Who Needs a Big Rig To Get a Diesel?
When General Motors launched the all-new 2015 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon in October 2014, the buzz was that the nearly abandoned midsize truck market was in for a reawakening. But to what the reawaking would lead was an open question. A year-plus later the facts speak for themselves as this duo has been a hit with truck owners, with only one piece missing to really complete the picture—a turbodiesel. You can’t go wrong putting a diesel engine in a truck, so it was no surprise that Clean Fleet Report was very impressed with the Chevrolet Colorado Diesel, even a bit more than the gasoline-powered version.
The 2016 Chevrolet Colorado Diesel is powered by a double overhead cam (DOHC), direct-injection 2.8-liter Duramax turbodiesel I4 engine pumping out 181 hp and 369 ft-lb of torque. The Hydra-Matic six-speed automatic transmission, driving either two or four wheels, has an EPA fuel economy specs of 20 city/ 29 highway/ 23 combined. In 458 miles of mostly highway driving we averaged 25.9 mpg, which means we exceeded 30+ mpg on the highway. At these economy numbers with the 21-gallon fuel tank, the Colorado Diesel could get more than 525 miles of open road driving.
Driving Experience: On the Road
In 1984 the English singer Sade had a hit with Smooth Operator, which Chevrolet easily could have repurposed into the theme song for the 2016 Colorado Diesel. Our test truck was an ease to drive with a ride height between a mid and full-size SUV and an overall length (with the 5’2” Short Box we were driving) that made parking a non-challenge.
Out on the road the broad torque band delivered excellent grunt and power at low speeds, such as freeway merging, and then remained available and immediate at cruising speeds for lane changes and passing the slower folk clogging the road. Equipped with hydraulic body mounts and a high-strength steel full box frame, I found the Colorado to be stable, able to accelerate smoothly and handle freeway onramps and corners with good control and little body roll. The Z71 off-road suspension package was tuned so that driving on-road was not stiff or jarring.
The engine is quiet and smooth, partly due to—get ready—the Centrifugal Pendulum Vibration Absorber (CVPA) in the torque converter that reduces powertrain noise and vibration. The quick description of the CPVA is that it balances out undesirable engine torsional vibrations.
Suffice it to say that the Colorado Diesel was very pleasant to drive. General Motors says the Duramax 2.8L is the cleanest diesel truck engine they have ever produced, meeting the toughest U.S. emissions standards. It wasn’t very long ago where there wouldn’t even have been a conversation about emissions and truck engines, but in 2016 this is a crucial part of the long-term success of the Chevrolet, GMC, Ford, Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Ram truck programs.
Stopping and Steering
The four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes feature four-piston front calipers and Duralife brake rotors, which Chevrolet says will double the service life over a normal rotor. The stops were straight and
true with excellent pedal feel. When you order the $3,905 Duramax diesel engine option you also get driver-selectable exhaust brakes, which uses the compression power of the engine to improve stopping distances, increasing the driver’s feeling of control and reducing brake pad wear. This is all helpful when towing the rated 7,600 lbs.
The Colorado comes standard with first-in-segment electric power steering (EPS). EPS usually is not valued by driving enthusiasts because of its lack of road feel, feedback and response, that is, connection to the road. Chevrolet has engineered and programmed its EPS to give good road feel and has a nice feature of, after cranking a tight turn, the steering wheel naturally returning to its home position with little-to-no driver effort. This is much appreciated in parking maneuvers and tight radius turns.
Driving Experience: Exterior
The 2016 Chevrolet Colorado Diesel was a completely new vehicle when released in October 2014 as a 2015 model. The designers went with an athletic, sleek and a strong look to match its targeted buyer that is into an active outdoor lifestyle with activities such as bicycling, canoeing, surfing, scuba diving and camping. The Colorado comes with active aero shutters in the sweptback grille and wraparound projector headlights that are like wraparound sunglasses, channeling the Spirit of Camaro. The 17-inch aluminum metallic cast wheels were attractive and the $745 optional assist steps for front and rear passengers’ use were appreciated for cabin access.
