Drive : 2004 Chevrolet Colorado & GMC Canyon
Automakers neglected their small pickups for much of the past decade, concentrating on more profitable fullsize trucks and SUVs. But during the 2004-05 model years, four of the five companies that build compact trucks released fully redesigned models. General Motors got the jump on the field last year with the introduction of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. But during the fall of 2004, Dodge introduced a new Dakota, Toyota came out with a new Tacoma and Nissan pulled the wraps off a new Frontier. Ford hasn’t shown any indication when the Ranger and Mazda B-Series will be redesigned, but some analysts put the time frame as late as 2009.
All four of the fresh trucks are emphasizing size and power so much that “compact” is demeaning; they’re all calling themselves midsize, now. Interior room has expanded and crew cab models are outselling all other versions. In fact, some manufacturers dropped their regular cab models, focusing efforts only on extended cab and crew cab configurations as customers want more storage and room.
The Chevy Colorado is GM’s third-generation small truck (not counting the Isuzu-built LUV of the ‘70s and ‘80s) and replaces the S-10, which debuted in 1982 and had a major makeover in 1994. GM is quick to emphasize the Colorado is a completely new vehicle and designed as a pickup; it’s not an evolution of the S-10 or a pickup version of the Trailblazer. There are many design elements taken from other Chevy vehicles, such as the familiar center bar grille and double-decker, cat’s-eye headlight first seen on the Avalanche and now pretty much a signature attribute of Chevy trucks and SUVs. This appearance works better on the Colorado, especially the crew cab, than the fullsize Silverado. The proportions appear in concert as the grille isn’t so overwhelming. The character lines on the fenders add a playful side to the profile while the off-road versions have the uninspired but traditional gray flares tacked on to the fenders.
Our test vehicle was a 2-wheel-drive crew cab with the Z71 suspension, LS trim and 1SF Preferred Equipment Group. Base MSRP price for this configuration was $26,410 (as of Sept. 2004 and includes $635 destination charge.), but you can get a 2WD crew cab for as low as $21,920. That one comes with the standard inline-4 engine rated at 175 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque, a 5-speed manual transmission, the base Z85 suspension and the LS trim (base trim is not available in crew cab). All 2WD crew cabs with the ZQ8 or Z71 suspension come with the I5 engine and 4-speed automatic transmission as standard equipment. Options on our test vehicle included $1495 heated, leather seats with power adjustment, $695 OnStar, $325 XM satellite radio and $270 trailering equipment. Total vehicle price: 29,195.