Video: 2023 Chevrolet Colorado Challenges Tacoma With New Style and Substance
By Cars.com EditorsFebruary 22, 2023
About the video
A really solid redesign makes the 2023 Chevrolet Colorado a categorically better truck than ever, with only a couple of caveats. Watch our video to find out more.
It must be pretty frustrating to be General Motors knowing that you build a better mid-size pickup truck than the Toyota Tacoma and actually have for quite some time. But still people are just set on buying a Tacoma.
It's been the sales leader for years now. Well, Chevrolet has decided to have another go at trying to get people out of those Toyotas with this, the new 2023 Chevrolet Colorado. It's got new trim levels, it's got new equipment, it's got new technology, new styling. There's a whole lot new to it and on paper, it looks fantastic. So we've come here to sunny Southern California to drive the new '23 Colorado and to see if Chevrolet can finally shake a few nuts off that Tacoma tree. It's obvious that they've changed quite a lot about the Colorado simply by looking at it. It's got all new styling. And really the biggest change is down this body side. It's much more chiseled, it's much more angular than it was before. You've got five different trim levels to play with on the new Colorado. This one is the range topping Z71 trim level. Now there is one above that called the ZR2, which is the super off-road version but we haven't driven that one yet. We have driven the others, the Work Truck, the LT, the Z71 and the Trail Boss. The biggest changes really come up front in terms of the styling, where you've got a different look to every one of those trim levels. Every one of them has a different colored grill, has a different look to the styling, different bumpers, different capabilities. The off-road ones have a higher front end so that you can have a better approach angle. But the differentiation between the trim levels is really pretty obvious and the whole thing really looks a lot more like the Chevrolet Silverado 1500, it's bigger brother. And quite frankly, that's not a bad thing. Well, we can't talk about a new pickup truck without talking about probably the biggest reason you buy one, and that is the cargo bed. And the Colorado has a couple of interesting features for 2023. First is this softly descending tailgate, which is optional on certain trim levels. And that's nice, it doesn't just fall open and clang to the open position. There are a number of tie down points now in the bed and you've also got an optional 120 volt power socket in the right side for accessories. But perhaps the most interesting new feature is this. There's a new storage pocket built into the tailgate itself. Now it's even got a drain plug in there as well. So what are you gonna put in here? Well, looks like there's room enough for a couple of six packs of tasty beverages and some ice or maybe the catch that you just pulled out of the river. I'm sure you wouldn't wanna put any contraband in there and drive across state lines, that would be a very bad idea. So the new Colorado has new power trains, it has new styling, it has new technology inside. We came here to actually drive the thing, to see if this thing really can de-throne the Tacoma. And over the last two days, we've driven four of the five possible trim levels. So what's it like out there on the road? This is the Work Truck model, the WT. It is the bargain basement, bare bones model, but it's still really pretty well equipped. You still have digital screens for both the touchscreen controller and a digital gauge cluster, which is kind of remarkable in an entry level work truck. You do see where they have taken some cost out however. Everything in here, everything in here is hard plastic. And really kind of interesting, there's no light switch. No, none, there's nothing there. This is the first vehicle I've ever driven that doesn't have an actual honest to God light switch. It's all done through the touchscreen controls, which I find kind of interesting. The Work Truck also does not have telescoping steering. It has tilting, but it doesn't come in and out. So you have to adjust your seat forward enough in order to reach the pedals and the steering wheel as needed. The standard engine that comes in the Work Truck and the model above that, the LT, is a turbocharge 2.7 liter 4-cylinder engine making 237 horsepower and 259 pounds feet of torque. And that's actually a decent amount for an entry level engine. It certainly is better than the 4-cylinder that used to be in the Colorado. And what it results in is a base truck that is really pretty peppy. It's quick, it accelerates really well getting onto a highway or even just around town. You do hear some unusual noises from under the hood. The turbocharger itself has a a whir that almost sounds (engine whirring) like a dirt devil, but it gets you moving really quite well. I'm impressed with it. And really what also this truck showcases is GM's ability to engineer a dynamically excellent truck. Yeah, the ride in this one is a little bit bouncy, but again it's a work truck. It's got big balloony tires on steel wheels, so it's not going to ride like a luxury vehicle. It's meant for you to have a lot of payload capacity and to, you know, survive things like a work site or the cratered potholes of Detroit. But the steering is incredibly tight and responsive and it doesn't feel sloppy or loose at all. The brakes are extremely firm. The dynamics of this truck are really quite good, even in the base model, which quite frankly I find to be indicative of them really paying attention to a lot of the details in how they make trucks. We've seen this in the larger Silverado 1500 and that has trickled down now into the