Unchallenged leadership is never good. Toyota hasn’t needed to put up a fight in the mid-size truck market for a very long time. At least not until now because for 2015, GM is releasing all-new versions of Colorado and Canyon.
Just to get it out of the way, yes it’s true that Toyota revealed the next-gen Tacoma in Detroit earlier this year with significant upgrades and you can bet we’re already planning that shootout.
But for now, it’s useful to juxtapose the Colorado and Tacoma because it puts GM’s new truck against the current segment leader and it also ought to offer a benchmark for the improvements GM made relative to the previous Colorado.
And boy howdy, is there ever a difference. The Colorado’s cabin feels modern through and through, which makes it even more obvious that Toyota hasn’t bothered to give any meaningful updates to the Tacoma. Frankly, nobody gave them a reason to and it shows. The Colorado is quiet and the Tacoma is noisy. The Colorado looks new and the Tacoma looks like it belongs in the last decade.
The point is that if you wanted a mid-size truck, it meant compromising by paying for a vehicle that felt 10 years old until now because GM is finally offering something that keeps doesn’t feel outdated. Then again, pickups don’t necessarily need to be pretty. The Tacoma doesn’t retain its value so well because it changes clothes every couple of years. It has a long-established reputation for reliability and utility that people respect. But how do they drive?
On the Road
Well the simple answer is: like trucks. After all, the Colorado uses a downsized version of the same fully boxed frame as the Silverado and Sierra. If you’ve driven a Tacoma and are thinking about either replacing it with another one or possibly a Colorado, the steering is probably the first thing that will jump out at you.
Toyota still uses old school hydraulic steering while Chevrolet is using an electrically assisted setup. We tend to boo and hiss at electric steering for feeling fake but, it really does make the Colorado much easier to maneuver in rush hour traffic jams and I honestly don’t mind losing the analog feeling in the Tacoma.
One of the other things you’re going to notice is how well the Colorado mutes road and engine noise. It actually offers a pretty quiet ride, but as you can probably hear, that isn’t the case with the Taco.
Wind, engine noise and tire roar all make it right into the cabin.
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Performance With a Load in the Bed
The Colorado’s V6 is also direct injected mated to a six speed that makes it more powerful than the Toyota.
But things aren’t necessarily all that simple. After all, we’re looking at a pair of pickup trucks and there’s a good chance you plan to use it like one. With that in mind, we loaded a snowmobile into the beds and took them out for a spin to see how they would perform with weight in the bed. For reference, the sled sits at about 600 lbs.
The Colorado’s rear end can feel a little bit rough with nothing to weigh it down, but that all changed under load. It actually felt better to drive with a burden on the leaf springs because the truck feels more planted on the whole without feeling like it is appreciably slower to accelerate. Unfortunately, the sled also doesn’t fit between the wheel wells.
It’s hard to fault the Colorado there because the same thing is true with the Tacoma. Similarly, it didn’t feel particularly taxed with a snowmobile sitting in the rear, but there are differences between how the two behave. Where the Colorado seemed to gain an improved ride, the Tacoma still felt uncomfortably stiff for hauling a load over a long distance. The same goes for towing a trailer.
Both trucks offer similar tie-down points, but the Tacoma is better equipped at the base level. In the Colorado, you need to pay $100 to get optionally higher tie-down hooks that go a long way in making it easy to secure awkward objects.
That isn’t the only place where Toyota’s ancient truck still has a more convenient bed because it also offers a 110-volt outlet that the Colorado lacks. It’s still far from perfect because the outgoing Tacoma – and this is something the new generation fixes – still uses a trailer light connection that sits underneath its bumper and that’s very annoying to deal with.
The Colorado is quieter, but it’s also heavier and despite the fact that it has more horsepower and torque, it and the Tacoma feel like they are similarly powerful.
That could come down to gearing, but it’s probably because this truck has about a 160-lb weight advantage over the Colorado.
|Vehicle||2015 Chevrolet Colorado||Advantage||2015 Toyota Tacoma|
|Engine||3.6 L V6||-||4.0 L V6|
|Transmission||Six-speed auto||Colorado||Five-speed auto|
|Horsepower||305 HP||Colorado||236 HP|
|Torque||269 lb-ft.||Colorado||266 lb-ft.|
|Max payload||1,590 lbs.||Colorado||1,500 lbs.|
|Front Headroom||41.4 inches||-||40.2 inches|
|Rear Headroom||38.3 inches||-||38.5 inches|
|Rear Legroom||35.8 inches||Colorado||32.6 inches|
|Fuel Economy (US)||17 MPG city, 24 MPG hwy||Colorado||16 MPG city, 21 MPG hwy|
|Fuel Economy (CDN)||11.5 L/100 km city, 9.5 L/100 km hwy||Colorado||13.5 L/100 km city, 9.8 L/100 km hwy|
|Observed Fuel Economy||20 MPG||Colorado||15 MPG|
|Starting Price for V6 4WD (US)||$30,580||Colorado||$32,280|
It would be a mistake to call either of these trucks “small.” Instead, they’re just smaller than the half-ton Silverado and Tundra. The Colorado is two inches wider than the Tacoma and roughly the same height. Conveniently, they’re narrow enough to make navigating parking garages totally feasible if not easy. Just keep in mind that both of them are still almost as tall as a half-ton, so low garages are still an issue.
It’s just that the Colorado so much nicer to sit in. The seats are better positioned and it’s easy to find a comfortable position in them. I’m only about 5’ 9” and even I feel like I’m sitting too high in the Tacoma.
Even mid-size trucks tend to be pretty thirsty. The six-speed and direct-injected V6 in the Colorado make it more efficient. We got almost 20 MPG with nothing in the bed on mostly open roads. Driving side-by-side, the Tacoma only managed a little better than 15 MPG.
It boils down to a few important points. The Colorado looks newer because it is. The fact that it takes advantage of modern technology both in its powertrain and cabin make it a much nicer vehicle to own.
The trucks we drove would cost you almost the same cash to buy, but the Chevrolet comes loaded with things like a locking rear differential and modern technological convenience features that make it both nicer to drive and more capable and it also doesn’t hurt that it’s more efficient. With a new Taco in the kitchen, one question remains: will Toyota’s mid-size truck be able to make the same massive leap that the Colorado just did?
2015 Chevrolet Colorado
2015 Toyota Tacoma