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2004 Chevrolet Colorado

Review by Dr. David A. Zatz

Review Notes: Chevrolet Colorado LS Extended Cab
Personality Real truck with carefully hidden advanced technology
Quirks GM overloaded stalk, sheer truckness
Unusual features Highly efficient engine, OnStar
Above Average for Price Acceleration, handling, gas mileage (for power), stereo
Needs Work In Cruise control placement, and, for some, comfort
Driveway Test Passed easily

The Chevrolet Colorado is a surprising truck from a company that seems to be full of surprises. You have to love the specs: a standard 175 horsepower four-cylinder, independent front suspension, antilock brakes, theft deterrent system, big wheels, air conditioning, cruise control, and gas mileage that’s better than quite a few cars, all at a reasonable price. But many may be turned off by the Colorado’s character: at least with the sport suspension and stick-shift, it’s a truck lover’s truck, with a stiffly sprung (yet cushioning) suspension and a simple interior that seems to have been designed in 1980. The Colorado is almost the exact opposite of Chevy’s TrailBlazer SUV, which could pass for a minivan. You always know you’re driving a truck.

Given that the Colorado is bigger than the S-10, many believed it would compete directly against the Dodge Dakota, which has long been the only entry between a compact and full-sized pickup (unless you count past Japanese attempts at full-sized pickups). The two are very different beasts: the Dakota is bigger, with much higher load capacities and a smoother ride, along with a steeper price tag. The Colorado is smaller and more efficient, but still bigger than a Ford Ranger or Chevy S-10, taking the other end of the so-called “mid-sized” pickup market. If you want a Colorado, you probably won’t look at a Dakota, and vice versa.

Our test vehicle, a bright yellow LS with an extended cab, drew a lot of looks, and not just for its color. Squatting low to the ground, with plastic trim that resembles what kids buy at absurd prices and stick onto their Hondas, the Colorado looked as though it had been heavily customized. And so it was – by General Motors, which added almost-well-fitting plastic trim to the base Colorado, as well as a sport suspension and an optional 220 horsepower 3.5 liter straight-five engine. The result was a pickup that handles and accelerates like a sports car.

The engine is much stronger than you’d think a five-cylinder would be, yet it provides 19 mpg city, 25 highway (with a five-speed stick). It’s not a traditional truck engine, of the type that produces lots of low end torque but runs out of breath when you rev it, but feels more like a car engine. It’s okay on the bottom end, but likes to be revved, and the computer seems to shift programs at 5,000 rpm to provide an added boost. At low speeds, the low first gear provides ample push from idle, but when you want acceleration from cruising speeds (35 mph and up), you’ll want to make sure the engine’s already turning at 3,000 rpm first.

The sport suspension and tires did their job well, keeping the power to the ground and making the pickup handle better than many popular cars. It cushions even very deep potholes and ruts, but seemingly always bouncing a bit, making you feel every road imperfection but not get jarred by them. Like most “serious” pickups, the Colorado feels better when it has a full load.

Though the motor revs like a car engine, the feel of the transmission and the good low-end torque combine to provide a real truck feel that’s been slowly filtering out of modern pickups. You know when you’ve engaged the clutch, and you know when you shift. The shifter itself is unambiguously connected to the engine, constantly shaking back and forth and clearly transmitting vibration to the driver’s hand. If you want a truck that feels like a truck, you don’t have to go to Nissan any more. The home of the American truck sells one too.

The low suspension made it very easy to load the pickup bed, and the not-too-heavy tailgate was a welcome relief from some pickups. There’s something to be said for a truck that’s low to the ground; it’s far easier to put heavy packages and cumbersome objects into the bed.

