Test Drive: 2015 Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon – USA TODAY
HELL, MICH..– Smaller, but not too small. Cheaper, but not cheap. More fuel efficient but not really gas-saving green machines. General Motors’ 2015 midsize pickups Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon hit a sweet spot, GM says.
They didn’t give us the ah-ha moment we expected, but that could be a case of too-high expectations. Our experience: MPG mid-20s highway, at best. Price, nicely equipped (that is, the one you want) $35,000 to $40,000-plus. Inside space, OK. Interior refinement, not so hot, except high-end models such as GMC Canyon SLT. Seats aren’t the most comfy, but the SLT’s are an exception. All the same under the upholstery, GM says, so should feel about the same. Not to us.
Hell is a tiny town on the banks of Hell Creek. Holding the North American Car and Truck of the Year drive at a motorcycle bar outside town provides two key things: big parking lot for all the contenders and an excuse for auto writers to get a dirty word into print.
GM hopes it’s the only Hell its new trucks encounter. Very loosely patterned after a GM truck sold overseas, the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon are the automaker’s return to the market it left in 2012.
GM became convinced that it needed to jump back in because it believes many truck buyers prefer a smaller size, but haven’t had one available lately. Why buy smaller? GM says the reasons are lower price, better fuel economy, improved maneuverability and trimmer size, for those who live in urban confines.
To their credit, the Colorado and Canyon have full-size payload ratings, about 1,500 lbs. Towing is much reduced, though: 7,000 lbs. is the max.
The GMC high-end Canyon SLT with V-6 and 4×4 in particular is a nice-looking, sweet-driving vehicle. But it is about $40,000. Maybe nowadays that’s a bargain, when nicely equipped full-size trucks are $50,000 or $60,000, but it seems pretty stiff.
Sure, you say, but they are smaller and fit where big trucks don’t. Maybe. They are shorter and narrower, so slipping down the alley or tucking into tighter parking spots should be easier than if you’re driving a Chevy Silverado, Ford F-150 or the like.
But the Colorado/Canyon, nonetheless, have pretty big turning circles, 41 feet at the narrowest. A midsize sedan typically turns in 37 feet. A long-wheelbase 4×4 big truck can take 48 feet.
Fine, fine. But at least for the prices being charged, they must be decked out nicely. Not always. The GMC SLT is, but the Chevy LT isn’t. It has all the stuff you want, but unpleasantly presented. Our main test vehicle was drearily monochrome gray inside. The plastics had the look and feel of cheap brittleness; a paucity of the soft-tough surfaces buyers seem to like these days.
Well, geez. Surely the mileage part is a big improvement. Yes, with reservations. The four-cylinder, regular cab, rear-wheel drive Colorado returned 23.4 mpg on winding, two-lane country roads, typically running 50 mph or so, with intermittent wide-open throttle (because it’s fun).
The GMC SLT 4×4 with V-6 delivered 20.9. But the Chevy 4×4, V-6 was at 18 mpg. Our experience is that a full-size 4×4 truck could do that well
Other gripes? Sure. To configure the crew-cab’s back seat for cargo, you fold down the back, which then rests flat on the seat cushion. That makes a high platform for lifting your way-too-heavy suitcase or the mega-pumpkin from the greenhouse.
The other GM assertion, that Colorado/Canyon will eat into Toyota Tacoma sales, seems part fair claim and part wishful thinking. A $38,000 Tacoma crew-cab was on hand here for comparison, and it didn’t seem too bad. On paper the Tacoma drivetrain’s inferior. Ride shouldn’t be the best. But driving it, the differences seem modest. The engine is down on horsepower to the GMers, but has nearly as much torque. The Tacoma bounces a bit more, but it is within the OK zone for trucks.
Colorado and Canyon seem credible, capable and, on high-end models, fairly comfortable and refined. But we didn’t walk away feeling we’d been to right-size, right-price truck nirvana.
WHAT STANDS OUT:
Size: Good compromise between big, small.
Payload: On par with some full-size trucks.
Price: Only cheap when contrasted with today’s outrageously priced big trucks.
ABOUT 2015 Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon
What? Midsize pickups to fill a perceived gap in the market. Replace smaller trucks of same name, discontinued in 2012. Front-engine, rear-wheel drive (RWD) or four-wheel drive (4×4), available with two-door regular cab that has abbreviated seating behind the front seats, or four-door crew cab, with four- or six-cylinder engine.
When? On sale since late September.
Where? Made at Wentzville, Mo.
How much? Base Colorado — regular cab, four-cylinder, rear-drive, manual transmission — starts at $20,995, including $875 shipping. Irrelevant. Most Colorado and GMC Canyon models are well into the $30K-plus range. A few top $40,000.
What makes it go? Standard: 2.5-liter four-cylinder rated 200 horsepower at 6,300 rpm, 191 pounds-feet of torque at 4,400. Optional: 3.6-liter V-6 rated 305 hp at 6,800, 269 lbs.-ft. at 4,000.
Most models have six-speed automatic. Six-speed manual available on some regular cab models.
Colorado 4×4 system is conventional driver-shifted. Canyon system adds automatic 4×4 setting.
How big? Similar to Toyota Tacoma.
Colorado weighs 3,960-4,445 lbs. Carries 1,410-1,590 lbs. Canyon: 3,920-4,500 lbs., carries 1,460–1,620 lbs.
Both rated to tow 3,500 lbs, or 7,000 lbs. with Z82 tow package.
Turning circle diameter, 41.3 ft. to 44.6 ft. depending on configuration.
How thirsty? RWD rated 18-20 mpg in the city, 26-27 highway, 21-22in combined driving. 4×4 models rated 17-19/ 24-25/20-21.
Colorado V-6, 4×4, crew cab driven the most registered 18 mpg (5.68 gallons per 100 miles) in mix of fast highway, relaxed two-lane cruising with frequent hard acceleration.
GMC V-6, 4×4, crew: 20.9 mpg (5.5 gal./100 mi.) in mostly rural two-lane driving with some wide-open throttle.
Colorado four-cylinder, RWD, regular cab: 23.4 mpg (4.27 gal./100 mi.) in similar conditions.
Burns regular. Tank holds 21 gallons.
Overall: Good trucks, but less satisfying and more-expensive than we hoped.