Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2017 Chevrolet Colorado V6 LT 4WD

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“Hey sweetie, guess what? I just saved $500!”

Smaller pickups are generally considered “sport trucks”, or toys in other words. The Colorado isn’t really that small, and it’s genuinely useful as a work truck.

“Uh huh,” I said. “How much did you spend?”

This particular “great deal” turned out to be a stacked rolling tool cabinet; because you can never have too many of those, right? And it made perfect sense to take advantage of the pickup truck I was currently reviewing, because another such opportunity might not come along for a while….

Fortunately, the two enormous cartons fit rather easily into the bed of the 2017 Chevrolet Colorado.

You’ve really got to put a truck to work to appreciate it. The Colorado’s “EZ-Lift and Lower” tailgate glides down rather than drops, and the rugged spray-in liner prevents any scratches from building material and other such cargo. There are numerous tie-downs for loads and tarps and the CornerStep bumpers makes it easier for us shorter folk to access what’s in the bed. It’s a lot easier to reverse and negotiate obstacles in a truck this size than in a full-size pickup. With its sharp steering and car-like manoeuvrability, I had no trouble backing into the shop to unload the new toolbox, without smacking into the lift (another “great deal”) or one of the numerous project cars within.

Once one of the industry’s most popular segments, the compact or mid-size truck came perilously close to extinction after the buying public deserted it in favour of the much more accommodating crossover market. And one by one, the manufacturers also left. But General Motors had a hunch that those buyers still wanted compact trucks – they just didn’t want the ones currently on offer. The arrival of their “twin” GMC Canyon and Chevy Colorado certainly shook up the segment, and forced their outdated competitors back to the drawing board.

These smaller pickups are generally considered “sport trucks”, or toys in other words. The Colorado isn’t really that small, and it’s genuinely useful as a work truck. For 2017, it receives an all-new 3.6L V6 engine, with more power but the same displacement as the one it replaces. It’s based on the engine found in the Cadillac CTS, Buick LaCrosse, and Chevy Camaro. A new cylinder-deactivation feature, combined with an eight-speed automatic transmission engineered for efficiency, delivers an official fuel consumption rating of 14.0L/100 km city and 9.9L highway. Overall, I averaged 12.2L/100 km, during a week of mostly city driving.

Equipped with the V6, my tester has 308 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque, with a 1,590 lb (721 kg) payload and max tow rating of 7,000 lb (3,175 kg). Also available is a rather anemic 200 hp four-cylinder base engine, or an optional 2.8L Duramax turbo-diesel that ups the tow rating to 7,600 lb. Those are the kind of numbers we once associated with full-size pickups. While the diesel boasts an abundant 369 lb-ft of torque, its acceleration is rather lethargic compared to the V6.

A truck like this makes more sense for urbanites than a full-size – and it’s a more accommodating city vehicle than you might suspect. But to win back customers who’d migrated to a more luxurious utility vehicle, a pickup truck has to have a lot more going for it than tow/haul capabilities.

The Colorado’s equipped with all the comfort features we’d expect to find in a crossover; such as heated seats, navigation, Bluetooth and all the requisite safety systems. But it also boasts a level of connectivity that’s rather surprising. I was once able to write and file entirely from the backseat of the Colorado while on the road – plugging my laptop into the 12 volt outlet and using the 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot to upload story and photos. Linking my iPhone using the Apple CarPlay app, I could send spoken messages, and have the responses dictated verbally by Siri – no eyes-off-the-road distraction.

Standard on every Colorado is GM’s “Teen Driver System” which lets parents monitor location, speed, and mute the stereo until all seat belts are buckled. Optional on my LT tester are lane-departure and forward collision warnings, but adaptive cruise control isn’t available.

The cabin is passenger-car quiet thanks to liberal use of sprayed-in sound-deadener, triple-sealed doors and acoustic windshield and side glass. Leather seating at this trim level is well bolstered, comfortable and features heating and ventilation. There’s plenty of room for four full-size adults, and overall, it’s a well-designed, attractive interior. Some cheap plastics are used on centre console and cubbies, but the upside is that they’re easily wiped clean after a dirty garbage run. The crew cab configuration features 60/40 split rear seats which flip up to reveal an enormous storage compartment.

Trucks are notorious for their rudimentary handling – and jolting, shuddering and the rear end skittering about when unladen are considered par for the course. GM’s done an admirable job of refining the Colorado’s handling, which remains supple and quiet on bumpy country roads. The rear end is a bit “busy” over washboard roads with an empty box, but considerably more composed when carrying cargo or towing a trailer. My week didn’t provide an opportunity for towing, however I’d hauled a flat-bed with a new Corvette, a horse trailer laden with sand bags, and a trailer with two ATVs during the Colorado/Canyon’s initial press introduction event. If your pickup truck requirements include frequent towing, I’d recommend the 2.8L diesel over the V8 for its superior torque and engine braking.

The new V6 provides lively acceleration, but runs a little rough in four-cylinder mode. Still, the abundance of cabin insulation makes the Colorado a pretty smooth highway cruiser. The Colorado LT 4WD is adequate for most buyers’ off-road needs, but it lacks the locking differential, underbody protection, tougher suspension, and clearance of the Z71 package. It’s capable enough for most recreational use, hauling toys to the cottage or snowmobiles through deep snow to the trailhead, but hardcore off-roaders would be better off with either the Z71, or the formidable ZR2 with its front and rear lockers, steel-covered underbody and Formula 1-derived dynamic spool valve shocks.

Colorado and Canyon were the seventh and eighth top-selling trucks respectively in Canada in 2016. The renewed interest in the compact segment has inspired an all-new Toyota Tacoma, Canada’s fifth-best-selling truck last year, a revamped Nissan Frontier and the imminent return of the Ford Ranger.

Less expensive than the Tacoma or Ridgeline, and more refined than the Frontier, the Colorado should be on the list for any prospective mid-size truck buyer.

Engine Displacement 3.6L
Engine Cylinders V6
Peak Horsepower 308 hp @ 6,800 rpm
Peak Torque 275 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
Fuel Economy 14.0/9.9/12.2 L/100 km city/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space 1,825 mm/ 6'2" box
Model Tested 2017 Chevrolet Colorado V6 LT Crew Cab Long Box 4WD
Base Price $37,085
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,800
Price as Tested $44,415
Optional Equipment
$5,430 – 18" Aluminum Wheels $1,100, Chrome Luxury Package $2,465; Safety Package $415; LT Convenience Package $765; Bose Premium 7-speaker Audio System $685