The Chevrolet S10 and the GMC Sonoma wore out their welcome years ago, but their replacements, the Chevrolet Colorado and the GMC Canyon, are good enough to erase the memories of their predecessors.
The new pickups' configurations are the same (regular, extended, and crew cabs, rear- or four-wheel drive, a choice of two engines), but everything else is new, starting with a fully boxed frame that's two and a half times stiffer, which dramatically improves road manners. Whereas the Sonoma and the S10 would quiver as you passed over a bump and continue to tremble as they made their way down the road, the new trucks are unperturbed by even the worst pavement. The steering likewise is transformed by a switch from a recirculating-ball gear to a rack-and-pinion design, allowing the Colorado and the Canyon to track down the road without constant corrections.
Under the hood are two new engines. The 2.8-liter four-cylinder and the 3.5-liter five-cylinder have dual-overhead cams, four valves per cylinder, and variable valve timing on the exhaust camshaft, and either one can be combined with a four-speed automatic or a five-speed manual transmission. The modern mills make a healthy 175 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque in the four-cylinder, 220 horsepower and 225 pound-feet of torque in the five. Balance shafts quell the shakes that plague large four- and five-cylinders and give the engines a refinement missing from the hoary V-6 in the previous trucks. What the old engine did have was an easily accessible torque curve; the new ones feel like sports car engines-they gladly run to the redline but lack the old engine's lazy power. GM claims its research shows that mid-size-pickup owners will be able to make do with decreased towing capacity:3500 pounds for the four and 4000 for the five, down from 6000 for the previous truck.
Climb into the Colorado or the Canyon, and you'll find a comfortable seating position that places you well off the floor and a richly designed instrument panel that looks more frugally elegant than the TrailBlazer's. Crew cabs offer a spacious rear seat, while extended-cab models have two small, forward-facing jump seats.
GM's new middies are comfortable, good-looking, and reasonably priced. The lack of a six-cylinder engine may turn off those who equate cylinders with horsepower, but the new engines should attract import buyers who are used to having technically advanced engines in their trucks.