2016 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 4WD Crew Short Box
Class: Compact Pickup Truck
Miles Driven: 229
Fuel Used: 10.4 gallons
Real-world fuel economy: 22.0 mpg
|CG Report Card|
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.|
|Room and Comfort||C+|
|Power and Performance||B+|
|Fit and Finish||A-|
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.|
|Big & Tall Comfort|
Driving mix: 75% city, 25% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 20/29/23 (city, highway, combined)
Base price: $34,640 (not including $895 destination charge)
Options on test car: Duramax diesel engine ($3905), Assist Steps ($745), Bose premium-audio system ($500), navigation system ($495), spray-on bed liner ($475), tow package ($250)
Price as tested: $41,905
The great: Class-leading fuel economy, refined driving experience
The good: Impressive off-road ability
The not so good: Price of Duramax diesel option, ride quality with Z71 suspension
It seems that we’ve gone down this road before, just not the same way.
If that sounds nonsensical, let me explain. In 2015, Consumer Guide® editors test-drove a Chevrolet Colorado compact pickup. It had Z71 trim and equipment, four-wheel drive, a four-door crew cab, and the shorter of two available cargo beds. Now they’ve driven the same vehicle as a 2016 model. However, where the ’15 job had a 3.6-liter gasoline V6, this latest Colorado came with a 2.8-liter Duramax turbodiesel four-cylinder engine.
The 181-horsepower turbodiesel powerplant is one of the few 2016 changes of note to the truck that, with its companion GMC Canyon, is CG’s “Best Buy” in the lightly attended compact-pickup class. (Other changes include the addition of Apple CarPlay capability for the Chevrolet MyLink infotainment system, and the availability of a multicolor driver-information display.) Yes, the diesel represents a change, but it’s not necessarily an improvement.
For starters, the Duramax doesn’t always feel very powerful, even though its peak torque rating is 369 lb-ft. Beyond that, it’s just so-so for fuel-economy (though Consumer Guide did see almost 3-mpg better mileage with a nearly identical GMC Canyon driven mostly at highway speeds), and it is expensive. The turbodiesel added $3905 to the cost of the test truck, which otherwise would have come with the 305-horsepower V6.
Green-light sprints have never been the strong suit of diesels, but the test Colorado was noticeably reluctant to react to the accelerator. Midrange performance was a little better. Once at highway speeds, a determined press of the pedal is followed by a wisp of a wait for the turbo to kick in, and then the pace picks up. Diesel-truck owners who like their diesel truck to sound like a diesel truck won’t be disappointed with the Colorado. There’s a healthy dose of clatter upon start-up. EPA ratings for the turbodiesel/six-speed automatic powerteam are 20 mpg in city driving, 29 on the highway. With 80 percent city-style driving during a 124-mile stint, this reviewer averaged 23.6 mpg—fractionally better than the feds’ combined-mileage estimate—but that was with no load and just yours truly aboard. (The Duramax is outfitted for towing, with a tow/haul mode, trailer-brake controller, and exhaust brake included in the option price.)
In most other respects, driving the 2016 Colorado was a reprise of the 2015 test:
- While street and expressway ride is firm, surface irregularities are handled fairly well. The solid-axle/leaf-spring rear end stayed on track. Note that the Z71 comes with an off-road suspension with standard 17-inch all-terrain tires. Ride height is a little elevated in four-wheelers, so loading or unloading cargo in the bed may require some extra effort.
- A headliner recessed above both rows of seats makes head room plentiful. While there’s ample stretch-out room in front, adults will find second-row leg room to be adequate a best. Grown-up passengers will find the best room directly behind the front seats; three-abreast seating will be tight for them.
- Cabin storage is handled by a large glove box, good-sized covered console box, a small opening at the front of the console, two open cup holders, and small two-tiered door pockets with a bottle holder built into the lower one. Rear passengers get pouches on the back of each front seat, small door pockets with bottle holders, and a pull-down center arm rest that includes a pair of cup holders. The crew cab’s rear seats fold for added interior capacity.
- A leather-wrapped steering wheel is one of the few luxury details in the cabin. Even the top-line Z71 has little in the way of soft-touch material around the interior. Patterned cloth-and-leatherette seats are attractive, but a little stiff to sit on. This time around, this driver didn’t get close to comfortable until cranking the power lumbar support all the way up.
- Speedometer and tachometer dials are big and easy to read, but smaller fuel and temperature gauges are confined to a tight space at the top of the instrument cluster. They aren’t as easy to read. Four-wheel-drive Colorados have a rotary dial for shift-on-the fly driveline selection; placed low on the dash to the left of the steering column, it is difficult to see. The MyLink infotainment system registers on an eight-inch color touchscreen in the dash. My past interactions with MyLink generally have been favorable, but this time it was preventing me from inputting radio presets on the screen the way the owner’s manual said it should be done. Climate controls below the screen feature rotary dials for fan speed and temperature, with buttons for other functions.
The 2016 starting price for the Colorado Z71 four-wheel-drive crew cab is up by about $500 from ’15, coming in at $34,640. That covers features like a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, rear-vision camera, bumper-corner steps, EZ Lift-and-Lower tailgate, automatic locking rear differential, transfer-case shield, hill-descent control, front recovery hooks, projector-beam headlamps, fog lamps, cast-aluminum wheels, automatic air conditioning, satellite radio, remote start, four-way power adjusters for both front seats, and sliding rear window. However, the test truck’s bottom line bulked up to a considerable $41,905 with delivery. The engine swap had the most to do with that, but an audio-system upgrade, navigation, a trailering package, spray-on bedliner, and bulky side assist steps (a dealer-installed item) all played a part. Still, for ride, room, and overall utility, the Chevy Colorado remains a top choice among smaller pickups.
My two takeaways from driving this diesel powered Chevrolet Colorado: First, the Duramax diesel is much more frugal when operating at highway speeds. While that’s true of most engines, the 24.8 mpg we saw in a test GMC Canyon driven mostly on the Interstate is pretty impressive for truck of this mass. Second, I really dislike what the Z71 suspension setup does to the Colorado’s ride. And, as I have driven a non-Z71 Canyon off road, and been impressed by its capability, and I don’t even see the value for anyone but serious rock pounders. All that said, I really like these trucks. I will pass on the diesel and its stiff $4000 levy, and stick with the smooth, potent, and not unfrugal V6.