Inside, if it were not for the tight tolerances between trim pieces and the lack of an ashtray (or any place to put one), we’d think this truck really had been designed twenty years ago. The dark grays don’t offend and are welcome in direct sunlight, but many trucks these days are tarted up more like luxury cars. GM still seems to have a few million of their patented too-many-function stalks in a warehouse somewhere, for they used the old-fashioned cruise/wiper/washer/turn signal/brights stalk on the left, with no stalk on the right (perhaps this saves a dime per car?). The horn is somewhat hard to press, and the release for the footbrake feels just like the hood release in the dark (the hood release is lower down, to be fair). The vent system hails from past days, with hard-to-turn knobs and a simple rotary vent control, but it’s not likely to be misunderstood. The stereo is GM’s standard unit, with surprisingly good sound coming out of six speakers (LS). XM Satellite Radio is available for $325, including the first three months of service.

While the various lights are together in one pod, if you want to shut off the headlights, you have to do it each time you drive: your choices for normal positions are automatic headlights, parking lights, and headlights on.

The interior features two deep, simple cupholders, map pockets with a cupholder built in, a two-level center console, and a moderately deep glove compartment. Rear passengers have a removeable dual-cupholder console. Interior lighting is good, with a separate light for the cargo bay. Visibility is excellent in all directions, thanks partly to oversized exterior mirrors and strong headlights. Wind noise is a bit strong at higher speeds, increasing quite a bit as you go faster – did we mention how good the stereo is? It includes an “auto volume” control that boosts volume as you drive faster.

Our LS Extended Cab included four doors – two normal doors and two hidden doors. The hidden doors are really hidden – people don’t believe you have them until you open the front door, expose the latch, and open the rear doors to a 90 degree angle. That makes it very convenient to get to the inside; there’s no post between the doors, so the entire interior is exposed. The bad news is that it’s hard to get out from between the doors in a tight parking space. But the extended cab is not really for extended, regular use as a four-door, four-seat pickup. The rear seats are clearly tokens – they don’t bother making the cushions look like a regular seat, but have a back cushion and a separate bottom cushion with quite a bit of distance between the two. While LATCH child seat fasteners are provided, which is the only way you can safely use a child seat thanks to the very small ledge (the seats aren’t deep enough to support a non-LATCH child seat), the center fasteners are in the middle rather than behind each seat, not the ideal place, and the front seats have to be pretty far forward to allow space for a child’s legs. The back seats are clearly for use only in a pinch. The bottom cushion easily folds up to reveal a plastic storage box, which can itself be flipped over for easier storage of large objects in the back seat area. This makes the area behind the seats quite versatile for both cargo (such as the tools people don’t want to leave in the bed) and people – and you can quickly switch one for the other.

Our truck included traction control, a $295 option that’s well worth the price for a rear-drive vehicle whose weight is concentrated up front. It kicks in quietly, and if you feel like doing a few burnouts, you can shut it off with a simple pushbutton (whose only indication is an amber light on the button itself, not a dash light – the same system the fog lights use). The traction control definitely helped us to get straight takeoffs on wet and slippery roads, though relying on it is not a good idea. Our truck also came with side airbags ($215), OnStar ($700), the Power Convenience Package ($500), and the aforementioned $1,000 engine upgrade and $165 worth of yellow paint. That boosted the price of our $21,545 truck up to $24,740 including destination charge. The engine upgrade may or may not be needed, depending on how you drive. It’s hard to argue with 175 horsepower in a light pickup, even one with a gross weight capacity of 4,600 pounds (with the 3.42 axle).

The Chevrolet Colorado is a surprising vehicle to come out of General Motors: it has more personality than you would expect from the world’s largest automaker. We suspect it will quickly become a favorite of those who use their trucks for work, rather than to make them feel more manly, and that it will also be popular among those who simply like trucks that act like trucks, but see no reason to burn the fuel required by full-size pickups. The Colorado’s strong handling will earn it a lot of friends, as will the satisfying drivetrain.

