Model: 2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71
Drivetrain: 3.6L VVT V6, 306hp @ 6800 rpm and 269lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Price as tested: $39,699 ($30,650 base) – at Bennett GM
Infotainment: Chevrolet MyLink with 8″ touch screen, nav, bluetooth, CD, backup camera.
Comfort: Heated leather trimmed front seats, automatic climate control.
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The Chevrolet Colorado has always represented a bit of a red herring for me. As an outspoken “truckspert”, I’ve often mocked midsized trucks for not really being trucks. It’s not really a fair assessment, however, considering until this point I’d never actually driven one. Chevy, and its twin GMC, did away with their midsized pickups a few years back. Ford also dropped the Ranger. With the North American companies leaving the segment, it meant only the Japanese had entries. While good, the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier have languished, neither have seen recent redesigns or updates. Enter the all new 2015 Chevy Colorado, and its twin the GMC Canyon. I scoffed in my ignorance when it won the 2015 MotorTrend Truck of the year, but the longer I drove this truck, the more I realized why it won.
GM chose to use a longstanding engine and mated it to a proven 6 speed transmission. The 3.6L V6 in my test features the full gamete of GM efficiency engineering, from variable valve timing, direct injection, to fuel shutoff during deceleration. There are even vents behind the rad grill, not unlike what we see in small and midsized cars now, which close to help reduce drag and improve mileage. It shows too. My tester averaged well within the posted combined mileage despite using 4×4 on a snowy Saturday trip. What struck me was the power and ride. Optional on the Colorado is the Z71 off road package, which my tester was equipped with. This boosts the suspension and provides some underside protection for the truly off road inclined. With this option, the Colorado feels every bit the full sized pickup it wasn’t. In fact, the ride was a bit too stiff for my liking. That said, it means the Colorado is a very capable hauling vehicle with an excellent payload capacity, despite its size. It even comes with a 6′ 2″ box, longer than the one on the F150 I tested earlier.
On the inside Chevy kept things simple. Large control dials were in comfortable reach for the driver. They were winter/contractor glove friendly. Steering wheel radio controls were nice, but small in contrast with their glove friendly dashboard cousins. Anyone familiar with the layout and function of the larger Silverado/Sierra will be right at home in the Colorado. I’ve hyped the GM infotainment system before, and Chevy MyLink doesn’t disappoint. My test featured some unique noise conditions for the voice commands to overcome, and they overcame them beautifully. Voice dictating directions or searching for points of interest by name were bang on every time. Door water bottle holders were too small for my reusable bottle, but were easily accessible from the driving position. Overall interior comfort was good, seats were comfortable in long, stressful highway drives. Rear seat space was limited, more by the Colorado’s width than its length. Size is the Colorado’s best and worst trait. You miss the room and width of a full size truck, but you also don’t have the length and width of a full sized truck to navigate through city streets. Driving the Colorado makes truck driving accessible to everybody, even those typically intimidated by their size.
All together, I’m impressed by what the Colorado is. There is a lot of arguments to be made for a truck of this size. On several occasions I called it the “4 hour body” of trucks. Allow me to explain. The four hour body is a book about diet and exercise; about how to use a slow carb diet to lose weight. That’s not the comparison I’m drawing. Basically the author was attempting to find the most efficient way to lose weight and achieve athletic-level fitness. His goal was to achieve 80% of the fitness of a professional athlete. This Chevy Colorado is the same kind of 80% efficiency. You get 80% of the capacity, towing, size, and payload of a full size, but without many of the hangups a full sized truck presents. Chevy has done a great job with this design. It’s one to surely cause the current competitive offers to take notice. Chevy’s given this unique segment a modern, tech packed refresh; something that’s much needed.
