What's New for 2009
Now entering its sixth year of production, the Chevrolet Colorado gets a few notable upgrades for 2009. Most significant is the debut of a V8 engine option. Other changes this year include a new on-road-biased ZQ8 sport suspension package, larger wheels and tires for the off-road-oriented Z71 suspension package and a revised antilock braking system that's said to decrease stopping distances. Finally, last year's Sport Appearance Package is now standard on all base Colorados.
Higher fuel prices have changed many people's perceptions about what's truly needed from a pickup. Suddenly, small pickups are an acceptable alternative to full-size pickups for many people. You might think this trend would bode well for the 2009 Chevrolet Colorado. However, you'll want to think twice before buying Chevy's pint-sized pickup.
Things would appear to be looking up for the Colorado. For 2009, Chevrolet has effectively addressed our previous concerns about a lack of power by making a V8 engine available for the first time. It's a 5.3-liter V8 capable of 300 horsepower, and it should make the Colorado one of the quickest small pickups you can buy. Meanwhile, the previously available four- and five-cylinder engines are still available, promising enhanced fuel economy.
Unfortunately, that extra power or fuel economy will likely be largely forgotten as soon as you sit inside the Colorado. The interior is still bland, the seats are uncomfortable and the plastic trim looks and feels cheap. It's the same with the driving experience -- the ride is bouncy and there's plenty of road noise.
The 2009 Chevrolet Colorado compensates for its faults somewhat via relative affordability and a variety of powertrain choices. But overall, we still believe the Dodge Dakota, Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma are better trucks in almost every regard. If you're a budget-minded shopper with light-duty usage in mind -- and you have completely ruled out used pickups -- the Colorado may be worth checking out. But if you've set your sights on a refined and thoroughly capable small pickup, you'll want to skip the Chevrolet Colorado.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Chevrolet Colorado is a compact pickup available with two- or four-wheel drive in three body-style configurations: regular cab, extended cab (with short reverse-opening doors) or crew cab (with four regular forward-swinging doors). Crew cabs come with a 5-foot cargo box, while other Colorados feature a 6-foot bed.
There are three primary trim levels to choose from on regular- and extended-cab models -- the base Work Truck, midlevel LS and top-of-the-line LT. The crew cab is offered in LT trim only. Inside, base vehicles are pretty spartan aside from air-conditioning and an AM/FM stereo. The LS is a better choice for most folks, with upgraded seating and trim and the opportunity to add more optional features. The LT trim is offered in three increasingly well-equipped flavors (extended cab and crew cab only): 1LT, 2LT and 3LT. Depending on your selection, you'll end up with features like an in-dash CD changer, satellite radio, a larger five-cylinder engine, full power accessories and remote keyless entry. A new value package (VL) combines popular options like the five-cylinder engine, full power accessories and an automatic transmission on the crew cab.
Three suspension packages are offered to tailor ride and handling to specific needs. They include the standard Z85, a Z71 off-road package and the new ZQ8 sport suspension with standard 18-inch wheels. Depending on trim level and body style, other major Colorado options include heated power leather seats and a sunroof.
Powertrains and Performance
Both the four- and five-cylinder engines carry over for the 2009 Colorado, although a 5.3-liter V8 is now available in extended-cab and crew-cab models. The standard 2.9-liter four-cylinder makes 185 hp and 190 pound-feet of torque, and an optional 3.7-liter inline-5 produces 242 hp and 242 lb-ft of torque. The 5.3-liter V8 (only offered on extended-cab and crew cab models) makes 300 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on most four-cylinder Colorados, with a four-speed automatic optional. The five-cylinder and V8 come with the automatic. Four-wheel-drive models feature a two-speed InstaTrac transfer case with push-button controls and an optional locking rear differential.
EPA fuel estimates stand at 18 mpg city/24 mpg highway for a four-cylinder regular cab, down to 16 mpg city/22 mpg highway on a 4WD crew cab with the inline-5 engine. The V8's fuel economy wasn't available at the time of this writing. Properly equipped, a V8-powered Colorado can tow up to 6,000 pounds.
The 2009 Chevrolet Colorado features a new braking system with standard antilock brakes. Traction control is also standard, as is the OnStar emergency communications system. Head-protecting side curtain airbags are optional.
In government frontal-impact crash tests, the Chevrolet Colorado crew cab earned a perfect five stars for the protection of the driver and front passenger. Other Colorados earned four stars in those tests. Side-impact testing resulted in four stars out of five for front-occupant protection, and five stars (without side curtain airbags) for rear passengers in crew-cab models. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety frontal-offset crash testing, the Colorado earns either a highest-possible "Good" rating (extended cab) or a second-best "Acceptable" (crew cab). Without the side curtain airbags, the Colorado earns a "Poor" rating for side-impact protection, the IIHS's lowest score.
Interior Design and Special Features
While its competitors have gotten more luxurious and refined in recent years, the Chevy Colorado remains saddled with subpar materials, an abundance of hard plastic and mediocre seat comfort. The layout of controls and gauges gets high marks, however, for a simple and straightforward design. There's lots of room up front, though rear legroom is tight in both extended-cab and crew-cab models; rear entry/exit can also be awkward due to small rear door openings. A nice feature is a dual-position tailgate that can be secured when partially open to better support building materials resting on top of the wheelwells.
The 2009 Chevrolet Colorado's inline four- and five-cylinder engines are reasonably smooth, though acceleration and hauling performance are lackluster compared to those offered by the larger V6s of competitors. A newly available V8 should fix this, but there's an obvious penalty in fuel economy. The four-speed automatic transmission doesn't offer as many gears as its rivals, but its shifts are smooth and well-timed. Chevy's small truck is relatively quiet around town, though wind and road noise increase at highway speeds. Either the Z71 or the ZQ8 suspension upgrade packages are worthy additions, depending on your trucking priorities.