New Car Reviews

The Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Is a Safe, Capable Workhorse

Safety first, and righteous ability second.

In the first quarter of 2019, Chevy moved 33,494 copies of the Colorado, a 16 percent year-over-year increase. That’s a promising start to 2019. But beyond those stellar sales figures, a question of significant value to consumers lingered in my mind during this test: How safe is it?

It’s not a question we often consider when driving the hot stuff that comes through the Automobile parking lot, but it is a key consideration factor for pretty much anyone who cuts a check for a new car or truck. Senior editor Nelson Ireson drove the beefier, AEV-fettled Colorado ZR2 Bison in a boulder-strewn region of Arizona, which proved out the massive off-road capabilities of the Bison and the ZR2 platform as a whole. Equipped with Multimatic’s trick spool-valve dampers, this truck can crawl over boulders with aplomb, plow across treacherously muddy ground, and laugh off snowy terrain. But if consumers are going to invest their hard-earned cash in a ZR2—especially if they plan on exercising its abilities to the fullest—safety should be on their mind. More on that in a moment.

A few weeks ago, a 2019 ZR2 crew cab entered our fleet, just on time to help me dispose of some home-renovation scraps. The Colorado ZR2 was delivered to our El Segundo HQ in electrifying Kinetic Blue Metallic paint ($395) and equipped with the 2.8-liter Duramax four-cylinder diesel engine ($3,500); it had no other options. I’ll leave it to you whether its $47,890 as-tested price is fair—given the ZR2’s ability, I’m inclined to say that it is—but there’s no question it has presence.

The ZR2 package of course also includes locking front and rear differentials, a stronger rear axle, beefier front control arms, and a whole host of underbody protection. It also rides on aggressive 31-inch Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac rubber. Given all that, you might expect it to be too unrefined for daily use, but that isn’t the case.

For starters, the Colorado is an ideal size for such use. Every time I backed the ZR2 into my driveway, the ease of parking this midsizer made my heart leap. While moving the diesel ZR2 up to highway speeds is a bit ponderous—it has a modest 186 horsepower, but a brawny 369 lb-ft of torque—I nevertheless had a blast driving it, especially on a trip to the landfill, where I refrained with great difficulty from exercising that off-road ability and blasting up and down the piles of junk. The diesel engine is in fact the best option for the ZR2, with a brisk step off the line that alleviates the more sluggish feeling at higher speeds. Simply put, it feels quicker than it is.

The Colorado ZR2 makes a trip to the landfill to dispose of home renovation scraps.

During my time with the truck, I made several trips to Home Depot for giant bags of mulch, delivered a massive pile of recyclables to the recycling center, and transported those scraps. In addition to conquering these tasks, I filled the ZR2 to capacity with family members to attend my niece’s inaugural art exhibit. With every seat occupied by those dear to me, I thought about the possibility of an accident—and that’s when thoughts of safety ratings entered my head.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Colorado crew cab is a solid performer in that area, with only one “Marginal” rating among the IIHS’s six tests: moderate overlap front, driver-side small overlap front, passenger-side small overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraints/seats. Vehicles are rated via a four-grade system, ranging from G (Good) to A (Acceptable), and then down to M (Marginal) and P (Poor).

With the exception of the passenger-side small front overlap test, the Colorado earned “Good” ratings across the board. The overall evaluation of the passenger-side crash test earned a “Marginal” rating. Two factors that determined the M rating in that test were the lack of a beefier structure on the passenger side, and the resultant potential for lower leg/foot injuries. It is worth noting that the headlights earned a “Poor” rating for excessive glare from the low beams and inadequate visibility on curves. Almost all pickups’ headlights performed terribly, an area in which manufacturers definitely need to improve.

Overall, the 2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 is a very satisfying truck. It’s versatile, with lots of baked-in off-road ability, handy size, and good driving character. On top of all that, it’s safe. I’d call that a winner.

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Crew Cab Diesel Specifications

ON SALE Now
PRICE $47,495/$47,890 (base/as-tested)
ENGINE 2.8-liter DOHC 16-valve turbodiesel I-4; 186 hp @ 3,400 rpm, 369 lb-ft @ 2,000 rpm
TRANSMISSION 6-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 4–5 passenger, front-engine 4WD truck
EPA MILEAGE 18/22 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 212.4 x 74.3 x 72.2 in
WHEELBASE 128.5 in
WEIGHT 5011 lb
0–60 MPH 9.7 sec
TOP SPEED 99 mph

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2019 Chevrolet Colorado

MSRP $20,600 Base 2WD Extended Cab