2005 Colorado New Car Test Drive
A roomier cab was a key design goal when the Chevrolet Colorado was launched last year. Designed from the ground up to replace the S10 compact pickup, Colorado brings a fresh name and perspective to GM's line of trucks. That perspective includes more space for humans.
Colorado is bigger than the old S10, and that's the trend: Compact pickups are no longer compact. They're growing in size, so much so that the term 'compact pickup' may be obsolete. Colorado is an inch wider and a couple of inches longer than the S10, and its wheelbase is three inches longer. The new Dodge Dakota is even bigger. The new Toyota Tacoma is even bigger yet. Meanwhile, Nissan is coming out with a new Frontier that's dramatically larger than the old one. Left behind is the aging Ford Ranger. Ranger is five inches shorter than a comparable Colorado. The EPA still calls this segment 'compact,' but manufacturers are beginning to call it 'mid-size.' Whatever you call them, these new pickups are bigger than the trucks they replace. Yet they're still substantially smaller than full-size pickups such as the Chevy Silverado.
The reason for this increase in size is comfort. Pickup buyers want roomier cabs. Often, these trucks are often alternatives to cars, and their owners want more hip room, leg room and head room. Most are willing to sacrifice bed length for cab room. That's why regular cab trucks, which typically offered the longest beds, are all but extinct. The extended cab has replaced the regular cab as the truck for serious haulers, many of whom like being able to stash gear, tools, luggage, groceries behind the seats. Crew cabs have taken off in popularity because they offer the convenience of comfortable back seats for family and friends. Their short bed lengths are an acceptable compromise for many buyers.
With this in mind, the Chevy Colorado gave up a little bed length for a roomier cab. The cab is about four inches longer than a comparable S10 cab. Still, it has a six-foot bed with regular and extended cabs, and a five-foot bed on crew cabs. Colorado also gives up a little towing capability for a smoother ride. That's not to say it's lost the capability that makes a truck useful. A properly equipped Colorado is rated to tow 4,000 pounds, enough for transporting ATVs, dirt bikes, personal watercraft, light boats or small camping trailers. And in most configurations, the Colorado can carry more weight in the bed than could a similarly equipped S10. So it'll get the job done.
Indeed, we think the trade-offs have paid off. Colorado is much smoother and feels more refined than the old S10, which bounced around on rough roads. And it's a bit more stylish. Order the five-cylinder engine and it accelerates smartly. (That's right: five-cylinder.) The Crew Cab features a roomy back seat that's surprisingly comfortable and not bolt-upright. Yet Colorado fits into tight parking spaces, something that can't be said of full-size pickups.
Though introduced as a 2004 model, the Colorado is still new to the street and we found the 2005 models continue to turn heads. The Chevrolet Colorado is mechanically identical to the GMC Canyon, but trim and packaging differ. For 2005, Colorado offers a new exterior color (Superior Blue Metallic) and some equipment upgrades. About a hundred permutations are available, giving buyers lots of choices to fit their needs.
Colorado comes with three different suspensions: The rugged Z85 is the standard suspension and is available with two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive, so you don't have to get the fancy off-road model to get 4WD. The Z71 off-road suspension is available with 2WD and 4WD. Appropriately, the low-riding ZQ8 sport suspension is only available with 2WD. Each comes in base or LS trim, though equipment varies with the suspension package. Regular Cab, Extended Cab, and Crew Cab versions are available, though not every cab style is offered with every suspension/trim combination.
A 2.8-liter four-cylinder engine comes standard in most models, rated 175 horsepower. A 3.5-liter five-cylinder rated 220 horsepower is optional ($1,000). A five-speed manual transmission is standard with either engine, with a four-speed automatic ($1,095) optional. Exceptions are ZQ8 LS and Z71 LS Crew Cabs, which come only with the inline-5 and automatic.
The Colorado ($15,695) Z85 base model comes with air conditioning, AM/FM stereo, a 60/40 split-bench folding seat, anti-lock brakes, and 15-inch steel wheels. Upgrading to LS trim adds color-keyed carpets, a center armrest with storage, tilt steering column (on Extended and Crew Cab models), cruise control, CD player, bright interior accents, and 15-inch aluminum wheels with P205/75R15 tires (on Regular and Extended Cabs; Crew Cabs roll on slightly wider rubber). It's available as an extended cab ($18,040). The 4WD versions are available in both regular cab ($18,255) and extended cab ($20,600).
The ZQ8 Sport model ($17,040) rides about two inches lower than a base Colorado, and features a monochromatic paint scheme, fog lamps, and leather-wrapped steering wheel. Otherwise it is equipped similarly to the base suspension/base trim model. It comes only with 2WD and rolls on P235/50R17 tires on 17-inch aluminum wheels. The Sport LS ($18,570) adds bucket seats and a center console, cruise control, and other amenities from the base-suspension LS.
The Z71 off-road model ($17,330) packs an automatic-locking rear differential, P265/75R15 on/off-road tires, and a Smoke Gray grille and wheel flares to complement its high-riding, off-highway suspension. (Ground clearance at the rear differential is 7.5 inches.) Order 4WD and you get skid plates, too. Again, there's an LS version ($18,600) with trim and equipment upgrades, although bench seats remain standard.
Power windows, locks and mirrors are standard on Crew Cabs and optional ($500) on other models. Traction control is standard on 2WD LS Crew Cabs, and on all 2WD Z71s but optional on other 2WD models ($295). Curtain-style side-impact airbags designed for head protection come standard on LS Crew Cabs, but are optional on other models. New Gen 6 OnStar ($695) boasts easier hands-free operation and other refinements for 2005; it's available only with LS trim. LS Crew Cabs also offer optional heated, power-adjustable bucket seats with leather seating surfaces ($1,495).
Two commercial-fleet models are available as Regular Cab ($15,045) and Extended Cab ($17,390) versions of the base-trim, base-suspension, 2WD truck. They come with hose-it-out vinyl floor mats and base cloth seating, ideal for muddy-boot applications. Bumpers are painted, shocks are heavy-duty gas-charged units, and air conditioning is an extra-cost option. They're good trucks to buy for other people to drive.