Move over Ram, because the 2016 Chevy Colorado diesel just stole your crown. The new Colorado has been confirmed by the EPA as the most fuel-efficient pick-up truck, and won Motor Trend ’s Truck of the Year Award. This is the second year in a row the Colorado has won the award. Leaving other mid-size truck contenders, like the Tacoma, with some catching up to do. The 2016 Colorado sports a new Duramax diesel, the only truck in its class offering this type of engine that combines power and efficiency extremely well. Kentucky Chevy dealers and others might be surprised with how fast these trucks fly off their lots.
Engineering has a lot to do with a vehicle’s fuel-efficiency. A lighter vehicle means less weight, which means less work for the engine. Because the engine is pushing something lighter down the road, that reduces the consumption of fuel. The lighter weight also means faster acceleration and higher speeds can be reached.
Typically, that’s how it works. This is not the case for the Colorado though. Compared to other trucks in its class it’s actually a few hundred pounds heavier. So, how did the Colorado beat the Tacoma on the test track when Motor Trend took it out? Simple, it wasn’t engineered to be lighter… it was engineered to feel lighter.
While the Colorado may not have saved anything in weight, Chevy made sure to make up for it in the design of the vehicle. Seabugh from Motor Trend said “The difference between the Tacoma and Colorado is night and day, While the Tacoma feels old-school and truckish, the colorado drives like the future of small trucks.”
It might not physically be lighter, but it was designed to drive that way. Handling more like a crossover than a truck.
On the test track, this idea behind the design was proven to be valid. When Motor Trend took the vehicle out for a drive, the nimble and light handling paid off. The Colorado was able to outperform the Tacoma, reaching 0-60 mph in 8.6 seconds and the quarter-mile in 16.5 seconds at 82.1 mph. It varied between the LT and Z71 trims, but not by much.
Here is the the second twist: it outperformed the Tacoma in performance, but not in speed. It was the overall driving experience on the road that convinced the judges at Motor Trend this was a better truck.
This was no doubt thanks to the ingenious engineering Chevy was able to conceive, as well as the Duramax under the hood.
This engine is easily the best one out there for the midsize truck market. Combine this powerful and efficient engine with the engineering, and you have a truck that is ready and willing to perform. This stellar performance is not just limited to cruising around town either, this truck is ready to do some serious hauling. Thanks to the handling and air of lightness this vehicle has, the Duramax diesel can focus more on the object that is being towed. Loh from Motor Trend tells us “The torque of the diesel provides a lot of confidence when towing. Even when pulling the max trailer, the little red Colorado never felt under undue strain.”
This was said after the Colorado was hooked up to a 7,600 pound trailer, and was still able to hit a quarter mile in 23.4 seconds. It actually beat the Tacoma in speed this time, it hit the quarter mile in 24.1 seconds, and it was because of the extra oomph provided by the torque in the diesel.
Anglers, you will be able to relate to this. That is a lot of weight for a truck to tow and not feel any strain. The bass boats my dad and I used to pull around in our older Chevy Silverado averaged between 1,000-1,200 pounds. While pulling our boats, it was definitely a noticeable strain.
In theory, that means the Colorado could pull around 7 bass boats at once and still be comfortable.
A couple notable features that have been added to make overall handling easier are a smart diesel exhaust braking system and an integrated trailer brake controller. The smart diesel exhaust braking system is able to improve vehicle control, which is why the Colorado also beat the Tacoma in a 60-0 mph braking test. The integrated trailer brake controller works with the antilock brake system to provide a fast and measured stop while towing a heavy trailer. This was a nice addition from Chevy, seeing as it eliminated the need for buying an aftermarket one.
This engine seems like magic, but I assure you… it’s quite real. The engine is a 2.8-liter turbo-diesel that generates 181 horsepower and 369 pound-foot of torque. That torque being the main factor in this engines success, which is lacking in the other gas-powered engines. The engine is mated to the Hydra-Matic 6L50 six-speed automatic transmission. This transmission uses a unique Centrifugal Pendulum Vibration Absorber in the torque converter to reduce the noise and vibration from this engine. From the outside it still sounds like a diesel, but inside the cab it’s as quiet as a mouse.
