The Chevrolet Colorado and its GMC stablemate, the Canyon, got off to a bumpy start in 2004, when they replaced the smaller S-10 and Sonoma pickup trucks. Reviewers were unimpressed, and the trucks fared poorly owner-satisfaction surveys. General Motors gave its smallest pickup trucks a two-year hiatus after the 2012 model year, about the same time Ford Motor Co. dropped its similarly sized Ranger pickup line. That left GM to compete with Honda, Nissan and Toyota in the midsize pickup segment.
The revival has been more successful. Combined Canyon-Colorado sales have soared from 45,575 in 2012 to 146,174 in the 2016 model year. While sales of the big Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra dwarf those of the smaller trucks, the midsize rigs are carrying their weight.
Speaking of weight, our latest test truck — a 2018 Chevy Colorado LT crew cab with short box — is equipped to tow an impressive 7,700 pounds, and its maximum payload is 1,574. And its 2.8-liter Duramax turbodiesel engine not only had plenty of torque but it ran quite smoothly when placed on light duty, such as commuting or grocery shopping. With 4-wheel drive, the Colorado is rated at 20 mpg city, 28 highway, higher than any of its gasoline-powered competitors.
Of course, setting up your Colorado the way our Summit White truck was tricked out can be costly. The sticker price was $44,275, about $2,000 more than the Honda Ridgeline we test-drove last year. The Ridgeline had significantly less towing capacity but otherwise had similar capabilities, plus one advantage: its bed is wide enough to accept a 4-by-8 sheet of plywood or drywall, laid flat.
Chevrolet offers a wide array of packages, body designs and price points on all of its pickup trucks and the Colorado is no exception. The base Colorado starts at $21,195. This is a work truck with a 4-cylinder engine and 6-speed stick shift. It seats two and has rear-wheel drive. Higher trim levels include extended cabs and crew cabs with short or long beds; these models carry up to five passengers. Three engine choices are available, and the Colorado can be set up to tow heavy trailers or even go off-road.
While the test truck had a long list of infotainment features, the controls were intuitively designed and easy to reach. A couple years ago, we tried to count all the buttons in a European sport-utility vehicle and gave up around 70. Apparently recognizing such extreme complexity isn’t a turn-on for American drivers — especially those who choose moderately priced pickup trucks — Chevy engineers put simplicity first.
The truck didn’t ride as smoothly as the Ridgeline, and wasn’t as supple on corners, but it handled competently. The Colorado’s seats were roomy and comfortable — a major improvement over earlier models.
In government crash tests, the Colorado earned four of five stars overall and in frontal crashes; five stars for side-impact crashes; and three stars for rollover resistance.
2018 Chevrolet Colorado 4WD LT Crew Short Box
Engine: 2.8-liter inline Four, Duramax turbodiesel, 181 horsepower, 369 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive: rear, all-wheel, hi-lo 4X4
Ground clearance: 8.2 in.
Weight: 4,711 lb.
Suspension: independent front, solid axle rear
Wheels: 18×8.5-in. gloss black aluminum with red accents
Tires: P265/60R18 all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Maximum payload: 1,574 lb.
Towing capacity: 7,700 lb.
Fuel capacity: 21 gal.
Fuel economy: 20 mpg city, 28 mpg highway
Fuel type: diesel fuel
Steven Macoy ([email protected]) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.