The New Pickup Truck in Town

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Once popular among younger truck buyers, demand for small pickups sputtered and stalled in the early 2000s. Stalwarts like Chevrolet, Ford, GMC and Jeep eventually exited the segment, leaving the Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma, in recent years, as sole survivors. Buyers either migrated to truck-based SUVs and crossovers, or simply traded up to full-size pickups that offered added capabilities.

With market preferences having since shifted and full-size pickups becoming too costly for many buyers’ budgets, General Motors is reentering – and reenergizing – the small truck segment for 2015 with its all-new midsize Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon pickups. Both are mechanically identical, with the major differences between them being their brand-specific styling cues. Each looks purposeful, yet modern, with both available in extended cab versions with a smallish rear seat or four-door Crew Cab models with a full back seat.

A five-foot two-inch cargo box comes standard, with a six-foot-two-inch box included with long-wheelbase Crew Cabs than enables carrying full sheets of building materials with the tailgate down; both include rear corner steps for easier bed access.

We recently had the opportunity to test a Colorado Crew Cab for a week and found it to be a worthy alternative to a full-size pickup for those having modest needs.

While a 2.5-liter 200 horsepower four-cylinder engine comes standard for light-duty use, we suspect the majority of Colorado buyers will choose the 305-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 with which our tester came equipped (a six-speed automatic transmission comes standard, with a six-speed manual available on base four-cylinder versions). Though it’s not the smoothest or quietest powerplant on the planet, the 3.6 puts ample power to the pavement, and still gets decent fuel economy at 18/26 mpg, thanks in part to standard “active” grille shutters that automatically close at highway speeds to enhance the truck’s aerodynamics.

Maximum towing capacity with the V6 is 7,000 pounds, which is sufficient to pull a decent-sized trailer or boat to the lake or campsite. Foul weather-friendly four-wheel-drive with low-range gearing for off-road use is optional across the line.

The Colorado feels more maneuverable than any full-size pickup, though it’s not as agile as a comparably sized crossover SUV or sedan. Its steering can feel a bit stiff at slower speeds around town, but it’s rock-steady on the highway. Even with our 4X4 tester fitted with the stiffer Z71 off-road suspension, the Colorado affords acceptable smoothness over most road surfaces, though it can get bouncy at times.

Inside, occupants are treated to an attractive and functionally designed cabin with large and legible instrumentation, easily operated controls and myriad storage bins. Outward visibility is excellent, with a rearview backup camera standard. Seating is comfortable and supportive with ample legroom for the driver and front passenger (rear legroom in Crew Cab models can get tight depending on how far back the front seats are adjusted), with enough headroom all around to accommodate those wearing cowboy hats.

Our tester was fitted with the optional MyLink infotainment system; featuring a touchscreen display, voice commands, smartphone connectivity with text messaging alerts and the Siri Hands Free interface for iPhone users, this remains one of the easiest-to-master multimedia systems in the industry.

A long list of options includes heated seats, built-in 4G LTE Internet connectivity and both forward-collision and lane-departure warning systems to help drivers avoid getting into crashes.

The Colorado starts at around $21,000 (including destination charges), which is about $6,000 less than the cheapest Silverado. Prices ramp up quickly, however: Our Z71 4X4 Crew Cab model with a modicum of options stickered out at nearly $37,000. Even at that, the Colorado can prove to be an amenable mode of transport for both urban tradespeople and active suburbanites needing to transport dirt bikes or sports equipment without otherwise mucking up the inside of an SUV.

Tags: colorado, mountain, pickup truck