2009 Chevrolet Colorado Review

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Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
March 7, 2009

The new available V-8 engine is a long time coming and helps position the Colorado as a worthy rival to the most capable compacts and an alternative to full-size trucks.

TheCarConnection.com's editors have driven the new V-8 Chevrolet Colorado, along with more basic four- and five-cylinder versions, in order to give you an expert opinion. And to help you make the most of some of the most reputable review sources on the Web, TheCarConnection.com has brought some of the most useful information together here.

For the first time ever, Chevrolet has seen fit to put a V-8 engine in a compact truck. Although offered in only the Extended and Crew Cab models, the 2009 Colorado (along with its nearly identical sibling, the GMC Canyon) is now available with a 5.3-liter V-8 engine producing 300 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque—bringing a maximum towing capacity of 6,000 pounds and sub-seven-second 0-60 acceleration. The new engine is mated to Chevrolet’s smooth, reliable four-speed automatic transmission.

The Colorado’s other two engines, the 185-horsepower, 2.9-liter inline four-cylinder and 242-hp, 3.7-liter inline-five, are still part of the model lineup, and thanks to a revised fuel control module, they feature improved fuel economy of up to 25 mpg with the four-cylinder.

All 2009 Colorado models receive StabiliTrak electronic stability control, as well as a new braking system that features better braking feel and improved stopping power. A new ZQ8 sport suspension package for 2009 Extended and Crew Cab models features revised suspension tuning that’s 30 percent stiffer and a ride height that’s one inch lower. Eighteen-inch, split six-spoke aluminum wheels and low-profile performance tires are a new part of the package that pairs with the V-8.

Review continues below

Whether you ask reviewers of a range of publications or the editors of TheCarConnection.com, you’re likely to hear that the base four-cylinder and optional five are quite unimpressive; as a step-up engine, the five-cylinder is especially rough and noisy, and doesn’t deliver the smooth real-world torque of rival V-6 engines, despite having similar output numbers. The new V-8 engine gives the Colorado a completely different character, and TheCarConnection.com recommends it for those who need more towing ability. With the V-8, the Colorado is quite enjoyable to drive, though across the line, the steering is vague and requires frequent corrections.

Inside, ZQ8-equipped models feature unique seats unavailable in other Colorado models, but the interior for all Colorados remains unimpressive, with lots of cheap-feeling hard plastic. Standard equipment is quite good, though, including air conditioning, a tilt steering wheel, cruise control, and folding exterior mirrors. Options include traction control, XM, fog lamps, leather seats, a sunroof, a six-CD changer, and a sliding rear window. OnStar is offered but without a navigation feature—which would enhance the desirability of work trucks.

The 2009 Colorado is available is a variety of layouts, including rear- or four-wheel drive, in short-wheelbase regular-cab and long-wheelbase extended- and four-door crew-cab versions that can seat up to six passengers. The 6-foot "long" bed won't carry a 4x8 sheet of plywood, and four-door Colorados have only a 5-foot, 1-inch bed anyway. On four-door versions, the backseat stands uncomfortably upright and is just roomy enough for two adults.

The four-door Chevrolet Colorado receives a mix of crash-test scores, with straight four-star ratings from the federal government (except for some higher five-star ratings on the Crew Cab), with lackluster side and rear test scores from the IIHS. The addition of StabiliTrack electronic stability control, as well as an improved braking system, should increase the Colorado’s accident avoidance abilities.

7

2009 Chevrolet Colorado

Styling

The 2009 Chevrolet Colorado’s Spartan interior detracts from its pleasing, chunky exterior styling.

Aside from some exterior trim revisions, the exterior styling of the 2009 Colorado remains unchanged. But in all of the Colorado’s varied configurations—rear- or four-wheel drive, in short-wheelbase regular-cab and long-wheelbase extended- and four-door crew-cab versions—there are plenty of styling differences from which to choose.

Edmunds says, “The Colorado's aggressive, angular styling makes big promises of power, ruggedness and capability.” Cars.com calls it "aerodynamic, angular and athletic." Automedia likes the Colorado’s styling, calling it “terrific,” and believes it “resembles a scaled-down Silverado with a rugged and sporting stance.” Truck Trend notes that the Colorado comes in three different cab styles—“regular cab, extended cab, crew cab (with four full-size front-hinged doors)”—and that “regular and extended cabs get a 6-foot-1-inch-long bed and crew cabs feature a 5-foot-1-inch-long bed.” Kelley Blue Book is relatively impressed with the base 2009 Chevrolet Colorado trim, declaring it "an attractive alternative for those whose truck use tends to be recreational." The exterior has a "look that says 'Chevy,' [with] bulging fender flares and bright alloy wheels [that] punctuate tall slab sides."

