The 2023 Chevrolet Colorado is a brand-new midsize pickup truck. If you’re thinking, “well, that’s obvious,” you’re right. But we do point it out because, when Chevy resurrected the previously compact Colorado as a midsize truck for 2015, it introduced a not-quite-as-new rig, a modified version of a truck it had been selling for years in global markets such as Thailand and Brazil.
Alas, with a Silverado-derived frame, American-market-specific powertrains and cabin appointments, the Colorado was hardly some cobbled-together beast. The outgoing pickup is one of the best midsize pickups out there—to be accurate, it is the best, despite its age. Snatching an existing truck from Thailand proved to be such a savvy move that Ford basically did the same thing when it brought back the once-compact Ranger from the dead as a larger midsize truck—and Colorado competitor—for 2019. Given how the old Colorado was in some ways already several years old when it landed stateside eight years ago, the 2023 Colorado’s ground-up newness, therefore, is one of its biggest standout features.
New Is as New Does
Just looking at the new Colorado, the styling clearly benefited from this redesign. Where the old Colorado was soft-edged and fairly generic-looking, in keeping with the more budget-conscious global model, the new truck adopts a bold, assertive new look that positively screams “America, truck yeah!”
Chevy moved the front axle forward, lengthening the wheelbase 3.1 inches in the process and shortening the front overhang. The net effect is a longer, more horizontal hood and improved approach angles for the nose, a boon off-road. The designers capitalized on this blocky new shape with a Silverado-like mug with slim headlights and bold inserts that give the impression of a full-width, full-height grille yawning from the bumper to the hood. (Also like on the Silverado, that mug is slightly different on nearly every trim level.) Along the body sides, there is a deeper channel cut into the door skins, which help visually puff out the squared-off fender bulges front and rear.
Another big change? The previous-generation Colorado’s entry-level extended-cab body style was pitched in the dustbin. You can now only purchase the Colorado as a four-door crew cab with a short bed (5-foot, 2-inch bed). Chevy says this move simplifies things on its manufacturing end, but primarily gets in line with the configuration that attracted the most buyer interest on the last Colorado.
One Little Engine that Can
Also simplifying the lineup is the 2023 Colorado’s move to a single engine choice. A 2.7-liter turbo I-4 engine replaces the old Colorado’s entry-level 2.5-liter I-4 (which was limited to base Work Truck models anyway), 3.6-liter V-6, and 2.8-liter turbodiesel I-4 options. This engine isn’t entirely new; it was introduced a few years ago on the larger Silverado 1500, and strategy-wise, it is comparable to the Ford Ranger’s single, lineup-wide 2.3-liter turbo I-4 engine.
Unlike the Ranger’s four-cylinder, the Colorado’s is available in three states of tune, offering up at least some choice. Entry-level Colorado Work Truck and LT models make 237 hp and 259 lb-ft of torque. Optional on those Colorados and standard on the Z71 and Trail Boss models is a 310-hp, 390-lb-ft version. And limited to the range-topping Colorado ZR2 (which we’ve covered in depth here), the ultimate off-road iteration of the new truck, is a 310-hp, 430-lb-ft 2.7-liter I-4. Chevy says that, for the most part, the power differences are achieved via tuning of the computers, though the lowest-output version has some minor hardware differences. Every Colorado mates its 2.7-liter I-4 to an updated eight-speed automatic transmission.
Fuel economy estimates for the new engine are forthcoming, but the power story—both compared to the old Colorado and its primary competitors—is interesting. With 310 hp in top guise, the Colorado is the most powerful midsize pickup you can buy. Granted, the old V-6 held the same title (in both the Colorado and its GMC-badged twin, the Canyon), with 308 hp; the now-discontinued diesel engine produced a mighty 369 lb-ft of torque, but that figure’s easily eclipsed by the midrange 2.7-liter I-4. Even the new base models generate nearly as much torque than the old V-6, albeit at a higher rpm (5,600 vs. 4,000). The higher-output 2.7s deliver their peak torque at just 3,000 rpm.
The 2.7-liter turbo is a truck engine through and through, having been designed from the outset for duty in the full-size Silverado (and playing an unusual secondary role in the Cadillac CT4-V). In the smaller, lighter Colorado, it should prove quite burly. It also includes standard cylinder deactivation, which can shut down two cylinders under light loads. Yep, that means this’ll be the only (temporarily) two-cylinder midsize pickup you can buy.
