2016 Chevrolet Colorado Diesel Review

There is no question that the introduction of GM’s redesigned midsize pickups made a splash in the segment, attracting customers back to smaller trucks.

And not just GM is benefitting. The entire U.S. midsize pickup segment is up about 49 percent year-over-year in 2015, a kickstart that began when the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon came to town.

But even though GM’s trucks lay claim to segment-best towing, payload and fuel economy numbers, the Colorado and Canyon combined still haven’t outsold the Toyota Tacoma in any single month since they returned. GM is surely hoping that the introduction of the segment’s only small diesel engine will help turn that tide with the 2016 Chevrolet Colorado Diesel.

The engine in question is a 2.8-liter Duramax diesel that is built in Thailand and is already fitted in international versions of the truck. It cranks out 181 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 rpm here in the U.S. That’s more twist than what is found in the Silverado V6 and just 14 lb-ft shy of what’s found in the 5.3-liter V8 from Chevy’s half-tons. It also outclasses its biggest rival, the V6-powered Tacoma, by 104 lb-ft, clearly setting itself apart.

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If you’re interested in my thoughts on the interior, bed or other facets of this truck, check out one of my many reviews on the gas-powered Colorado or Canyon. The reason you’re here is the diesel, so let’s talk diesel.

SEE ALSO: 2015 GMC Canyon Long-Term Review 

The Diesel Difference

There are a few differences between the diesel truck and its gas-powered brethren, most of which are geared towards towing. Every single diesel-powered GM midsize comes fitted with the Z82 trailering package, which includes an integrated trailer brake controller, a driver selectable diesel exhaust brake, and a hitch.

Maximum pulling power is capped at 7,700 pounds, a full 700 more than the V6-powered truck.

2016 Chevrolet Colorado Diesel engine

The Colorado and Canyon have been lauded for their refinement, though a good way to ruin NVH is to introduce a diesel engine. GM knows that North American customers can be sensitive about diesel engine noise and roughness, so it spent extra time here in the U.S. to make sure the powertrain is smooth and the interior is quiet. And it worked.

A centrifugal pendulum absorber, a smart bit of engineering included in the U.S. truck’s six-speed automatic transmission, helps to manage torque fluctuation and keeps the power coming from this little torque-monster nice and smooth. It uses a set of springs to damp the power coming from the driveshaft, giving the transmission a moment to catch up, rather than sending all of its power straight to the wheels all at once.

ALSO SEE: 2016 Chevy Colorado Diesel Tow Ratings, Power Output Revealed

Interior noise is nicely muted, with only the faintest diesel rumble penetrating the cab. From the exterior, the diesel is clearly pronounced.

Despite a slight weight gain, there is no noticeable difference in the ride and handling of the diesel pickup either, which is a good thing. This small truck continues to be easy to drive, with decent steering feel that errs on the side of comfort, but still lets just enough feedback through to your hands to let you know what the wheels are doing.

The suspension setup remains comfortable, riding pretty smooth over rough roads.

2016 Chevrolet Colorado Diesel dashboard

That Diesel!

And surprise, surprise; power from this diesel engine is fantastic. With all of the torque coming on at just 2,000 rpm, this little engine pulls with confidence and strength. It does exhibit some typical diesel traits, like losing some power in the top end, but by the time it runs out of juice, you’re already at highway speed. There’s also a slight lag off the line while the turbo spools.

A 3.42 rear axle is fitted to every diesel-powered Colorado and Canyon, a play by GM to pick up some fuel economy numbers. On a trip from Los Angeles to just north of Santa Barbara, a total of about 130 miles, we managed an average of 34 mpg and that includes sitting through dreadful L.A. rush hour. Best of all, with the cruise control set at 65 mph and a flat road, it’s not uncommon to see the readout hit 40 mpg on occasion.

Around town, we were seeing fuel economy in the low 20s, which means that with a good mix of driving, you’d probably manage an average of 30 mpg, setting itself as one of the strongest selling points for this configuration.

