After a two-year hiatus, the Chevrolet Colorado midsize pickup is returning to U.S. dealerships. Scheduled to arrive in late 2014 as a 2015 model, the truck is based largely on the global Holden Colorado but contains unique styling and equipment. The new Chevy will be joining a small yet important segment of the overall pickup market.
Typically appealing to such construction users as surveyors and field engineers, midsize pickups accounted for just over 200,000 sales in the first 10 months of this year, or roughly 1.6% of the overall light vehicle market, according to Automotive News data. Toyota sold nearly 135,000 Tacomas during that time period, while its closest competitor, Nissan, moved only 51,423 Frontier pickups off the lots. Conspicuously absent is the Ford Ranger, which, after soldiering on for decades, was discontinued in the U.S. in 2011. Dodge bowed out of the segment when it stopped production of the Dakota pickup in 2011.
Available in three trim levels, the 2015 Colorado will be built in extended and crew-cab body styles with rear- or four-wheel-drive capability and either a 5-ft or 6-ft cargo box. A regular cab is not part of the lineup. When asked about the absence of this basic configuration, which is still offered by Toyota but not by Nissan, Otie McKinley, assistant communications manager for Chevrolet Trucks, said the company has a rear-seat delete option to avoid alienating fleet buyers more interested in utility than passenger capacity.
Looking under the hood, buyers have a choice of two direct-injected engines, including a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that's estimated to deliver 193 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque and a 3.6-liter V-6 boasting 302 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard, though a six-speed manual is offered as a no-charge option for rear-drive, extended-cab work trucks equipped with the 2.5-liter mill. Chevrolet has announced that a turbocharged four-cylinder Duramax diesel engine will debut for the 2016 model year, but the company has not released details (the 2.8-liter Duramax used in the Holden Colorado puts out 197 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque).
By comparison, the 2014 Nissan Frontier's base engine is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that produces 152 horses and 171 lb-ft of torque, and the 2014 Toyota Tacoma can be equipped with a 159-hp, 2.7-liter four-cylinder that comes close to the Chevy, with 180 lb-ft of torque. Both competitors are available with 4.0-liter V6s: Nissan's generates 261 hp and 281 lb-ft of torque, while Toyota's avails drivers to 236 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque. Clearly, the 2015 Colorado holds an advantage, and its torque-y Duramax diesel has the potential of being not only a midsize game-changer but also a key selling point for buyers who want extra muscle without the bulk of a full-size truck.
Complementing the 2015 Colorado's new lineup of engines will be standard amenities, including a rearview camera, corner-step bumper and a torsion-bar-assisted tailgate. Behind the scenes will be a fully boxed frame, electric power steering, four-wheel disc brakes and active grille shutters, engineered to improve fuel economy. Among the many options are forward-collision and lane-departure warning systems and an automatic locking rear differential.
In terms of capability, Chevrolet claims the 2015 Colorado will have a towing capacity in excess of 6,700 pounds, which beats the 2014 Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier by 200 pounds, and will offer a best-in-class payload rating. The Frontier can haul up to 1,524 lbs; the Tacoma taps out at 1,500 lbs.
Neither pricing information nor fuel economy estimates are currently available, but to be competitive with the other two midsizers, the Colorado's starting price should be in the $18,000 range and its four-cylinder gas engine likely will average at least 19 mpg in the city.