Five Grades, Mostly Off-Road
Even though the Colorado comes in Work Truck, LT, Z71, new-to-Colorado Trail Boss, and hardcore ZR2 guises, all five models share key standard features, including a new (sharp-looking) 11.3-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, an 8.0-inch fully digital gauge cluster, eight bed tie downs, and a segment-exclusive electronic parking brake. Chevy says the base Work Truck and mid-grade off-road Trailboss models share a more “rugged aesthetic that is ready for work and play” inside, which we take to mean more basic, abuse-resistant, and plastickier cabin materials. The LT swaps in silver trim, plusher accents, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, while the Z71 gets a “sportier ambiance” with black and red accents and a mix of cloth and vinyl on the seats.
Again, like the newly bold exterior, the Colorado’s interior goes from uninspired to competitive, with a brash, full-width dashboard panel and its round outboard air vents giving us plenty of Camaro feels. The new touchscreen perches in the middle, tombstone-style, but close to the steering wheel for what looks like a comfortable reach. There are more upmarket details throughout, though most examples—the stitching on the dashboard and padded panels around the center console—are limited to the higher trim levels. And like the Camaro, the central air vents are buried low on the dash; that pays off for the ergonomics of the climate controls, which nestle up under the touchscreen, but is probably not great for airflow above chest height for front-seat occupants. A drive mode selector lives on the left of the console on models so equipped (mostly the off-road models), pushing the shifter to the right.
Other differences between the models are clearer from the outside. The Work Truck gets an all-black-plastic face like the larger Silverado WT, 17-inch steel wheels, and that’s pretty much it. LT models distinguish themselves with more streetable 17-inch wheels and tires, more body color elements on the front end, and more chrome. Finally, there are the trio of off-road versions, ranging from the relatively tame Z71 to the Trail Boss (which gets a 2.0-inch suspension lift and burlier tires) to the ZR2 (which sits 3.0 inches higher than WT/LT/Z71 models and has a wider track). The grille and bumper treatments get wilder the closer to the ZR2 you get, with the ZR2 out-crazying the rest of the lineup with flared fenders, meaty bumpers, and even an available bed-mounted roll bar with lights and beadlock-capable wheels via a special-edition Desert Boss package.
Off-road equipment varies from optional four-wheel-drive on the WT and LT to a standard limited-slip rear differential (standard on Z71 and Trail Boss) to power-locking front and rear diffs on the ZR2, which also once again rides on Multimatic DSSV spool-valve, frequency selective dampers. Those fancy shocks passively take the edge off the worst terrain with valving that slows faster inputs and handles slower amplitudes more softly. The net result is better wheel control over washboard surfaces and more controlled bump stop events. Ground clearance tops out at an outstanding 10.7 inches for the ZR2, with the Trail Boss standing 9.5 inches off the deck and the other Colorados perched at 7.9 to 8.9 inches.
If you’re thinking Chevy’s inclusion of three off-road models and switch to more aggro styling and the single crew-cab bodystyle signals an intent to chase after adventurous types with the new Colorado, you’re right. The automaker also hopes the new truck bed’s available 110-volt household outlet, motorcycle-tire indents in the forward bed wall, and newly available in-tailgate storage will appeal to weekend warrior types. That tailgate storage, in particular, carries whiffs of the Honda Ridgeline’s in-bed “trunk,” an underfloor, watertight cubby with a drain that doubles as a cooler. The Colorado’s lockable, weathertight hollow tailgate is less useful, probably, but at 45 inches wide and 4 inches deep can still probably be stuffed with ice and some cold snacks.
If Chevy can keep the current truck’s decent road manners and roomy interior in place while improving things with the new 2.7-liter engine and expanded off-road offerings, consider the 2023 Colorado a ringing success. But it’ll have stiff competition: Ford is on the cusp of launching its also-all-new 2023 Ranger, and Toyota’s sales-leader Tacoma is about to be redesigned, as well. We’ll see how the new Colorado shakes out when it goes on sale midway through 2023.
|2023 Chevrolet Colorado Specifications|
|BASE PRICE||$28,000-$50,000 (est)|
|LAYOUT||Front-engine, RWD or 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door truck|
|ENGINE||2.7L/237-310-hp /259-430-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|CURB WEIGHT||4,750-5,300 lb (mfr)|
|L x W x H||213.0-212.7 x 84.4 x 78.8-81.9 in|
|0-60 MPH||7.0-7.5 sec (MT est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||TBD|
|EPA RANGE, COMB||TBD miles|
|ON SALE||Spring 2023|