First Drive: 2023 Chevrolet Colorado

February 2, 2023 | Industry News

Eight years after helping kickstart the revival of the midsize pickup market, Chevrolet is back with an all-new version of the Colorado.

The midsize pickup segment is more competitive than ever, and Chevy’s looking to take the lead spot with the 2023 Colorado.

It’s a nearly top-to-bottom makeover that includes plenty of new technology, significant updates to both interior and exterior styling. However, what may matter most to truck buyers is an all-new powertrain that delivers more pony power than the outgoing Colorado’s gas engine, and more torque than the old diesel.

During the preview of the 2023 Chevrolet Colorado last summer, Scott Bell, the bowtie brand’s global vice president, declared the truck “enhanced in every way.” TheDetroitBureau.com set out to confirm that claim, heading to San Diego for some extensive time behind the wheel, both on and off-road.

Overview

With the launch of the 2023 Chevrolet Colorado, the bowtie brand has an ambitious goal in mind: winning over owners of the midsize truck segment’s 800-pound gorilla, the Toyota Tacoma. Chevy has a narrow window to build the necessary moment, the Japanese truck due for a major makeover in 2024.

The Detroit truck has beaten Toyota to the punch, the Colorado getting its own ground-up update for 2023. And a first drive in four of the five trim packages Chevy is offering reveals plenty of improvements, with only a few flubs.

From a design perspective, the 2023 Chevrolet Colorado is more attractive than the outgoing truck, with a more rugged exterior and a more functional interior that now includes an 11.3-inch infotainment screen that’s standard on all trim levels.

The 2023 Chevrolet Colorado is more attractive than the outgoing truck, with a more rugged exterior and a more functional interior.

Then there’s the new powertrain, a 2.7-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder available in three configurations, including a high-output version that delivers more torque than the old Colorado diesel.

Buyers can find a version of the new Colorado for just about every need, from the base Work Truck up to the rugged, off-road-oriented ZR2.

Exterior design

On the whole, the design of the 2023 Chevy Colorado is beefier and more muscular than the outgoing pickup. It helps that the front axle as been moved forward by more than 3 inches. And, with the Trail Boss and ZR2 packages, the truck’s track has been widened by roughly the same amount, with requisite widened fender flares.

Colorado adopts a more upright grille and updated fascia and lamps, with each of the five trim packages getting unique design details. That’s most obvious on the off-road-oriented Z71 and ZR2 packages. Those two models also get additional lift and suspension travel. And, while it will be a late arrival, the ZR2 will add Multimatic spool-valve dampers and lockable front and rear differentials.

Chevy’s design team slightly lowered the sides of the bed to make it easier to reach cargo. They also optimized the standard tailgate, creating a small, enclosed storage comparting. There are two optional tailgates, as well. And, continuing the focus on functionality, there are nine separate tiedowns in the bed.

Interior design

The Colorado’s made substantial improvements in many areas, although rear seat legroom isn’t one of them.

That touchscreen dominates the look of the new interior, but the overall feel is wider and more spacious. While numerous individual vehicle functions are now handled through the infotainment system, there are still a number of buttons and knobs, many of which have been repositioned to make them easier for the driver to reach. Some now reside to the left of the steering wheel.

I’d have liked a little more range of motion in the tilt/telescope steering wheel. And the base Work Truck’s wheel only tilts.

The decision to move the front axle forward appeared, at least initially on paper, to deliver a more roomy cabin on the second-generation Colorado. There is plenty of space for front seat occupants. But the back seat remains essentially the same. Translation: cramped when it comes to legroom.

Chevy claims to have upgraded the seats and that became apparent driving the Z71 model on-road, and the Trail Boss off-road.

Overall, the new truck has a more refined look and materials have been upgraded on most of the trim packages. The exceptions: the Work Truck and Trail Boss. It’s easy to accept that the base model retains plenty of hard plastic, but the decision to use the same, cheap finishes for the Trail Boss cabin proved disappointing.

Powertrain

The 2023 Colorado uses just one engine, a 2.7-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, with different configurations. It maxes out at 310 hp and 430 lb-ft of torque.

With the 2023 makeover, Chevrolet decided to eliminate the torquey diesel offered on the first-generation Colorado. But few buyers are likely to mind the decision to go with a single gas-powered drivetrain. That’s because the 2.7-liter turbo-4 is available in three different configurations that, at the upper end deliver more horsepower and torque than either of the old drivetrains.

In the bottom-end Colorado Work Truck, the base package makes a relatively modest 237 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. It’s enough to get you moving — or towing up to 3,500 pounds — but it’s not exactly designed to deliver thrills. And to cut costs, Chevy pulled some of the sound deadening material from this package.

The first upgrade adds back those noise-reducing features while boosting the pony count to 310, and torque to 391 lb-ft. It ties the drivetrain in the Nissan Frontier for best-in-class horsepower.

At the upper end, the high-output version of the turbo-4 gets real grunt, at 430 lb-ft second-only to the Jeep Gladiator for torque. That helps boost towing capacity to 7,700 pounds. The HO engine retains the 310 hp rating.

For those who aren’t sure they need maximum muscle, Chevrolet is taking an intriguing approach, allowing Colorado buyers to go to their dealer after purchase to have the mid-level engine’s computer control system flashed to upgrade the torque rating to the maximum 430 lb-ft.

All versions of the 2.7-liter engine are paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Base trims get a single-speed transfer case and rear-wheel drive. Mid and upper packages, including the Trail Boss and ZR2, get two-speed transfer cases and all-wheel drive.

