2015 Chevrolet Colorado: First Drive


When was the last time that a new vehicle entering a segment outperformed, outshone and outdistanced the competition so completely that it was almost embarrassing? At the risk of overstating the point, the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado is not only a vastly improved replacement for the previous-generation Colorado (which, at best, was dismal), but it also beats the existing competition hands down. That said, let's be honest and acknowledge that in a segment that hasn't seen any significant improvements in a long time, the bar wasn't all that high.

You have to give GM credit for its perseverance. When all other the truckmakers were shifting away or completely dropping smaller pickups (pickups less capable than half-ton trucks), GM charted a course with a three-truck strategy (midsize, half ton and heavy duty) that had people in and out of the auto industry scratching their heads.

What did GM know about this segment, about this potential small-truck buyer no one else could see? The short answer is that GM understood that everything its engineers learned when redesigning the half-ton Chevy Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 for 2014 was directly applicable to this new pickup. And so GM stuffed everything from the bigger pickup (excluding the physical size) into a smaller pickup. And we can now say, after driving just about every version of the Colorado, that the lessons learned from the half tons were not wasted on this pickup.

How It Drives

We drove a good variety of Chevy Colorados near the Southern California beach towns of Solana Beach and Torrey Pines north of San Diego. We took the pickups on winding roads through coastal mountains, densely populated city streets and wide-open high-speed freeways. We even shot a video; click to see it.

Our biggest surprise was the capability of the new 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine. In the extended-cab 4×2, the four-cylinder engine was more than adequate (even snappy) for around-town driving and merging into traffic. There was a bit of wheeziness on startup, and there's no hiding the higher rpm sound of the small engine when outside the truck. However, from inside the heavily insulated cab there is almost no engine sound at all, due in large part to a massive intake resonator that takes up almost all of the available engine compartment space.

We have to admit that, on paper, the horsepower and torque numbers of the I-4 blow away its Toyota and Nissan counterparts. The all-aluminum 2.5-liter 16-valve direct-injection engine generates 200 horsepower and 191 pounds-feet of torque. We guessing most four-cylinder engines will be matched with either the Base or Work Truck extended cab, but it is offered across the lineup with the exception of the Z71 trim level.

We had the chance to drive both the six-speed automatic and six-speed manual, and we're more impressed with the exceptionally versatile automatic transmission (the same one in the Chevy Camaro), which has some solid fuel economy numbers. The smart automatic transmission is able to smooth out throttle response and selectively lock up the torque converter at exactly the moment you need it to. The automatic gets almost 4 percent better mileage than the six-speed manual's EPA fuel economy ratings. The automatic I-4 (4×2) gets EPA ratings of 20/27/22 mpg city/highway/combined and the manual (4×2) gets 19/26/22.

Most Colorado buyers will choose the 3.6-liter engine and for good reason – this engine is packed with technology: all-aluminum block and heads, dual-overhead cams, continuously variable valve timing, high-pressure direct injection and coil-on-plug ignition. The engine is rated at 305 hp and 269 pounds-feet of torque, neither of which blows away the competition (as long as you include some full-size V-6 options) but in this package it works very well. Fuel economy numbers for the V-6 are 18/26/21 (4×2, automatic).

Although both engines are well constructed and produce solid power numbers, it seems like the primary powertrain technology responsible for the impressive road feel lies in the sophistication of the computer controls in the transmission. The V-6 Hydra-Matic 6L50 (typically mated to 3.42:1 axle gears, but 3.73:1 gears might be an option for the V-6 at a later date; 4.10:1 gears are standard for the I-4.) is capable of sensing when to smooth out gear shifts and takeoffs, as well as when it's best to lock up the torque converter to provide as little power slip as possible. The end result is both driveline efficiency and instant power delivery, depending on how you are driving or what kind of load you are pulling.


If there's any aspect of the Colorado's exterior that says this is a new and unique pickup, it's the rather aero-biased, Euro-looking front end with its narrow grille and sports-glasses headlights. The new, more slippery look not only separates it from its Canyon sibling but also signals a much more dramatic look from anything in the segment. This new look clearly differentiates the Chevy from its GMC counterpart more than any other pairing on sale today (Tahoe/Yukon, Silverado/Sierra or Equinox/Terrain).


The technology in the lower-trim interiors is not bad, but the 7-inch center-stack screen and switch layout in higher trim levels is more impressive, delivering echoes of the larger Silverado. The driver information center in between the speedometer and tachometer is controlled by some clever switches and buttons on the turn-signal stalk. The information center offers a good amount of data to entry-level owners. Buyers who opt for LT or Z71 trims equipped with the navigation system get color and even more information. GM also offers full Wi-Fi hotspot capability with its OnStar 4G LTE offering that will allow up to seven different devices to connect simultaneously. Spokesmen for GM say that during its introduction, the Colorado will offer some technology packages for free for several months and then give owners the option to continue the service for as little as $5 per month in some cases.

