Colorado is Chevrolet’s antidote for truck bloat

Chevrolet recently dropped a long-running slogan for its truck line, Like a Rock. Toyota, meanwhile, remains a tough nut to crack.

The Japanese automaker’s Tacoma has been the last word in compact and mid-size pickups for nearly two decades in North America. The aura of indestructibility that surrounds Toyota’s segment stalwart is reinforced by sales that have far outstripped those of its challengers, including the Nissan Frontier, Chevrolet Colorado, Ram 1500 and – before its discontinuation in 2011 – Ford Ranger.

The Tacoma, however, is a geriatric in automotive terms, having received just one major redesign since its introduction in 1995. With the third generation still in development, Toyota has ceded first-mover advantage to Chevrolet, which introduced its 2015 Colorado on the first day of press previews for the 2013 Los Angeles auto show.

Based partially on a truck that began sales in the Latin American and Southeast Asian markets in 2012, the second-generation Colorado affects a bit of a dandy compared to its rectilinear peers, with an upsweep at the rear of the cab and a neat recessed crease travelling from the front door panel to the rear wheel well. User-friendly touches such as built-in bumper steps are a salve for weary knees and are traceable to the full-size Silverado, which was overhauled for the 2014 model year. Inside, the emphasis is on simple gauge and knob layouts, with plenty of climate and radio control redundancy – a welcome inheritance from the latest Chevrolet Impala sedan. There is a sense throughout the truck of accessibility and practicality, leavened with heaps of style.

In believing that pent-up demand exists in North America for a smaller pickup, Chevrolet is a bit of a contrarian. Ford sells a redesigned Ranger outside the US, but has rebuffed suggestions that the truck would be a hit among US buyers, arguing that its larger F-150 fits all.

“We don’t need to up-sell you on a truck you don’t want or need. We have the truck for you,” said Otie McKinley, a Chevrolet spokesman. “Among our full-size customers, like in Texas, they want their truck to look like a rig,” added Christopher Hilts, a designer for General Motors’ trucks division. “But this is not that kind of truck. It has more of an edge.”

Powertrains at launch will include a base 2.4-litre four-cylinder gasoline engine rated at 193 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, a 3.6-litre V6 producing 302hp and 270lb-ft of torque, and a 2.8-litre DuraMax four-cylinder diesel unit (output unspecified). For the 2016 model year, a more powerful diesel power plant is scheduled to be offered. All engines are paired with a six-speed automatic transmission.

Like the redesigned Corvette sports car, the Colorado can be optioned up with few limits placed on configuration. For example, the top-line Z71 package – bringing an automatic locking rear differential and numerous cosmetic upgrades – can be specified for a two-wheel-drive model, while the bare-bones LT package retains the option of four-wheel drive.

Pricing will be announced closer to the Colorado’s fall 2014 sale date, though McKinley noted that the Colorado was designed to go head-to-head with Tacoma in every respect, including price. Look for a range of around $18,000 to $34,000.