2015 Chevrolet Colorado Debuts At 2013 LA Auto Show

Those hoping for the revival of a true, compact pickup, keep moving. But for those looking for a modern, contemporary pickup that also happens to be somewhat smaller than a full-size truck might be interested in the new 2015 Chevrolet Colorado, which debuts at the 2013 Los Angeles auto show.

Hyperbole? Possibly, but not when you consider the midsize pickup market segment in North America is down to two offerings – the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier – both of which haven’t been substantially revised since their introductions in 2004. Though Ford, Toyota, and even Volkswagen have rolled out new, modernized midsize trucks abroad, they haven’t in the U.S. mostly because the market is a tough niche to master.

“The market used to be huge,” concedes Jeff Luke, GM’s chief engineer of truck platforms. “But when you stacked a compact or midsize truck up against a modern full-size truck,” that value proposition was lost. The fuel economy was almost the same; the cost was almost the same; so the buyer looked at that and said ‘why not buy bigger?’ "

“That’s why full-size trucks pushed out midsize pickups, but we believe that market will expand if there’s not as much overlap as before.”

Global Roots, Adapted for America

It’s no secret that GM’s new midsize pickups are based off its global Chevrolet midsize pickup platform, which has been sold under the Colorado, S10, and LUV nameplates around the globe since late 2012. That said, the North American 2015 Colorado isn’t just a federalized version of that truck – in fact, it’s been subject to a fairly extensive makeover.

“The old GMT355 [previous generation Colorado/GMC Canyon] was also a global program, but the amount we were able to tailor that truck to the U.S. market was less than what we were able to do with this,” says Luke.

He isn’t kidding. The soft, curvaceous forms of the global Colorado, occasionally criticized for being too soft and car-like, don’t resurface in the North American-spec truck. The 2015 Chevrolet Colorado’s front fascia is unique, and more upright than its international siblings. The squared-off hood is pure Silverado, but the Malibu-like split grille neatly flows into tapered composite headlamp assemblies. While the global Colorado uses round wheel arches, the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado adopts square wheel wells – something Chevy’s design staff views as a hallmark for its North American trucks – and wraps them in deep, chunky flares.

The 2015 Chevrolet Colorado’s cabs still bear some resemblance to its foreign counterparts, but does incorporate subtle tweaks – for instance, the rake of the windscreen is increased to reduce drag. The makeover continues within, as Colorados sold here wear an all-new instrument panel patterned after the Silverado, ditching the waterfall center console in favor of a large ovoid form punctuated with chunky buttons and large toggle switches. And while global Colorados offer three cab choices, the North American 2015 model offers only two: an extended cab, in concert with a six-foot box; or a four-door crew-cab, which can be paired with either a five- or six-foot box.

On that note, the 2015 Colorado’s bed sides are taller than its foreign siblings, improving cargo capacity while giving the truck’s profile a little more shoulder above the beltline. Smoothed, rectangular taillamps replace the scalloped lenses used overseas, while the rear bumper gains the corner steps introduced on the 2014 Silverado.

But all of this pales to the change lurking beneath the surface: North American Colorados ride on a completely different frame from their global counterparts. According to Luke, the 2015 Colorado’s fully-boxed frame is essentially a scaled-down version of that employed by the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado. Luke says the switcheroo was dictated in part to meet side impact standards, but it does also result in a fairly stout package. Full towing and payload details have yet to be released, but GM does say gas Colorado models should be able to tow up to 6700 pounds.

Three Powertrain Choices

The North American adaptation extends to the 2015 Colorado’s powertrain choices. In our market, the 2015 Colorado’s base engine is a direct-injection 2.5-liter four-cylinder. Sound familiar? It’s basically the same engine you’ll find in both the 2014 Chevrolet Malibu and the 2014 Chevrolet Impala, although it has been slightly reworked to deliver a broader torque curve for truck use. Preliminary specifications suggest the Colorado-ized 2.5-liter produces 193 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. That’s better than the 185-hp 2.9-liter four-cylinder used in the old Colorado, and it also bests both the Toyota Tacoma’s 159-hp/180 lb-ft 2.7-liter four-cylinder and the Nissan Frontier’s 2.5-liter four-cylinder, which is rated at 152-hp and 171 lb-ft.

Buyers seeking more power can step up to GM’s omnipresent direct-injection 3.6-liter V-6, used everywhere from the 2014 Chevy Equinox to the 2014 Cadillac CTS. In the 2015 Colorado, the engine yields 300 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque. That bests both the Tacoma and Frontier’s six-cylinder options, but even matches the 300 hp offered by the 2012 Colorado’s optional 5.3-liter V-8.

If you’re looking to match the 5.3-liter’s 320 lb-ft of torque, you’ll need to wait another year. For the 2016 model year, a Duramax-branded 2.8-liter turbo-diesel four-cylinder will be offered. Derived from GM’s new global family of four-cylinder diesel engines, the engine is one of the few major components the North American 2015 Colorado shares with the global model. GM is still working to certify and federalize a U.S.-spec variant, but expect power to be close to 197 hp at 3600 rpm and 324 lb-ft at 2000 rpm.

Regardless of the engine ordered, all 2015 (and 2016) Colorados will be built with a six-speed automatic transmission. A manual transmission is sadly not in the cards, but Luke says his team is investigating “other numbers of speeds” – something we’ve heard before during the launch of a larger Chevy-branded pickup truck, and likely pointing to either the 8- or 10-speed automatics GM is presently developing. Four-wheel drive models boast a two-speed transfer case with a selectable automatic 4WD setting.