2016 Chevrolet Colorado Diesel-5

Trailer Time

Where the fuel economy and the engine really shines is when this engine is under load with a trailer hooked up.

Having pulled a lot of trailers with a Canyon V6, I can tell you that this diesel just owns the weight without breaking a sweat, while the gas engine lives its life in the high revs trying to keep up with big trailers because it makes peak torque right at its redline. The addition of the diesel exhaust brake also helps quite a bit when coming down hills, holding back the weight of trailer. It works in conjunction with tow/haul mode in the truck, so the transmission also keeps itself in an appropriate gear to manage the weight.

That is where the diesel is going to make you money, not to mention the added confidence and capability of this engine.

Pricing

You can only get the diesel with crew cab trucks that are LT trim or higher on the Colorado, or SLE or higher on the Canyon. That brings the cheapest diesel-trimmed truck to $33,520 for the Chevy and $34,875 for the GMC, which means that the diesel is roughly a $3,730 option.

SEE ALSO: 2016 Toyota Tacoma Review

So let’s do some quick math. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, a gallon of gasoline costed $2.322 on Sept. 28, 2015. A gallon of diesel goes for $2.476 (it’s worth mentioning that in a lot of areas, diesel is now cheaper than gas. These numbers are country-wide averages).

If you drive 15,000 miles in a year, and you’re averaging 22 mpg, which is the EPA rating for the most fuel-efficient version of the Colorado, you’ll be spending $1,583. On the other side, averaging 30 mpg with the diesel, you’ll spend $1,238 leaving a $345 gap.

2016 Chevrolet Colorado Diesel-12

By that math, you’ll need to own the truck for more than 10 years to get your money out of it. But that’s also the most fuel-efficient gas version of the truck, which uses a four-cylinder engine. With the V6 in the real world over the course of a six month test, we averaged 18 mpg. That will run you $1,935 a year, making the gap grow to $697.

That cuts the payback time in half to just about five years.

The Verdict: 2016 Chevrolet Colorado Diesel Review

The gasoline-powered V6 in the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon is just pretty good, though it can leave you wanting more grunt when the work gets really tough.

With this new 2.8-liter diesel, GM has taken its midsize trucks from good to great.

Discuss this story on our Duramax Forum

  • Eric Cameron

    Hey Stephen, just wondering about your comment in the summary about the interior. Are you saying that it should be nicer due to the price, or because it’s chincy, even at the base level?

  • bkdroid

    Maybe it’s an issue with the site that will be fixed, but the cheapest configuration I can put together with the diesel is $35,080 for the Crew cab/Short box. The diesel doesn’t even show up as an option. You have to select the Exhaust Brake which automatically adds the LT convenience package and safety package. That’s a lot of coin for a 2wd, short-box, ‘mid’-sized truck.

  • tony patric

    so tempting!

  • Hannibal Dobbs

    No diesel in the Work Truck? Come on GM. I’ll keep my current truck. Having purchased new in 2008, 2010, and 2012. No thanks GM.

  • tsandco

    As usual, diesel is a power towing feature, not a conservation issue

  • outbackandy

    I’m hopping they will offer it in the excab next year…

  • Rocket

    It’s not just about towing and/or efficiency. Sometimes diesels simply offer a better driving experience. For example, VAG’s torquey 3.0 TDI easily outclasses the 3.6L gasser in the Touareg. I won’t pretend to make such claims about the 2.8L Duramax because I haven’t sampled it yet, but I won’t be surprised if it’s a similar story in the Colorado.

  • Ray Jay

    Yup….Gay vid!

  • Kevin Kellerman

    That thing is UGly… yikes… That looks like camera barrel distortion and Pablo Picasso got together and made one fucked up clay model. Augh…

  • tsandco

    Yes, I should have said diesel is a towing or power/driver issue , not a viable conservation feature

  • Don Lynn

    One has to wonder if this diesel would have ever made it to market if its manufacture had started after the VW fiasco. Towing capability is still pretty low so its really not a choice for a mid sized RV. I wonder what kind of tranny it has, usually the weakest link of a chevy.

