2017 Chevrolet Colorado

By January 3, 2017

When the Chevrolet Colorado was redesigned for 2015, it became a contender for the midsize pickup crown, an impressive new challenger to the Toyota Tacoma. We’ve found the Colorado outclasses the Tacoma in ride, handling, packaging, fit and finish, interior space and materials, connectivity, driving position, and bed features.

The 2017 Chevy Colorado introduces a new V6 engine that’s the same 3.6 liters as before, but it has direct fuel injection and makes a bit more horsepower, 308 hp, and can run on four cylinders when there’s no need for power. The new 3.6-liter V6 is mated to a new 8-speed automatic transmission.

The base engine is an eminently usable 2.5-liter four cylinder making 200 horsepower with a 6-speed automatic or 6-speed manual transmission.

Also available is a 2.8-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder that makes 369 pound-feet of torque (and 181 horsepower). It’s the best choice for towing, rated to pull up to 7700 pounds. The diesel is rated by the EPA at 30 miles per gallon highway with two-wheel drive. But it’s not cheap, so if it’s lower fuel expense you’re after, do a lot of number-crunching. You’ll be looking at years and years before it pays off, unless the price of diesel drops relative to regular gas.

The Colorado makes the most of a standard boxed frame with coil front suspension and 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. (Much of what can be said of the Chevrolet Colorado holds for the similar GMC Canyon.)

2017-colorado-drivingBuyers can choose from different cab and bed configurations, including the standard extended cab with a 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 Colorado, 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 WT model, the part-time four-wheel-drive system is simpler, intended more for mud, sand or snow.

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.

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.

Model Lineup

2017-colorado-rearThe 2017 Chevrolet Colorado comes in WT, LT, and Z71 models in many configurations.

They range in cost from $23,080 for the two-wheel drive WT with four-cylinder engine and manual transmission, to $35,630 for the 4WD Z71. However there’s a very stripped down base model for $20,055, intended as a hard-core work truck. (All prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)

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 is the offroad version, so it 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.

Exterior

The Chevy Colorado doesn’t have the relentlessly rectilinear lines of the full-size Chevy Silverado. Its rising shoulder line softens the usual pickup silhouette. And it has a smaller and slimmer grille. Its fenders are boxy. The Chevy Colorado looks much more like a truck than does the 2017 Honda Ridgeline.

Interior

2017-colorado-interiorIn the cabin, the Colorado is more like the Silverado. It’s both rugged and upscale, with a fit and finish that’s better than the Toyota Tacoma or Nissan Frontier.

The beefy steering wheel has lots of controls, with the shift lever mounted on a wide and tall console that can store an iPad, while holding two big cupholders and up to four USB ports, along with many small storage slots, bins, and trays. It feels plenty truck-like inside, but there’s an element of sedan in the well-finished dashboard, the seat bolstering, and aluminum-look door and dash trim.

There’s excellent headroom and legroom in the somewhat skinny front seats, which offer a big view out the windshield. The have a more natural driving position than other trucks in the class, with a higher hip point and a more ergonomic relationship to the steering wheel, unlike the splayed-legs stance you have to take in the Tacoma. The Colorado is far more relaxing to drive for trips longer than an hour.

The rear of the extended cab is a pair of jump seats best suited for packages or child seats, or maybe kids. The crew cab only offers cramped accommodations for adults, with bolt-upright seatbacks and a marked lack of kneeroom. Keep that in mind when you’re thinking of making it a second family car.

The bed is a big selling point. The payload is 1410 to 1590 pounds, while there’s an available bed extender that stretches the six-foot bed to eight feet, as big as a full-size truck, by using the tailgate. The step on the bumper makes it easy to climb into, and the slow-dropping tailgate will be appreciated every day. There are some 17 points for tie-downs, either a spray-in bedliner or a drop-in one, and available cargo dividers, a system of racks and carriers, cargo nets and tonneau covers, and a drop-in toolbox.

Driving Impressions

By pickup truck standards, the Chevrolet Colorado offers a smooth ride that handles bumps well, making it a compelling alternative to a car. We could be perfectly happy commuting daily over rough roads in heavy traffic in a Chevy Colorado. We cannot say that about the Toyota Tacoma or Nissan Frontier. There are motions that make their way into the Colorado cabin, but big tire sidewalls help tame them.

2017-colorado-towingMore competitive is the Honda Ridgeline. While the Honda Ridgeline employs unibody construction, the Chevy Colorado is a body-on-frame design. Body on frame is considered superior for towing and hauling and for durability.

The new 3.6-liter V6 makes 308 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque. The 8-speed automatic transmission is also new.

The 2.8-liter turbodiesel was new for 2016. It makes 181 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque at just 2000 rpm, so it pulls like a V8 across the rev range, even at high elevations and up steep grades, with few downshifts. The optional exhaust brake helps control downhill speeds with a full load.

If you don’t carry or tow big loads, the base 2.5-liter engine, with its 200 horsepower and 191 pound-feet of torque, will probably work for you. It’s acceptable for medium-speed urban duty. You can get it with a manual transmission, but in this case the 6-speed automatic works well with the four-cylinder engine.

The Toyota and Nissan four-cylinder trucks get better fuel mileage and Tacoma dominates in durability and rugged-terrain capability, but the Colorado a far better choice for the kind of driving and infrequent hauling that a lot of truck buyers do.

Final Word

The Chevrolet Colorado is a good choice for an everyday vehicle that needs to act like a car most of the time but have the ability to haul when needed. Its smooth ride and convenient cab make it a compelling choice. The affordable four-cylinder works as a second family car in the crew cab configuration, and with four-wheel drive it could be the winter vehicle; the rear seats are squeezed but can handle two kids. The turbodiesel tows great but is expensive. The V6 and 8-speed automatic are both new.

Sam Moses contributed to this report.