When General Motors ticks off its list of best-in-class features on its new small pickups, it’s almost elder abuse.
The only competition in the so-called midsize pickup segment is the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier, with a few sales to the Honda Ridgeline, which is more of a lifestyle truck than a work truck.
The Tacoma and Frontier have been around for many years now and not much has been done to “freshen” them. What they did worked well enough and there was no competition, so why bother?
There is competition now with the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon midsize pickups. GM went after this segment as if its life depended on it. The trucks are almost over-engineered with layers of detail and usability.
The ride and handling engineer, Brad Shreiber, 36, was moved over from designing car suspensions, including the Cadillac CTS and Buick Regal and Regal GS, to name a few. And what he managed to do with a boxed frame and rear leaf springs is remarkable in the trucks’ refined ride and stability in evasive maneuvers.
The last generation of GM’s midsize trucks were plasticky coarse cobs of cheapness. The new trucks are the opposite and should find an eager and unaddressed group of new truckers.
Midsize trucks were once overpriced, underpowered and not up to the work of a “real” pickup. Chevrolet marketers say the buyers who once bought small trucks, left for a crossover, wagon or SUV to pull their trailers or haul their cargo and gear.
The 2015 Colorado and Canyon are sold in extended- or crew cab body styles with rear- or four-wheel drive and engine choices of a 200-horsepower, four-cylinder or 305-hp V6 with six-speed transmissions, manual or automatic.
The GMC gets some additional refinement, such as soft-touch interior materials and more chrome. Its loaded pricing can push $40,000.
The Chevy is the boots-on-the-ground choice with a range of passenger-car conveniences. Pricing starts at about $21,000, including the $875 freight charge from Wentzille, Mo. That price is for the base truck with few amenities. Today’s tester, a Colorado 2LT 2WD extended cab with long bed (6.2-feet), will be a more popular choice. It had an as-tested price of $27,810 with the four-cylinder engine. Options included the $615 convenience package of EZ-lift tailgate, fog lights and more. A spray-in bedliner added $475 and black assist steps were $675, but there are mostly in the way unless you’ll be loading gear on the roof.
2LT standard equipment makes this truck a dual-use workhorse. It can be the carlike commuter — that is as quiet as any entry-luxury sedan — and the weekend jobber or toy hauler.
Truck-savvy extras include remote locking, height-adjustable driver’s seat, tilt-telescopic steering column, air conditioning, rearview camera, 17-inch alloy wheels and 255/65R17 tires, rear corner step bumper, locking tailgate and a compact spare.
Cabin comforts include a six-speaker audio system with eight-inch color touchscreen and voice-activated MyLink telematics, overhead sunglass console, center armrest storage console, carpeted floor mats, lighted vanity mirrors, power windows-mirrors. There is a Bluetooth-Pandora phone-audio connection, satellite radio and four USB ports.
The direct-injection 2.5-liter four-cylinder with automatic transmission has fuel-economy ratings of 20 mpg city, 27 highway on 87 octane; 19/25 mpg 4WD. Its power will be surprisingly adequate for the casual user. Those who tow, will want the 3.6-liter, direct-injection V-6, which is rated 18/26 mpg or 17/24 4WD.
A recent recall slowed delivery of the trucks to correct driver air bag wiring. The majority of affected vehicles, about 50, were in transit or unsold at dealerships. A software fix has been released to dealers and is being used to update trucks at the assembly plant.
In the days before the invasion of the monstrous truck, pickups were manageable. A Chevy pickup from the 1960s or 1970s was actually a little smaller than these new four- and five-passenger midsize rigs. And they weren’t all built on a 4WD chassis so the step-in height was comfortable.
The new Colorado is a return to some sanity and reduced parking-lot anxiety. The extended-cab model is 212.7 inches long on a wheelbase of 128.3 inches with a steel-infused curb weight of 3,960 pounds. And while that may seem large, the full-size 2015 Chevy Silverado 2WD extended cab is 18 inches longer and about four inches wider and taller.
The base Colorado will tow 3,500 pounds and the V-6 can handle 7,000 pounds. The four-cylinder truck has a payload rating of 1,410 pounds, the V-6 almost 1,600 pounds.
The GM pickups are now the benchmark for any redesigned or new pickup to come to market. And for the majority of pickup intenders, the Colorado will get the job done while treading a little more lightly.