  • Kai Herrmann

    Nice… I’d like to see a bit more of a review with a car on a trailer behind it. like can it maintain 70mph up hills, does it struggle getting up to speed on on ramps, etc.

  • Kai Herrmann

    Are you saying that’s bad or good?

  • Scott

    Just came off a 13,500 mile trip pulling a 2500 lb TrailManor RV trailer, with a 2015 V6 Colorado. Got 18.3 mpg. My typical around town mileage is 23 mpg w/o the trailer. The trip started in southeast New Mexico driving backroads most of the way to Alaska. I really like this truck. The only downside was 2 flat tires.

  • Don Lynn

    I’m going to guess that the 2 flat tires were on the trailmanor RV, right?

  • 2MileHi

    If that trailer is properly “a-tired” with STs, it shouldn’t be going 70 mph in the first place. Also, a diesel is going to perform better at any speed compared to a gasser after it loses 20 or 30% of its power up here in the Rockies. As I’m in the market for a light hauler for the DW to haul our toys behind my F350 and trailer, these new diesels are enticing. But from past experience, it won’t be a GM product if I do buy one.

  • Kai Herrmann

    Agreed, but I think we all know everyone does 70-75 with their car trailers. I’m just wondering if it would be satisfactory to tow my toyota rock crawler with or if i”ll immediately miss my duramax 2500. I really have no use for a truck aside from towing but I’ll never tow with a gas truck again.

  • narg

    This is only available in LT trim, not LTZ. Bad move GM.

  • tsandco

    Emphasizing that many consumer alternate fuel based vehicles don’t save much money on fuel. Diesel burns dirtier (especially Volkswagen )

    Alternatives may reduce some emissions or transfer the pollution to another source (coal produces electricity for pure electrics)

    Same thing with hydrogen based systems.

  • Kai Herrmann

    Ok, I see. When it comes to diesel trucks, people buy them for their ability to tow and haul which is much better than a gas powered truck. Plus, the diesel gets much better mileage when under load than an equivalent gas truck. I don’t know anybody who buys a diesel truck for the emissions, it’s because they tow better and give better mileage while towing.

  • Chris

    LT or higher … including LTZ

  • Chris Dotson

    I’ll take my gas truck over a stock Diesel anytime. If the diesel was made before 2010. 2011 to present diesels will out pull my gas motor slightly. I had no problem in over drive towing a 16,500 pound trailer at 70 mph with cruise on. It stayed at 70 mph up some steep hills in over drive. Only down shifting at the top of the hill for a few seconds. The gas motor I own is only now used in med duty trucks. NOT PICKUPS.

  • Chris Dotson

    The key word is they under rated the towing rating. It could tow a lot more than they say it can. If you break a new truck they have to fix it the first 3 years. If they place the tow rating low enough. They know it will never break on any of their vehicles. Unless your R/V is over 16,000 pounds. This diesel should tow it nicely at 65 mph. Or higher.

  • Chris Dotson

    I will not ever buy a 4 door pickup. If they do not offer a fleet model Diesel in this size. I’ll never own one. New or used (when they get that way). Regular cabs or nothing. I’ll put money into a older pickup to upgrade it to a newer drive train before I’ll buy a ext or crew cab. No damn 4 doors.

  • Kai Herrmann

    What engine is it out of curiousity? I’ve never seen one keep up with me on any kind of steep mountain.

  • Dave Lloyd

    Your “weakest link” comment is not entirely accurate. I own a Chevy 2500HD Duramax diesel which has the Allison 6 speed transmission, which is the best transmission in its class!!

  • tsandco

    Some buy diesel with incorrect impression they will save money outside of towing

  • KB3MMX

    Hahaha, that’s s heaping load of BS. Unless it’s the old 502cu in motor, which was an extreme fuel guzzler, this why it was discontinued years ago.

  • KB3MMX

    30+ mpg isn’t conserving fuel?
    My old Colorado gasser only managed 15-18mpg and was a very weak 5cyl.

  • KB3MMX

    Resale usually isn’t discussed, which is the biggest savings outside of fuel consumption.

