2015 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon: First Drive
All the talk at lunch during my trip was how the all-new 2015 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon mid-size trucks were about the same length as full-size trucks were 20 years ago. But while these new trucks may be roughly the same size, after driving them, I can tell you: We only wish trucks were this good back then. The compact/mid-size truck market has been shrinking, with Ford keeping the Ranger out of the U.S., Dodge/Ram killing the Dakota, and GM killing the last Canyon/Colorado duo off. The Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma have soldiered on, but both are getting long in the tooth. RELATED: See more photos of the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado
Now GM is trying again, with new trucks that are supposed to be super capable while also offering plenty of creature comforts and the ability to move about more easily in an urban environment. The experiment with five-cylinder power is over, with both trucks moving to a base 2.5-liter four-cylinder and a larger 3.6-liter V6.
General Motors invited me to a local private track to experience most of the full Chevy/GMC truck lineup, but outside of the Suburban and the Yukon, I’d driven everything on hand (the Yukon is essentially a gussied-up Tahoe, and I've driven the Tahoe, so I can sort of say I've driven the Yukon), so I was naturally most interested in the new kids on the block.
RELATED: See more photos of the 2015 GMC Canyon
I should also confess that as a city-dweller who occasionally needs to haul stuff/attend a pre-game tailgate, I like the idea of compact and mid-size pickups. Full-size trucks may look cool on the farm, but a truck that can haul stuff and be parallel parked easily? Sign me up.
That’s why it’s a bit odd to me that these “mid-size” trucks are just as big as full-sizers of yore, but then again, most vehicles have bloated over the years, just like us Americans.
While size matters, capability and car-like-ness (I just made that up. Being a writer is fun) are more important to buyers. We had little opportunity to test capability, as our testers' beds were unloaded and nothing was hooked to the trailer hitch. We were also limited to on-road driving. But that’s fine—while many buyers will haul a boat or Jet Ski or whatever, most of these trucks will spend a lot of time unladen while owners wait for the next sale at Home Depot.
RELATED: See Photos of the All-New Chevrolet Silverado
With that in mind, how do these twins perform on-road? We took to the farm roads southwest of Chicago—including parts of Old Rt. 66—to find out.
First up was the Colorado, in high-zoot Z71 trim. With the 305-horsepower V6 underneath, I expected the Z71 to pull hard from a stop, and I wasn’t disappointed. It sounded pretty stout when it did so, too.
Ride and handling were also among the highlights. While we never really were faced with a curvy road—it’s the Midwest, for goodness’ sake—I found the ride to be excellent and very car-like, even on the Z’s 17-inch wheels, which wear all-terrain rubber. Granted, most of the roads were in shockingly good shape given the proximity to Chicago, but the Colorado exhibited none of the occasional jumpiness of the larger GM full-size trucks.
RELATED: See Photos of the All-New GMC Sierra
The biggest news, however, is noise—or rather, lack thereof. GM worked hard to eliminate as much outside noise as possible and it succeeded. Like with any truck, some wind noise from the mirrors is noticeable, but tire noise is distant and hard to hear, even with the Z71’s all-terrain tires. No more of the “thrum thrum thrum” tire noise from trucks past. The Colorado and Canyon may be trucks, but they’re civilized trucks. You can take them off the farm to the gastropub that sells farm-to-table meals and fit right in.
When I slid into the Canyon, I found it to be more similar than different. The interior design is different—both trucks have stylish cabins, although I found the materials to be nicer and the seats comfier in the Canyon—in order to distinguish it from the Chevy. But the overall driving experience is the same, save for an exhaust note from the V6 that for some reason sounded different.
RELATED: See Photos of the GMC Sierra All-Terrain HD
Both of the trucks I drove offered GM’s 4G LTE in-vehicle wireless hot-spot, and when I wasn’t driving, I found the wi-fi to be helpful in an area where cell-phone coverage was spotty at best.
Overall, you have two stylish mid-size trucks that offer modern convenience features, plenty of pickup-truck utility, and a car-like feel that will appeal to mid-size buyers who don’t need as much as truck as the full-size models offer. There’s very little to argue against here. Toyota and Nissan better be on notice—to say nothing of Ford and Ram.
Engines: 2.5-liter four-cylinder/3.6-liter V6
MPG: Four-cylinder: 19/26 (2WD manual), 20/27 (2WD automatic), 19/25 (4WD). V-6: 18/26 (2WD), 17/24 (4WD)
V6 pulls strong
Available convenience features
Limited availability for manual transmission
Mid-size trucks are still plenty big
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