The cabin of the 2009 Chevrolet Colorado draws both praise for its aesthetics, as well as condemnation for the use of cheap materials. Edmunds complains, “recent upgrades to the Colorado's interior make today's version more hospitable than in previous model years. However, plenty of evidence of cost-cutting remains in the form of hard plastics, inconsistent build quality and a near absence of style.” Car and Driver slams its "rental-car interior décor." Automedia says, “Inside, Colorado looks and feels more like a spacious, well-appointed full-size pickup,” and Kelley Blue Book describes the Chevrolet Colorado interior layout as "highly functional, with all the gauges and controls in clear sight and easy reach of the driver." However, they also note an "over-abundance of gray throughout the cab" that only differs "in the pricier trim levels." ConsumerGuide likes "the audio and climate controls [that] are simple to use and are clearly marked" and gauges that "are easy to read," though "some digital readouts wash out in direct sunlight."

7

2009 Chevrolet Colorado

Performance

The 2009 Chevrolet Colorado’s new V-8 engine and retuned suspension are welcome upgrades but may not be enough to move the Colorado in front of its competition.

With the addition of the new 5.3-liter V-8, the Chevrolet Colorado offers a selection of three engines for 2009. The new 300-horsepower V-8 boasts features such as polymer-coated pistons, roller-tipped rocker arms, full-floating wrist pins, and six-bolt main bearings. The sub-seven-second 0-60 mph engine is, in fact, the same Vortec V-8 found inside the Hummer H3 Alpha. The two continuing engines are the 2.9-liter inline four-cylinder and 3.7-liter inline-five.

According to most reviewers, the new engine is worth getting not just for its power but for its smoothness, although from a purely fiscal standpoint the V-8 doesn’t add much towing capability. “The new V-8 is a good remedy for the thrashy 242-horse, 3.7-liter inline five-cylinder engine currently found in lesser Colorados,” says Car and Driver, further noting that the engine “can tug a maximum of 6000 pounds, just 500 more than the 242-hp five-cylinder—and the I-5 gets a coupla more miles per gallon.” Automobile Magazine puts the V-8 to good use and finds reason to like the new engine: “Hitched to a 5150-pound boat and trailer, the mighty V-8 hustled this pickup to 60 mph in 15.9 seconds and averaged a decent 11 mpg during suburban cruising.”

In regard to the other engines ConsumerGuide remarks the Colorado has only "adequate power for around town driving," while still "lack[ing] reserve for passing or hauling heavy loads." Car and Driver criticizes the four-cylinder as a “thrashy engine.” Truck Trend counters that, with both engines, “there's a pleasing amount of reserve power left at higher engine speeds for merging onto the Interstate or overtaking another vehicle on a winding two-lane.”  Edmunds points out, “You can get a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission with either engine.” Kelley Blue Book predicts consumers will appreciate the Chevrolet Colorado's "good power and excellent fuel economy...EPA-rated at 24 miles per gallon on the highway."

Automobile Magazine gives the thumbs-up to the Colorado’s retuned ZQ8 suspension, saying, “Thanks to fine-tuning by GM's Performance Division personnel, the ZQ8 package is well suited to anyone whose preferences lean in the car direction. Quicker steering, a one-inch lower ride height, stiffer spring and antiroll-bar rates, and Goodyear Eagle RS-A tires—size 235/50WR-18—on eight-inch-wide aluminum wheels do an excellent job obliterating this truck's sordid past.” Car and Driver isn’t quite as endearing about the new suspension, griping, “The suspension is definitely stiff, with a sort of 'classic' (read, 'old-feeling') ride quality, bouncing you and your cargo around over every imperfection in the road. The quicker steering is nicely tightened up over that of the loosey-goosey normal Colorado, but it still lacks feel." Edmunds applauds the 2009 Chevrolet Colorado for "affordable, composed handling on- and off-road,” and says the "standard suspension is softly tuned for a comfortable ride."

6

2009 Chevrolet Colorado

Comfort & Quality

The bargain-basement interior and limited load capacity hinder the competitiveness of the 2009 Chevrolet Colorado.

