- A wise alternative to a full-size truck
- Strong, efficient, easy-driving diesel
- Versatile in most every version
- Pickup-bed features are thoughtful
- Good interior design and room
- 4-cylinder's a must with the manual
- The Canyon's better-looking
- Cramped, tight rear seats
- Can overlap Silverado in price
The 2016 Chevy Colorado is the answer for drivers who don't quite need a full-size truck.
With last year's Colorado, Chevy joined the Toyota and Nissan trucks in the mid-size class. Now it towers over them, not in terms of size, but in terms of modern design. Brand-new along with its GMC Canyon twin, the Colorado simply outclasses the Tacoma and Frontier on a variety of fronts, whether it's packaging and interior space, clever new connectivity and bed features, V-6 gas mileage, or simple things like driving position.
Mid-size trucks effectively replaced compact trucks about 15 years ago, when the Dakota, the Tacoma, and the Frontier all were nudged up in size and mission. Compact trucks like the Chevy Colorado were left behind—until now.
At the same time, it's a real rival for full-size truck buyers in its top versions, punching far above its class with full-size towing and hauling capacity, not to mention horsepower, too.
The Chevrolet Colorado takes its pared-down truck shape and somewhat more manageable size and offers a choice of three powertrains. The standard inline-4 puts it in a huge group of vehicles we'd consider for commuter duty, a hatchback alternative with a lot more usefulness strapped to its back. The base 2.5-liter inline-4 is a member of the engine family that also powers GM's big sedans and luxury cars, everything from the Impala to the Cadillac CTS. It's rated at 200 horsepower, coupled to a choice of a manual or automatic 6-speed, and happily quiet and unobtrusive as it works hard to provide moderate acceleration. It's a fine choice for light-duty users who depend on an open bed rather than the top towing and hauling numbers.
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 V-6s in the segment.
For even more grunt that'll satisfy those who plan to tow heavy loads long distances, there's a 2.8-liter turbodiesel inline-4, making 181 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. Its fuel economy ratings will top 30 mpg on the highway, while its tow ratings extend upward to 7,700 pounds in some configurations.
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.
Between its three body styles and trio of trims, the Chevy Colorado caters to some distinctive bands of truck drivers. Those who haul passengers often will want the four-door crew cab, with a either a 5- or a 6-foot pickup bed. Solo drivers with more functional needs can make do with the extended-cab Colorado, with its standard 6-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 seat backs and a marked lack of knee room.
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 8-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 8.0-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. New for 2016, the Colorado's MyLink interface now incorporates Apple CarPlay, which uses the truck's touchscreen as a mirror display for some iPhone functions like messaging, mapping, and streaming audio.
Fuel economy ratings for the Colorado range from 20 mpg city, 27 highway, 22 combined rating achieved by the rear-drive turbodiesel Colorado. Many buyers may not opt for the oil burner, and the Colorado's mileage returns with an inline-4 aren't as lucrative as one might expect; an automatic, rear-drive Colorado only manages 20/27/22 mpg. The V-6 fares better against the competition and full-size trucks. The bigger engine can return up to 18/26/21 mpg.