2004 Chevrolet Colorado
This 2004 review is representative of model years 2004 to 2012.
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
General Motors Corp. officials like to call their new small pickups "midsized" not "compact."
It's true the new-for-2004 Chevrolet Colorado and its GMC twin, the Canyon, are bigger than the S-10 and Sonoma, respectively, that they replace.
They also are better riding, restyled on the outside to look more like their bigger truck kin, offer more features and have more powerful engines than their predecessors.
But don't believe all the hype.
The Colorado and Canyon still aren't quite as big as the 2004 Dodge Dakota pickup, which first claimed the "midsize" label when it debuted as a new-generation model in the 1990s. (There's more front headroom in the Dakota, for example. The 34.8 inches of rear-seat legroom in a Colorado Crew Cab is less than the 40.4 inches in a Ford Ranger SuperCab and the 36 inches in a Dakota Quad Cab. The Dakota also is wider, has a longer maximum wheelbase and overall length.)
And there's no long-bed option in these new GM trucks, as there was with the S-10 and Sonoma. Maximum towing capacity is reduced to 4,000 pounds. There's also no V8 or supercharged engine offerings, as there are in the Dakota and 2004 Nissan Frontier.
Lots of choices
There are two wheelbases—down from three in the S-10—and two lengths.
There are three cab choices—regular, extended and crew cab—that can seat from two to six passengers.
Two- and 4-wheel drive are offered, and there are three suspensions and two engines—a 4 cylinder and an inline 5 cylinder. Both powerplants are derived from the inline six used in GM's midsize sport-utility vehicles, including the Chevy TrailBlazer and GMC Envoy.
Manufacturer's suggested retail price starts around $16,000 for a base, 2-wheel-drive, 4-cylinder, regular cab model.
New, stiffer frame
But in a 4WD Crew Cab Colorado test vehicle, I still bounced readily on rough roads and off-road. Even on milder stuff, I could feel the Colorado suspension working beneath me most of the time and sending along vibrations.
The rear suspension uses a live axle with leaf springs, which was the setup in the S-10, too. The Colorado's front suspension is independent with upper and lower control arms on two-wheel-drive models and a torsion bar on four-wheel-drive models like the test vehicle.
Base wheels and tires remain 15-inchers, but sharp-looking, 17-inch, low-profile radials are available with the Colorado's ZQ8 sport suspension package.
But note competitors offer longer beds. For example, the 2004 Ford Ranger offers a 7-foot bed among its choices.
None, however, has the Colorado's nifty, two-position tailgate.
One position is the usual, lay-flat opening. The other stops the tailgate from opening beyond 55 degrees, which means long items resting on the wheelwells in the bed can rest flat and stable on top of the slightly-lowered tailgate.
The base engine—a 2.8-liter double overhead cam inline four produces a surprising 175 horses and 185 lb-ft of torque at 2800 rpm.
This compares with the 120-horse 4 cylinder that was the base S-10 engine and the 143-horsepower four with 154 lb-ft of torque in the base Ranger.
Meantime, the Colorado's uplevel 3.5-liter Vortec 3500 inline 5 cylinder that was in the tester surpasses the power of some V6s. It produces 220 horsepower and 225 lb-ft of torque at 2800 rpm vs. the 148-horsepower 3.0-liter V6 and the 207-horsepower 4.0-liter V6 in the Ranger.
The 2004 Dakota has a 210-horsepower 3.7-liter V6 with 235 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm. The Dakota also offers a 230-horsepower 4.7-liter Magnum V8 with 295 lb-ft of torque, and Nissan's '04 Frontier has a top, supercharged, 210-horsepower V6 capable of 246 lb-ft of torque at 2800 rpm.
The Colorado tester, with 5-cylinder engine and optional 4-speed automatic transmission, got up to speed quickly—at startup from stoplights and while merging onto the highway.
Power came on readily and smoothly, and I could hear the engine much of the time.
Fuel economy is noteworthy, given the power that the Colorado engines produce. For example, the test vehicle—a 4,000-plus-pound, 4-wheel-drive Colorado—had a government rating equal to that for a 2-wheel-drive Dakota with V6 and automatic transmission: 17 miles a gallon in city driving and 22 mpg on the highway.
But towing capacity is less in the Colorado—a maximum of 4,000 pounds vs. 5,900 pounds for the S-10. The Dakota can tow up to 6,500 pounds if fitted with the Magnum V8.
The Colorado's payload is up to 1,733 pounds from 1,362 pounds in the S-10. But this still is less than the 1,880 pounds of the '04 Dakota.
Looks like a Silverado
The look carries into the interior, where straightforward gauges and dashboard are well arranged, similar to the layout in the larger trucks.
There's nothing particularly upscale or fun about the Colorado interior, though.
Three people would sit rather close in the full-size back seat of the crew cab, and the mostly upright seatback could get tiring.
But views out of the tall-riding Colorado are good.
Among the Colorado's safety features are standard four-wheel anti-lock brakes and optional side airbags.