Every time I write about a car or truck, no matter the manufacturer or model year, I find that I am always treated to a history lesson of some sort. It seems nearly impossible to understand or appreciate automotive history without first understanding the larger history behind it. This is true of the climate that created the Chevy S10 pickup truck.
In response to the Arab oil embargo of the early 1970s and further inspired by the popularity and success of Japanese pickup trucks later on in the 1980s, Chevy became the very first of the big three American auto manufacturers to introduce a compact pickup truck. The 1982 Chevy S10 marked the first generation of this compact pickup, valued for its affordability and customization potential.
Although the Chevy S10 was officially discontinued in 2004, it hasn’t disappeared completely. In fact, it’s simply been re-imagined. You might be able to find used S10 pickups wherever you find Chevy trucks for sale, and you can certainly find an extensive inventory of Chevy Colorado pickups, which ultimately replaced the S10 to great acclaim.
The First Generation
Building off the earlier Chevy-dubbed LUV, “light utility vehicles,” produced between 1972 and 1982, Chevy released the first S10 in 1982. Affordable, durable, and dependable, the S10 pickup trucks sold from 1982 to 2003 and came in two-wheel drive with either four-cylinder or V6 engines. Starting in 1983, the trucks were available as either extended cabs or 4×4.
Produced between 1982 and 1993, the first generation of S10 pickups came in extended or regular cabs, and the regular cab had two wheelbase options while both body styles came equipped with four or six-cylinder engines. The four-cylinder was a 2.5L, generating 105hp, so the six-cylinder was generally preferred for the added power. The second generation brought about more options and features, including one very unusual addition to the Chevy S10 pickup truck line.
The Second Generation
Available in regular, extended, or crew cabs with short or long beds, the second generation of S10 pickup trucks introduced a variety of package options. In 1996, Chevy introduced the Sportside bed and available three-door cab. For regular cab short-bed S10s, the ZR2 offered a high-performance V6 engine with alloy wheels and sport suspension. This package made off-roading a breeze, thanks to its larger, off-road-ready tires, stronger suspension, and four-wheel drive, which came standard.
The extended cab S10 had a third-door access panel located on the driver’s side that helped make room for additional cargo in the rear cabin. If you were a brave (and small) enough passenger, you could access the fold-down jump seat in the back through the third-door panel. From 1994 to 1997, the rear-wheel drive S10 pickup trucks came standard with a 2.2L, four-cylinder engine generating 118hp.
An available 4.3L V6, able to get 165hp was optional on two-wheel drive S10s and came standard on four-wheel drive models. Engine upgrades on the V6 in 1996 returned more power and torque, operated by either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission.
By 1998, the S10 got a modest makeover, which resulted in a restyled front and nicer interior, equipped with dual airbags. In 1999, the S10 Xtreme was released, similar to the ZR2, but built more with the racetrack in mind, compared to the all-terrain of the off-road enthusiast. Standard rear-wheel drive, the ZR2 stood lower by two inches, and sported body-color grille and bumpers, sport suspension, and sixteen-inch aluminum wheels. The 1999 model year really was the last year for major changes to the S10.
For 2001, Chevy introduced a five-passenger four-door crew cab S10. Although the Chevy S series was a popular line of pickup trucks and they did offer durability and versatility for an affordable price, reviewers and automotive journalists criticized the lack of safety features and abundance of low-end materials throughout the interior. But, it’s popularity kept it on the road until 2004, when it was reborn into something new.
There is one other S10 worth mentioning, however, before we move on to this pickup truck’s latest and most evolved iteration.
The Electric S10
Among the rarest Chevys ever produced, in 1997 Chevy released the Electric S10, a pickup truck powered completely by a battery. Offered on a lease basis to utility fleets, customers included the U.S. Air Force, and utility companies like Virginia Power, Detroit Edison, Boston Edison, Southern California Edison, and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
The Electric S10 was powered by the “detuned” drivetrains of Chevy’s EV1 electric car, generating 114hp with 85 kilowatts from an AC motor and lead Delco battery pack, containing 27 batteries, and weighing 1,400 pounds. It was a heavy vehicle at 4,199 pounds, but its payload remained approximately 951 pounds.
Requiring approximately 2.5 hours to fully charge, the Electric S10 had an EPA-estimated range of 45 miles. This 100% electrically-operated vehicle received an update in 1998, but was ultimately discontinued later that same year. Of the 492 produced between the two model years, approximately sixty were sold, making them rare, but not impossible to find.
Similar to the fate of Chevy’s EV1 electric car, the Electric S10 pickups, save the sixty that sold, were all destroyed as part of Chevy’s effort to protect its proprietary EV technology research and design.
The S10 Reincarnated: The Chevy Colorado
Far easier to find are any of the Chevy Colorado pickups. By 2004, the Chevy S10 was discontinued, and immediately replaced by the Chevy Colorado. Still considered a compact-to-midsize pickup truck, the Colorado was larger across the board than the S10s. For the 2004 model year, the Colorado featured three-inch longer wheelbases, totaling either 111.3 inches on the regular cab or 125.9 inches on the extended/crew cabs.
The 2004 Colorado was longer overall by approximately two inches and sat taller and wider than the S10. Supported by a more rigid frame, the 2004 Colorado came equipped with either a 175hp Vortec 2800 all-aluminum DOHC 16-valve, four-cylinder engine or a boosted 220hp Vortec 3500 all-aluminum DOHC 20-valve, five cylinder.
Still in its first generation, the Chevy Colorado just kept getting better and was named Motor Trend’s Truck of the Year for 2015.
