Mid-Size Matchup: How Do Class Leaders Colorado and Tacoma Compare?

Colorado_Tacoma_1

By Jim Travers

The Chevrolet Colorado and Toyota Tacoma could be said to reside at opposite ends of the mid-size pickup truck class even though they lead the rest of the pack in sales. While the Colorado and its GMC Canyon counterpart are, at least for now, the newest entries in a growing class, the Tacoma is the oldest — the nameplate goes back to 1995, and the truck bearing the name has been in production since the 1970s.

Mid-size pickups are an admittedly small class. The only other body-on-frame choice currently available is the Nissan Frontier. But Ford will reenter the fray in late 2018 with a resurrected Ranger and Jeep is also scheduled to enter the mid-size class. Of course, there is also the Honda Ridgeline, which is a fine vehicle, but we're talking about traditional work-first pickups here.

We've spent some time in both the Colorado and Tacoma; below we share how we think they stack up next to each other.

How They're Different

Back-to-back drives in the Colorado ZR2 and Tacoma TRD Pro trim levels illustrate what starting from scratch can do. While both are quite capable off-road, it's in day-to-day road driving that their differences show. While the Tacoma has received regular updates over the years, it remains true to its old-school roots and will feel oddly familiar to anyone who drove a Toyota pickup in the 1980s or '90s. That's a polite way of saying the Tacoma is decidedly "traditional," in spite of a mild refresh in 2016.

The Colorado is quieter and more civilized on the highway, with a relatively smooth ride and good bump absorption even in off-road trim. The steering is more accurate, with decent road feel. The body of the Tacoma, on the other hand, seems to be in constant motion — even on smooth pavement. It jitters and hops over all kinds of roads and the ride is stiffer than the Colorado. Its steering is more vague and lacks feel, and more correction is needed to keep it on course.

The interior of the Colorado benefits from a roomier and more modern-looking cab, with a much better seating position. You sit low to the floor in the Tacoma, particularly for a truck. This feels particularly awkward in the TRD Pro trim, where it's a bit of a step up to get inside. The Colorado's seating position is higher and more upright, and the seats themselves are more supportive with better bolstering. It also has a roomier and more comfortable rear seat.

Colorado ZR2 interior_3

Tacoma_TRD_Pro_interior_4

How They're Similar

Neither cab could be described as luxurious, not that most buyers probably care. Both have plastics and materials that lean more toward utilitarian than fancy, even when compared to some upper-trim full-size pickups. Which is not to say either is commercial-grade spartan, as both include leather seats and plenty of amenities and electronic conveniences. We did prefer the multimedia system in the Colorado with its simpler menus and a tuning knob for easier operation.

In fairness to Toyota though, the Tacoma's ride on- and off-road performance may be improved for 2019 with the addition of new progressive Fox shocks (possibly similar to what's just been introduced on the 2019 Ford F-150 Raptor). And in the meantime, it is far from a bad choice. The Tacoma has a bulletproof reputation for reliability, along with established on- and off-road credibility. Discerning small-truck buyers and a loyal buyer base have kept it a best-seller for decades. But the buyer always wins when competition heats up and more choices are available. And that is just starting to happen with mid-size pickups.

Cars.com photos by Evan Sears, Jim Travers

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Comments

I'm sure it's time for you to go check today's sales numbers 😂

@ Frank

"Go cry to your momma" lol how old are you?? I thought you and your boyfriend Chris was shopping for a Colorado today?

More evidence that this site needs active blog moderation.

Sounds like you fit right in, "amateurhour" LMFAO

"Go cry to your momma" lol how old are you?? I thought you and your boyfriend Chris was shopping for a Colorado today?


Posted by: Sean | Jun 7, 2018 12:53:29 PM

Old enough to be your Dad, but the dog beat me over the fence.

Exactly, no wonder you still say momma...maybe your boyfriend can help you with that

@Ecoboost Rules --- ( that's like buying a 6 pack of beer when you can get a 30 can case of beer for the same price )
The F-150 is made of them beer can's you speak of, is that why your trying to promote the 30 pack over the 6 pack? You want more recycled beer can's out there so more F150's can be built.

