Its funny, while sports sedans drop their interesting names for dull
alphanumerics, trucks and SUVs sound more exciting by the day. Welcome to
Chevys new 2004 Chevrolet Colorado.
When Chevy completely redid their elderly S-10, they took a moniker
that sounded like a part number and went with an evocative western state name. The
beautiful Spanish word conjures up images of snow-capped peaks, brisk mountain air, and
The new truck itself does not disappoint. First of all, it is bigger
than the S-10, so there is more room for people and their stuff. But it is still a compact
truck, so it is less expensive to buy, more economical to run, and easier to park than
Chevys full-size Silverado (another evocative name).
The Colorado is completely new inside and out, with a modern take on
the classic squared-off truck shape. The nose wears the new Chevy truck family look, with
squinty headlights split by a wide chrome bar that flaunts a gold-colored Chevy logo. The
taut side panels feature wheel well flares that rise slightly as they flow from front to
rear. This, along with chunky door handles and massive mirrors, conveys the kind of
confidence that is part of the appeal of driving a real truck.
Chevy offers new two engines for its midsize truck. The base engine
is an inline four-cylinder engine, no surprise there, but the mightier optional powerplant
is an inline five-cylinder! Both are based off of the Vortec 4200 inline six that powers
the recently introduced Chevy Trailblazer SUV. The Vortec 2800 four puts out 175
horsepower and 185 lb.-ft. of torque, while its bigger sibling, the Vortec 3500, cranks
out 220 horsepower and 225 lb.-ft of torque.
Both engines feature all-aluminum construction, dual overhead
camshafts and four-valves-per-cylinder technology. With a 10:1 compression ratio,
electronic throttle control, coil-on-plug ignition, and other high-tech features, these
are 21st century motors for a group of buyers that is paying lots of attention.
My Silver Birch Metallic test unit had the beefier engine under the
hood, and the optional four-speed automatic transmission. The engine and transmission are
well matched, and send the Colorado dashing down the road. A five-speed manual is
standard. EPA fuel mileage for the five-cylinder is 17 city, 22 highway.
Pickups are notable for coming in many combinations. Chevy offers
the Colorado in two-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive. If you are planning on going offroad
for hunting, camping, or other recreational activities, the four-wheel-drive system with
the Insta-Trac transfer case is your best choice. Just touch a button on the dash to
engage it. If you live in town, you can do well with the lighter weight and lower cost of
standard two-wheel-drive. With the rear-wheel-drive only trucks, you can order traction
control for help in slippery driving conditions.
The Colorado comes in three configurations: standard cab (front seat
only), extended cab, or crew cab. The cargo box for the regular cab and extended cab
models is 73 inches long, while the crew cab trades cargo space for passenger room, and
receives a smaller 61-inch-long bed.
Payloads range from 1304 pounds for the two-wheel-drive crew cab to
1,613 pounds for the four-wheel-drive standard cab. Trailer towing capacity varies widely,
from a low of 1,100 pounds for the crew cab with 3.42 axle, manual transmission, and
smaller engine to 4,000 pounds for any body style truck with the larger engine and
My tester was a crew cab. Its folding rear seat accepts three
full-sized adults, so my growing son was comfortable back there.
The interior of the new Colorado is comfortable and straightforward.
The gauges live in a clearly defined instrument panel behind the steering wheel and the
controls share a taller, narrower center display. The buttons and switches are big enough
to be activated by a gloved hand. The gauge circles have a grooved, gearlike edge to them,
a stylish nod to the imagery of powerful machinery. The four-spoke steering wheel looks
appropriately solid and protective.
The Colorado is designed for safety, starting with standard
four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock. There are dual-stage front airbags; you can
deactivate the passenger side airbag on regular and extended cab models. Side curtain air
bags are optional.
My test rigs base price started at $24,080, but rose with extras
like the Vortec 3500 engine ($1,000) and automatic transmission ($1,095). I also enjoyed
having the safety of the OnStar system ($695), the upgraded sound system with CD changer
($395), and glorious XM satellite radio ($325). My trucks final price came to
$28,325, but you can buy the absolute basic standard cab truck, with four-cylinder,
five-speed manual transmission, and no options, for just $16,200.
Of special note was the turn sign on reminder chime. As I blithely
drove along one day, I heard it, and looked down to see that I had changed lanes and
forgotten to cancel the blinker. Other motorists will be especially grateful for this
This new Colorado not only suggests the great outdoors with its
name, but it shows great promise for gaining new credibility with the legions of midsize