Photography by Evan Sears and the manufacturer
Many folks still think the only reason to buy a compact or midsize pickup truck is because you can't afford a full-size pickup. Those people are wrong. We'll state it right up front: There are pickup buyers who aren't interested in full-size trucks and they need more choices.
General Motors is banking on that notion by offering the first all-new pickup truck in the midsize segment since Honda came to market with its unibody Ridgeline in 2005. GM will unveil the all-new 2015 Chevrolet Colorado this week at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
With a three-truck strategy — heavy-duties, half-tons and midsizers — GM is hoping to appeal to all pickup buyers by offering a small, reliable and more affordable truck that fits in a garage, can navigate narrow streets and spin in the dirt. So GM has put the previous-generation Colorado to rest and started with a clean slate. As near as we can tell, this new truck is a combination of the best designs and solutions from the 2014 Silverado 1500 and the heavier-duty new global Holden Colorado (built in Thailand as a one-ton model that's sold throughout Indonesia). Here's what we know so far about the new Colorado:
The 2015 Chevy Colorado is the first of two anticipated new midsize pickups to be revealed; we're guessing the 2015 GMC Canyon will debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January. Engineers have told us that when compared to a Silverado 1500 crew-cab short bed, the Colorado will be almost 6 inches narrower, 18 inches shorter, 3 inches lower and almost 1,000 pounds lighter. As we've seen from the teaser photos, this fits right into GM's "small, medium and large" lineup.
Because of fuel economy and design challenges, GM engineers were selective about what strategies to carry over from the global Holden Colorado. Some design cues are similar, but the only carryover parts include the roof and a handful of bolts. Much of the foundational technology came from the 2014 Silverado 1500. The new frame is fully boxed and hydro-formed and uses a coil-over spring front independent suspension and a traditional spring-under leaf setup with a live axle. All models will have four-wheel disc brakes. We're told the frame will be the strongest in the segment and have the highest tow rating for the class at 6,700 pounds and offer the highest payload as well — we figure just more than 1,400 pounds.
The bed itself will be offered in two lengths with many of the same convenience details from the new Silverado and coming 2015 heavy-duty trucks. There will be a foot cutout in the bumper and hand hole in the bed sides for easier cargo access. There will be an optional spray-in bedliner, and the bed can be set up with 13 different cargo tie-down points. Additionally, the tailgate also will be equipped with the easy-up/easy-down strut for added convenience. And also like the Silverado, the bed interior and exterior are made from cold rolled steel instead of pressed and bent (and stretched) panels.
This truck has undergone exhaustive aerodynamic testing, so the top of the tailgate and bedrails are specifically designed to reduce turbulence as air flows off the cab. Every truck will have active automatic grille shutters to help make the engine run more efficiently, as well as reduce front drag when moving down the road. The aluminum hood on all models (just like the Silverado 1500) improves fuel economy, and the new truck will offer three all-new — for the Colorado — powertrains.
Under the Hood
The new Colorado will be offered in three trim levels: Work Truck (base), LT and Z71, with the latter's four-wheel-drive package offering upgraded shocks, bigger wheels and tires, a locking differential, and hill ascent and descent control. The base engine for the first two trim levels will be a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine that is preliminarily rated for 193 horsepower and 184 pounds-feet of torque. The V-6 (302 hp, 270 pound-feet of torque) will be familiar to some because it's the same all-aluminum 3.6-liter engine used in everything from Chevrolet's new Impala sedan to the GMC Terrain crossover. The biggest powertrain news is that this new midsize will be the first of its class to get a turbo-diesel option: a U.S.-tuned 2.8-liter inline-four-cylinder Duramax GM has been using overseas. The engine was a joint design between GM and VM Motori several years ago but is now completely owned and used by GM in several global platforms. Although the Duramax name was created as a joint venture with Isuzu, the new engine is solely owned by GM, which no longer has a partnership with VM Motori after Fiat finalized its purchase of the diesel engine company last month.
2.8L I-4 TD VM Motori
There's no doubt the 2.8-liter Duramax will be the premium engine option, but we're told that it will be offered as an option across the entire lineup to make sure fleet and commercial buyers can outfit their vehicles as needed. However, this engine will not be available until the 2016 model year. Production logistics and assembly complexity are the reasons for its late availability, we're told.
GM did not release ratings for this engine, but based on other global vehicles, we'd guess power ratings would be in the 180-hp and 350-pounds-feet range.
Chevy has committed to just two models for the Colorado: a crew cab and an extended cab. Again, the Colorado exhibits technology and quietness strategies borrowed from the Silverado. The Colorado will use triple door seals, tighter clearances and more noise insulation. One noticeable difference is in the construction of the extended cab model. Where new Silverado extended cabs use conventional door openings, the Colorado will continue to use clamshell-type doors for easier rear access. Fleet customers requested this, and by using high-strength steel in the doors and roof, GM was able to achieve the roof and door crush standards it wanted.
At this stage the Colorado will offer be two wheelbase lengths, with the crew-cab models getting a choice of a 5-foot bed (on the short wheelbase) or a 6-foot bed (on the long wheelbase). The wheelbase differences between the two, as you might suspect, is 12 inches. Extended-cab models will be offered on the shorter wheelbase and have the 6-foot bed, but we suspect dealerships will hear from business owners and regular buyers who want a longer bed version (maybe with a 7- or 8-foot bed) based on a long-wheelbase extended cab.
The Colorado will have an available 8-inch navigation screen and easy-to-see toggle switches and icons, some of which are taken straight from the Silverado. The overall look is certainly more harmonious and unique-looking than we remember from the previous Colorado, which was a mess of mixed parts from various sedans, crossovers and vans. Some of the new Colorado's gauge cluster reminds us of the Camaro, and the center console is wide and large, unlike the previous model.
The rear seats in the crew cab are not as cramped as you'd expect, due in large part to the roof liner cutouts and a nice 18-degree rake to the seatbacks. Also, the rear doors do allow for good distances between the B-pillar and rear-seat base, so even if you have large boots on, access is pretty easy. Additionally, the rear seats have a huge amount of hidden storage underneath, and the seatback can be flipped down and fold flat, providing a large, wide rear tabletop. Extended-cab models will offer a small bench seat, but we're guessing that will not be comfortable for adults (we have not seen one yet). Also, extended-cab models will offer a seat-delete option for customers who want to create their own personalized rear storage area.
Colorado in the Market
There's no question GM will use the "lifestyle" vehicle marketing strategy for this truck, and although that path is well worn, it's probably more appropriate here than anywhere else. During our time poking around a fully loaded red Z71 and black extended- cab LT, we especially liked the Z71 for its sportier look. The interior is sharp and well-organized, with switches and control layouts similar to the Silverado. This is where GM's efforts will pay off as the interiors of the Honda Ridgeline, Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma sit far underneath.
New Colorados will roll off the assembly line in Wentzville, Mo., plant by the fall of 2014. Information about pricing and specifications will be available sporadically before that. If we learned anything from the reveal of the Chevy Silverado 1500, it's that we'll get more data in small bits for a long time to come. As much as that might sound like complaining, we're excited about this one. It could change the game we've been watching for decades.
For a wider selection of photos, check out our gallery on our Facebook page.
To view our First Look video of the 2015 Chevy Colorado, click here.
To download the most recent press release about the 2015 Chevy Colorado, click here.
Editor's note: This story was updated on Nov. 20, 2013, to more accurately reflect the current and past relationship between GM, VM Motori, Fiat and the new Duramax turbo-diesel 2.8-liter inline-four.
2.5L I-4 Gas
3.6L V-6 Gas
Duramax 2.8L I-4 TD