I was wondering if anybody wanted to take a real challenge? I challenge my tacoma to the gm (government motors) truck to a reliability, cost of maintenance and and over all resale value. This challenge will be a comparison over 10 years. You will see what kind of junk gm and others truly make. At the end of the challenge the loser buys the winner a new truck. YES anyone want to go for it?

@ Taco

There would be no way of telling if it was a fair comparison. You could be like a lot of these guys who claim they "off-road" but in reality your out back in your muddy field or you just have your truck to make yourself feel more manly and it never even sees any dirt. Everybody knows Toyota's are as reliable as you can get but nice try

I have a new Ford Focus. My Focus, while great to drive, is horrible to work on. Plus the engine blew at 65,000 due to LSPI. Ford offered zero financial assistance for a well known problem with direct injection engines. Why do magazine reviews never talk about things a mechanic actually cares about like is it actually a reliable design that's easy to repair?
Posted by: Shane | Jun 7, 2018

@Shane

Great question, but first how can you say you have a "new" Focus and also say it has "65,000" on it? Any motor with 65k on the clock is not a new motor in any discussion. Also, comparing a body on frame pickup with a front wheel drive unibody coupe is hitting a sour note for me. Working on most unibody vehicles is a bear, especially anything relating to drivetrain.

As the article says the Ridgeline is a fine vehicle like I have also said. I would not think of getting either one of these vehicle over a Ridgeline. I sure would not consider a Tacoma with it's more uncivilized ride. The Colorado in basic 4x4 form with bells and whistles would be more to my needs. Tacoma just don't ride good over little road imperfections like a bad city street with potholes steel grates uneven pavement it jumps and jitters.

@ridgeline 2007

Please try writing for comprehension. That's all I ask.

This truck would be awesome with a V8. Maybe A.E.V can offer a kit like the wrangler.

@ papajim It says Ridgeline is a fine truck.
The Tacoma has more unrefined ride compared to Colorado.
The Tacoma & Colorado are traditional midsize trucks.

Sorry Ridgeline, the Honda is a car that's shaped like a truck.

Not actually a truck per se.

Good luck ever trying to sell your used Ridgeline. If Honda dealers cannot sell 'em, good luck to you trying.

the previous Colorado's had countless problems and had one of the worst PPM (problems per hundred) than any other vehicle. We'll see if this release is any better.

@Jack
you must be talking about the Gen 1 Canyon/Colorado

@Shane - journalists do not talk about ease of service or reliability because they are for the most part shills. Some refer to automotive journalists as "presstitutes". They will harp on about minor details but never mention quality or glaring problems. They do not want to bite the hand that feeds them. They do not want to loose access to the corporate press fleet or free flights, free hotels, free food etc.

@jack - as papajim has pointed out, the previous Colorado was the issue. Statistically it was the absolute worst truck on the market. The current Colorado fairs much better in durability. The current Tacoma does not rate well. I'd pick a Colorado over a Tacoma especially with the diesel.

Last I heard, the Tacoma had the most issues of any midsize truck on the market. Consumer Reports rated it the worst midsize for reliability the last few years now.

As soon as the guy said the Tacoma got a mild refresh in 2016 I stopped reading. The Tacoma was completely redesigned in 2016! Sure you could take the wheels off the 2016 and put them on the 2015 and sure not much needed to be changed from a truck that owned (and still owns) the segment but it is a brand new truck from the ground up.

As soon as the guy said the Tacoma got a mild refresh in 2016 I stopped reading. The Tacoma was completely redesigned in 2016! Sure you could take the wheels off the 2016 and put them on the 2015 and sure not much needed to be changed from a truck that owned (and still owns) the segment but it is a brand new truck from the ground up.

No it's not.

The Tacoma was completely redesigned in 2016! Sure you could take the wheels off the 2016 and put them on the 2015 and sure not much needed to be changed from a truck that owned (and still owns) the segment but it is a brand new truck from the ground up.
Posted by: Scott | Jun 8, 2018 10:21:03 PM

The frame is identical, the front suspension is identical, the rear suspension is identical, it has the same old rear axle with cheap ancient drum brakes, the front diff is the same, etc. Mods that fit the 2nd gen Tacoma works on the 3rd gen Tacoma. Bolts right up without concern. The interior got updated and they made the exterior styling uglier. They removed the reliable engine and replaced it with a weaker, buzzier, much less reliable engine. The front diff still had the vibration issue and the rear diff still breaks like glass. Pretty mild update.