2004 Chevy Colorado Specifications

Overview
Models: 2004 Chevrolet Colorado Pickup
2WD Regular Cab
2WD Extended Cab
2WD Crew Cab
4×4 Regular Cab
4×4 Extended Cab
4×4 Crew Cab
2WD Chassis Cab
Body style / driveline: Crew Cab (5-6 passengers), Extended Cab (4-5 passengers), Regular Cab (2-3 passengers), front-engine rear-wheel-drive and 4-wheel-drive pickup
Construction: welded steel frame, electro galvanized steel
EPA vehicle class: compact pickup
Manufacturing locations: Shreveport, Louisiana
Key competitors: Ford Ranger, Dodge Dakota, Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier, Mazda B-Series
Crew Cab: Dodge Dakota Quad Cab, Nissan Frontier Crew Cab, Toyota Tacoma Double Cab, Ford Explorer Sport Trac
 
Engines Vortec 2800 2.8L I-4 Vortec 3500 3.5L I-5
Application: std on Regular Cab, Crew Cab and Extended Cab opt on Regular Cab, Crew Cab and Extended Cab; std on ZQ8 Crew Cab and Z71 Crew Cab
Type: 2.8L inline four cylinder 3.5L inline five cylinder
Displacement (cu in / cc): 169 / 2770 211 / 3460
Bore & stroke (in / mm): 3.66 x 4 / 93 x 102 3.66 x 4 / 93 x 102
Block material: A356-T6 lost foam cast aluminum A356-T6 lost foam cast aluminum
Cylinder head material: A356-T6 lost foam cast aluminum A356-T6 lost foam cast aluminum
Valvetrain: dual overhead camshafts, continuously variable exhaust valve timing, variable exhaust cam phasing, 4 valves-per-cylinder, with “couple” design balance shafts dual overhead camshafts, continuously variable exhaust valve timing, variable exhaust cam phasing, 4 valves-per-cylinder, with dual balance shafts
Ignition system: distributorless electronic spark, coil-on-plug, platinum-tipped spark plugs distributorless electronic spark, coil-on-plug, platinum-tipped spark plugs
Fuel delivery: multipoint sequential fuel injection multipoint sequential fuel injection
Compression ratio: 10.0:1 10.0:1
Horsepower (hp / kw @ rpm): 175 / 130 @ 5600 220 / 164 @ 5600
Torque (lb-ft / Nm @ rpm): 185 / 251 @ 2800 225 / 305 @ 2800
Recommended fuel: 87 octane 87 octane
Maximum engine speed (rpm): 6300 6300
Emissions controls: dual “split converter” design; LEV II dual “split converter” design; LEV II
Estimated fuel economy
(mpg city / hwy / combined):
TBD TBD
 
Transmissions MA5 Hydra-Matic 4L60-E
Type: 5-speed manual 4-speed automatic
Gear ratios (:1):    

First:

3.75 3.06

Second:

2.26 1.63

Third:

1.37 1.00

Fourth:

1.00 0.70

Fifth:

0.73 -

Reverse:

3.67 2.29
Final drive ratio:    

3.42 axle:

2.49:1 2.39:1

3.73 axle:

2.72:1 2.61:1
 
Chassis/Suspension
Front: independent with coil springs for rear-drive, independent with torsion bars for 4WD and High Stance, with stabilizer bar
Rear: live axle with steel leaf springs; stabilizer bar with sport package
Steering type: power-assisted rack-and-pinion
Steering ratio: 18:1 (2WD); 19:1 (4WD)
Steering wheel turns,
lock-to-lock:
2WD Z85 3.31;
ZQ8 2.92;
Z71 3.20; 4WD: 3.20
Turning circle, curb-to-curb
(ft / m):
2WD short wheelbase: 37 / 11.2;
Z71 39 / 11.8;
long wb: 41 / 12.6; Z71 43 / 13.2;
4WD short wb: 39 / 11.8;
long wb: 43 / 13.2
 
Brakes
Type: vacuum power, front disc/rear drum, 4-wheel anti-lock brakes
Rotor diameter x thickness
(in / mm):
front: 11.2 x 1.6 / 284.5 x 40.6
Drum diameter x width
(in / mm):
rear: 11.6 x 2.5 / 294.6 x 63.5
Drum swept area
(sq in / sq cm):
38.5 / 248.4
Total swept area
(sq in / sq cm):
155.7 / 1005
 