The Colorado also has a variable-geometry turbocharger that helps to optimize the power and efficiency distribution across the rpm band, no doubt also factoring in to why this engine was so effective at the performance tests.
The fuel economy is different between trim levels, which are LT and Z71. The standard LT Duramax was tested by Motor Trend based on their Real MPG testing and got 23.2 mpg city, 31.4 mph highway, and 26.3 mpg combined. These numbers far surpass some sedans, like the Malibu, and absolutely crush the Tacoma which only put out 19/24/21 mpg, respectively.
Remember, the Colorado is actually heavier than the Tacoma. The fact it trumps the most fuel-efficient midsize truck on the gas-engine market gives it some serious credibility.
Setting itself apart from the LT trim and the Tacoma even further is the Z71 Trail Boss Duramax trim, getting scores of 25.5/29.3/27.1 mpg, respectively.
Since there are Colorados still being offered with gas engines, it will cost a bit more to get a diesel. The Duramax costs a $3,730 premium over the gas engine. Which isn’t bad, but there are more options required when selecting the diesel. Choosing the Z71 gets you the Trailering package, which is required, making the premium $3,980. Go for the LT and it will be more than $5,000. This is because you are getting a locking rear differential (standard on Z71 trim) and safety/convenience packages automatically rolled in.
For this type of power, the price is still competitive on the market with a starting MSRP from $20,100 and going up depending on the trim and upgrades you select. The optional upgrades aren’t bank-breaking either, you can upgrade navigation for $495, spray-in bedlinen for $475, and an additional safety package with lane departure warning and forward collision alert for $395 dollars.
There has to be a catch, right? I mean, a truck with a competitive price, an amazing engine, cheap upgrade options, and rated as the most fuel-efficient tuck in history should have a catch, but it doesn’t. The only downside is the Colorado is a little slower than some other trucks in its class because of the increased weight. In the grand scheme of what this truck can do, that really isn’t a big downside.
It looks like this truck can do everything and anything you need it to do.
It’s been a few years since Chevy first usurped RAM’s previously undisputed claim to the throne of pickup truck fuel efficiency. The weapon of choice employed by Chevy in their coup? The mid-size Colorado, whose ever-growing popularity had repositioned it for greater success over competitors than had previously thought possible.
While the Colorado has been a mainstay of Chevy’s offerings for nearly two decades (first released in 2002) it did enjoy a brief rest between 2013-14. Considering the momentum it would begin to gather immediately upon its return, it appears that Chevy had always envisioned a long-game for what might be their most accessible pick-up. Even in 2015-2016, the writing was on the wall regarding a reprioritization of what was important to the midsize consumer, and it was clear (to both Motor Trend magazine and enthusiasts everywhere) that the Colorado was ticking all of the right boxes.
But all good things must come to an end, right? Perhaps. But from our vantage point in late-2018, it would appear that the Colorado has done nothing but gain momentum, building upon the strengths that were so warmly celebrated just a few years back. So with no discernible signs of slowing down let’s look at what makes the Colorado such a winning offering in the midsize pickup segment. Buckle up, it might take a while.
Addressing the Elephant
Across the pickup segment(s), recent model years have shown automakers focused on the issue of weight. The use of both lightweight and composite metals to enhance strength and durability while minimizing weight have locked truck-makers into a constant state of one-upmanship. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…
Only a few years back, the Chevy Colorado was measured up against the Toyota Tacoma, a lighter truck which was expected to best the Colorado in terms of handling. But while the Colorado weighed more its engineering was celebrated for the effect it had on the handling and overall driveability. The test, performed by Motor Trend magazine, identified the Tacoma as having a more truck-like feel while the Colorado handled more like a crossover. With such commendable road manners, it might be easy to assume that the Colorado lacked a competitive edge…but making such a bold assumption would be criminal. Even back in 2015, the Colorado was able to best the Tacoma off-the-line and in most areas of competition. It was clear that Chevy had a winning formula.