Correct Brawndo. The 3rd gen is a gen 2 with a new interior, exterior body panels, and a new engine and updated transmission. The front suspension is completely compatible with the 2nd gen because it was carried over from the 2nd gen, along with the frame, rear axle and its ancient drum brakes. Same leaf springs, same front diff with the same vibration problem that the 2nd gen had, transfer case appears to be the same. The clutch still has that squeak when you press in the pedal. The seating position is still awkward and uncomfortable.

@ Brawndo & Brick,

Sorry but the 2016 is not the same as the 2015, only hateful liberals speak like you two!

The body is different, engine is different, even the 2.7 liter has special coating and porting to improve its thermal efficiency which is already super!


The body and frame have high strength steel, much different than before.


The axle is NOT the same, the drain plug is on the opposite side as the 2015, only TRUE Toyota owners notice things like this, proving you two never owned one, once again!


I have a 2010 & 2016, rear drums work just fine, very low cost of ownership. Suspension also works, why change it, except with TRD models? Again lower cost of ownership!

I took picture of both my 2010 and 2016 in the garage, and differences are noticeable. the 2016 is wider than the 2010, but then again, only Toyota owners notice these things, haters just hate!

2016 is a new truck, only true Toyota owners can speak of this, and not the haters!

@ HD RamKing,

I actually own a 2016, with over 32,000 miles and NO issues!

CR is liberal trash media like most out there, posting fake news to further their agenda!

CR loves the Prius, that is not the mark of a reliable magazine source these days!

CR rates cars, they suck at trucks, so why even bother to make them look like they know something about non-left leaning truck owners!

Liberal media, learn to identify their fakery!

@ amateurhour,

Because some liberal journalists said so?

You guys are so gullible.

How about make the decision on your own and not what liberal media makes for you?

Their is a reason I keep coming back to Toyota, they are tough, durable trucks that last forever and low cost of ownership and that nice re-sale value when you want to get another one!

Colorado does not even come close, less you want female comfort!

@ Oxi

Your posts are hilarious! The Tacoma and Colorado are both goid trucks. They way you bash the Colorado just because your jealous of its capabilities is quite comical..lol! As I've told you before my wife's Subaru can go where you take your Tacoma. LMFAO! I'm glad your Taco can haul your lawn mower and go through mud puddles and climb over railroad tracks...You and John Stamos are definitely "real off-roaders" 😂

The Tacoma is a great truck but you are clearly intimidated by the Colorado...poor guy

Oxi, It's ok to leave the Toyota plantation.

I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves. - Harriet Tubman

@ Oxi
You keep saying "haters". What would you be called??

The title of this story should be "why PUTC hates the tacoma" because all I read tacoma bashing and nothing about why these two are the top two sellers.

@ uh huh
So your just reading the comments and not the article?

I agree with oxi.

If the Tacoma was all new in 16' they didn't do a very good job considering it took 4th place out of 5 trucks in the midsize comparison test...uh huh

Where did everybody go?

The 2015 Tacoma and 2016 Tacoma have identical TRACK width front and rear. The wheelbase is identical. The turning radius is identical. The frame change a little bit. They increased frame strength by dropping the weaker frame used in 2nd gen 2WD trucks. They all use a frame similar to the 2015 4WD frame. Toyota claims the frame has more high strength steel. It's hard to tell that judging by the large amount of frame twist/flex still exhibited by the 2016 Tacoma. That's because the only reason the cab and frame received any modifications in design or materials was to meet the latest IIHS crash testing - particularly the roof strength test, which the 2nd gen didn't do great in.