Wheels/Tires
Wheel size & type: 2WD / 4WD: 15-inch x 6-inch steel;
opt 15 x 6.5-inch aluminum;15 x 7-inch aluminum with Z71
Off Road suspension; 17 x 8-inch aluminum with ZQ8 Sport suspension
Tires: 205/75R15 std all-season steel-belted radial tires (2WD)
P225/70R15 all-season steel-belted radial tires (std on 2WD Crew Cab)
P235/75R15 all-season steel-belted radial tires (std on 4WD)
P265/75R15 on/off-road steel-belted radial (with Z71 Off Road package)
P235/50R17 low-profile radial (with ZQ8 package)
full-size spare standard on all models

 

Dimensions
Exterior Regular Cab 2WD Extended Cab
2WD
Crew Cab
2WD
Regular Cab
4WD
Extended Cab 4WD Crew Cab
4WD
Wheelbase (in / mm): 111.3 / 2827 125.9 / 3198 125.9 / 3198 111.3 / 2827 125.9 / 3198 125.9 / 3198
Overall length
(in / mm):
192.4 / 4887 207 / 5258 207 / 5258 192.4 / 4887 207 / 5258 207 / 5258
Overall width (in / mm): 67.6 / 1717 67.6 / 1717 67.6 / 1717 67.6 / 1717 67.6 / 1717 67.6 / 1717
Overall height
(in / mm):
           
ZQ8 63.5 / 1613 63.5 / 1613 63.7 / 1618 NA NA NA
Z85 64.9 / 1648 64.9 / 1648 65.2 / 1656 66.3 / 1684 66.3 / 1684 66.5 / 1689
Z71 66.7 / 1694 66.7 / 1694 67 / 1702 66.7 1694 66.7 1694 67 / 1702
Overall height
(in / mm):
64.8 / 1646 64.8 / 1646 64.8 / 1646 64.8 / 1646 64.8 / 1646 64.8 / 1646
Track (in / mm):
Front: 57.5 / 1460 57.5 / 1460 57.5 / 1460 59.6 / 1514 59.6 / 1514 59.6 / 1514
Rear: 57.5 / 1460 57.5 / 1460 57.5 / 1460 57.5 / 1460 57.5 / 1460 57.5 / 1460
Minimum ground clearance front
(in / mm):
8.5 / 216 8.5 / 216 8.5 / 216 8.5 / 216 5 / 127 5 / 127
Z71 9.3 / 236 9.3 / 236 8.5 / 216 9.3 / 236 9.3 / 236 9.3 / 236
ZQ8 5 / 127 5 / 127 5 / 127 - - -
rear 7.5 / 191 7.5 / 191 7.5 / 191 7.5 / 191 6.4 / 160 6.4 / 160
Z71 8.4 / 213 8.4 / 213 8.4 / 213 8.4 / 213 8.4 / 213 8.4 / 213
ZQ8 6.4 / 160 6.4 / 160 6.4 / 160 - - -
Ground to top of load floor
(in / mm):
26.9 / 683 26.9 / 683 26.9 / 683 29.6 / 752 29.6 / 752 29.6 / 752
Z71 30.5 / 775 30.5 / 775 30.5 / 775 30.5 / 775 30.5 / 775 30.5 / 775
ZQ8 24.7 / 62 24.7 / 62 24.7 / 62      
Step-in height
(in / mm):
17.6 / 447 17.6 / 447 17.6 / 447 21.1 / 535 21.1 / 535 21.1 / 535
Curb weight:            
base suspension, I-4 with manual
(lb / kg):
3351 / 1523 3607/1639 3752 / 1705 3623 / 1647 3802 / 1728 4002 / 1819
I-4 with automatic: 3447 / 1566 3631 / 1650 3774 / 1715 3706 / 1685 3910 / 1777 4037 / 1835
I-5 with manual: 3464 / 1574 3625 / 1648 NA 3765 / 1711 3917 / 1780 NA
I-5 with automatic: 3518 / 1599 3715 / 1688 3747 / 1703 3712 / 1687 3945 / 1793 4150 / 1886

