2018 Colorado New Car Test Drive
The Chevrolet Colorado is the best of the midsize pickups, with virtues that surpass most of what is offered by the Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier, and even the individualistic Honda Ridgeline.
We've found the Colorado beats the top-selling Tacoma in ride, handling, packaging, fit and finish, interior space and materials, connectivity, driving position, and bed features.
And now we think the Tacoma TRD Off-Road, perennial ruler of rugged terrain among midsize pickups, may have finally met its challenge in the form of the new Colorado ZR2, introduced late in the 2017 model year.
Colorado ZR2 is a hard-core off-road truck with its own bodywork designed to improve approach and departure angles. It rides on a big wide track, lifted suspension, and hefty 31-inch Goodyear all-terrain tires. It has a mean and adventuresome look, ready for the Baja, with locking differentials, front and rear. There's a choice between a superb diesel or a wonderful V6. The Colorado ZR2 feels highly capable to us, and it's way more comfortable than the Tacoma TRD. It's just the thing for traversing a boulder field.
For most, the Colorado Z71 delivers more than enough four-wheel-drive capability, plenty for primitive roads and two-tracks.
The current, second-generation Colorado was introduced in the U.S. as a 2015 model, notable for its comfort. For 2017, Colorado got a new 3.6-liter V6 with direct fuel injection, making a strong 308 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque, with a new 8-speed automatic transmission.
The standard Colorado engine is an eminently usable 2.5-liter four cylinder making 200 horsepower with a sharp 6-speed automatic or 6-speed manual transmission. It's winning powertrain either way.
Also available is a 2.8-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder that makes 369 pound-feet of torque, with 181 horsepower at the top end. It's the best choice for towing, rated to pull up to 7700 pounds, though we'd opt for a Silverado long before approaching that kind of weight. The diesel also works well for rugged terrain. The diesel is rated by the EPA at 30 miles per gallon Highway with two-wheel drive. We found it smooth, very refined, and powerful, emitting a wonderful sound.
A 100th Anniversary Edition package is available for the 2018 Colorado, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first Chevrolet truck.
The Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon are mostly identical mechanically.
Colorado rides on a boxed frame with coil spring suspension in front, leaf springs at the rear. The electric power steering is weighted well. Its ride and handling is far better than the Nissan Frontier, as well as the Tacoma. Four-wheel disc brakes with long-life rotors are standard.
Buyers can choose among cab and bed configurations, including the standard extended cab with two small rear doors, a very small bench seat, and six-foot bed; or the four-door crew cab with either a five- or six-foot bed (or no bed at all, for commercial sales). There's no regular cab any more.
A crew cab Colorado works well as a second family car.
Four-wheel drive is available. On Colorado LT and Z71 models four-wheel drive can be activated manually. Autotrac activates the front wheels electronically, like all-wheel drive, for better grip and control on the road. Four-wheel-drive drops fuel economy by about two miles per gallon compared with rear-wheel drive. On the base model, the part-time four-wheel-drive system is simpler, intended more for mud, sand or snow.
The Z71 should suit most off-road needs, with a slightly raised suspension, unique dampers, and limited-slip rear differential. The ZR2 should be able to manage most any navigable situation encountered.
Fuel economy for the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and automatic transmission is an EPA-rated 20/26 mpg City/Highway, or 22 mpg Combined. The turbodiesel is rated 22/30 mpg City/Highway, or 25 mpg Combined. Colorado 4WD 3.6-liter V6 is rated 17/24 mpg City/Highway, 19 mpg Combined on Regular gasoline. It runs on four cylinders when six aren't needed to maintain the speed.
Colorado gets four stars overall from the NHTSA in crash testing, with five stars for side impact. Colorado earned the top Good rating for the demanding small overlap front test from the IIHS, a score that few vehicles achieve, let alone pickup trucks.
The Colorado doesn't go in for luxury features. That's covered by the GMC Canyon Denali.
The 2018 Chevrolet Colorado comes in base, WT, LT, Z71 and ZR2 models in many configurations. We counted 23, spanning a wide price range.
Standard equipment on all models except the base includes six airbags, stability control, trailer sway control, hill start assist, rearview camera, easy-lowering tailgate, touchscreen audio, and USB port. The Z71 gets hill descent control. Options include forward-collision alert, lane-departure warning, Bluetooth, navigation, OnStar, 4G LTE data connectivity, and a larger touchscreen with Apple CarPlay.