MULTI-PURPOSE vehicles – or MPVs as you probably know them – have been around since the mid-1980s and since then they have mutated into various sizes and layouts to suit a wider audience. But if you think laterally for a moment there’s been a vehicle that qualifies as multi-purpose that has been on sale for decades – the humble pick-up.
It’s a humble thing because for a long time it has been solely a working vehicle, but in recent years the combination of utility and visual toughness has made it desirable in its own right. Chevrolet is going to get in on the act too, with its new Colorado. In its US homeland the pick-up truck is the best-selling vehicle of all, but this will be the first one to reach the UK. It’s part of a bigger picture for Chevrolet in Europe as it broadens its range with more vehicles that have previously been sold only in the US or Asia, and the Colorado is the most recent example.
There are no surprises with the exterior appearance: practicality still comes first so there is a sizeable load area at the rear and a cabin arrangement to suit your own needs. You can have a single cab, crew cab or double cab to balance space for cargo and people. But don’t think of it as just a workhorse. For starters you can tell immediately it’s a Chevrolet by the family grille up front, and despite being a good deal larger than most of its siblings there is clear family resemblance. There’s also a good deal of scope for making the Colorado look just how you want it: the alloy wheel options are appealing and you can add chrome detailing to boot.
The Colorado is classed as a medium-sized truck; not one of the behemoths that you might associate with the US and so is suited to UK roads; big enough to be cavernous but not so big that you’ll never get it down a village high street. You get the same impression once you’ve climbed aboard. The view out is as uncluttered and as panoramic as you would hope for, and looking above most other traffic and far ahead never fails to be an advantage.
But you don’t feel like you’re driving a bus either. For starters the cabin is clearly influenced by the interiors of cars rather than trucks. Choose one of the higher-specification versions and you have a pleasing two-tone fascia with a slick-looking centre console that takes care of the climate control and audio system. Even the more humble versions look good, with a chunky steering wheel to grasp, smart and clear instrument displays and comfortable seats. Yes the plastics are hardy rather than luxuriant but you know they’ll take abuse and come back for more.
There’s a choice of a 2.5-litre or 2.8-litre Duramax diesels, both of which are new designs and provide exactly the kind of motive power you want and need; lots of torque from low engine revs and an easy-going nature. However the relative refinement of both the Colorado’s cabin and the powerplant itself means that you don’t have to hear everything that the engine is doing: it just gets on with the job in hand. Even at motorway speeds there is just a distant thrum from the engine room as it happily ticks along. The manual gearbox option thankfully gives you a positive shift without a vast gearlever that so often comes as standard in a pick-up, while the six-speed automatic is impressively smooth and unobtrusive.
The other thing most people expect from a pick-up is laughably vague steering and a bouncy ride, but there’s none of that with the Colorado. With a little over four turns from lock-to-lock your steering inputs are faithfully replicated at the front wheels and low speed manoeuvres aren’t as daunting as its size might suggest. Out on the road you can place the Colorado accurately and it will cruise in a rock-steady fashion without needing lots of steering inputs. The ride is understandably soft, and although it has leaf spring suspension at the rear for maximum load capacity it’s all tied down very well – only seriously bad roads taken at speed will cause any significant movement.
With the business of driving and accommodating passengers taken care of, the rest of the Colorado’s duties are a cinch; the vast load bay means you can chuck in whatever you like, the rear tailgate is sturdy enough to stand on for a better view. And the switchable four-wheel drive system works very well indeed, flipping between modes on the move. And it can tackle seriously tough terrain too – certainly the worst Thai roads imaginable.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Chevrolet Colorado Z71 2.5 Duramax LTZ, £18,500 (est)
Engine: 2.5-litre diesel producing 148bhp and 258lb.ft of torque
Transmission: Five-speed manual gearbox driving the rear wheels
Performance: Top speed 115mph (est) 0-62mph 12 seconds (est)
Economy: 30.4mpg combined (est)
Emissions: 210g/km (est)