Mountain Wheels: Midsize Chevy Colorado not as small as you might think |

Mountain Wheels: Midsize Chevy Colorado not as small as you might think

2015 Chevrolet Colorado 4WD Z71 Crew Long Box

MSRP: $34,415; as tested, $36,535

Powertrain: 305-HP 3.6-liter V6, six-speed automatic transmission

EPA figures: 20 combined mpg (17 city, 24 highway)

The entire automotive world has been gaga about the makeover and, basically, relaunch of the Chevy Colorado midsize pickup, heralding it as some Camaro-infused savior of that long-neglected segment of the auto biz. Since the disappearance of the Ford Ranger and the Dodge Dakota, the Toyota Tacoma is about the only active entry.

But given that a 2500-size Silverado is now pretty much the standard vehicle choice of anyone who doesn’t buy an F-150 or a Ram, is a not-really-all-that-much-smaller, and — surprisingly — not all that much cheaper, smaller truck (which realistically gets about 20 mpg) as big a deal as you’ve seen in the recent TV campaign?

Yes and no. This much-updated Colorado is quite attractive, and it really has taken a bunch of those Chevy car curves — the rounded hood and bumpers, the wraparound headlamps and the character line on the cabin flanks — to make it a good-looking vehicle. And it’s got all of the necessary ruggedness of the recently redone Silverado line, including built-in steps in the rear bumper, a faux skidplate up front and a set of air dams below the bumper that I’m afraid will break off the minute you actually use the truck for truck-like purposes. Camaro-by-way-of-truck street duty, no prob.

To make things a little more interesting, I got to sample an optioned-up Z71 edition of the new Colorado, which adds unique grille surrounds, projector headlamps, 17-inch aluminum wheels with genuinely snow-and-mud-ready tires, plus a standard remote start and an automatically locking rear differential.

Mine was also a crew cab with a long box, and with the extra height provided by the bigger tires and chunkier wheels, the funny thing was how not-much-smaller than a Silverado it really was. I parked next to one at the mall and, lo and behold, it’s hard to tell the two apart, other than knowing that Colorado is just a little smaller overall.

And given that the Z71 edition with the larger engine choice (the truck variation of GM’s ubiquitous 3.6-liter V6, making 305 horsepower, versus the 200-horsepower 2.5-liter standard engine) came in at more than $34,000, minus the audio, navigation and trailering package options (another $1,245), I guess the question is, is smaller really better?

That’s a choice you’ll have to make, though you’ll certainly find the Colorado to be a very pleasant and rugged yet still sophisticated midsize truck option.

The power and the ride have been much improved, and it’s a well-composed machine that gets just a bit bouncy on long pavement stretches, thanks to those big tires, but that’s not at all obnoxious in most circumstances. Power is plentiful and when snow — particularly deep snow — is a reality, the Z71 had tons of clearance and was absolutely rock solid in four-wheel-drive mode. Like a 305-horsepower snowmobile. You’ll feel the caught-in-molasses/crabwalking experience from the front wheels when you try to do a slow turn with 4WD engaged, but it’s not terrible.

That improved engine choice, however, was generating about 20 mpg max for me during my jaunts, though it’s rated for 24 highway; the 2WD version of the truck is also said to do as well as 26 mpg on the highway. I did not see that.

Interior accommodations are also car-inspired, particularly the high-edged, stoutly bolstered sport seats (both front and back), which sort of look like they were pulled out of a Camaro, complete with leather tops and highlight stitching. Hey, there’s even some quasi-carbon-fiber-style trim pieces, as well.

The long, deep door sills, the Z71 height and those high-edged seats did make getting in and out of the truck just a bit of a stretch.

Is this the right choice for urban hipsters who feel like they’ll grow a whole patch of chest hair by investing in a less-than-gargantuan truck? Perhaps. And with a full range of GM’s new connectivity tools — notably 4G LTE wireless access, a load of USB inputs and a decent navigation system — it might be the perfect opportunity as a gateway truck experience.

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