The 2019 Chevy Colorado
And that brings us to today and the modern incarnation of the Chevy Colorado, which is the heir to the Chevy S10 legacy and one of the best trucks you’ll find on the road. The Colorado is still designed as a mid-size pickup truck that can handle a lot of different tasks and look great while doing it. This is a perfect truck for anyone who is interested in a pickup, perhaps a first-time truck-buyer, but one who doesn’t necessarily want a massive heavy-duty model. After all, that’s what the Colorado is all about and how it has built upon what the S10 did: offering a truck for people who want something balanced.
Too often, there are only choices for people who want something small, like a compact SUV, and those who are looking for a massive heavy-duty option, without something for everyone else. That’s what the Colorado represents and why it has remained so important and popular over the years and into the modern era of truck design and development. It is a middle way for truck-buyers that can handle a lot of work but doesn’t have to take over your life. Chevy has designed the Colorado as a balance between work and play, and that philosophy is apparent from every aspect of this truck.
2019 Chevy Colorado – Work Hard
So if we’re looking at that balance between work and play, let’s see how this beauty actually gets those two things done and where it all comes together to create something really unique and impressive. When you’re talking about a truck for work, what you usually want to see is power and reliability – that means a strong engine that can handle a lot of weight. After all, whether you are loading up the bed with drywall or pulling a trailer full of equipment, you want to make sure your truck can get the job done.
There are several different configurations available for the 2019 Chevy Colorado, depending on exactly what you need it to do for you. You can choose either a crew cab or extended cab, and the crew cab can come with either a short box or a long box – though the extended can only come with a long box. Any of those three configuration options, however, can be selected with either 2WD or AWD, depending on the drive type you want. It’s worth mentioning, however, that this choice can restrict your engine options a bit – but ultimately the Colorado is clearly designed to give drivers freedom to pick the truck they want.
Speaking of engines, there are three different engines available for the 2019 Chevy Colorado, which affects just how powerful the truck is and what it can handle. There is a 2.5L four-cylinder engine that provides up to 200hp and 191 lb.-ft. of torque, which is pretty good but the Colorado can certainly do better. If you want, you can step that up to a 3.6L V6 engine that can give you up to 308hp and 275 lb.-ft. of torque, which is much better for towing more weight behind you or handling heavier payloads in the bed. Finally, there is a 2.8L Duramax Turbo-Diesel four-cylinder engine available that can give you 181hp and 369 lb.-ft. of torque, which is ideal for hauling some serious weight behind you or getting up steep inclines with a payload.
What does all of this mean? Well, when properly configured and equipped, the 2019 Chevy Colorado has a maximum towing capacity of 7,700 lbs. On top of that it has a maximum payload capacity of 1,574 lbs. so you can pile a lot of stuff into the back of this truck. Sure, that falls short compared to a heavy-duty pickup, but as a balanced truck designed to handle both work and play, this is a perfect experience.
2019 Chevy Colorado – Play Hard
Speaking of play, let’s take a look at how the modern incarnation of the Chevy S10 legacy lets you enjoy your weekends (or weeks) away from work and get the fun stuff done. Remember that impressive towing capacity and maximum payload that is great for work? Well there’s no rule that says you only use that for getting the job done. When Friday afternoon rolls around you can unhook your work trailer, leave 6,000 lbs. of lumber behind at your jobsite, and then go home to hook up your own trailer with hundreds or thousands of pounds of camping equipment, coolers, and other supplies. That’s the beauty of what the 2019 Chevy Colorado has to offer.
That’s not even starting to mention all the great options for going off-road or just taking your Colorado around town on the weekend in style and comfort. There are numerous trim levels and upgrade options available on the Colorado so you can make it just as comfortable as you want it to be. Interested in going off-road with your mid-size pickup? Then check out the ZR2 trim level.
The ZR2 includes an integrated trailer brake controller, off-road suspension, and increased clearance with 17-inch wheels to keep you rolling all weekend long. It also includes great luxury upgrades like leather-appointed front seats, an 8-inch Infotainment system, 6-speaker audio system, and multiple USB ports for connectivity and charging devices. It has heated driver and front passenger seats along with a leather-wrapped steering wheel and automatic climate control.
If you’re not interested in going off-road, then consider something like the LT trim level, which includes an 8-inch Infotainment system, 4-inch driver information system, and remote keyless entry. The LT trim level also has a leather-wrapped steering wheel with controls, single-zone climate control, and 4G LTE Wi-Fi functionality. Plus you get great safety features with the LT such as an HD rear vision camera, StabiliTrak with electronic traction control, and a Teen Driver system for helping new drivers learn safe habits.
A Truck for the Rest of Us
I could go on with more upgrades and details, more safety features, and all sorts of additional options you can choose from with the 2019 Chevy Colorado, but I think you get the idea. With the Colorado, the legacy of the Chevy S10 continues through excellent engineering, great overall design choices, and a clear vision for a truck designed for people in the middle between small pickups and heavy-duty models.
That’s what I mean when I say it is an option for “the rest of us.” It’s not a bad thing at all because most people just don’t need something like a massive heavy-duty vehicle, but we still want something with more power and features than a small, compact SUV.
After all, isn’t that what a mid-size truck should be? That perfect middle option that gives us exactly what we want but doesn’t miss the point by skimping on powerful engine options or solid towing power. The Chevy S10 was built on the idea that truck drivers wanted a pickup that could handle both work and play equally well and get any job done, while still treating you right on the weekend. Even though the name has changed, that design goal and attitude have not. And that’s why the modern Chevy Colorado still does so much for so many drivers, and shows no signs of stopping any time soon.