For once, the brochures are right: nobody in their right mind buys a small truck for motoring pleasure. A small pickup is a way to get to and from outside activities, like kayaking, rock climbing, schlepping a DLP TV, fencing in the back forty, running a few bales of marijuana across the Mexican border (closed course, professional driver), etc. While full-size pickups mollycoddle their drivers in the hopes of luring owners who don’t actually need them, their smaller siblings have stayed true to the genre’s hair-shirt-on-leaf-springs roots. But even at the low end, there is a hierarchy….
Aside from the imminently breakable, fake chrome plastic decoration across the front (begging for aftermarket machismo) and the resulting insectoid bisected headlights, the Colorado is a decent looking truck. There’s no deference to the wind tunnels, and isn’t trying to Dodge pickup protocol with a sheetmetal ode to eighteen-wheelers. The Colorado’s squared-off, almost military lines are kinda cool, in an old school hardware store sort of way.
The interior is exactly what you'd expect: basic, functional, plastic. Our test truck was a four-wheel-drive crew cab (four door). If you called shotgun too late, this is the version you want. While most small pickup’s rear seats are best suited to small boxes of inanimate objects, the Colorado crew cab’s back chairs are spacious enough for two six-foot humans.
The Colorado’s double-walled bed is as unadorned as the obelisk in 2001. Tie downs? We don’t need no stinkin’ tie downs! (Unless, of course, you do.) In any case, our crew cab provided a 5’1” bed. If hauling is your thing, the standard-issue Colorado's bed extends a foot further, delivering deeper storage and higher overall payload than its rivals. Both beds offer two-tier cargo loading and tailgates that are both lockable and removable– but not at the same time.
The base Colorado holsters a 185-horse 2.9-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine hooked-up to a five speed manual (yay!). Our 4WD Crew Cab came with a 242-horse, 3.7-liter inline five-cylinder mill mated to a four-speed Hydra-Matic slushbox (boo!). The Crew’s odd-cylindered powertrain stumps-up plenty of stump-pulling power, but those 242 ft.-lbs. of twist arrive with all the alacrity of Santa Claus to a two-year-old.
It’s the damnedest thing. You put the Colorado in drive, mash the gas and go nowhere. Seriously: the engine revs up and truck stays put. The delay lasts [the better part of] a second, but it’s enough time to wonder whether you’ve done something wrong; placed the transmission between N and D or brushed a hidden switch that takes the Colorado from four to no wheel-drive.
When the drivetrain finally pulls out of the station it performs adequately, in terms of moving the truck. But the Colorado’s fuel efficiency is like my fantasy golf game: sub par. The Crew Cab Colorado’s EPA-rated at 15/20 mpg. Hello? The Silverado’s 315hp, 5.3-liter Vortec V8 clocks in at 16/20 mpg. Although the Colorado's fuel efficiency is class average, and you can always opt for the more frugal four, you'd kinda hope for better. Or a V6.
Anyway, in normal driving, acceleration is more-than-merely adequate. BUT… in passing situations, the transmission steps down, then steps down again, in an entirely disconcerting way. There is a big ole gap in the tranny’s understanding of your desire to get past that New Beetle and the amount of time available for the job.
The Colorado’s handling is surprisingly good, especially in Z71 trim (Insta-Trac on-the-fly 4X4 command buttons, front underbody shielding, gas-charged monotube shocks, jagged tires and stickers). The wee beastie corners evenly, without drama. And the Colorado’s independent front suspension and front torsion bars deliver a ride that ain’t half bad– for a truck. It appeared off-road worthy, though we didn’t get a chance to play scrabble for purchase.
The Colorado is what I call a Gap truck. The pickup’s seats have ample space between your bottom and the floor. The gaps in the wheel-wells leave room for meatier tires and plenty of turning radius. It’s remarkably easy to twist the Colorado through a gap in between Prii at Target. And then there’s that lovely gap between its price and the sticker whacked on its full-sized brethren.
But then there is that other gap; the one between the Colorado and its competition. While the small[er] Chevy has antilock brakes, tire pressure monitoring and air bags aplenty, other small trucks are similarly appointed AND they respond better all the way around. Their center consoles click when you close them. Their gear selectors need only half the distance to effect a change. And they go when you want them to.
At the right price you could ignore the Colorado’s Crew Cab’s thirst and mechanical laziness. But anyone who does so rewards incompetence, and pays the price at the pump.