The use of cheap plastic and inferior switchgear on the interior of the 2009 Chevrolet Colorado cripples the truck’s overall rating.

“In its latest comparison test appearance,” says Car and Driver, “the Colorado finished last out of five trucks and was flayed for its rental-car interior, unrefined engine, and upright rear backrest.” Edmunds is also unimpressed with the Colorado, grousing, "seating comfort and cabin materials still leave much to be desired" with the 2009 Colorado. Chevrolet loses marks for giving "the impression of being cheap," with Edmunds noting, "sub par materials, an abundance of hard plastic and mediocre seat comfort."

“Unfortunately, the front bucket upgrade (a 60/40 split bench is standard) brings seats that feel convex instead of concave,” says Automobile Magazine, adding, “Driving stints longer than two hours will have you speed-dialing your chiropractor for relief.” ConsumerGuide is generally happy with the front part of the Chevrolet Colorado cab's interior, pointing out "lots of legroom and headroom" and seats that are "adequately comfortable for long drives." Kelley Blue Book concurs, declaring the "seats offer firm bottoms and good lumbar support" and that "the cloth fabric is both durable and comfortable."

The Colorado’s rear seats are faulted for being hard, undersized, and uncomfortably upright. Getting to them is also a challenge, as "entry and exit is difficult through small door openings." Like legroom, "storage is limited," though "better on the Extended and Crew Cab" Chevy Colorado models, attests ConsumerGuide, also saying that "adults lack legroom," though the "Crew Cabs are more spacious" on the Colorado. TheCarConnection.com finds adequate space in the Crew Cab’s backseats for two adults, although cushions are a bit flat.

Build quality is well received despite the below-par materials, with Kelley Blue Book reporting that "even over washboard roads, the Colorado exhibited no sign of dash-rattling or squeaks." Edmunds comments that the Colorado remains "relatively quiet around town," with "wind noise around the doors picking up at highway speeds."

Cargo-bed-carrying capacity is limited, as the six-foot bed won't hold a 4x8 sheet of plywood, and the four-door Colorados have it even worse with only a 5-foot, 1-inch bed.

7

2009 Chevrolet Colorado

Safety

With electronic stability control and improved braking now standard, the 2009 Chevrolet Colorado likely has reduced chances of getting in an accident, though it’s still not at the head of the pack in protection.

Upgraded brakes and the addition of StabiliTrack electronic stability control should help the 2009 Chevrolet Colorado improve a bit on its middle-of-the-pack safety.

The four-door Chevrolet Colorado gets five-star frontal crash scores from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), along with four-star ratings in side impacts and nearly all other distinctions. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) ranks the Colorado as “good” for all front impacts but "marginal" in its seat-based rear-impact test and "poor" in its side-impact test—that’s for models without the optional side-curtain bags. TheCarConnection.com’s editors note that thorax-protecting side airbags remain unavailable on the Colorado.

The reviewers at Edmunds welcome the inclusion of "OnStar emergency communications," now standard on all 2009 Chevrolet Colorado models.

7

2009 Chevrolet Colorado

Features

As a work truck, the 2009 Chevrolet Colorado offers everything necessary, but as anything more, it lacks the standard features and options of its competitors.

In terms of standard features, the 2009 Chevrolet Colorado offers what you’d expect from a compact truck, though options don’t include what you might desire when upgrading into something more than a base model vehicle.

Some truck-specific options not available on the 2009 Chevrolet Colorado, including "no protective coating or tie-down rails in the bed," give Car and Driver pause.

Cars.com notes the Colorado’s optional "heated leather seating and XM Satellite Radio," as well as the optional "locking differential." Edmunds reviewers like the Chevrolet Colorado's "grille guards, bed extender and 18-inch wheels [that] are also available." While most options are bundled or offered as stand-alone items, including bucket seats, power windows/locks/mirrors, remote keyless entry, and a self-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth and navigation are two options conspicuously missing from the list.

Though Edmunds calls the base Colorado "pretty spartan aside from air-conditioning and an AM/FM stereo," it also includes features like tilt steering, cruise control, and two 12-volt power outlets. Moving up to the LT adds reclining seats, more stereo speakers, and aluminum wheels, which Edmunds says “is a better choice for most folks.”

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6.8
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Expert Rating
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Styling 7.0
Performance 7.0
Comfort & Quality 6.0
Safety 7.0
Features 7.0
Fuel Economy N/A
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