The download on downsizing and creating a great midsize pickup.
It’s rare for any vehicle to get unanimous approval from Motor Trend editors. But the Chevrolet Colorado did just that winning the 2015 Motor Trend Truck of the Year in a landslide.
For me, it wasn’t the nicely loaded Colorado Crew Cab Z71 that convinced me to vote for the Colorado. That’s a great pickup, riding high on those bouncy Goodyear Wrangler All-Terrain tires with a promise of off-road hoopties. It was the least assuming truck out of the 10 vehicles we drove, tested, loaded and unloaded for nearly a week in Arizona. A very basic, extended cab Chevy work truck with a price tag of $23,300.
First, that’s something you rarely hear anymore: A pickup costing less than an addition to your house. This little truck is downright affordable. But it never felt cheap. Many editors noted the interior comfort, the quiet ride and how it seemed the right size for the right price at the right time.
In the Motor Trend story, I note the Texasification of pickups. It’s been an ongoing issue as fullsize pickups continue to grow larger– often out performing heavy-duty pickups from two decades ago. They are truly testaments to engineering capability. (Full disclosure, at one point, we drove the Colorado next to a ‘90s Chevy S-10 and were blown away at how big the Colorado looked.)
But the world is not just one giant construction site or open country where someone needs to wrap chains around a rock and pull it somewhere. There are city streets to traverse, suburban neighborhoods to cruise down, Home Depot parking lots to squeeze into and fullsize pickups can be challenging in tight spaces. Fitting one in your garage can be a hassle if not a physical impossibility. Every time I got out of a fullsize truck and jumped into the Colorado, it was much easier to drive. In fact, it is downright fun with sharp steering feel, nice acceleration and a nimbleness that big rigs inherently don’t possess.
Of course, Truck of the Year testing is not a direct head-to-head comparison. The Colorado did not beat the Ford F-150 or the GMC HD 2500 in a showdown. In fact, if you’re looking to buy a fullsize pickup, the choices are nearly limitless with fantastic pickups from Ram, Ford and GM. But the Colorado did outperform everyone against the testing regiment Motor Trend has in place.
The week of testing includes both instrumented testing and real world driving. There is a day spent on a closed course and another day driving 21-mile loops through the Hualapai Mountains in Arizona. We log hundreds of miles on all of the vehicles during testing. We analyze the numbers and add to it our impressions of all of the trucks. And after we’re done putting every truck through its paces, we have “Real MPG” connect its machines to every vehicle to analyze tailpipe emissions every second during an 88-mile drive loop in Los Angeles to determine a vehicle’s fuel economy. (All of those numbers are available at MotorTrend.com.) No one else is that thorough. No one.
Ultimately, this year, the Colorado was the most impressive to judges – all fulltime editors at Motor Trend – against a rigid set of criteria including: Design Advancement; Engineering Excellence; Efficiency; Safety; Value; and Performance of Intended Use.
Really, the Colorado is a big test for Chevrolet and consumers.
The midsize pickup segment has been shrinking for decades. American pickup makers, Ford, GM and Ram have all said in the past that little trucks never made sense because their price point is too low, they steal business from the more profitable fullsize trucks and why would a person buy a midsize truck when they could get a fullsize truck for the same price.
My answer has always been: Because some people want a smaller truck. And make no mistake, the Colorado is the best midsize pickup in its class. (It should be because the Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma are old.)
Furthermore, the Colorado doesn’t pretend to be a midsize Silverado. It doesn’t tow as much, carry as much or weigh as much. It’s not supposed to. True pickup guys may grumble, but this pickup wasn’t made for them.
Designers took a lot of care to make sure they weren’t creating a baby Silverado. Instead, they designed an aggressive looking pickup and gave it all of those cool Silverado features such as the bumper step, cargo management system and plush interior.
A smaller pickup means it will have a lot more versatility than its bigger counterparts. This is truly a lifestyle vehicle that could handle daily commutes without emptying the tank; weekend camping trips and the occasional run to the hardware store. You may not want to build a new house with this truck, but you can certainly fix the one you live in with it.
Sure, a bigger rig can do many of those things, but downsizing one’s life can certainly include the vehicle you choose to keep in your driveway. Particularly this one, as it takes up a little less space, uses a little less gas and leaves a few more dollars in your wallet than its bigger counterparts.
So congratulations to the Chevrolet Colorado for winning Motor Trend’s Truck of the Year honors for 2015. To the engineers, designers, factory workers and executives who brought new life to a midsize pickup, it’s a well-deserved award for your tireless dedication and work.
Every judge agrees, and that doesn’t happen often.
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