Chevrolet Colorado 4X4 Crew Cab Review

Michael Martineck
by Michael Martineck

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.

Michael Martineck
Michael Martineck

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  • The Luigiian The Luigiian on Aug 09, 2008

    The Colorado is a decent truck with the right bits. The four-banger produces a class-leading (for a base engine) 185 hp @5600 rpm and a good 190 pound-feet of torque @2900 rpm. That means getting the four-banger up to max horsepower requires less revving. It reduces towing by a thousand pounds and hauling by a bit as well, but compensates with much better fuel economy for 2008 at 18/24 mpg. Oddly, I looked at a couple at Carmax today alongside the new and old Tacoma and Ranger, and found base models to feel more comfortable than higher levels. For example, the split-bench front seat has a cloth center armrest, while the captain's chairs have a plasticky center console. I would seriously consider the split bench for that reason, not to mention it can (conceivably) seat six people. A few things to consider that haven't been mentioned yet: This truck did badly in IIHS side-crash tests. Structural strength was particularly poor. Don't buy this truck without side-curtain airbags, at the very least. If they come out with torso airbags at some point, get those too. This truck gets electronic stability control standard for the first time for 2009 MY, making the new model years less likely to roll over. The Colorado Crew Cab with four-cylinder engine costs virtually the same amount as a Toyota Tacoma Access Cab with four-cylinder engine. It delivers economy within a mile per gallon of the Taco. The Chevy is extremely small and light: It's much smaller than the Tacoma and Frontier, especially in width. It is not meant for those looking for a small full-size. In short, I think that the Colorado can be a good truck for some people if they check the right boxes, especially because it's the only compact truck that is available with a four-cylinder crew cab configuration.

  • Mark85 Mark85 on Mar 07, 2009

    I think that Canyon does not lose so much with competition as with market timing , politics and dishonest , incompetent professional reviewers . When introduced in 2004 it was big hit with its 225 hp I5. In 2005 Nissan and Toyota introduced their new Frontier and Tacoma. Road- comparisons tests were made ,test data published , opinions formed and impressions made. Competition turned out to be stronger. I 2007 Canyon came up with bigger ,stronger , updated engine 3.7L I5. It was too late and too little to regain reviewers attention like Edmunds, CarAnd Driver or By 2007 Tacoma and Nissan 4.0 L V6 were already taken for granted so market timing was really bad for Canyon. Certainly Canyon is not Tacoma or Frontier but relaying on 2005 performance results in 2009 Canyon reviews and ignoring fact that Canyon has new much better engine is simply crossing the line especially by which still quotes performance numbers for Canyon's old engine. On compact truck market totally dominated by Toyota and Nissan, Canyon 3.7 L I5 never got a second chance to be tested against Frontier and Tacoma. Too bad since Canyon has really strong engine, maybe somewhat crude and unrefined but definitely powerful . Impression that 3.7 L I5 feels a bit sluggish can be misleading since all torque engines feel slow no matter how strong they are and dead feel of aluminum block make things even worse. My Canyon is 2WD Regular Cab 3.7L I5 and it definitely accelerate faster than my 2005 Honda Accord V6. Fair to say it is also light truck below 3500 lb. As far as measurable Canyon performance I found only two credible information. One is coming from TestTruckDigest They tried comparable Canyon and Tacoma and they got identical results for 1/4 mile and Tacoma being minimally faster at 0-60 test. Second result is coming from Dragtimes .com. Sure this is not professional site but tested are done by car and truck enthusiasts and as far as I know this is very honest and honorable site with guys having no business in fixing results . Toyota flagship technical marvel 2008 Tacoma X-Runner went about as fast at 1/4 mile and 0-60 as 2008 GMC Canyon , fact that Canyon had modified module for using higher grade gasoline but stock Tacoma use top grade gasoline anyway. Is it a joke or what ??? I was offered to buy workhorse like this for 14600 extended cab power everything ,nice alloy wheels, at bankrupting GMC dealers. How much X-Runner cost ???. I bought my truck for 12139.99 , how much basic Toyota 4 bangers cost with optional air conditioning ??? Close to 20000 !?. Sure Tacoma and Canyon are priced about the same but only on the paper .Enough said. Also ,to be correctly understood , my post relates only to Canyon engine performance not to overall rating of the vehicle.

  • Lorenzo Subaru had the ideal wagon - in 1995. The Legacy Outback was a straight two-box design with rear quarter and back windows you could see out of, and was available in brown with a 5-speed manual, as God and TTAC commenters intended. It's nice they're not raising prices, but when you've lost the plot, does it matter?
  • Bkojote Remember a month a go when Cleveland wanted to create a more walkable Cleveland and TTAC's 'BIG GOVERNMENT IS THE PROBLEM' dumbest and dullest all collectively crapped their diapers? Here's the thing- look on any American highway and it's littered with people who don't /want/ to be driving or shouldn't be. Look at every Becky on her phone during the morning commute in her Tucson, look at every Brad aggro driving his 84 month loan GMC. Hell look how many drivers nowadays can't even operate a headlight switch. You expect these people to understand a stoplight? In my neighborhood alone 4 people have been rear ended at lights from someone on their phone. Distracted driving over the past 10 years has spiked, and it's only going to get worse unless Becky has an alternative, because no judge is going to pull her license when 'she needs it to get to work!' but heaven forbid she not check fb/tiktok for 40 minutes a day.
  • Scott Shouldn't the The Italian Minister for Business be criticizing The Milano for being too ugly to be Italian?Better use of resources doing that....
  • Steve Biro Frankly, while I can do without Eyesight and automatic start-stop, there is generally less B-S with Subarus in terms of design, utility and off-road chops than with many other brands. I just hope that when they adopt Toyota’s hybrid system, they’ll also use Toyota’s eCVT.
  • The Oracle These are all over the roads in droves here in WNC. Rarely see one on the side of the road, they are wildly popular, capable, and reliable. There is a market for utilitarian vehicles.