Although we didn’t have an opportunity to tow, we did haul a full load of passengers and found no problem with engine power. Freeway access, climbing steep grades and passing on 2-lane highways were accomplished without drama. The I5 engine has been criticized by media and in Internet forums and chat rooms. But this engine is identical in architecture as the I6 in the Trailblazer. The torque won’t snap your neck like a V8, and the exhaust note lacks authority, but the engine power is sufficient for work and play. It’s a shame the 4.2-liter I6 won’t fit in this platform so that Chevy could please the skeptics who look at size and horsepower figures alone. There are other factors to consider, such as reliability and fuel economy. While I feel the I5 can hold its own, the 4L60-E 4-speed automatic transmission is getting old and outdated. Everyone else has a new 5-speed automatic for their pickups that enjoys the latest electronic programming and a nice, steep First Gear. Here’s one category where Hydra-Matic needs to step up to the plate to give the Colorado a fighting chance against the bigger engines.
The Z71/LS combination offers a strong list of standard equipment, including side-curtain air bags, power windows, traction control, anti-lock brakes (disc front, drum rear), anti-theft with engine immobilizer, power windows/locks/mirrors, CD player with 6 speakers, tachometer, 8 tie downs in the bed, chrome tubular running boards and carpeted floor mats. Major options not already discussed on our test vehicle include 6-CD changer and various bed buddies such as tonneau cover and bed extender that are dealer installed.
There’s no confusing the interior for a truck: simple design with large gauges, easy-to-use climate controls and plenty of ventilation. GM has stepped up the quality of interior materials in recent years but plastic is still the preferred choice. The rear seat in the Crew Cab folds down for flat storage and features a center 3-point belt. Rear-seat comfort is adequate for most adults, although three-across-seating might get crowded after a long ride. I found the ride quiet enough from the rear to conduct conversations with the front-seat occupants without shouting.
Our test vehicle was a 2004 model, but little changed for 2005. There is an equipment change in one ordering package and a new color is available.
From a product standpoint, the new Colorado is quite an improvement over the S-10, especially in size, fit ‘n’ finish and engine power. But the business side has changed dramatically in small trucks in just the past few years. With heavy price incentives on fullsize trucks, many midsize shoppers find it easy to step up to the big units right away. In a way, that cross-shopping is a strong endorsement for the ability of today’s midsize trucks. They’ve evolved from basic delivery trucks that were relatively inexpensive to very comfortable people/cargo haulers that can pinch the pocketbook. They’re no longer an alternative to small cars; now they’re an alternative to large trucks and midsize SUVs. That begs the question: If no one wants to build cheap, entry-level pickups right now, does that open the door for a Chinese or Korean manufacturer to start importing small trucks? That’s how Nissan (I mean Datsun) got started.