A standout interior feature in the extended-cab and crew-cab versions is how designers made use of almost every nook and cranny to provide as much storage space as possible. From the door pockets and small cutout in all the doors to the extra space underneath all the seats, little interior space was wasted.

We also like that the tiny bucket seats that come standard on extended cabs can be deleted, saving buyers a little money and providing more room for custom storage. It's worth noting that the front seats in these models have one of the longest front seat tracks we've ever experienced. Tall drivers (think 6 feet 4 inches) will have little problem getting comfortable in this truck.

On the Road

We had the most fun during our coastal drives around Del Mar, with its twisty canyon roads. Although there is no dedicated Sport mode on the automatic shifter, there is a Manual setting that allows you to select and hold whatever gear you prefer, turning the load-hauling pickup into a quick-shifting sport truck. During highway cruising we did notice the transmission sensed our smoother throttle inputs and made more and higher shifts to taller gears to get our engine rpms down (getting us better mpgs on our fuel economy readout) more often than when driving in the crowded beach cities.

We particularly liked the fact that the automatic transmission in the four-cylinder models has a much more aggressive grade-braking software program, almost similar to the Tow/Haul mode that is typically bundled into a trailering package. As you might expect, the trailer package (required to get the maximum 7,000-pound tow rating) is only available with the V-6; however, the I-4 still has an impressive 3,500-pound maximum tow rating, thanks in large part to the all-new chassis and frame.

Choosing the four-cylinder/six-speed transmission combination seems like common sense but driving it makes it an almost a game-changing revelation – the combination not only makes the truck feel sportier, but will also save the brake pads and allow the driver better control when hauling loads down hills.

We had the chance to do some light towing with a few trailers and found the V-6 to be a solid performer. The trailering package provides a Class III trailer hitch, a 7/4-pin plug and a dedicated Tow/Haul toggle on the center stack. When Tow/Haul is engaged, it changes the sensitivity of the shift program of the transmission to allow for better gear holding on accelerations and faster downshifting when off throttle. The braking on this truck is impressive — and this is not a traditionally GM truck strength. When empty or fully loaded, the four-wheel disc brake setup does a masterful job of smoothly and progressively controlling the truck, even when towing a 4,500-pound boat. In fact, the brake pedal feels similar to the throttle in terms of how responsive it is to both subtle and full-stomp braking events. We have not experienced that in the Toyota Tacoma or Nissan Frontier.


Pricing for the Colorado has already been announced, with Base models starting at $20,995 including destination (trim levels are Base, Work Truck, LT and Z71). However, it will be difficult for dealers to keep the price down when ordering the truck they want on their lot. One huge word of caution here: To its credit, GM has included tons of good and practical options for this truck, but that means costs can add up quickly. If you've spent any time on the Colorado's "build-your-own" website, you know how quickly pricing can climb. Most of the vehicles we drove were midlevel trucks that ran in the $35,000 range, meaning the most well-equipped 4×4 Z71 crew cabs can get to $40,000 pretty fast. Nevertheless, an extended-cab 4×2 four-banger can be had for less than $30,000.

Final Remarks

To sum things up, the new Colorado is well executed and packed with plenty of smart technology and class-leading features. In fact, from the way the Colorado and 2015 GMC Canyon truck teams talk (many of whom worked on the Silverado/Sierra 1500 teams just a few years ago), a lot of what they learned from the bigger brothers was stuffed onto the smaller frame, into the smaller cab and incorporated into the pickup bed. There's no question this is just about the best all-new truck we've ever seen enter a segment, but let's remember that this is a segment that essentially has been ignored for 10 years, so the bar isn't set very high.

We hope the Colorado pushes other truckmakers to take more aggressive action. We'll know more about how GM's "all-in" midsize truck strategy will play out after we've seen the first four to six months of sales numbers. GM's marketing department wants us to believe that crossover, sedan and SUV buyers have been waiting for a better pickup choice, but we'll have to see where these new small truck buyers come from.

As to how this new Chevy compares with the competition, which might even include some half-ton models, you can bet well be putting together a road-test comparison as soon as we can. In the meantime, we like what Chevy has done here and think the Colorado could be the beginning of something very interesting.

To read the most up-to-date specifications sheet, .

To read the most recent press release, photos by Evan Sears




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