mid-size Colorado. Even out on the highway, you're really not greeted with a whole lot of noise. You've got a little bit of road noise, a little bit of tire noise, but you don't really have a lot of wind noise. It's been pretty well impressively insulated even in this base model work truck. You get a little bit more of the bounciness here, too. But I bet you if you put a load in the bed or you actually towed something with this thing, that would probably smooth out really quite well. More importantly is the comfort of the cabin. When you compare this thing to a current Toyota Tacoma, which is the sales leader in this category, there's really no contest. Even in the low end of the trim levels, there's more room in here, there's better visibility. It's a heck of a lot more comfortable. You've got tons of head room up ahead, you've got a lot more vertical reach for the actual seat adjustments. All in all, it's just a better truck than the Tacoma, even at this lower trim level. And I have to say the turbocharged 4-cylinder, you are not gonna miss the old 4-cylinder at all. Yeah, it's not gonna really flatten your eyeballs or anything like that when you put your foot in it, but it still moves decently well especially for a work truck. The only thing that has me scratching my head in here a little bit is the price. This one costs about 36, $37,000, but it has a couple of options. Things like collision alert systems, automatic cruise control, powered accessories like seats and mirrors, things like that. But these are basic things that you're gonna want to have in any vehicle. So even for a work truck, you're still gonna be spending mid $30,000 for a new one. And the other interesting thing about this is that you can only get it in one configuration, which is a crew cab short bed. There is no more different kind of cab configurations. There's no single cab or double cab like you can get on some competitor vehicles. So pretty much what you get is the larger four door, which tends to be the one that sells in the most volume anyway, so probably not a big deal in the long run. One step up from the Work Truck trim level is this one, this is the LT. This is going to be the volume model for the Colorado, the one that most people buy, and it has a pretty wide range of features and pricing. This one that we're driving right now is a little over $46,000, but it is pretty well loaded with just about everything. Most interesting is what's under the hood. It comes with the same 2.7 liter 4-cylinder that you get in the Work Truck model, but in both the Work Truck and in the LT like this one, you actually can upgrade to what they call the Turbo Plus engine. Now it's still the same 2.7 liter 4-cylinder, but now it makes 310 horsepower and 390 pounds feet of torque. Those are V8 horsepower and torque numbers. That's really impressive and it really does a number on the Colorado as well really improving its acceleration beyond what you'd normally get from the base model. Now the top engine in the Colorado only comes in the ZR2 and that makes 310 horsepower and 430 pounds feet of torque. That is the same 2.7 liter turbocharge 4-cylinder that is the base model in the Chevrolet Silverado 1500. Again, V8 levels of power and torque, especially in a mid-size truck, really does make for some snappy performance. Just like the Work Truck model, this one drives really well. You've got really crisp, firm steering, you've got excellent brakes. The ride quality, again, is a little bit bouncy, but this is a pickup truck. We're not expecting it to ride and drive like your average Lexus. One thing we have noticed about the interior, in the Work Truck model, everything was hard plastic and felt like a work truck. In this one, being the LT one step up, everything is still hard plastic, but it's covered in some faux vinyl leather materials, which does improve the way it looks. You've also got some bright work trim. You've got the same size display screens in front of you though, so that's really quite nice. You've still got great big displays so you've got all the technology you want. You've also got automatic climate control in here. It's definitely a step up from the Work Truck model, but there are still three trim levels above this one. This trim level is the Trail Boss trim level, which is the entry level off-road model in the Colorado lineup. New to the Colorado, we've only ever seen a Trail Boss in the Silverado, the full sized pickup trucks, but this is the first time it's appearing in the mid-sized Colorado. Now it builds off the Work Truck trim, which means the interior is, well we'll call it cheap and cheerful. What it really is is all hard plastic. There is no soft touch plastic anywhere in here, which is kind of extraordinary. And it also means you don't get a telescoping steering wheel either, which is really kind of annoying. However, what you do get is a two inch lift kit. You get some all-terrain tires and you get the standard 2.7 liter Turbo Plus engine. So it comes standard with 310 horsepower and 390 pounds feet of torque. Now this is meant to be the off-road entry level. The one above that is the ZR2, which is the super expensive, super capable off-road version that can pretty much climb over everything. This one is a little bit lesser on that scale of abilities. But on-road, it actually drives really quite nicely despite the all-terrain tires. What the combination of more powerful engine and larger wheels and tires means is that it actually is one of the better-driving trim levels for the Colorado. It's really not that bouncy. You still got some bounce in here given that you have an off-road suspension and it is a pickup truck, but it feels a little bit more composed than the Work Truck. And you still have