I have mixed emotions about my love affair with Chevrolet’s small truck offerings. Back in high school I owned a 1988 Chevrolet S-10 4×4 with the woefully inadequate 2.8L V6 engine. The size was perfect for my needs but I can think of few engines that match the sheer miserableness of that 2.8L. Once the truck was sold I quickly forgot about the drivetrain, but the size of the truck stuck with me. Over the years I would revisit the small and mid size truck offerings but nothing really ever hit my hot button. I wanted something that seemed mythical: ability to tote my junk around, plus my kids, and get decent gas mileage. Those first two are easy to find, but that last piece eluded me. It seems GM heard my silent lamentations and has delivered a new pair of options to the stagnant small truck market.
The Canyon & Colorado siblings land squarely in the mid-size truck category, which is a good thing. Driving these trucks in an mixed urban/suburban environment felt like just the right mix of height, width & length without feeling cramped or like the captain of a cargo ship. The shocking thing about driving these trucks is just how refined they are. Running 65 mph on the freeway in the Colorado was quite a pleasant experience. The noise level in the cabin is very un-truck like in that it is very quiet. There is a little engine noise but that is about it. I’d have no problem making a long trip in either vehicle.
We had several vehicles to choose from in various package options. First up was a drive in a V6 2WD Canyon. Power is no problem thanks to the 3.7L 305hp V6. The six speed automatic does a fine job at picking the gears. Around the city this truck is a breeze to drive, but on the highway it almost seems at home. Merging into speeding Atlanta traffic was easy and about what I expecting from this truck. Jumping into the same truck but with 4WD was a little different. It almost feels like the added weight of the four wheel drive system helps smooth out the ride a little, with almost no penalty to acceleration. But the vehicle I was looking forward to the most was the 2.5L four-cylinder. While not the most basic version of the truck available (there is a fleet version) the unit we tested was an extended cab version with an automatic transmission (a manual is available for fleet truck). I climbed behind the wheel and hoped for the best. And what the little direct-injection four delivered was a perfectly fine driving experience. In fact, I’d say the four would be adequate for most drivers if they were honest about their needs. The 2.5L has a little vibration at startup and is a little noisier overall, but we are still talking about 200 horsepower which is fine for around town. The downfall of the 2.5L may be the low price point of the V6 which is only $1,200 more (and a slight gas mileage penalty).
My only complaint comes from the location of the four wheel drive selection knob. While I’m more familiar with having a separate lever on the transmission tunnel to shift the transfer case, almost all modern trucks use switches to perform these functions. On the Canyon & Colorado the selector knob is located directly next to the headlight knob. They have the exact same size, shape and feel. While I am sure there are safeguards to prevent engaging 4-Lo at highway speeds, it is still an awkward arrangement that could have several simple solutions.
While I’m not quite ready to declare the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado & GMC Canyon as co-winners of the small truck market, I think it is a wakeup to Toyota and Nissan that there is new competition in the field. And while Chrysler is still licking its wounds from the demise of the Dakota, this may be the incentive Ford needs to bring back the Ranger. In any case this truck market will be interesting to watch for the next few years.