- Strong V8 performance
- Wide variety of possible configurations
- Mediocre interior fit and finish quality
- Aging design
- Lackluster power and towing capacity with base engines
Both generations of Chevrolet's previous S10 compact pickup were sold for a decade or more. That's how things went in the truck segment. Unfortunately the little Chevys didn't exactly age gracefully, growing stale and losing popularity to fresher, more sophisticated compact pickup rivals as well as more powerful larger trucks that sold especially well in an era of low gas prices. Despite rising fuel costs and an increased interest in more efficient vehicles in the last few years, the 2011 Chevrolet Colorado seems to be on track for a repeat performance.
Now entering its eighth year of production since it was first introduced, the Chevrolet Colorado carries over into 2011 with many of its original strengths and weaknesses intact. On the positive side, it's still an affordable and handsome truck that's offered in many different permutations, including three body styles, three different engines and several trim levels. Though the Colorado was initially criticized for a lack of power from its inline-5 engine compared to the V6s of the competition, a brawny 300-horsepower V8 was added to the lineup two years ago.
So far then, the 2011 Chevrolet Colorado looks pretty appealing with respect to the big picture. But the details look less rosy once you get up close and step inside. The utilitarian cabin hasn't changed much since the Colorado's debut, and lots of cheap plastic trim underwhelms the senses. Once underway, the Colorado's busy ride and noisy atmosphere on the highway provide more evidence of arrested development.
Among competing small trucks, only the 2011 Ford Ranger is more dated so we'll give the nod to the Colorado in that match-up. Otherwise, be sure to check out the 2011 Nissan Frontier and 2011 Toyota Tacoma, two competitors that exceed the Colorado in most respects. And even if you're a value shopper, late-model used versions of those trucks might also be worth considering. Either way, if a well-rounded and refined compact or midsize pickup is what you're after, we suggest you keep looking.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2011
The Chevrolet Colorado receives no notable changes for 2011.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The 2011 Chevrolet Colorado is a compact/midsize pickup offered in three body styles: regular cab, extended cab (with small rear access doors) and crew cab (with four regular doors). Crew cabs are equipped with shorter, 5-foot cargo boxes, while other models feature a 6-foot box. The Colorado is offered in either a basic Work Truck or a premium LT trim, with the latter coming in 1LT, 2LT and 3LT subsets tailored to particular needs. Colorados are available in two-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive versions.
Work Trucks come standard with a front split-bench seat, air-conditioning, cruise control, OnStar and an AM/FM stereo. The 1LT adds 16-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass, deluxe cloth upholstery and upgraded audio with a CD/MP3 player and satellite radio. The 2LT trim includes 17-inch alloy wheels, a sliding rear window, chrome exterior trim and full power accessories. 3LT models add 18-inch alloys and front bucket seats with a floor console. Colorado options include assist steps, chrome accessories, a towing package, and for crew cabs, leather-trimmed upholstery and power/heated front seats.
A Z71 Off-Road package that offers more ground clearance and larger tires/wheels is available with both powertrains, and also includes skid plates and a locking rear differential on 4WD models. The ZQ8 Sport suspension puts the emphasis on sharper handling and greater control on pavement with a lowered, stiffer suspension, quicker steering and 18-inch wheels with performance tires.
INTERIOR & SAFETY
One of the Colorado's major weaknesses continues to be the quality of its cabin furnishings. While rivals have gotten more refined over the years, the Colorado carries on with mediocre materials, lots of hard plastic trim and barely adequate seat comfort and support.
The layout of controls and instruments is simple and straightforward, with lots of room up front. However, passengers in the back of rear-seat models are likely to experience awkward ingress and egress through the small door openings, and cramped legroom once inside.
Cargo carrying is aided by a two-position tailgate that can rest partially open to help support construction materials stacked on the wheelwells.
The 2011 Colorado comes standard with OnStar, antilock brakes, stability control, traction control and side curtain airbags.
The Colorado has not been rated using the government's new, more strenuous 2011 crash testing procedures. However, its 2010 ratings (which aren't comparable to the new methodology) for the crew cab were a perfect five stars for frontal-impact crash tests and three stars for the driver and five stars for the rear passengers in side-impact testing.
In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, an extended-cab Colorado received a top-ranked score of "Good" for frontal-offset collisions. However, the crew cab model received a second-best "Acceptable" ranking for the same test and a worst "Poor" rating for side-impact protection.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
The 2011 Chevy Colorado offers a range of engines including an inline-4, inline-5 and a V8. On Work Trucks and LT1 models, the standard engine is a 2.9-liter four-cylinder that makes 185 hp and 190 pound-feet of torque. Optional on those trims and standard on the 2LT is a 3.7-liter five-cylinder that produces 242 hp and 242 lb-ft of torque. Colorado 3LT trucks come with a 5.3-liter V8 generating 300 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque. The V8 is also offered as an option on most 1LT and 2LT variants.
A five-speed manual transmission is standard on most four-cylinder Colorados, with a four-speed automatic optional; the five-cylinder and V8 engines are equipped only with the automatic. Four-wheel-drive models feature a two-speed InstaTrac transfer case with dash-mounted controls.
EPA estimated fuel economy ranges from 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway and 21 combined on four-cylinder 2WD regular cabs down to 14 mpg city/19 mpg highway and 16 mpg combined on V8 4WD crew cabs. A properly equipped V8-powered Colorado can tow up to 6,000 pounds.
The 2011 Chevrolet Colorado's smaller four- and five-cylinder engines are smooth enough, but the level of performance and hauling capacity fall short of those offered by the competition's V6s. The V8 makes up for this deficit, and its impressive power provides strong acceleration, albeit at the expense of fuel economy. The Colorado's four-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly, but can't match the sophistication of five-speed gearing found in competing automatics.
The Colorado is reasonably quiet around town, but noticeable wind and road noise enter the cabin at higher cruising speeds. The standard suspension offers a satisfactory ride and handling trade-off for a small truck, though it can be bouncy at times. Those with more focused needs will be well-served by the added control and performance of the optional off-road and sport suspension packages.
The 2011 Chevy Colorado suffers from an aging design and lags behind the competition in passenger comfort and overall refinement.