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Truck Review: 2015 Chevrolet Colorado and 2015 GMC Canyon by Larry Nutson

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Review of GM’s all-new mid-size pickups
By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor, Chicago Bureau Chief
The Auto Channel

There are about 12.5 million mid-size pickup trucks on the road today. Last year total sales in this segment were around 250,000 units. That’s not a big sales segment. Back in the late 90s Ford alone sold 350,000 compact pickups.

As of late, the mid-size pickup (MSPU) players have been the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier. The offerings from GM, Ford and Chrysler went away a while ago. Do you remember the compact Chevy LUV or the Ford Courier? Or perhaps recall the more recent Chevy S-10, Ford Ranger and Dodge Dakota. Or, do you even remember the front wheel drive subcompact trucks like VW’s Rabbit-based pickup or the Dodge Rampage?

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1952 Chevrolet 3100 Pickup owned by Jerry Drenzek
I recall when buying a compact pickup was a way to own a new vehicle at low cost. They were popular with high schoolers as well as college students. Ten years ago MSPU owners bought another truck. Now MSPU disposers don’t buy another truck but buy an SUV or car.

Full size pickups are really big. They dwarf the half-ton pickups of the 50s. GM sees lots of opportunity to satisfy folks who don’t need a really big full size truck but do want the versatility of a pickup in a more “user friendly” size. GM is thinking that many folks who would have jumped to an SUV would now consider either the Chevrolet Colorado or the GMC Canyon.

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GMs two new trucks are designed to be tough, roomy, functional and space efficient. The Colorado and the Canyon feature a fully boxed frame, locking rear differential, corner step rear bumper, EZ-lift tailgate and frame-integrated hitch.

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Both pickups offer two engines, a 200HP 2.5-L 4-cylinder for optimal fuel economy and a 305HP 3.6-L V6 for higher payloads and towing. Both engines are mated to a six-speed automatic. A six-speed manual is offered with the 2.5-L engine only on select models. GM says the new pickups offer segment-best highway efficiency: EPA-estimated 27 mpg for 2.5L 2WD models and 26 mpg for 3.6L 2WD models. A 2.8-L Duramax turbo diesel will be coming in the 2016 model.

Two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive is available and body configurations are 4-passenger extended cab or 5-passenger crew cab. A two-door short box truck is not in the mix. Payload is in the 1500 lb range and you can tow up to 7000 lbs.

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Aerodynamics has been given considerable attention to reduce wind noise and improve fuel economy. Active aero shutters located in two banks behind the grille function to reduce drag when conditions allow. Noise reduction measures to make for a quiet cabin include triple door seals, fibrous wheel house liners, and the use of acoustic material in the under floor tunnel.

The new pickups offer innovative features such as MyLink with a built-in available 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, Lane Departure Warning and Forward Collision Alert.

Prices start at $20,995 and they can go up to the $40,000 point. GM says on an equipment comparison basis to their full size pickups, the Canyon and Colorado are from $6,000 to $10,000 less.

On the outside, GM strived to differentiate the two pickups. Chevy Colorado features the recognizable grille cross bar with the bow tie logo. The overall appearance of the Colorado is more rounded and sporty than its big brother Silverado. Models and trim levels include Work Truck (WT), LT and Z71. The off-road-inspired Z71 features a gunmetal grille surround – a change from the chrome standard on the other models – projector headlamps and 17-inch aluminum wheels with all-terrain tires.

One of the main reasons for purchase of a GMC truck is exterior appearance. The GMC Canyon maintains a very similar face as that of the full size GMC SLE/SLT. The characteristic angular wheelhouse and jewel-like LED lights continue the family look. Canyon is offered in base, SLE and SLT models, in 2WD and 4WD, and with an aggressively styled All-Terrain package offered on SLE models.

The interiors of both trucks are rather stylish. The GMC Canyon has premium interior materials and a higher level of standard content. The Chevy Colorado interior is also very well executed with materials being a bit less flashy.

My drive in both the Colorado and the Canyon was over some relatively flat and straight roads in western Illinois that included some portions of Historic Route 66. The trucks are impressively quiet. Both trucks are well controlled with a complete absence of any rear axle side-bounce over road bumps. The electric power steering has good feel and feedback with good on-center return.

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Coincidentally the day after our drive in these new pickups, I participated in the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) Fall Rally that takes place at Autobahn Country Club and includes driving on an off-road course. I drove a Chevy Colorado Z71 around the milder of the two courses. The Colorado exhibited excellent capability while driving on grass, gravel and dirt, up and down steep inclines and over undulating ground swells.

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The lineup includes the all-new, patent-pending GearOn system and a variety of accessories designed to make cargo hauling easier and more convenient. The GearOn system is designed to fit perfectly within the bed, for significant storage and hauling flexibility. It is upgradable, with modular cargo dividers and tiered storage to accommodate 4 x 8-foot sheets of plywood above the wheelhouses. It also uses the box’s four permanent and 13 tie-down provisions to allow for a variety of secure and convenient cargo stowage options.

GM expects that with the new 2015 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon some folks who were thinking of getting an SUV would instead consider these new pickups. They have the same passenger carrying capacity and the rear bed is a lot more versatile and will hold more than an SUV. Of course the bed is open, but a tonneau cover can be readily added. Ride quality will be a bit different with SUVs being more car-like and the pickups being, well, truck-like.

It will be interesting to watch if the all-new 2015 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon start appearing on big city streets and in urban parking garages. Perhaps they will provide yet another reason for those folks who live in the exurbs to return to urban day-to-day living and still be able to have a vehicle that they can maneuver in the city and get away in for the weekend.

Larry Nutson