Nearly all car and truck models eventually fade away, and that’s the case with Chevrolet’s compact S-10. Chevrolet is launching a new pickup named the Colorado, which is poised to edge aside the S-10, though crew-cab models of the long-lived compact pickup may hang on a while longer.
Both the Colorado and GMC’s new and closely rated Canyon are larger than the trucks they replace. The two pickups are domestically built models, but the joint project took cues from the Isuzu D-Max Rodeo pickup that was engineered in Japan.
The Colorado will come with two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive and in regular-cab, extended-cab and crew-cab configurations. Three suspension packages will be available: standard, sport and off-road. Both a Z71 Performance Package and a ZR2 Package for serious off-roading will be available, as they were for the S-10. Available engines include a new all-aluminum, Vortec 2.8-liter inline-four-cylinder that generates 175 horsepower and a 220-hp, 3.5-liter inline-five-cylinder that hails from GM’s Atlas family. The 3.5-liter engine is derived from GM’s 4.2-liter inline-six, which was introduced in the 2002 Chevrolet TrailBlazer. Dual balance shafts within each engine help eliminate vibrations, while variable valve timing promises improved idle smoothness, reduced emissions and better gas mileage.Chevrolet claims to be the first in its class with optional roof-rail side-impact airbags. “This is a personal-use truck for singles, couples or families who want more out of their midsize pickups but share one thing in common: Any truck they drive had better be a real truck,” said Marketing Director Janet Eckhoff. Production of the Colorado began late in 2003.
The Colorado’s styling is called aerodynamic, angular and athletic, and a prominent gold bowtie emblem is set against a chrome grille bar. Built on a ladder-type frame, the rear-wheel-drive Colorado has an independent front suspension and a “live” rear axle, while four-wheel-drive models get a torsion-bar suspension.
Regular-cab trucks are 192.4 inches long overall on a 111.3-inch wheelbase, while extended-cab and crew-cab models measure 207 inches long on a 126-inch span. Standard tires measure 15 inches in diameter, and aluminum wheels are available. A ZQ8 Package includes 18-inch tires on aluminum wheels. Hydraulically assisted rack-and-pinion steering is installed.
Chevrolet claims that the Colorado’s interior looks and feels more like a well-appointed full-size pickup than the typical model. Extended-cab models have four doors, and the crew-cab model has a 60/40-split, folding rear seat that holds three adults. Regular-cab trucks feature 60/40-split bench seats upholstered in cloth or leather, and bucket seats are available. A battery-saver system is standard, and an intelligent-start feature prevents engaging the starter if the engine is running. Options include a remote locking system, heated seats, GM’s OnStar communication system and XM Satellite Radio.
Under the Hood
The Colorado may be equipped with one of two engines. The new dual-overhead-cam Vortec 2.8-liter inline-four-cylinder yields 175 hp and 185 pounds-feet of torque, while the 3.5-liter inline-five-cylinder generates 220 hp and 225 pounds-feet of torque. Both engines use electronic throttle control.
Either engine can drive a five-speed-manual gearbox or a four-speed-automatic transmission. Chevrolet’s shift-on-the-fly four-wheel-drive system operates with a dashboard-mounted switch. A locking differential will be optional, and rear-drive models may be equipped with traction control.
Antilock brakes with tandem power boosters, dual-piston front discs and rear drums are standard. Roof-rail side-impact airbags will be optional.
More refined than the smaller S-10, the new Colorado combines satisfying performance and appropriate handling skills with a pleasantly roomy cockpit. The Colorado isn’t much larger than the S-10, but the extra increase is just enough to make a difference.
Performance with the five-cylinder engine is sufficiently energetic, and it’s helped by exceptionally good automatic-transmission behavior. The Colorado is enjoyable to drive, and it maneuvers handily around town. You can expect quite a bit of bouncing on rougher surfaces, but the suspension is otherwise well controlled.Drawbacks include a somewhat stiff ride and a slightly noisy engine, but the Colorado provides an appealing compromise between full-size and compact trucks. Some interior details are a bit rough, but the Colorado is solid overall. The seats are barely bolstered and have modest back support, but headroom is abundant and elbow space is ample. Legroom is minimal in the back of the Crew Cab version, and headroom is tight. The backseat headrests significantly impair rearward visibility.