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ROAD TEST | Big changes in store for Chevy Colorado

Eleven years ago, the Chevy Colorado was so impressive.

At a time when American manufacturers and buyers were abandoning the midsize pickup, the Colorado and its corporate cousin GMC Canyon were first released in 2003 as slim redesigns of the Chevy S10 GMC Sonoma pickup trucks built in the now closed factory in Shreveport. The interiors were cheap, the running gear uninspiring and the build quality unimpressive.

Sales of the Colorado/Canyon in the United States peaked in 2005 at 163,204 units, surpassing the perennial segment leader, the Ford Ranger, by nearly 35% and just 3.3% behind the new best-selling, the Toyota Tacoma.

In 2006, however, while still leading the Ford pickup by 27.5 percent, GM’s midsize pickup lagged the Tacoma by nearly 34 percent. Although it has yet to receive a serious overhaul, the Tacoma, a sturdy and reliable bike, remains the undisputed king of the mid-size mountain.

You have to understand that GM’s midsize pickups play a larger role in the company’s international portfolio than in the United States, where full-size pickups thrived in the era of cheap gasoline.

So, in 2011, General Motors gave the Colorado and Canyon a complete overhaul, and there was a lot to like: best-in-class ride and handling, comfortable seats (you feel me, Taco riders?) , a range of engines including a powerful V-6 or optional turbodiesel.

Alas, time brings change, and Colorado today is technologically backward and plagued with a reputation for unreliability. Engines, transmissions, hardware and body integrity failed to please.

Do not believe me. Check out Consumer Reports, which gives them some of its lowest ratings ever. CR gives Colorado/Canyon a 45. Only Jeep, at 38, scores lower. The magazine recommends three small pickups, the Honda Ridgeline (82), Ford Maverick (74) and Ford Ranger (62).

It was an object lesson to me in how quickly automotive technologies change when I recently spent a week in a Colorado and came away amazed at how much I had come to hate a truck I used to worship.

For $44,000, our tester came with 4WD and a fairly capable off-road suspension system. It didn’t have the things we’ve come to expect in vehicles costing half the price, though. Things like remote entry, push-button start, or any form of modern driver assistance technology.

Still, brand loyalty is half the game when it comes to pickups and there’s a reason fans of Chevy’s midsize pickup rejoice. News broke this week that the all-new Colorado and its cousin, the GM Canyon, are expected to arrive in showrooms in the first quarter of 2023.

GM has also let it slip that all-electric versions are planned for 2026. It’s speculated that it will share a lot of hardware with the Chevy Blazer EV, which is just now getting rave reviews from the automotive press.

The new Colorado/Canyon will only have one engine option, but we suspect it will prove a winner, a 2.7L turbo 4 now available in the Chevrolet Silverado GMC Sierra. A long-stroke, high-torque design, we found the engine incredibly smooth and powerful in the bigger pickup, except, uh, the fuel economy isn’t that great.

Some of us felt the engine would be a hit in a smaller vehicle. It looks like GM has decided that too.

Three tunes will be available: a Turbo developing 237 hp and 259 lb-ft. of torque, a Turbo plus, developing 310 horsepower and 390 lbs. of torsion, and a high-output version with 310 horsepower, 410 lb-ft. of torque capable of carrying up to 7,700 lbs.

Sophisticated camera systems and towing apps borrowed from the big boys, big screens, driver-assist tech and a longer wheelbase are also in the works.

In the meantime, the current Colorado/Canyons are not without virtues. Like we said, they’re great truck drivers, and GM offers several great buy-and-lease incentives.