2017 Chevrolet Colorado vs. 2017 Toyota Tacoma: Compare Trucks

December 9, 2016
2016 Chevrolet Colorado

2016 Chevrolet Colorado

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If you want a pickup that’s more manageable and maneuverable—and perhaps more fuel-efficient—than a full-size truck, the market is gradually coming back to life after years of stagnation. And the recently redesigned Chevrolet Colorado and Toyota Tacoma are both prime examples of this trend.

With these two models—as well as the GMC Canyon, which is nearly identical to the Colorado but offers unique styling—shoppers now have a set of relatively modern, well-conceived (albeit perhaps closer to mid-size than compact) alternatives to going large. Both models offer a choice of four-cylinder and V-6 engines, and the usual vast menu of cab and bed sizes, trim levels, and equipment packages; but there are some key differences between these two models.

Which should you choose? It depends on why you’re buying a truck, as well as your expectations about features and cabin appointments. These two trucks take very different approaches, and you’ll want to read on to understand some key points.

We choose the Chevrolet Colorado, given its obvious strengths in powertrains and ride comfort, and its unflappable towing and hauling numbers, rating it a 7 out of 10 overall. Our rating system has changed, so you may want to take a look at how we've derived these figures. 

2016 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road

2016 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road

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2016 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road

2016 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road

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2016 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road

2016 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road

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2016 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road

2016 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road

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Exterior styling is probably the closest place of overlap for these two trucks. Both build on some of the cues of their compact-truck predecessors but also embody something of the taller, blocker, more imposing look of today’s full-size trucks. While the Chevrolet Colorado continues that likeness to full-size trucks inside, the Tacoma takes more of a conservative tack, very closely riffing on previous Tacoma layouts and keeping it simple, almost stark.

Likewise, the clear difference in interior-layout philosophies has resulted in some very different seating and ride-comfort realities in these trucks. The Chevrolet Colorado has great seats that are widely adjustable and have thigh support good enough for all-day drives. Ride comfort tends to be reasonably good, too, and these are very quiet trucks inside. On the other hand, the latest Toyota Tacoma feels a bit like it carried forth with old-style pickup cabin proportions. The driver’s seat doesn’t adjust for height or tilt, and there’s not a whole lot of headroom. Ride comfort definitely tends to be a notch or two on the busy side compared to the Chevy.

What’s under the hood of these trucks is comparable. In each, the flagship models are powered by strong V-6 engines. But at the base level, the Colorado has a four-cylinder engine—a 200-hp, 2.5-liter—that feels far stronger for everyday-driving situations than the 159-hp, 2.7-liter four in the Tacoma.

Go for the V-6 engine and these two trucks are far closer in performance. The Colorado's 3.6-liter V-6 makes 308 horsepower and is paired only with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Meanwhile, the 2017 Toyota Tacoma goes with a 3.5-liter V-6 that makes 278 hp and 285 pound-feet and also feels very strong and quick. The Tacoma V-6’s faster-reacting transmission gives a slight edge as we see it, but we haven't actually driven a Colorado with its new-for-2017 8-speed automatic.

2016 Chevrolet Colorado Duramax diesel

2016 Chevrolet Colorado Duramax diesel

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2016 Chevrolet Colorado Duramax diesel

2016 Chevrolet Colorado Duramax diesel

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2016 Chevrolet Colorado Diesel - First Drive

2016 Chevrolet Colorado Diesel - First Drive

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2016 Chevrolet Colorado

2016 Chevrolet Colorado

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But the Colorado does have a secret weapon in its pickup war chest: the fuel-efficient pulling power of a new 2.8-liter Duramax four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine that makes a whopping 369 pound-feet of torque at just 2,000 rpm—good for serious tow ratings up to 7,700 pounds (versus 7,000 with the V-6) and near-effortless acceleration with a load, or up grades, often without the neeed for dramatic downshifts.

The Duramax diesel returns up to an EPA-rated 30 mpg on the highway, which makes that version of the Colorado the most fuel-efficient pickup in the U.S. market. For this reason, it’s also the far better choice for towing, in this competitive set.

