2015 Chevrolet Colorado Marks Six Generations Of Small Chevy Trucks

Yes, the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado is an all-new offering for the North American market, but Chevrolet isn’t a stranger to compact – or, uh, non-full-size – pickup trucks on our corner of the world. Here’s a quick look back at all six generations of Chevy’s sub-Silverado pickups.

The rising popularity of small, inexpensive pickup trucks sold by Datsun and Toyota – especially on the west coast – caught most domestic automakers by surprise. The quickest solution to field a compact truck was to simply rebadge a Japanese-built truck and sell it as a domestic. In July of 1971, General Motors bought a 34.2-percent stake in the Japanese Isuzu Motors Limited firm, and by late 1972, it was selling a version of the company’s new KB pickup in the United States as the Chevrolet LUV. Derived from Isuzu’s midsize Florian sedan, the Chevrolet LUV was built entirely in Fujisawa, Japan, and was powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder that offered a meager 75 hp and 88 lb-ft of torque. A 6-foot box, installed at the port upon arrival in the U.S., was the only bed option until 1978, when a 7.5-foot box was offered as an option. Four-wheel-drive was made available on models 6-foot box models starting in 1979.

JUST HOW SMALL WAS IT? Quite. According to the 1973 Chevrolet LUV sales brochure, a standard LUV with a 6-foot box measured 173.4 inches in length, 63 inches wide, and 60.25 inches tall. Compared to the smallest full-size Chevy pickup offered at the time – a 1972 C10 with a 6.5-foot Fleetside body – the LUV was over a foot shorter, 16 inches narrower, and nine inches lower. More importantly, the LUV was nearly 1119 pounds lighter than a short-bed C10 with a 4.1-liter inline-six. Payload, predictably, was also lighter – the LUV had a GVWR of pounds, while the C10 could be spec’ed anywhere between 4600 and 5400 pounds.

Since Isuzu redesigned the KB for the 1981 model year, that also triggered a new look for the 1981 Chevrolet LUV. The truck’s clean, crisp styling seemed rather modern, but the mechanicals beneath the surface were largely unchanged. Wheelbase and overall length were stretched slightly, mostly to increase room within the cab. Initially, power still came from the old 1.8-liter four-cylinder, now producing 80 hp and 95 lb-ft of torque, but by late 1981/early 1982, Isuzu’s 2.2-liter diesel four-cylinder was available, with the 1.8-liter gas engine relegated to the four-wheel drive LUV only. The second-gen LUV was dropped from Chevy’s North American lineup in 1982, but continued to be sold elsewhere around the world, including Central and South America, South Africa, and the Middle East. However, customers in North America seeking a new LUV could buy the same exact truck – albeit badged as the P’up – from an Isuzu dealer until 1989.

JUST HOW SMALL WAS IT? Although the wheelbase grew by 1.9 inches and overall length rose to 174.5 inches, the 1981 LUV was still pint-sized, especially compared to a full-size Chevrolet C/K pickup of the era. Compared to a 1981 Chevrolet C10, the LUV was still 17.4 inches shorter, 16 inches narrower, 8-10 inches lower, and 1100 pounds lighter.

LUV sales never quite reached the level GM had hoped, so it began working on a new small truck, designed expressly for the tastes of the North American market, in late 1978. The finished product, the Chevrolet S10 – and, for the first time, a GMC sibling known as the S-15 – debuted in 1982. Both trucks weren’t much larger than the LUV they replaced, but were designed completely in house – and, interestingly, cribbed much of their chassis hardware from GM’s intermediate A-Body cars, better known as the Pontiac Grand Prix, Buick Regal, and Chevrolet Malibu and Monte Carlo.
Wheelbases were 4” greater than the LUV, but the added space went mostly towards passenger space. Initially, the S-10 was offered only as a two-wheel drive model with either a 6- or 7.5-foot bed behind, but a four-wheel-drive model and a four-passenger extended-cab option joined the lineup in 1983.

Initial powertrains were limited to an Isuzu-built 2.0-liter four-cylinder and GM’s 2.8-liter V-6, though this lineup ebbed and flowed. The famed “Iron Duke” 2.5-liter became the base engine in 1986, Interestingly, the LUV’s old 6 Isuzu 2.2-liter diesel was briefly offered as an option from 1983 through 1985. The 2.8-liter V-6 was finally phased out in favor of the larger 4.3-liter V-6 in 1988. Throughout the ages, grilles, taillamps, and trim changed slightly, and a handful of special-edition trim levels were introduced – most notably the 1991 S10 Cameo and Baja – but none quite as wild as GMC’s Syclone.

