|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
Boy, how times have changed. Fast-forward to today and pick-ups have become more of everyday vehicles: it transports the kids to school and the wife to work while still being able to do a bit of hauling every now and then. For all intents and purposes, buyers are now looking at pick-ups as alternatives to compact crossovers especially given the higher cost of unleaded gasoline as well as the poor condition of Philippine roads and their propensity to flash flood. In this regard, Chevrolet was caught napping.
Don’t get it wrong—the Colorado’s a good truck. It’s certainly better than the current crop of Japanese pick-ups that have become the industry stalwarts. The Colorado offers nice power, a good host of safety and convenience features, and comes ready to do the dirty work when needed. So what’s the problem? Simple: Chevrolet didn’t expect the all-new Ford Ranger.
More on that later.
Built as a new global product, the Chevrolet Colorado is, admittedly, a handsome truck. The design especially in the top-of-the-line LTZ trim, wears the Chevrolet design DNA proudly on its sleeve with the large gold bowtie front and center of the dual-port grille. Flanking it are large projector-type headlamps and squared-off, chrome-lined fog lamps. Over at the side, the stamped flared wheel arches are filled with standard 255/65 R 17 tires while the large ‘Z71 4x4’ sticker on the side of the load bed connotes that this is a “high stance” model. At the back, the Colorado features LED tail lamp clusters (the first time it’s ever been used in the segment) and a lockable tailgate.
Inside, the Colorado has a beige (shale in Chevy speak) and black interior with low-gloss plastics dotting the entire cabin. Most of the surfaces aren’t soft to the touch, but the overall look is much more upscale than most pick-ups. In addition, it feels much more unified and cohesive with consistent palette of colors used on the dashboard, seats, and so forth. The Camaro-inspired deep dual-bin instrument cluster (integrating a multi-function display) makes for an interesting conversation piece, but quick-glance legibility isn’t really that good.
Pick-up trucks aren’t known to be habitable places for everyday use, but the standard leather seats on the Colorado LTZ add a dash of luxury. The dual cockpit design frees up interior room, especially for the front passenger’s shoulder and hip room. However, it must be pointed out that the large circular-themed climate control is both confusing and robs some knee room. And there’s also a lack of usable storage space for items like mobile phones, media players, and other knick-knacks. At the back, there’s more room for the occupants to enjoy, but the seat rake is still a bit too upright for a comfortable long-distance drive. That said, the Colorado does offer adjustable headrests for the outboard passengers and three-point seatbelts for all.
The Colorado also comes surprisingly well-equipped. The LTZ model tested features the aforementioned leather seats and climate control, and adds a power driver’s seat and an integrated audio system with six speakers. The audio unit’s pretty good on its own, but it’s odd that the integrated USB jack is of the mini variety, meaning you simply cannot plug in your iPod or USB stick for that matter (you’ll need an adapter). Plus, the built-in Bluetooth handles only hands-free calls and cannot stream music off your mobile phone or media player.
The Chevrolet Colorado comes with a new family of diesel engines from the Duramax family. The 2.8-liter unit in the LTZ model churns out 180 horsepower and 440 Nm of torque when paired with the tested five-speed manual (the automatic ups the torque by an additional 30 Nm). The engine isn’t high on refinement as there’s noticeable diesel clatter and a host of other weird noises from inside the cabin, but the power delivery is good with instant grunt even from a complete standstill. The Colorado’s gear ratios could use more refinement as the odd alternating high and low gearing doesn’t make for a smooth driving experience. Half the time, the Colorado will stall from a second-gear start, which is almost unheard of in diesel-fed pick-ups. Purists would always prefer a row-it-yourself manual, but in this case, it’s better to head over to the smoother six-speed automatic.
As the straights turn into twisty bits, the Colorado starts to show its truck origins with a heavy, detached steering that feels more like it’s connected to rubber bands than a pair of tires. It makes the Colorado a pain to park into tight spaces or manoeuvre through U-turn slots. Thankfully, there’s a rear facing parking camera integrated into the rear view mirror, but even that can easily be glared out in direct sunlight. When the speeds pick up, the Colorado feels largely numb and unaware of what’s happening on the road. The ride’s wallowy and boat-like, creating a feeling of nausea with the more sensitive folk, especially on undulating roads like EDSA.
Considering the Ford Ranger and the Chevrolet Colorado came out at the same time, it’s clear where the problem of the Colorado lies. In a pissing match, the Colorado already loses the payload and towing capacity game, and it can barely match the Ranger’s 800-mm wading depth despite the added 40-mm of ground clearance (270-mm vs 230-mm). Dimensionally, the Colorado does stand toe-to-toe with the Ranger, but the latter eclipses it in terms of wheelbase (up almost 200 mm). And as a result, the Ford offers more interior room, better on-road stability, and a much refined ride. The Ranger’s steering is also more responsive and communicative. The final nail to the coffin is the Ranger’s interior which feels much more convincingly put together with niftier details, more cubby holes, and higher equipment levels than the Colorado (voice command-equipped audio system, anyone?).
In fact, at this point, the Chevrolet Colorado only has three advantages over the Ranger. First is in terms of brute strength: the 2.8-liter Colorado LTZ simply decimates the Ranger’s power figures which stand at a paltry 150 horsepower and 375 Nm of torque. Second, is that the Colorado is the only one available in a 4x4 guise. And lastly, it’s only the Colorado that offers a 5-year warranty on the powertrain. The first two will be moot by early next year when Ford does launch the Ranger Wildtrak which is their 4x4 model complete with a 200 horsepower, 470 Nm engine and even more added styling and interior bits. As for the last one: when’s the last time a car purchase was dictated because of its longer warranty?
In short, the Colorado does manage to leap ahead of the current crop of Japanese pick-up trucks. In that respect, job well done. However just barely a week later, it finds itself already playing second fiddle to a pick-up that simply revolutionized the segment.