The good ol' pick 'em up truck continues to evolve into something rather different than the humble hauler of the past. No longer just rough-riding, stiff-suspensioned tools of productivity with spartan interiors, many buyers want a modern truck that can haul friends and family with as much aplomb as a bed full of mulch or an addition's worth of drywall.
The Chevrolet Colorado (and its fraternal twin, the GMC Canyon) in Crew Cab form is very much a product of those elevated expectations. Despite a length of 212 inches (5.4 meters) and a curb weight just shy of 4,400 lbs (2 metric tonnes) in 4WD trim, this is what passes as a mid-sized truck these days.
There's nothing intermediate about the size of the interior, particularly when you open the back doors. Rear seats are surprisingly spacious, with plenty of room for three grown adults to sit side-by-side without an indecent amount of elbow-rubbing. A number of mid-sized sedans on the market today would struggle to deliver the same.
Things are, naturally, even more spacious in the front, with headroom measured in leagues. The two power-adjustable seats offer well-padded support of posteriors of any dimension, staying comfortable whether on a quick run to Lowe's or a long haul out to a distant job site. They're heated, with separate controls for bottom and back, and offer commanding views of the world around. The Colorado may not be the biggest truck on the road, but from the driver's seat it certainly feels like the tallest.
Conversely, though, I found that height to make parking the Colorado a bit difficult. The nose, too, is tall, and getting a good feel for where it ends is a challenge. A 360-degree, overhead-view parking camera would have been very welcomed here, as would cross-traffic alert cameras for pulling out of intersections. A $395 safety package adds lane departure warnings and forward-collision warnings. Rear-view camera is standard, but its position beneath the handle on the tailgate means it provides only a nice view of the pavement beneath the truck when hauling something lengthy. A bit of a shame given that's exactly when you'd most want a rearview camera.
The 6-foot-2-inch bed is a $1,500 option on the Colorado Crew Cab, but if you opt for the 5'2'' bed length, as our truck featured, that may be a view you'll be seeing a lot of. The bed is just wide enough to fit a sheet of drywall or plywood, at least it is above the wheel wells, but you will have to support whatever it is in the middle and leave the tailgate down. Thankfully, a generous selection of tie-downs in the bed make it easy to keep your precious cargo from staying behind when you accelerate ahead.
Mind, you won't be accelerating all that quickly. The 3.6-liter V-6 is the motor you want, producing 305 horsepower and 269 ft-pounds of torque. That's a fair bit of power, but remember this is a 4,000-plus pound truck, and so acceleration isn't exactly sprightly. (A 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 200 horsepower is the base configuration.) A six-speed automatic transmission that's incredibly reluctant to downshift doesn't help. Passing slower traffic requires a planning as you put your foot to the floor and then lean forward in expectation of the eventual downshift or two. It's thirsty, too, rated at 18 MPG city and 26 highway in 2WD trim, 17/24 with the 4WD system. Over a week's worth of use mostly in-town, with a few extended highway stretches, we saw 19.3 MPG. That's big(ger) truck territory.
Otherwise, the Colorado is quite pleasant to drive, even with the beefier Z71 suspension that our truck featured. The ride is compliant enough to be comfortable but still firm enough to feel like a truck. If anything it's a bit under-dampened, giving it a floaty sensation over bumpy roads. It comes into its element when crawling off-road over rough surfaces, particularly with the 4WD system shifted into low.
The Z71 package also includes hill descent control and a locking rear diff, ensuring plenty of control whether going up or down, plus 17-inch wheels and a spate of included options like fog lamps, those power adjusting seats and an auto-dimming mirror. Outside of the mechanicals, much of these things can be added to the $20,995 Base, $22,650 WT and $26,045 LT trims. The Z71, in its cheapest, RWD spec starts at $28,505. (All prices are in US dollars. Details on international availability are not available.)
Our truck, in 4WD trim with the crew cab and a selection of options, including a $475 spray-on liner and a $250 trailering package, came in at $35,835. The latter option adds a 2-inch hitch and requisite power outlets, enabling towing up to 7,000 pounds.
Other options included GM's 8-inch MyLink touchscreen system with up-rated Bose sound. The speakers did not disappoint, particularly for those who like their music with a little extra bass. The MyLink system is also generally good. There's all media support you'd expect, including Bluetooth A2DP for wireless streaming and SiriusXM if you just can't get enough of '80s on 8. The car's voice recognition system allows you to perform many basic infotainment tasks by speaking, including full address entry in one shot, without having to split out city and state and so-forth. Responsiveness from the system is generally good, but the navigation interface still looks and feels like something out of days gone by.
$36,000 for a truck may seem like a lot of money, but a similarly equipped Toyota Tacoma will set you back a few grand more. There are cheaper mid-sized haulers out there if you just want to lug stuff around, but the Colorado Crew Cab offers all the comforts of a good-sized sedan with the practicality of a big 'ol truck. It's a surprisingly capable compromise, a genuine all-rounder, but there is one significant drawback: gas mileage. With these MPGs, buying a Colorado is as much a question of fuel budget as it is of how many yards of mulch you'll be needing this spring.