Photo courtesy GM
Thanks to its compact dimensions and upgraded interior, the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado midsize pickup provides a stress-free drive on or off the road.
Photo courtesy GM
The interior quality is greatly improved over Chevy's previous midsize trucks.

The midsize pickup is making a comeback. Once a staple of field engineers, surveyors, speciality contractors and others needing to reach the jobsite without hauling a great deal of material, the small truck for years has faced economic forces that pushed users down into smaller sport-utility vehicles or up into larger, half-ton pickups. Nissan and Toyota picked up the remainder with the infrequently updated Frontier and Tacoma models.

GM thinks the segment is due for an overhaul. This past December, the keepers of the keys to a 2015 Chevrolet Colorado called to remind me that a test unit was on its way to my driveway. Spending a week with Chevy's revamped small pickup underscored how this nimble truck's compact stature belied its capability, though fuel economy was not as impressive as I had expected.

Dimensions have grown since GM discontinued the last Colorado, but the new model is still compact enough. Had I pulled the sporty-styled hauler into my garage—it's not always easy with a full-size pickup—I would have had no problem making this workhorse fit.

Inside the crew cab, seating was roomy enough for five but, naturally, not as generous as a larger truck. As one friend put it, the Colorado feels "like a sport-utility vehicle with a bed in the back."

That 6-ft-long cargo box, which included bumper steps, tailgate assist and an optional spray-on bedliner, proved useful. Powered by an optional 3.6-liter V6 engine with 305 horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque, the truck helped me relocate a mature bush that had fallen into ill health and become a shelter for chipmunks. After digging out the base of the small tree, I attached a tow cable and inched forward.

Equipped with an optional Z71 off-road package and trailering equipment, which included an automatically locking rear differential and a max towing capacity of 7,000 lb, the Colorado yanked the foliage and heavy root ball without much effort. The control knob that switched the axles into four-wheel drive was awkwardly placed to the extreme left of the steering wheel, where I had to crane my neck to see it. Like most small trucks, Colorado does not offer an automatic all-wheel-drive transfer case, though its premium sibling, the 2015 GMC Canyon, is the first in the segment that does.

The Colorado's interior is a huge step up from prior models, with seats that are supportive, a thick steering wheel made for gloves, and a modern console shifter that controls a six-speed automatic transmission. I noted that a poorly positioned large button on the grip made it too easy for me to slip accidentally into manual mode as I was throwing the knob from park into drive. A six-speed manual is standard on base models. Storage is plentiful, and the crew cab's rear seats can flip up. For additional space, a basic extended cab comes with the back seat missing.

Electronic tools included an available 8-in. center touch screen, a rearview camera and, for a monthly fee, a 4G-LTE hot spot to connect up to seven devices at a range of 50 ft. While using hands-free functions, such as phone calls over Bluetooth and driving directions, I found voice recognition to be slow but serviceable.

On the road, visibility was excellent, and the ride was smooth and quiet. Chevy's electric steering is nicely dialed in, too. At times, buzzes and rattles sprang up around the door trim, but, overall, this is a truck that most anyone in construction can drive without much effort.

Prices start at $20,995. My truck rang up at $36,535 including options and delivery fees. It boasted an estimated fuel economy of 17 miles per gallon in city, 24 mpg on highway and 20 mpg combined. In my limited travels, I reached an average of 16.3 mpg, less than I had hoped. A two-wheel-drive Colorado with a base 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine promises better numbers, at 20 mpg in city, 27 mpg on highway and 22 mpg combined.