Chevy has two engine options for the Colorado. In the full length crew cab version I tested you only get the 3.6L VVT engine with a 6 speed transmission. My first impression of how the truck accelerated was a bit soft. It felt like you needed to give it a bit more gas before it drove. However, as I got used to it, it seemed to get used to me. Chevy has obviously geared this truck to maximize economy, both on the highway and in the city. It didn’t rush it’s way to sixth gear, instead intelligently moving through its transmission. I quickly found it easier to drive conservatively and economically in the city than in my daily driver. It’s still very eager to pick up when accelerating, however. Adding the Z71 option stiffens up the ride and steering giving the Colorado a full sized truck feel. Steering was responsive, but slightly heavy given its size. I expected it to feel a bit lighter than the full sized trucks I’ve driven, and it didn’t; that’s probably attributed to the Z71 option kit as well. Highway passing is smooth and easy. It never really felt like it was working hard to get to speed, or to keep speed once it was there; even when driving in snow with 4×4. There is lots of low end torque available, you could really feel it in 4×4 when creeping.
Mileage had a slow start as well. My initial short drive posted a number much higher than Chevy’s numbers suggested it would get. The Colorado quickly changed that, finishing my test at an impressive 12.3L/100km average. Since most of the driving was stop and go city, slow 4×4 traffic, and city commute, this number is well in the posted range. In fact, according to the trip computer, my worst and best mileages were still lower than what Chevy suggests it will do. On country highways the Colorado actually cruised at or just below 9L/100km, better than the 9.2 highway advertised. My worst mileage came in a 13.0L/100km, bang on with posted numbers. 4×4 highway driving averaged 10.2L/100km, which is the kind of adjustment you’d expect to see. My best mileage was actually 8.8L/100km. Given the size of engine and vehicle, I was surprised to even see this number attainable. All around, the Chevy Colorado meets or betters its mileage numbers, even in the full length, full cab version.
It should be noted that the Z71 package on the Colorado gives the truck a very distinctive “big truck” ride. Suspension has been beefed up and ride height increased. If you enjoy the ride and feel of a full sized truck, like I do, you’ll enjoy how the Colorado Z71 handles. If you don’t, the LT trim is for you. While the Colorado isn’t a full sized truck, it’s still a full framed truck. You can expect a ride to feel more rigid than a similarly lengthened SUV. Because of the increased wheel size and toughened suspension, the Colorado Z71 handled rough roads really well. Heightened and stiffened suspension did make the truck feel a bit more stiff riding empty, but would ride well under load. Ride is comfortable, but at times became a bit bouncy even for me. Highway cruising at speed is smooth and quiet. There is minimal road noise in the cabin, and the large treads from the wheels didn’t actually generate highway sound. Seats are compact but comfortable. Materials seemed durable and high quality. I particularly like the placement of the gear selector and center console armrest. For a person of my stature, fairly average, they were in the optimal position. Heated seats got hot fast and stayed that way. Even on their lowest setting I found myself shutting them off after a while. It was a bit difficult to get the seat into an idea driving position, but I could still get comfortable. I think power pedals would help.
Rear passenger space and comfort were limited by the length and width of the Colorado. You could certainly get an average adult there for moderate trips, but a long haul may get a bit cramped. Seats are 60/40 split with a small storage space underneath. They actually sit at a good height, making for a comfortable seating position. There is legroom, though, and my passengers were comfortable enough in our 2.5 hour trip. There is a fold down armrest and cup holder in the rear seat, which you use at the cost of a seating position. Again it’s positioned just right for relaxing, and its construction isn’t thin and finicky. All told, Chevy did a good job using the interior space available to them to make a quiet, modern, comfortable cabin.
With the Colorado, as I’ve said before, its size is its biggest strength and weakness. You see this most in practical day to day use. On the downside, there isn’t enough width to get three car seats across the back bench. You probably can’t fit a sheet of plywood totally flat in the bed. There isn’t enough space to comfortably take three adults and their stuff anywhere long distance. While there are some great little storage bins under the seat, they are even too small for a backpack. It may have been better to leave the space open so we could stuff things under the seat. Water bottle holders are even too small for my reusable water bottle; they’re fine for typical disposable ones.