The 13 tie-down locations and movable tie-down rings are standard while the spray-in liner is a factory-installed option (and a good idea) as are the standard corner steps, at the edges of the rear bumpers, which are very handy when loading and unloading the two-tier platform bed. The locking tailgate has internal torsion bars and a damper for a more controlled lowering process, easily done with one hand.
Driving Experience: Interior
Based on the package you opt for there are different interior grades, but be assured that Chevrolet took interior design seriously. The base model interior, while not fancy, was clean, organized and functional. Clean Fleet Report was driving the Colorado Diesel with the Z71 Package with upgraded materials, offering a higher-end look, tone and feel.
The Colorado benefits from acoustic engineering with triple-sealed doors, fibrous wheelhouse liners, and underbody insulation and panels to keep out road and wind noise. The seats were firm and comfortable, with the Colorado easily seating five adults.
The standard rear vision camera worked well, providing a clear, wide image on the optional eight-inch color touch-screen monitor that also was home for Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system. Included in MyLink is navigation, OnStar, FM/HD AM radio, Bose Premium Audio with seven speakers, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto (mid-2016), SiriusXM (three-month complimentary service), Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio, Siri Eyes Free, text message support, four USB ports and an auxiliary power outlet. The gauges were easy to read and the radio passed the Clean Fleet Report minimum driver safety test as it had easy to use volume and channel selection knobs.
A note regarding OnStar: a simple push of a button connects you with a friendly General Motors representative to handle emergencies, directions and general assistance to make your driving
experience safer and more enjoyable. This is one area where GM is the industry leader, and, after the five-year service plan expires, it is well worth renewing.
Also on Clean Fleet Report’s 2016 Chevrolet Colorado Diesel, as part of the Z71 Package, was the 4G LTE Wi-Fi Hotspot that can connect seven devices and has a 50-foot range. Because of a newly designed more powerful antenna, the system is capable of video streaming even while the truck is in motion. The service is free for three months or three gigabytes of data and then the subscription cost is based on the duration ordered—one day, one month or annually, and the gigabytes desired.
The base model Colorado is nicely equipped while the highly optioned Z71 Package delivered all the expected comfort and convenience features. Clean Fleet Report’s Colorado came with heated, power outside mirrors, tilt and telescopic steering column, automatic A/C, power windows with driver side one touch up and down, power door locks, floor mats, sliding rear window, front fog lamps, leather wrapped steering wheel with mounted controls for audio, telephone and cruise. The driver and front passenger cloth/leatherette heated seats each had four-way power adjustments with power lumbar.
Safety and Convenience
The 2016 Chevrolet Colorado Diesel has six airbags, rearview camera, Stabilitrak stability control with traction control, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, remote keyless entry and vehicle start, and fully automatic hill descent control.
Pricing and Warranties
Clean Fleet Report’s 2016 Chevrolet Colorado 4WD Z71 Crew Short Box trim level had a base MSRP of $34,640. With options the total came to $41,010. All prices do not include the $895 destination charge.
The 2016 Chevrolet Colorado comes with these warranties:
- Bumper-To-Bumper – Three years/36,000 miles
- Scheduled Service/Maintenance – Two years/Unlimited Miles
- Powertrain – Five years/100,000 miles
- Roadside Assistance – Five years/100,000 miles
Observations: 2016 Chevrolet Colorado Diesel 4WD Z71 Crew Short Box
There are approximately (May 2016) 12 million midsize trucks on the roads, mostly comprised of older models that at some point will be due for replacement, a tantalizing statistic that means Chevrolet has a built-in customer base for the Colorado. Throw in diesel truck aficionados who have been starved out of this midsize truck market for years, and you can see Chevrolet is sitting on a potential sales bonanza.
Of course, merely stuffing a diesel in a truck isn’t the answer if the truck isn’t any good. Fortunately for Chevrolet, this isn’t their problem. The 2016 Colorado Diesel is an excellent truck that offers performance, comfort, towing capability and to-talk-about fuel economy.
So if you are looking for something smaller, more maneuverable and fuel efficient than a full-size truck like the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, Dodge Ram, Nissan Titan or Toyota Tundra, then visiting your Chevrolet dealer is a must do. If you are looking for a midsize truck with a diesel, then you won’t go anywhere but your local Chevy dealer.
Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!
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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
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