Tread Lightly

As exciting as it is to see innovation and fresh sheetmetal in a rather stagnant market segment, GM needs to tread lightly with the new 2015 Colorado to avoid competing against itself. We’re not just talking about the Colorado’s twin, the forthcoming 2015 GMC Canyon, which is due later in 2015 – we’re talking about stepping on the toes of the new 2014 Silverado itself. Though the Colorado is a bit smaller than the Silverado, that 6700-pound tow rating steps on the toes of base-grade 2014 Silverados built with the 4.3-liter V-6.

Will buyers simply jump ship to the larger truck once more, citing bang for the buck? GM doesn’t think so, suggesting there’s a pent-up demand for a modern pickup in a smaller form factor. Provided it can truly differentiate the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado from its larger competitors -- especially its larger in-house competitors -- by way of fuel economy and pricing, the 2015 Colorado might just rediscover a niche.

BMW guy from SMF
I wish it success to compete against Toyota and NIssan, BUT it will take GM time to get the build quality just right - see the other comments for past proof - and the potential overlap of this model onto a full size truck.  The curb weight is 3900 to 4500lbs, which is huge to push around with a four banger or small six cylinder.  Note that a short-bed F150 V6 curb weight is 4685lbs and the 2015 F150 is being touted to be up to 750lbs LESS, so potentially under 4000lbs for a full size truck.  The 2015 F150 IS the reason why you wont see a Ford Ranger in this market, too much over-coverage ... why buy a small truck for probably the same money when you can get a full size with more capability, similar mileage, etc.
Don Grantzki
I have a great idea! Let's offer it as an SUV with air suspension, AWD and with a LS3 motor!Sign me up!
This is great as not everyone needs the capacity of hauling 2 tons of something around; I can't wait to see the SUV they're going to use this platform to build.
Too bad GM's new full size truck doesn't look this good.
Jim Cornacchio
As my 2004 Chevy Colorado (bought new) enters its tenth year (152,000 miles) I am beginning to think about my next truck.  I will wait for a year though both to review the reliability issues that may arise and to take a look at the diesel option.  While this Chevy has been mechanically quite sound I have, like many Colorado owners learned to live with the substandard electrical system that appears to have gone uncorrected in the original model.  I'm on my fourth battery, and this month I just replaced another four bulbs (I average four to five per year), and when the temp. in New England falls below twenty degrees the drivers side door electric window, auto door locks and cruise control stop working and will always mysteriously start working again when the temp goes over thirty five degrees or so for a couple of days.  Done this each and every winter for ten years and multiple trips to the dealer have never resulted in a fix (since it always "heals" itself with warm temps I've learned to live with it).  The radio fails about once per month, but if I remove the fuse (which never blows-out) and immediately replace it the radio works again for another month.  Now, in the morning the motor will crank, but not start and the "PassLock" anti-theft light comes-on.  I wait ten minutes and the engine starts (I may have to go through this cycle two or three times).  The motor has been tuned, cleaned, new filters all around, runs smooth and gets great milege, but still (quite randomly) the motor will crank, but not start and I get to wait my ten minutes for the electrical reset.  Again, no amount of time and money paid to good mechanics or the dealer appear to change these electrical ghosts has ever fixed the vehicle.  Chevy does not admit to these issues, but the internet blogs are full of similar electrical issues with the Colorado/Canyon that owners just learn to live with.  I love the size and utility of a small truck and would love to stay with the brand, but...
Chad Riggs
"A manual transmission is sadly not in the cards" = no dice, no takers, no Tacoma beater.  So sad America gets another one so close and yet not right.  good luck with the rebates.
Ted C
@Chad Riggs So because it doesn't have a manual transmission it is automatically (no pun intended) an inferior product and will only be sold through large rebates.  Interesting since a large majority of buyers choose automatics.
@Chad Riggs With the efficiency and reliability of today's automatics I'm not sure why anyone would want a manual on anything this side of a sports car and even then it questionable.
I agree.  Its disappointing that not even the WT is available with a manual transmission.  I was looking forward to replacing my 15-year old S10 with this truck.  Now, my next truck purchase will be a row-it-yourself Tacoma.  Bad decision by GM.
Chad Riggs
Some people still drive their trucks off the paved road.  Some people want the ability to change a clutch and keep going.  They enjoy descending a steep slick hill checking on animals without the danger of tapping the breaks and sliding into a mess. I have a 04 Chevy 2500HD 6.0 manual 4x4 and I love it and the only option I have for replacing it is the Dodge with 6spd and Cummins.  Toyota and Nissan are the competition... and offer manuals.  I do believe in the GM engines just as much as I would either import; but I also have a 1998 Toyota 4runner (5spd.) and know that the devil is in the details.  I never have had to mess with the a/c, the electronics, or 100 other things that can cause you annoyance in the Chevy, the kind of stuff @Jim Cornacchio mentions in his post.  The last issue would be the "efficiency" and "reliability" of these modern automatics.  The efficiency comes though more gears, and to be honest, I think a strategy like the cruze eco is the best model, with a couple of manual overdrives.  I haven't met a truck that I didn't wish I had another gear with.  And reliability?  I'm pretty sure my replacing a clutch every 200k miles is preferable in time and $ to replacing a three speed auto... let alone 8, 9 or 10 speed.
@T M Actually GM WILL do a manual, but has not decided which engine.  That is from Pickups.com coverage this morning-video embedded in Detroit Free Press article.
@Detfan  GM reported it will offer the manual with the base, two-wheel-drive, extended-cab Work Truck model. Too bad, I was hoping GM would also offer a manual transmission option with the 2.8 liter diesel. Maybe they will.         Check out this link; http://blog.caranddriver.com/2015-chevrolet-colorado-gifts-the-work-crowd-a-six-speed-manual/

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