In contrast, the size of the Colorado is by far its greatest strength. It fits into spaces that big trucks won’t. Chevy has also done a great job making the interior feel like it isn’t a small truck. There are practical, usable spaces throughout the cabin. It’s height is ideal for getting kids in and out of car seats. While the Colorado does have bumper foot steps, it’s height means you don’t always need them. At just over 6 foot, there is still a lot of usable space in Colorado’s bed. Smaller width means smaller doors. What you get is a vehicle which has enough space to put things in and out, without dinging the car next to you. Yes, I couldn’t put three car seats in the back, though Chevy has optimistically fitted three anchor points, it was by far the fastest and easiest system I’ve used. There are actual anchor points behind the rear seats. It’s a bit awkward moving the seats forward with a kids seat in them, it’s still better than fighting with the loops other trucks have. You can even haul 7,000 pounds with the Colorado, when properly equipped. What you get is a vehicle that gives you, in essence, most of the utility of a larger full sized, but with more urban accessibility.
Alright, I’m going to get my GM beef out of the way. Where is my push button start? I complained about this too with the GMC Sierra I tested last year. Considering all the competition has gone
this route I’m surprised the 2015 redesign omitted it. On the whole, however, this is a small complaint. I’d heard the Colorado was a mobile work center, and it hasn’t disappointed. There are USB ports throughout the truck, both front and rear. All of them are plainly accessible and within cord length of passenger seats. Chevy also fits this truck with 4G WiFi courtesy of OnStar. Yes, it’s a monthly subscription you pay for, it’s also a lot less than using data on your cell phone for the same purpose. It’s also a lot more robust. Chevy’s MyLink system again shone in my test. I was a big fan of the same version in the GMC Sierra, and this test only cemented my opinion. Menu navigation was simple and strait forward. Large buttons were easy to push, when calibrated, even with big gloves on. It was always very quick and easy to get to the function I wanted. Chevy MyLink system as a whole was quick, the UI moved quite snappy. Pairing my cellphone was the fastest and easiest yet. Just tap the Chevy name on your phone and away you go. Navigation was easy to use or see. I missed having the directions up in the driver information console between the dials, but the dash is small enough and the screen large enough, I was still able to see clearly. Voice guidance was great and provided plenty of warning when driving.
I’d like to take a moment to highlight how well the voice commands work. Even with the equivalent of a window fully open at 60km/h, it understood my requests at first go. I never had any problems with message dictations either. Switching between media modes by voice is a breeze as well. It’s by far the best voice command system I’ve used.
My Chevy Colorado came with the optional Bose sound system. As with other GM products, this partnership has paid off. In the small cabin of the Colorado the Bose system shines. Audio quality is exceptional. Playing from your phone or USB key is strait forward, controls are easy and intuitive. I love how the media player has large buttons on the LCD screen. You can mash them with gloved fingers with ease. Steering wheel controls were small and tightly packed. This made them easy to use with a bare hand with little motion, but makes them difficult to use with any kind of gloves. There is a driver information LCD between the dashes with a great little monochrome interface. Information is displayed in a simple and clear manner. What isn’t simple is how you control it. You have to use a control lever on the left hand side of the steering wheel to change between menu items and options. It took me a bit to figure out how it worked; something you certainly shouldn’t do unless parked. It lacked navigation information (unless I simply couldn’t find it) and information about what 4 wheel drive mode I was in, but still provided a slew of useful information and multiple trip stats.
I’m walking away from the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado impressed. I can honestly say this little truck has changed how I feel about little trucks. For an urbanite or light contractor, a mid-sized truck offers a lot of the utility of a full sized truck without much of the size and fuel costs. Chevy has set the bar with this tech friendly, utilitarian mid-sized truck. Competition will surely have to take note as vendors flock to the Colorado. If you’re in the market for a small truck or SUV, definitely consider the 2015 Chevy Colorado.
A big thanks to my friends at Bennett GM for loaning me this 2015 Chevrolet Colorado. You can visit Bennett GM online, Facebook, and on Twitter. Interesting in finding out more about the 2015 Colorado, or about this Colorado? You can check it out (or buy it) here.