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The mid-size pickup market had, until this year, been almost completely stagnant for the better part of a decade. Few new additions joined the ranks, and those on offer were largely stuck in the late 1990s or early 2000s in terms of technology, capability, and features. That has changed for the 2015 model year, and the latest upgrade is the 2015 Chevy Colorado.
Sharing much of its underpinnings and basic design with the 2015 GMC Canyon, the Colorado isn't a truck revolution—but that makes it no less welcome as a supplement to the full-size trucks roaming the nation’s streets, job sites, and dirt roads.
The Colorado stakes a claim on some of the shoppers who'd otherwise buy an aging Toyota Tacoma or Nissan Frontier. In basic four-cylinder versions, it's some drivers' alternative for an economy sedan or hatchback--but with a maximum bed length of six feet and with its biggest engine a 3.6-liter V-6, the Colorado also can overlap the six-cylinder versions of the new 2014 Chevy Silverado and its kin, the GMC Sierra.
GM's latest four- and six-cylinder engines power the new Colorado. The base 2.5-liter in-line four-cylinder comes from a family of fours that powers today's Malibu and Impala, and it's a fine choice for light-duty users who depend on an open bed rather than the top towing and hauling numbers. It's rated at 200 horsepower, coupled to a choice of a manual or automatic six-speed, and happily quiet and unobtrusive as it works hard to provide moderate acceleration.
The 3.6-liter V-6 that's also found in Cadillac's ATS and CTS is an option on the Colorado. In this tune, it's good for 305 hp, and it's strong enough to deliver 7,000 pounds of towing capacity and strong mid-range acceleration. It's a little more grumpy about delivering that kind of power, but by no means as unrefined and raw as some of the other sixes in the segment. For even more grunt, there's an upcoming 2.8-liter in-line four turbodiesel, which GM confirms will arrive in 2016.
The Colorado rides on a fully boxed frame with a coil front suspension. Electric power steering is standard across the lineup. Four-wheel drive is an option, naturally, and four-wheel disc brakes with long-life rotors are standard. With either powertrain, the Colorado's ride and handling are by far superior to the Tacoma and Frontier. Electric power steering is weighted well, and the suspension setup makes the most out of coil-over front shocks and a live rear axle and leaf springs.
With three configurations and three trim levels, the Colorado tries to slice and dice the smaller-truck market in sensible ways. There's a crew-cab model with a five-foot bed for more passenger-heavy uses, and one with a six-foot bed, as well as an extended-cab version with a six-foot bed. No matter which cab is chosen, the Colorado has an excellent interior and space for the front two passengers, with better materials and a better, more natural driving position than the Tacoma or Frontier. In back, it's either a pair of child-safety-sized seats or cramped accommodations for adults, with bolt-upright seatbacks.
The Colorado's bed does a better job of pleasing owners than the back seat does, anyway. It's shy on length to full-sizers, but with available bed extenders, an eight-foot object can be brought home without much fuss. Thoughtful touches include a corner bumper step and easy-lowering tailgate on all versions, as well as some 17 tie-down spots inside the bed. It can be fitted with either a spray-in bedliner or a drop-in one; cargo dividers; a system of racks and carriers dubbed GearOn; cargo nets and tonneau covers; a drop-in toolbox; and of course, trailer hitches and harnesses.
The Colorado comes in three trim levels, starting with WT work trucks, with the nicely equipped LT in the middle. Trim levels top out at the Z71 off-road specialist--it gets its own headlamps, 17-inch wheels, and dark-metal grille trim. All versions have six airbags, stability control with trailer-sway control, and hill start assist; Z71 models also get hill descent control. Forward-collision alert and lane-departure warning systems are available, and a rearview camera is standard.
On the connectivity front, all Colorados come with a USB port and touchscreen-controlled audio. Bluetooth is available, as is an eight-inch touchscreen (on LT and Z71 Colorados) and multiple USB ports for charging and music storage. Navigation is an option, as is GM's OnStar service and 4G LTE data connectivity.