Toyota carried over the "8.4-inch" (aka the same old 8" Toyota axle) and they introduced a "new" 8.75-inch axle for the TRD Offroad. The "8.4-inch" received new gear sets with gear ratios to match the new transmissions. Neither of these "new" axles addresses the inherent weakness of the use of a high pinion rear axle setup. A high-pinion rear axle with a reverse cut gear set is roughly 20% weaker than a low pinion setup. That would give the 8.75-inch a crude approximation of a 7" rear axle with a low pinion setup. Toyota's axle shafts, when they used to be made in the US before 2016, were plenty strong. Not sure about the 2016+ made in Thailand axles. The gearsets were the weak point. The ring & pinion are being used in a very bad configuration. Hopefully the Thai gears are ok quality or the 8.75" is a pointless "upgrade".

The suspension should have been improved because the stock setup isn't all the great. The drum brakes are an ancient joke. There's no doubt, if the 2015+ Colorado had drum brakes and the 3rd gen Tacoma had disc brakes, Oxi would be ripping on drum brakes CONSTANTLY!!

Not a big Toyota fan, but the Taco is the better truck.

You're right guyproulx, if the Tacoma had rear disc brakes and the current Colorado had drums, you KNOW Oxi would be ripping on them every chance he got.

redbloodedxy is such a blinded ford fanb0y. The tacoma is a rusty, flimsy pickup with weak axles and a transfer case just waiting to get busted on a rock, powered by a gutless V6 that smokes if it goes up a steep hill, and is currently least reliable midsize in its class, yet he can't admit that the ZR2 is a good truck.

Currently owning 2 GM built midsize trucks one for over 19 years and the other for 10 years I would not hesitate in buying either a new Colorado or Canyon. Both my trucks have been very reliable and have give me very good service.

I have been hearing about a new Ranger for years now. Where the hell is it?

@GMSRGREAT

The Ranger is expected in dealerships early 2019. I'm looking forward to driving one. Ford's decision to combine a peppy 4 cylinder turbo with a 10 speed auto should deliver performance that equals some small V8s. What's not to like?

By this time next year we'll know if it was worth the wait.

.....Ford's decision to combine a peppy 4 cylinder turbo with a 10 speed auto should deliver performance that equals some small V8s. What's not to like?

Posted by: papajim | Jun 13, 2018 8:32:56 AM

Well in that case, let's hope Ford solved the roll over problem of earlier Rangers.

I am looking forward to the introduction of the new Ranger as well. More choice is always a good thing for the consumer and the 2.3 looks like a good engine.

@Jeff S

For those who care about this sort of thing, it's not out of the question that the new Ranger will get 30 mpg cruising on the 4-lane blacktop.

My old 2.3 (pinto SOHC motor) five speed would get 30 if I babied it a little. With the 4 valve DOHC turbo 2.3 AND the 10 speed, the Ranger should be able to loaf on the Interstate.

For people who do a lot of highway driving those trucks might go 300K miles without serious engine work. I've been waiting to see if GM will put a turbo 2.5 in the Colorado/Canyon...

@papajim--Sounds like a good engine. My S-10 has had zero engine issues and does not burn any oil and the same case with my Isuzu. I am sure this 2.3 is even better. I have learned that a well maintained vehicle can go 200k miles or more and my S-10 would most likely do that except I will never put that many miles on a vehicle since the amount of driving I do has come way down over what it was. If I put 5k a year on a vehicle that is a lot versus when I lived in the country I would easily put 15k to 20k a year on a vehicle. I don't miss that driving. I have 116k miles on a 99 S-10 which runs as good as it was new and for the most part looks brand new. I take good care of my vehicles regardless of age or brand.

@Jeff S

take care to assure that your lightly driven cars and trucks get a regular trip to town just to blow out the cobwebs.

Vehicles that sit cold for more than 30 days or so will decline pretty fast, especially fuel injected engines, cooling systems, and auto trans.

I've been waiting to see if GM will put a turbo 2.5 in the Colorado/Canyon...
Posted by: papajim | Jun 13, 2018 6:30:56 PM

Judging by the rest of GM's lineup, a turbo-4 is on its way. I'd like to the Silverado/Sierra 2.7T put in the Colorado/Canyon.

I'd like to the Silverado/Sierra 2.7T put in the Colorado/Canyon.
Posted by: Brick | Jun 14, 2018 8:38

I would too, but I think GM can upgrade (turbo) the existing 2.5 for a lot less money and still have a great little truck engine. The 2.7 will be an expensive motor to manufacture.



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