    Typically you get the price of the option back, plus some ” on a truck over 100K miles.

    Gas trucks are worthless with some miles on them while diesels hold top dollar…..which is rarely discussed !!

  • KB3MMX

    Most people these days want more room not less, that’s why the reg cab pickup is becoming extinct.

  • Robert

    I hope this engine will power also the GMC hummer H4 which should be around the corner.

  • Jack Daniels

    That and the fact that less than a fraction of a percent of pickup owners actually need a truck. They use them as a passenger car that gets half the mileage and poses twice the risk to everyone else on the road.

  • Jamo11

    Extended cab maybe. 4 doors, no. Doesn’t diesel gas cost more to begin with?

    I just want the reg’lar.

  • Richard

    It’s so past overdue. We are so far behind the EU. I want this one as bad as I’ve ever wanted even my original 57 Chev ragtop. And will it tow my boat with ease. NICE!!!!!!

  • danwat1234

    Eventually I’d like to see a hybrid option, hybrid gas maybe hybrid diesel. It would raise cost but MPG would go up and total net power should be comparable to the existing drivetrains.

  • Typical

    Boo hoo, they’re safe for the people inside, how are they a hazard for others on the road, and what do you care if someone “needs” it or not?

  • Clark Myers

    I’ve been waiting for this truck for over 5 years. I bought an ’08 crew cab with the 2.5 L i5 back in 2010 as my daily drive and to tow my 21 ft sailboat when I trailer cruise. I’ve managed to get 16 mpg around town in the hills of Northern Alabama and 29 mpg on the highway. When I added the boat (2100 lbs) plus her steel trailer (another 1k+) I only got 9 mpg On a round trip from Huntsville, AL to Tampa, FL at 65 mph. If I kept it at 55 I picked up 2 more mpg and a whole lot of dirty looks, obseen gestures, and aggressive lane changes.

    The diesel option is LONG overdue!

  • Clark Myers

    You can use LT tires for the higher speeds but be sure they have the proper load rating for your trailer. ST are generally rated for 15% heavier loads than the same size LT tire. You will probably need a wider LT tire to come close to the ST rating.

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  • Paul Centro

    I know a diesel will out torque the equivalent gas engine but the milage claims are suspect in the wake of the VW debacle. Does this truck need urea and will real world combined milage really be this good? Is the EPA gearing up to stomp out small diesel before it gets going?

    I want to see it on the road for 4 or 5 years and see how it shakes out.

  • Don Lynn

    If it is an Allison then I agree with you. However, I’m assuming that this smaller truck does not have an Allison tranny. I agree 100 % the Allison is practically bulletproof compared to typical chevy trannies.

  • jbc77

    There is no LTZ Colorado.

  • David R

    It seems that the EPA has already retested and blessed off on the Duramax.
    “The EPA has issued a Certificate of Conformity for the Chevrolet
    Colorado Duramax diesel. The agency expressed no issues or concerns
    following its recent extensive testing and evaluation of the emission
    control system on the Colorado Duramax diesel.

    http://www.greencarcongress.com/2015/11/20151112-colorado.html

    It does use Urea for emissions control, all new legal diesels do now. Diesels also usually come out better in real world MPG vs. EPA estimates than downsized gasoline engines with turbos.

  • Jerry Baustian

    “By that math, you’ll need to own the truck for more than 10 years to get your money out of it.”

    Because it’s a diesel, it will have much lower depreciation. So if you pay $3700 more than the base gasoline engine, in very short order it will be worth $5000 or $7000 more in the used-truck market.

  • Don Lynn

    That sailboat is not a lot of extra weight. Unless you do this towing very frequenlty I think that you’d be better off with a regular v8 gasser. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got an 05 DMAX that I love to drive but I tow an RV that is 8000lb.
    It is not a daily driver either, only for towing. My only hesitancy with a gasser 1/2 tons is that the trannies are weak. I’ve had 2 suburban trannies rebuilt, albeit after 100K miles however, you never hear of Allisons being rebuilt unless someone hot rods their diesel to 800hp.

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