And as of the model year 2019, the Colorado weighs in between 3,936 to 4,758 LBS. Still topping the Tacoma on the high end (3,980 – 4,480 LBS) it remains competitive without tipping the scale, and does the same when compared to GMC’s Canyon (3,938 – 4,547 LBS) as well as Honda’s somewhat top-heavy Ridgeline (4,242 – 4,515 LBS). One might criticize Chevy for playing things a little too-close when it comes to engineered weight, but once we start talking power ratings and fuel economy it becomes easy to see that Chevy has their vision fixed firmly on the big picture when it comes to the Colorado.
Although it can prove difficult to remain focused on one area of accolade when it comes to celebrating Chevy’s strides in creating superior offerings, let’s take a second to explore the three engine configurations made available for the 2019 Colorado. Each of these options stands as a winning leader in its own right, which is certainly a major step in terms of distinguishing oneself from the competitors.
Beginning with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder, the standard Colorado is a confident performer that earns some legitimate Best-in-Class ratings. Wrangling 200 hp and 191 lb-ft of torque, Chevy makes sure that this version of the Colorado is ready to get to work. Factor in a 3,500 LB max towing capacity and 26 mpg (highway, 20 city) and you’re looking a couple of specs unmatched among competitive four-cylinder engines. Considering that this is a starting point for the Colorado, and it’s easy to see why people have yet to turn the page.
The 3.6-liter DOHC V6 engine serves up a Best-in-Class 308 horsepower paired with a torque rating of 275 lb-ft. Able to tow up to 7,000 LB, the V6 Colorado is unmatched by any competitive V6 engine and it even serves up 25 mpg (highway, 18 city).
And, of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the GM-exclusive Duramax 2.8-liter Turbo-Diesel engine that earned the Colorado its standing as ‘America’s Most Fuel-Efficient Midsize Pickup Truck’. Serving up 30 mpg (highway, 20 city) the Colorado certainly sidesteps any risk of disappointment in this regard, and with 7,700 LB towing capability it’s no slouch in terms of the pull. Throw in 181 horsepower and 396 lb-ft of torque, and it’s safe to say that a Colorado customer is bound to satisfy one way or another.
And what would a truck lineup be in 2018 without a catalog of special edition variants guaranteed to increase the heart-rate and jumpstart the salivation of the true enthusiast? Well, the 2019 Chevy Colorado is no exception, with options that include the (i) Redline (ii) Midnight (iii) Midnight Z71 (iv) ZR2 Dusk, and even (v) fully customized work truck models. The trail-ready ZR2 in particular has garnered a lot of attention (which we’ll touch more on next).
For the last few years, Chevy has made no secret of the “legs” that J.D. Power and Associates have given them to stand on, in terms of the wealth of ‘Dependability Awards’ that have been scattered across the automaker’s various lineups. But while that’s certainly been the area of marketing focus, there is a far wider and more nuanced array of accolades that have been laid at the feet of Chevy’s offerings, including the Colorado.
Aside from being Motor Trend’s twice consecutive pick for ‘Truck of the Year’, the 2018 Colorado enjoyed some notoriety from Kelley Blue Book, who named it among their Top 10 for Resale Value. The Colorado’s CR2 variant was also named ‘2018 Pickup Truck of the year’ by Four Wheeler magazine (a first!). Just one of many reasons why the centennial celebration of Chevy’s truck lineup was rife with positive headlines.
Is the Chevy Colorado Right for You?
It really comes down to your ability to be honest with yourself. How much truck you do really want, and how much truck do you really need? In a world where $100K trucks are becoming more commonplace every day, and there are no shortage of conversations as to whose is bigger, many truck buyers might feel pressured to go with a full-size offering. That said, there may be no midsize offering more compelling than the award-winning Chevy Colorado. Not only is it widely celebrated for its countless strengths, but it is credited with re-invigorating one of the most awarded lineups in recent model years. If that doesn’t speak volumes, I don’t know what does.