JUST HOW SMALL WAS IT? But let’s flash back to 1982 again. Just how small was Chevy’s all-new 1982 S10 pickup? Compared to the LUV it replaced, a model with a 6-foot box was roughly 4.3 inches longer and an inch and a half wider – but it was still smaller than a comparable full-size C10. Stacked against that truck, the S10 was 13.7 inches shorter, 5.1 inches narrower, and 8.6 inches lower. The S10 still undercut a six-cylinder C10 in weight, though that margin shrunk to just below 1000 pounds.

GM flirted with the idea of some novel ideas for the second-generation S10 – including a composite-bodied pickup – but in the end, it merely elected to restyle the S10 (and its GMC sibling, the Sonoma) while keeping chassis revisions to a minimum. The rounded body was a departure from the previous boxy S10, not to mention the larger C/K pickups. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder was replaced by a 2.2-liter OHC four, but the 4.3-liter served as an optional extra. A flareside bed joined the lineup in 1996, the same year a rear-hinged third door was offered on extended cabs. An odd front-wheel drive electric S10 was offered to fleet customers between 1997 and 1998, sharing its entire driveline with the ill-fated GM EV1. A slight facelift was performed in 1998, and a third cab style – a four-door crew cab, previously offered in South America – was added to the portfolio in 2001. Production was phased out in 2004 in favor of an all-new truck design.

JUST HOW SMALL WAS IT? The second-generation S10’s wheelbase and pickup bed lengths remained unchanged, but the completed truck was nearly 10 inches longer than its predecessor, thanks in part to both the new sheetmetal and a cab that was 5 inches longer than before. Even so, the S10 still was a bit smaller than a Silverado/ C/K Pickup of the era. Regular-cab models with a 6-foot bed measured in at 188.8 inches, roughly a foot shy of a regular-cab Silverado with a 6.5-foot bed. At 63 inches wide, the S10 was nine inches narrower than its big brother. Payload, however, started to creep towards Silverado territory – a short-bed, regular cab S10 could haul a gross payload of 1567 pounds, 320 shy of a two-wheel-drive, regular-cab, short-bed Silverado 1500.

While the S10s were originally designed for the North American market (and subsequently adapted for use in select Central and South American countries), its successor – the Chevrolet Colorado – was a truly global affair. The GMT355 platform was developed in concert with Isuzu, and would wind up being built and sold in markets across the world, including Thailand, and Brazil. The North-American Chevrolet Colorado was offered in regular, extended, and crew cab forms, and had an unusual range of engine choices, all initially based off a new range of inline engines: A 2.8-liter four-cylinder and 3.5-liter inline five-cylinder were offered from 2004 through 2006, but bored out to 2.9 and 3.7 liters, respectively, in 2007. In 2009, the 5.3-liter V-8 became available on select Chevrolet Colorado models, finally delivering the power critics said the 3.5/3.7-liter five-cylinder lacked.

JUST HOW SMALL WAS IT? The Colorado marked Chevrolet’s first step towards moving away from a compact truck offering and towards a midsize truck. A regular-cab Colorado now rang in at 192.8 inches – four more than the last S10, but it was still 13 inches shorter than

As you saw yesterday, Chevrolet is returning to the small-truck market with the new 2015 Colorado. Though it’s based in part on the latest Colorado sold elsewhere around the world, the North American truck is significantly overhauled – for instance, it even rides on a scaled-down version of the 2014 Silverado’s chassis. Regular cab models are discontinued, leaving extended and crew cab models as the only options. A 2.5-liter I-4 and 3.6-liter V-6 are available in the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado at launch, but a 2.8-liter turbo-diesel four-cylinder will be added for the 2016 model year. A GMC Canyon variant is expected to launch next year. For more details, read our first look story by clicking here.

JUST HOW SMALL IS IT? Well, it’s certainly smaller than a contemporary full-size Chevy pickup, but not by the same margins its predecessors were. Full dimensional details for the new 2015 Chevrolet Colorado have yet to be released, but GM says the new 2015 Chevrolet Colorado is roughly five inches narrower than a 2014 Silverado, three inches lower, and when comparing crew cab models, as much as 16 inches shorter. That still puts it at somewhere close to 224 inches long – and 74 inches wide — a far cry from the LUVs and S10s of days gone, but also a fair big larger than the last Colorado. By our count, the new 2015 Colorado crew cab is nearly two feet longer than the last Colorado crew cab, which might make garaging the “midsize” truck a little tricky for some owners. It’s also nearly 6.5 inches wider than before – great for shoulder room, we’re certain, but it also puts it fairly close to Silverado territory.

Will the extra size be appreciated by consumers? Perhaps, but it also means the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado is a little closer to stepping on the toes of its larger Silverado sibling than ever before – a problem that’s haunted Chevy’s prior small and midsize offerings. Will fuel economy figures and price points be the 2015 Colorado’s saving grace? Only time will tell.