The 2004 Chevrolet Colorado pickup, the S-10's long-awaited replacement, was, in a word, underwhelming. There was nothing specifically wrong with the truck, but given the lengthy stagnation in the compact-truck market then, it just didn't seem to advance the long-in-the-tooth S-10 it replaced.

But Chevrolet listens and has a very good recent track record of making little improvements to current products. It has done that with the 2007 Colorado, and though there is only one substantial improvement -- bigger, more powerful engines -- the little truck just seems, well, happier. It still lags behind what is probably the best small truck, the Nissan Frontier, but not as far back as before.

That said, I must alert you to my general prejudice against small trucks. Full-size trucks are more comfortable and more capable, and usually fuel mileage isn't that different. And the full-size truck market is so competitive that at times, big trucks can actually cost less than small trucks. Though I found the 2007 Colorado to be a very pleasant pickup, I wouldn't choose it over a Chevrolet Silverado. Nor would I buy the Nissan Frontier instead of its larger and underpriced sibling, the Nissan Titan.

Just so you know.

But I recognize that some people like little trucks, and those people will appreciate the Colorado, especially because the base engine has improved from a 2.8-liter, four-cylinder to a 2.9-liter engine. And what was once a 3.5-liter, five-cylinder engine now boasts 3.7 liters. That's the engine the test truck had, and horsepower has climbed from 220 to 242, with no real penalty in fuel economy. The test truck, with an optional four-speed automatic transmission, is EPA-rated at 17 miles per gallon in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. The all-new, full-size Silverado (note that Chevy is selling carryover 2006-style Silverados as "classic" 2007s until its all-new trucks arrive) will not be offered with a manual transmission, but the base Colorado still comes standard with a five-speed manual.

The Colorado (and most of what is said here also applies to its corporate cousins, the GMC Canyon and Isuzu i-Series) rides quite well on all but the roughest pavement. Handling is better than I remember. And acceleration is definitely improved. The Hummer H3 is based on the Colorado platform, and that vehicle definitely needed a power boost, so it's nice that the Colorado gets to share that 3.7-liter engine.

The interior of the Colorado is simple and nicely presented. Front seats are excellent. Rear seats in the Crew Cab -- that means four regular doors -- are cramped and upright, but you can carry five adults if you have to. The Colorado is also offered as a regular cab with two doors, and an extended cab with two front doors and two smaller rear doors that open front-to-rear.

Base price of the 2007 Colorado LS Crew Cab is $20,210, and with some options -- including the bigger engine -- the price of the truck, as tested, was $22,593.

For that, I would still buy a Silverado. But the Colorado is decidedly more appealing now than before.

CONSUMER INFORMATION
Base price: $20,210.

Price as tested: $22,593.

EPA rating: 17 mpg city, 23 mpg highway.

Details: Front-engine, rear-wheel-drive four-door pickup truck with a 3.7-liter, 242-horsepower 5-cylinder engine and a 4-speed automatic transmission.