Chevrolet pared down its offerings for the new 2023 Colorado midsize pickup truck. From the least expensive Work Truck trim to the top ZR2 model, buyers get a crew cab with space for five passengers, a short 5-foot, 2-inch bed, an 11.3-inch touchscreen along with a digital instrument cluster and a 2.7-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine.
It may seem shortsighted to narrow the truck’s cab, bed and engine offerings (last year the Colorado offered a 2.5-liter four-cylinder, a 3.6-liter V6 or a 2.8-liter diesel option), but Chevrolet explained that this configuration is what the vast majority of midsize truck buyers are purchasing anyway.
The 2023 Chevrolet Colorado lineup now includes Work Truck (WT), LT, Z71, ZR2 and a Trail Boss model that was previously reserved for the full-size Chevrolet Silverado. The Z71, Trail Boss and ZR2 get progressively more off-road ready as buyers move up the ladder. Still, the cab and bed size stay the same.
The Chevy Colorado gained 3.1 inches of length, though it used that space to make more room for the new 2.7-liter turbo engine, joining GM’s fray in 2019, which is also found in the Silverado. Previous versions had the engine on top of the front axle, forcing adjustments in the oil pan for clearance. With the 2023 Colorado that’s no longer a problem. It also allowed for bigger wheels, which off-road buyers love.
The overall design is an evolution with manager Sam Zhao in charge. The front end has a wider look though the hood still has a power bump. The headlights were upgraded and it can now accept a wider range of accessories from the Silverado parts book.
“We wanted to level the truck and make it feel like it’s really planted on the ground yet stable and strong looking. We moved the axle forward and this allows for a bigger tire and a better approach angle as well. We lifted the spare tire underneath too, which improved departure angles,” Sam Zhao, Chevrolet Colorado exterior designer told Newsweek. Approach and departure angles are a few of the things that serious off-roaders look at. It’s a measure of how steep an angle the truck can climb without bottoming out.
“The front end of the vehicle is all new, with sculpted surfaces we created, while understanding we need good forward vision down the trail. We’ve given it a more powerful look. The Z71 is a little more premium while in the Trail Boss we wanted to flag its off-road capabilities.”
The sides are new and sculpted too and the available bolt-on fender flares have been redesigned fitting both on the ZR2 and the Trail Boss. Aluminum skid plates are also optional, protecting the engine and transmission with traveling over rocks off road. New wheel choices are also offered, including a new 20-inch version that feels like something you’d see on a Chevrolet Corvette.
Inside, the new 11.3-inch infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and Google Built-in standard across the range for one of the best base setups in the industry, not just in the truck class. Work Truck, LT and Trail Boss (the latter of which is based on the WT), feature cloth seats while Z71 and ZR2 models come with perforated and heated leather-wrapped seats. The infotainment is ergonomically sound with physical knobs for climate temperature, fan speed and volume.
Below the main screen is a selection of climate and other redundant buttons. Work Trucks and Trail Boss trucks get a few, Z71 and above models come with more buttons as well as dual-zone climate control. The back of the steering wheel also has buttons for volume and tuning the radio.
In practice, the screen worked flawlessly, easily connecting first to Bluetooth then to Apple CarPlay. Like the other Chevrolets, the Colorado has mode buttons outside the main screen, allowing passengers to quickly switch from CarPlay to the native Google system, which will answer questions via Google Assistant.
The standard digital instrument cluster comes with a new Off-Road Performance Display that shows real time information in three groups. Overlanding shows altitude and GPS guidance, Terrain shows pitch, roll and tire pressure, and Baja has g-force, wheel slip indicator and transfer case status. Those screens can be viewed independently of the drive modes.
The Colorado also now has 10 available camera views (best-in-class), accessible on the infotainment screen, including an underbody camera on Z71 and ZR2.
Inside, the Work Truck and Trail Boss trims are more plain, with less accent colors on the doors, seats and dashboard, but both options were comfortable and surprisingly adjustable for a lower trim pickup. Even the base models have power seats with two adjustments for the seat bottom, allowing drivers to get into a comfortable bucket seat position. The only complaint there is that the seat bottoms are a little short and without any under knee support.
Below the screen is the gear selector, drive mode dial and four-wheel drive selection button, with side-by-side cupholders behind. There is also space for drinks in the doors and in the back seats. As far as space for people, with a 5-foot, 10-inch driver in front, there is enough room for another person of the same height in back. A six-footer in front of another six-in back behind would be cramped.