the super tight steering, the excellent brakes and the pretty extraordinary acceleration given that this thing is putting out the kind of power that you get typically in a naturally aspirated V8. And last but not least on our trim walk is this one. This is the Z71 trim. This is kind of the more luxurious model, so to speak. It has the nicest interior, that's for sure. But it's still just some lovely coverings over hard plastic, at least it really does look good. The styling in here, I do like. I am a fan of it and I'm still a big fan of the fact that there's actual buttons here and not everything being touch sensitive screens like we've seen in so many vehicles these days. You've also got some like seats with some contrast stitching trim as well. Overall it looks really good. This is one of the off-road capable trims as they call it. It has some front and rear styling that makes it a little bit more off-road capable and it does come with standard 18 inch all-terrain tires, 20's are optional just like on the Trail Boss. It is nicer than the Trail Boss. So if you're looking to go off-road, but you still want a little bit more glitz, this really might be the trim that you want to consider, at least until the really capable, really extraordinary ZR2 drops in a couple of months. When you get off-road in your Trail Boss and going uphill as we are right now, just keeping it in four high is fine. But you also have a number of different drive modes to play with. We currently have it in off-road mode, which does change the throttle position, changes your traction control a little bit as well, but it's still good for soaking up Oof, ugh. some of these bumps now. It's not soaking them up like it would in the ultimate ZR2, which has the very special DSSV suspension that allows you to climb over everything and pretty much not feel very much of it at all. This one, yeah, you're gonna feel it, especially since this model has the optional 20 inch wheels with the Bridgestone Dueler All Terrain tires. Standard are 18 inch wheels with Goodyear Wrangler Territory All Terrain tires. Really would've rather had those wheels on this truck for this kind of activity, because taller sidewalls will soak up the bumps a little bit better than the shorter sidewall on these 20s. But hey, it still does it, goes uphill just fine. The extra two inches of ground clearance, haven't had to use that yet, but it's there if you need it. It's also when driving off road that you really start to feel all the hard plastic in this interior. There isn't even any soft touch around your knees. So as you're bumping along and you're banging into various pieces and parts on the door and the knee in the center console, it's hard plastic, not soft touch. And well, it could be more comfortable. The new Colorado also has up to 10 different camera views, including some underbody cameras as well. All of it is controlled through the 11.3 inch touchscreen. It really depends on your trim level in terms of whether or not your vehicle has these but they can be very useful on the trail, especially since this one also has some predictive lines to determine where exactly you're pointing your tires. That's very helpful when you're determining a line to go off road as well. Going up the hill, we were in the Trail Boss, coming back down this hill, we are in the Z71. And the big difference between the Trail Boss and this Z71 in terms of off-road performance and equipment is that this one is equipped with 18 inch wheels running Goodyear Wrangler Territory tires. And let me tell you, the difference in just how it handles the bumps and how much it beats you up in the cabin, it makes it very obvious that if you plan on going off-road in your Chevy Colorado, stick with the 18s, don't go with the 20s, because you probably already know it if you're any kind of off-roader, you don't want the large wheels off-road, you want more cushion. And that's what you get with taller side walls and smaller wheels. As with the Trail Boss, you've still got the four-wheel drive system which does have an automatic mode. You've also got various drive modes. We've got underbody cameras in this one as well, that has even a little washer feature that'll clean the underbody camera in case it gets muddy like we've gotten this one. But for any kind of light off-roading like this, because this is what I call a light to intermediate fire road trail, nothing terribly complicated, it'll do it just fine. And perhaps what's more impressive about this is that even though these are early production is that they are completely rattle free. Nothing is squeaking, nothing is rattling, nothing is shaking, nothing feels loose, you're not hearing weird body clunks, you're not hearing unusual bed noises. It's really solid. The entire truck really does feel solid. It's very well screwed together and really does provide for a nice driving experience. After driving the new Chevrolet Colorado for the last two days, I have to say I've come away pretty impressed with what Chevrolet has created. Now, that's not necessarily surprising. Chevrolet does excellent pickup trucks in terms of dynamics and the Colorado is no different. It's got great engine power, it's got great ride quality. It handles really well. It's comfortable up front, maybe not on the back. And overall it really represents even a great value as well. Starts at about $30,000, goes up to the high $40,000 for a fully loaded Z71. The upcoming ZR2 is gonna be more than that. You could be pretty well assured. However, overall, this thing really is an excellent pickup truck and it should, should pull some people out of Tacomas, finally. Now if you'd like to learn more about the new 2023 Chevrolet Colorado, you can learn everything at cars.com.