 

Cargo Box Regular Cab Extended Cab Crew Cab Box
Cargo volume (cu ft / L): 43.9 / 1243 43.9 / 1243 36.7 / 1039
Length at floor (in / mm): 73 / 1854 73 / 1854 61 / 1549
Width at floor (in / mm): 57 / 1448 57 / 1448 57 / 1448
Width between wheelhousings
(in / mm):
43 / 1092 43 / 1092 43 / 1092
Tailgate width (in / mm): 52.4 / 1331 52.4 / 1331 52.4 / 1331
Inside height (in / mm): 18.5 / 470 18.5 / 470 18.5 / 470
 
Interior Regular Cab Extended Cab Crew Cab
Seating capacity: 2-3 4-5 5-6
Head room (in / mm): 40 / 1016 front: 39.3 / 998
rear 37.9 / 963
front: 39.3 / 998
rear 37.9 / 963
Leg room (in / mm): 42 / 1067 front:42 / 1067
rear: 23.1 / 587
front:42 / 1067
rear: 34.7 / 881
Shoulder room (in / mm): 57 / 1448 front: 57.1 / 1450
rear: 57.1 / 1450
front: 57.1 / 1450
rear: 57.1 / 1450
Hip room (in / mm): 53 / 1346 front: 53 / 1346
rear: 57.6 / 1463
front: 53 / 1346
rear: 53 / 1346
 
Capacities Regular Cab Extended Cab Crew Cab
GVWR, standard (lb / kg): 2WD: 4700 / 2132
4WD: 5150 / 2336
2WD: 5000 / 2268
4WD: 5300 / 2404
2WD: 5000 / 2268
4WD: 5300 / 2404
Payload, base (lb / kg): 2WD: 1503 / 682
4WD: 1613 / 732
2WD: 1429 / 648
4WD: 1584 / 718
2WD: 1304 / 591
4WD: 1366 / 620
Fuel tank (gal / L): 19.6 / 74.2 19.6 / 74.2 19.6 / 74.2

 

 
Vortec 2800
Vortec 3500
manual automatic manual automatic
Engine oil (qt / L): 5 / 4.7 5 / 4.7 6 / 5.7 6 / 5.7
Maximum trailer weight (lb / kg):
Regular Cab 2WD 3.42 axle: 1800 / 816 NA 3300 / 1500
4000 / 1814
-3.73 axle: 2300 / 1043 3200 / 1451 3800 / 1727 4000 / 1814
Extended Cab 2WD 3.42 axle: 1500 / 680 NA 3100 / 1409 4000 / 1814
-3.73 axle: 2000 / 907 3000 / 1361 3600 / 1636 4000 / 1814
Crew Cab 2WD 3.42 axle: 1400 / 635 NA NA 4000 / 1814
-3.73 axle: 1900 / 862 2900 / 1315 NA 4000 / 1814
Regular Cab 4WD 3.42 axle: 1500 / 680 NA 3000 / 1364 4000 / 1814
-3.73 axle: 2000 / 907 2900 / 1315 3000 / 1364 4000 / 1814
Extended Cab 4WD 3.42 axle: 1300 / 590 NA 2800 / 1273 4000 / 1814
-3.73 axle: 1800 / 816 2700 / 1224 3300 / 1500 4000 / 1814
Crew Cab 4WD 3.42 axle: 1100 / 499 NA NA 4000 / 1814
-3.73 axle: 1600 / 726 2600 / 1179 NA 4000 / 1814
Maximum tongue weight: Trailer tongue weight should be 10% to 15% of total loaded trailer weight up to 400 lb / 182 kg.

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