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Best Of 2015 Under $50,000: Chevrolet Colorado

It's shocking how good this truck is.

Apparently Chevrolet has taught Ford a good lesson here. More specifically, it reminded its cross-town rival that not all American truck buyers want or even need a full-size pickup. Ford believed it could get away with selling nothing but F-150s to all of those Ranger owners who needed a new truck. Thing was, not all of them moved up the ladder to the F-150. Instead, many jumped ship. Some went for the Toyota Tacoma which, until very recently, was showing its age.

But Chevrolet (and GMC) offered the best alternative: the completely redesigned Colorado. Yes, GM took quite a big chance by investing in its mid-size truck program, but the odds of success were good.

With both Ford and Ram out of the segment, and the Tacoma and Nissan Frontier dating back to the Bush administration (#43), the mid-size truck segment was wide open, and GM went for it. The result is the all-new 2015 Chevrolet Colorado (as well as the GMC Canyon). It’s important to remember that the first generation Colorado, launched in 2004, was kind of disappointing. It wasn’t a bad truck but the Tacoma was by far the smarter choice. Chevrolet truck planners wisely picked apart the old Colorado, separating the goods and the bads. What worked was its size, which many still consider ideal for day-to-day use.

Remember, not all truck buyers actually need a truck’s hauling capabilities; they simply like to drive trucks. While others use their trucks for not much more than weekend trips to the Home Depot and some outdoor adventures. Where the old Colorado really lacked, however, was overall refinement. It was underpowered with an inline-five cylinder engine, build quality was typical GM pre-bankruptcy (like the smell of cheap interior plastics?), and overall reliability was pretty dreadful. But the redesigned 2015 Colorado fixed all of that. Motor Trend described it as "the perfect-size truck again…its simplicity and purity are what a truck ought to be about." Above all, the Colorado is outstanding value. Base price? $20,120.

Obviously that’ll only get you a bare bones truck, but for many that’s just fine. Move up the ladder for an extended cab work truck for around $23,300. Heck, even the top-of-the-line Z71 crew cab costs a damn reasonable $36,210 in change. The base engine is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with an even 200 hp and 191 lb-ft of torque. It has a towing capacity of 3,500 lbs. The optional powerplant is a 3.6-liter V6 with 305 hp and 269 lb-ft. If you’ve got a boat to tow this is the one you’ll want, thanks to its 7,000 lbs. tow rating. Depending on how one configures it (extended cab with a 6.2 ft. bed, crew cab with a 5.2 ft. bed, or crew cab with a 6.2 ft. bed) Colorados will weigh between about 3,900 and 4,450 lbs. altogether.

A six-speed automatic transmission comes standard, but lower end trims can be equipped with a six-speed manual. Fuel economy numbers are impressive: the four-banger 2WD Colorado returns a combined 22 mph while the 2WD V6 earned an EPA rating of 21 mpg. Add one extra mpg for 4WD versions. Another area where Chevy absolutely nailed it is the exterior design. Chevy told us at Detroit last year that designers were instructed to make the Colorado look different than the larger Silverado. This was to be a truck with its own styling heritage. Proportionally, we dig the truck from every angle. From the moment you step inside, it’s almost hard to believe that you’re sitting in an entry-level size truck.

Fit and finish is, without question, world’s better than anything Chevy built only a few years back. The cabin is open and inviting. Ergonomics are solid and every control is within easy reach. There’s even an optional 8-inch color touchscreen and hands-free calling with Chevy’s MyLink system. Other optional items include a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot and four USB ports. There’s also a slew of standard safety features like backup cameras and six airbags. Optional safety items include forward collision alert and lane-departure warning systems. Oh, and that hands-free calling, yeah, it’ll even read text messages aloud. For 2016, the Colorado is mostly unchanged except for one major thing: a 2.8-liter inline-four Duramax turbo diesel.

Output? 181 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. The Colorado (and Canyon) is the only mid-size truck to offer a diesel in the US. There’s no question that Chevrolet hit a home run here. The mid-size Colorado, simply put, does everything very well. It not only redefines but also reignites a truck segment that was written off by its main competitors only a few years back. And now they’re scrambling to catch up to Chevy's reborn mid-size pickup.

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