On the road, all three outputs of the engine were available to test. The base engine, standard in the WT and LT trims, has the same displacement and turbocharger as the other, but makes just 237 horsepower (hp) and 259 pound-feet (lb-ft) of torque. The 2.7-liter Turbo Plus delivers 310 hp and 390 lb-ft. That engine is standard in the Z71 and Trail Boss, and optional on the WT and LT. The 2.7-liter Turbo High Output is the most powerful making the same 310 hp but 430 lb-ft of torque. Chevrolet says that buyer can upgrade from the Turbo Plus to the High Output with software at any time.
Chevy notes that this engine delivers more horsepower and torque than the previous three engines offered. The new base offers 18 percent more horsepower and 36 percent more torque than the current Colorado’s base engine. The higher-output versions of the 2.7-liter produce more horsepower and torque than the current model’s available V6 and turbo-diesel engines.
There are three suspension setups offered. The standard setup is on the WT, LT and Z71 trims. The Trail Boss gets a 2-inch factory lift and a slightly wider stance. The ZR2 model, which was not available to test, comes with a 3-inch lift. Both suspensions were comfortable on the road, though the base is definitely the softer of the two.
Drive modes, which adjust the steering feel, throttle, transmission, brakes and traction control, include Normal, Tow/Haul, Off-Road, Terrain and Baja.
On the mountain trails outside of San Diego the 2023 Chevy Colorado sauntered through the obstacles without much fuss. Slippery dirt roads were easy in four-wheel drive low setting and Off-Road mode. That and Terrain mode enable Hill Descent Control, which helps drivers keep their speeds low and safe when traveling down a hill. It can be adjusted with the gas pedal.
Over the bigger obstacles the Colorado showed its flexibility while twisting in deep ruts and putting a wheel in the air when climbing over rocks. Its smaller size helped too with the narrow trails and dozens-to-hundred foot drops on the sides. The longer and wider Silverado would have been a tighter squeeze.
Comparing the engines, the base 2.7-liter does make the truck feel a little sluggish during passing maneuvers, but during normal driving it was fine. The 2.7 Turbo Plus feels peppy, with the eight-speed automatic shifting smoothly at any rpm mark. On slippery pavement it easily breaks the rear tires loose when traction control is off. The High Output engine is the most fun, with plenty power for any situation, including desert blasts. They can all be shifted manually with a button on the gear selector.
The Colorado is offered in two- or four-wheel drive. The Trail Boss and Z71 have a limited slip differential, the ZR2 has power locking front and rear differentials. Everything but the ZR2 can tow 7,700 pounds, that most expensive trim can pull 6,000 pounds.
The Chevy Safety Assist package, standard on all Colorados, includes Forward Collision Alert, Automatic Emergency Braking, Front Pedestrian Braking, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, Following Distance Indicator and automatic high-beam assist. Blind Zone Steering Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Braking, Adaptive Cruise Control, HD Surround Vision and Rear Pedestrian Alert are available on all models.
The 2023 Chevy Colorado competes in the midsize pickup market playing second place in sales to the Toyota Tacoma (which gets a new generation later this year). The Jeep Gladiator comes next and the Nissan Frontier follows within a few thousand in sales. The Ford Ranger had been running in second place until last year with nearly a 40-percent drop in sales from 2021 to 2022. Ford launched both the F-150 Lightning EV and compact Maverick truck during this generation of Ranger.
The 2023 Colorado, starting at $29,200 before destination and handling, has the best interior, for now, and is hyper proficient off-road in both Trail Boss ($37,000) and Z71 ($39,900) trim. However, if you want a size that’s not crew cab and smaller bed, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
The Toyota ($27,750) offers a 6-foot bed and two cab sizes; the Jeep Gladiator ($38,775) only offers a 5-foot bed with the four-door cab. The Ranger ($27,400) offers 5- and 6-foot beds. The Nissan Frontier ($29,190 for the King Cab and $30,490 for the Crew Cab), just premiered a new generation and offers a 5- or 6-foot bed.
The Colorado offer less options in certain categories than the competition, but with three engine outputs catering to all manner of drivers, (you can get the Work Truck in two-wheel drive with the Turbo High Output engine), and the most popular bed and cab size, it should appeal to the heart of the midsize pickup market. The Toyota Tacoma, amazingly, more than doubled the Colorado’s sales last year, so it has a long haul to claim the first place crown. The new third-generation truck is the company’s best shot yet.