Fuel economy numbers are not yet available, but the base package is expected to top the old 2.5-liter gas engine.

The Z71 was once the brand’s top off-road package, and shows here it’s still got the goods.

Safety and Technology

That 11.3-inch touchscreen is the new tech feature that 2023 Colorado buyers may appreciate most — though there are some peculiarities to Chevy’s approach to the system. As is becoming increasingly common these days, the automaker is relying on the screen to handle a wide range of vehicle functions. That, as one might expect, includes navigation on vehicles so equipped, as well as functions such as Hill Descent Control. But you also have to tap the touchscreen for functions like headlights and foglights, even to zero out the truck’s trip odometer.

There are conventional buttons and controls for volume, climate control and the driver model control, but some of the choices Chevy has moved to the infotainment system seem questionable.

As previously noted, the mid-level engine on the 2023 Colorado can be upgraded simply by flashing its control software. That has to be done at the dealership. But the truck now gets smartphone-style over-the-air update capabilities that can remotely revise plenty of other onboard software, even allowing for the addition of new features at a later date.

There’s the now-requisite assortment of advanced driver assistance systems, including forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, and most of the trims come with active cruise control. The new Colorado also features a choice of driver modes which, among other things, can be set to optimize functions like shift mapping and throttle response to best handle different terrains and weather conditions.

The Colorado’s interior features an 11.3-inch touchscreen that controls most everything.

Driving Impressions

Chevy trimmed the number of packages to just five options compared to more than three dozen trims for the segment-leading Toyota Tacoma. Over the course of two days I took the chance to drive four of the five trim packages that will reach market with the 2023 Chevrolet Colorado. The fifth, the top-line ZR2, won’t arrive until later this year.

The Work Truck is, as you’d expect, a pretty basic machine. There’s plenty of hard plastic and the base version of the new 2.7-liter turbo-4 engine struggles a bit when you nail your foot to the floor. But for those wanting to get into a midsize truck for a reasonable price and minimal frills, it seems a good option.

The LT package takes things up a notch. But you pretty much load up the new Colorado when you upgrade to the Z71. It features a much more well-appointed interior and a reasonable level of tech goodies, as well. It’s notably more comfortable while cruising around town than the old pickup, and easily handled the sharp corners on the way up to Julian, the old mining town that served as my destination on the second day.

The Colorado’s grille large, mimicking the look of its larger Silverado sibling.

The mid-level engine, meanwhile, was more than up to the task. It’s generally quieter than the old 2.5-liter package, but for a bit of a whine at low rpms. Chevy subtly modifies the sound of the powertrain during hard acceleration using an active noise enhancement system.

Where the outgoing Z71 was off-road-focused, Chevy repositioned it this time around, however. If you’re looking to get some time out on the trail, you’re more likely now to go with the Trail Boss package and its lifted suspension and wider track.

That paid off as I headed off pavement, spending the next couple hours on a deeply rutted mud and gravel trail. The truck’s terrain management system easily adapted to varying road conditions as I shifted between Normal, Off-Road and Terrain settings.

One of the nicer features on the Trail Boss is the new electric brake booster. In the Terrain setting, the truck allows a driver to go into 1-Pedal mode. Creeping along a trail you no longer need to flip back-and-forth between throttle and brake. You simply modulate the accelerator, much as one car do on the latest battery-electric vehicles.

On the whole, if you pick the right trim package, the new Colorado really should live up to your expectations.

Wrap Up

The Colorado is equally adept on tarmac as it is off-road.

When Chevy brought the Colorado back eight years ago it was widely appreciated, helping breathe life back into the nearly comatose midsize pickup segment. At that point, only two models remained: the dominant Toyota Tacoma and the segment’s cheap alternative, the Nissan Frontier.

With the launch of the 2023 model, Chevy clearly offers the best option for most buyers. It’s a much more attractive and well-equipped replacement for the gen-1 truck. And, once the ZR2 package reaches market later this year, Colorado will cover all the bases, from basic Work Truck to serious off-roader.

That said, don’t expect to see the competition willingly slip into the background. Toyota is readying a complete makeover of the segment’s best-seller, the Tacoma. And Ford is expected to give a substantial upgrade to the Ranger, as well.

Still, Chevy has proven it is a serious player in the midsize pickup segment and should do well with the Colorado’s makeover.

Prices starts at $29,200 for the Work Truck, the LT coming in at $31,600. The rear-drive Trail Boss starts at $37,000, with all-wheel-drive. The Z71 jumps to $39,900, and the ZR2 will set you back $46,800 when it arrives later this year.

2023 Chevrolet Colorado — Frequently Asked Questions

What can I expect from a 2023 Chevrolet Colorado?

The second-generation Colorado is a much more refined truck than the original model, even as it simplifies its trim line-up. It features a new powertrain, with a single 4-cylinder engine offered in three versions, up to a high-output package making 310 hp and 430 lb-ft of torque. It also adds more technology, such as 10 individual camera views, something particularly useful while off-road or towing.

Which is better: the Chevrolet Colorado or Ford Ranger?

Based on our initial drive experience, the Chevy Colorado is the solid winner. For 2023, it goes through a complete makeover, including the shift to a new turbo-4 engine. By comparison, the Ford Ranger is a dated product that is scheduled to undergo its own complete makeover for the coming model year.

What does the 2023 Chevrolet Colorado cost?

The second-generation Chevy Colorado is offered in five different trim packages. The base Work Truck starts at just $29,200. At the upper end, the 2023 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 starts at $46,800 — both numbers excluding $1,495 in delivery fees.

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