The Tacoma comes closest to offering some of the charm of the old compact trucks, in the form of a base four-cylinder model with rear-wheel drive and a amnual transmission. It also has a strong following among weekend-warrior off-road types who really push the capabilities of their vehicles; and that’s where Toyota really shines with the current Tacoma, which has been tweaked and specially packaged with those enthusiasts in mind. The special TRD Off Road model isn’t cheap at around $35k, but it has a well-matched set of hardward designed to get through some of the most challenging terrain—and it includes a new Multi-Terrain Select system for fine-tunred settings, plus a system that will even automatically ‘pulse’ you out when you’re stuck in sand or mud.

For 2017, the Tacoma is now available in a range-topping TRD Pro trim that sets the bar even higher for off roading. With a 1-inch suspension lift, Fox shocks, beefier skid plates, and all-terrain tires with Kevlar-reinforcement, it is rivaled only by the Jeep Wrangler.

The Colorado’s interior is about the best in its class. Its MyLink infotainment system has Apple CarPlay, for easy mirroring of some iPhone and iPad apps, and it’s one of the most intuitive systems on the market. The Tacoma also has a pretty good touch-screen system, with Siri Eyes Free compativility. But you’ll find that many items that are trickling down to mid-size trucks—like ventilated or cooled front seats, heated rear seats, seat memory settings, smart cruise control, and forward collision systems—simply aren’t available on any Tacoma. Both of these trucks offer dozens of accessories—although the Tacoma offers a clever standard GoPro mount that’s going to appeal to the active off-road crowd.

There are many, many differences in these trucks; but to us it mostly comes down to this, we think: If you place your emphasis on off-road ability, longevity, and/or loyalty to the Toyota brand, the Tacoma is the one you should get. But if you truly expect your mid-size truck to emulate full-size trucks from inside the cabin—and not have glaring sacrifices in comfort or packaging—then the Chevrolet Colorado is certainly the way to go.

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Summary

6.4
Expert Rating
A new TRD Pro package further cements the 2017 Toyota Tacoma's reputation as an off-road leader.
6.3
Expert Rating
Don't quite need a full-size truck? The Chevrolet Colorado makes a compelling case for the way most of us truly use our pickups.

Styling

6.0
Expert Rating
The Tacoma's blunt snout seems at odds with its rather ordinary side profile, but its interior looks and feels great for the class.
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7.0
Expert Rating
Looking decidedly global, the Colorado is a nice looking truck that we think is slightly overshadowed by its GMC Canyon sibling.
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Performance

7.0
Expert Rating
A strong V-6 and willing 6-speed transmissions combine with above average off road ability to make the Tacoma even better at what it has always done well.
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7.0
Expert Rating
A new V-6 should make the Colorado as competitive as ever.
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Comfort & Quality

6.0
Expert Rating
A low roof and a high floor combine to give the Tacoma an awkward driving position, but its interior is otherwise above average.
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6.0
Expert Rating
With its roomy interior and nice finishings, the Colorado is an excellent mid-size truck.
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Safety

Not all crash tests are in, but the 2017 Tacoma has performed well in tests so far.
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4.0
Expert Rating
Safety scores for the Colorado aren't fully complete, but federal ratings aren't too impressive.
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Features

8.0
Expert Rating
Although it doesn't offer a diesel or an ultra high-luxe version, the Tacoma is still available with a dizzying array of features.
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8.0
Expert Rating
From work truck to bucks-up off roader, there are Colorados for everyone.
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Fuel Economy

5.0
Expert Rating
The Tacoma comes in dead average in the mid-size truck segment for its fuel efficiency.
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6.0
Expert Rating
The Colorado is reasonably frugal for a mid-size pickup and its new V-6 helps it stay competitive.
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MSRP

from $24,575
from $20,000

Invoice

from $23,040
from $19,900

Fuel Economy - Combined City and Highway

21
22

Engine

Regular Unleaded I-4, 2.7 L
Gas I4, 2.5L

Drivetrain

Rear Wheel Drive Read Full Specs
Rear Wheel Drive Read Full Specs
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