

2016 Toyota Tacoma High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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The current Tacoma has been around for nearly a decade without major changes, and while it represents the Colorado’s strongest competitor, the 2016 Tacoma is the real threat. The heavily revised truck offers a new look inside and out, along with a new powertrain.

The bold new looks match Toyota’s current design language, meaning its blocky design looks ready for some youthful fun. Inside, the cabin is treated to a very welcomed update with hints of other Toyota interior design. Best of all, the truck now comes with a 3.5-liter V-6 that replaces the old 4.0-liter. The new V-6 runs the Atkinson combustion cycle for greater efficiency. For those looking for even more efficiency, the 2.7-liter four-cylinder will carry over. A six-speed manual and a new six-speed automatic will be available with both engines.

Pricing for the new Tacoma has not been released as of yet, but expect it to stay close to the current Tacoma’s pricing. That puts the Tacoma starting around $20,800. Buyers can choose from five trim levels: SR, SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, and Limited.
Read our full review here

Nissan Frontier

2009 Nissan Frontier
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The news is still vague on the upcoming Nissan Frontier as the revised version is expected for 2016 or 2017. The truck should debut with an all-new design throughout with a more refined powertrain. Count of Nissan offering a four-cylinder and a six-cylinder gasoline engine, along with a possible Cummins turbodiesel powerplant.

Nissan is still working the finishing touches on the new Titan XD, so once that truck in showrooms, expect the Frontier to move into focus.
Read our full review here

Conclusion

2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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All told, the Colorado is a fantastic truck for those who need something smaller than a full-size, yet that need the towing and payload capability of a half-ton. Its SUV-like driving characteristics make it an easy handler on the road, foregoing the rough and tumble attitude that characterized midsize trucks of yore.

Yes, I do have my quibbles with a number of things, but I’d call it tough love. I want the Colorado to succeed – not just for Chevy’s sake, but for the midsize truck category as a whole. Without the revival sparked by the GM twins, who knows if Nissan would be pursuing a revised Frontier or if Toyota would have developed the newly revamped Tacoma. And despite what some say, I guarantee Ford is watching the market like a hawk, debating whether the Ranger should make its U.S. return. Heck, even Mercedes-Benz is debating on sell its upcoming midsize truck in the U.S. The Colorado is an important truck.

  • Leave it
    • Somewhat low-budget interior
    • A few interior ergonomics issues
    • Engine could use more grunt
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