Chevy Colorado works on a smaller scale

The ZR2 version of the Chevrolet Colorado is specially equipped for rough-terrain travel. But it remains a medium-sized pickup for people who want a truck’s hauling capability, but not quite as much as larger pickups provide.

It’s accurate to call the Chevrolet Colorado a smaller pickup truck. But to say that it’s a small pickup would be going too far. Through the week I spent driving one, I was always aware of its above-average size.

To enter, I had to hoist myself into its cab, and to exit I had to step low. In parking lots, I used extra care because it lacked the tight-turning agility of a sedan or hatchback. Maneuvering beside another vehicle in my driveway, I had to give Chevy’s Colorado an extra wiggle to keep from driving on the grass.

Still, it’s the model’s relative smallness – small when compared to its regularly sized sibling, the Chevrolet Silverado pickup – that attracts drivers who want a pickup truck’s abilities, but just not a heaping abundance of them.

“They don’t want or need the larger truck,” affirmed Kevin Bihl, manager of business development at Bill DeLuca Chevrolet Buick GMC in Haverhill. “With the Colorado it’s easier to get into a parking spot. It’s easier to get in and out of Boston. It’s better on gas. But it’s still large enough to get the yard work done, to get to the dump, to pick up fertilizer at Home Depot,” he illustrated.

The Colorado is classified as a mid-sized pickup. Like larger, full-size pickup trucks, its actual dimensions vary with cab style – extended and crew cabs – and bed length – long and short. The Colorado’s extended-cab version has an occasional-use rear bench seat that you reach through half doors behind the front doors. The four-door crew-cab variation comfortably carries five riders because it has a full back seat, and all four of its doors are full size. The crew cab comes with either the longer, six-foot, two-inch bed that’s also installed on extended cab models, or with a shorter, five-foot, two-inch bed.

At its shortest, the Colorado stretches just under 213 inches, while its longest configuration is 225 inches. Compare that to Chevy’s Silverado full-size truck, which runs 230 inches at its shortest, to 241 inches at its longest.

For vehicle weight, the middling-sized Colorado starts at a little under two tons at its trimmest, and runs as high as about two and a quarter tons. The Silverado starts at that two and a quarter tons for vehicle weight, and runs to more than two and a half tons at its heftiest.

The size difference tells the whole story behind the Colorado’s greater maneuverability and economy compared to the its full-size sibling – although the Silverado is by far the more popular vehicle, outselling the Colorado by more than three to one.

Still, the Colorado is a truck to its core. It rides on a stout, separate frame that supports its weight and makes a stable, rigid platform front to back and side to side. The truck’s body is attached to the hard-working frame, which is why the vehicle construction style is called body-on-frame, the traditional way to make a pickup truck. It’s sturdier than the automobile-style, one-piece body and frame construction used by some small pickups and most sport-utility vehicles, including many SUVs that masquerade as rugged haulers.

Its body-on-frame construction gives the Colorado an advantage when pulling trailers, an asset enjoyed by all similarly made pickups. The rigid frame provides strength and heft to more easily handle trailing loads. What’s more, a traditionally made pickup’s bias toward rear-wheel power provides affirmative traction when a trailer is hitched behind.

So it’s not surprising that Kevin Bihl of DeLuca Chevrolet Buick GMC mentioned trailering as an asset that brings drivers to the Chevy Colorado. Of course, since Colorado is a smaller pickup, its owners rely on it for pulling smaller loads than they would with a Silverado, he said.

“It’s strong enough to pull a single Sea-Doo jet ski on a trailer. Or a single snowmobile,” Bihl illustrated.

In addition to the Chevy, Buick and GMC location, DeLuca dealerships includes Bill DeLuca Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram in Haverhill, plus Bill DeLuca Cadillac and Bill DeLuca Chevrolet in Andover.

Bihl mentioned a DeLuca customer who is an avid kayaker, and who uses a trailer to transport the lightweight boats to remote rivers and streams in upper New England. The off-road version of the Colorado enables him to get to more remote kayaking sites than he would reach using a less robust vehicle, Bihl said.

The off-road version is one of five Colorado trim levels sold by Chevrolet. The most basic model, with a 200-horsepower four-cylinder engine, six-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive, starts at a list price of $22,395. Four-wheel-drive versions start with the Work Truck trim level, listing at $29,795 when equipped with four-corner traction.

Colorado’s off-road variation, dubbed the ZR2, starts at $42,495. It comes with a more powerful, 308-horsepower V6 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission. Or, for an additional $3,500, the ZR2 can be equipped with a turbocharged diesel engine that increases its pulling power by about 10 percent. With the addition of the diesel, the middle-sized pickup handles trailers more substantial than, say, that single snow-sled hauler.

The model I evaluated was a ZR2 with the V6 gasoline engine. The trim level accounted for some of the vehicle-size issues I noticed. Sure, those issues would have been amplified if I’d been testing a big Silverado instead of the middling Colorado ZR2. But in the ZR2 they were greater than I would have encountered in another Colorado trim level.

As the off-road specialist, the ZR2 rides on wheels that track three and a half inches wider than other Colorado versions. It rises two inches higher. It rides on heavier suspension components. Its front and rear bumpers are specially tapered for better clearance over rocks, ruts and inclines. Its wheels have greater clearance to step over rough terrain. Skid plates and under-body shields protect its belly.

I appreciated that the medium-sized Colorado ZR2 was more maneuverable and more manageable than a standard pickup. And I enjoyed the addition of off-road prowess to a truck that I could also drive every day around town, or commute in to work, and on Saturdays haul away autumn leaves.

Jeffrey Zygmont is an author of fiction, non-fiction and poetry books, and a long-time auto writer. Contact him at



2020 Chevrolet Colorado

Vehicle type: 4-door, 5-passenger, rear- and four-wheel-drive mid-size pickup truck

Price range: $22,395 to $45,995 (plus options)

Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles basic warranty; 5 years/60,000 miles powertrain warranty; 6 years/100,000 miles corrosion warranty; 5 years/60,000 miles roadside assistance; 2 years/24,000 miles free scheduled maintenance

Base engine: 2.5-liter I4

Power: 200 horsepower at 6,300 rpm; 191 lb.-ft. torque at 4,100 rpm

Base transmission: 6-speed automatic

Fuel economy: 19 mpg city; 24 mpg highway (with 4WD)

Wheelbase: 128 inches

Length: 213 inches

Width: 74 inches

Height: 70 inches

Weight: 3,944 pounds

Fuel capacity: 21.0 gallons

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