What's New for 2012
Except for an automatic locking rear differential on midlevel trim models, the Chevy Colorado offers no significant changes for 2012.
Chevy seems to be on another 10-year plan with its Colorado compact/midsize pickup. The Colorado's predecessor, the S10, lasted more than two decades. And though the 2012 Chevrolet Colorado is a competent truck, its age has resulted in it being outclassed by its primary rivals in terms of utility, design, feature content and all-around desirability.
Entering its ninth year of production without a full redesign, the Colorado is still an affordable pickup with much the same muscular look as Chevy's full-size trucks. It offers multiple configurations of body styles, trim levels and engines, including a stout 300-horsepower V8 that can pull 6,000 pounds of trailer toys.
But a look inside the cabin reveals the Colorado's shortcomings. This utilitarian space with its unimpressive materials hasn't changed much since the Colorado's debut. Chevy designed the interior with unfussy truck buyers in mind -- large knobs can be manipulated while wearing work gloves -- but the fleet managers who find themselves in compact pickups won't be impressed with this truck's noisy cabin and busy ride.
Among competing small trucks, only the Ford Ranger feels more dated, so the Colorado wins against this rival. But the Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma are two more contemporary and refined alternatives to the Colorado. Value hunters might even consider late-model used versions of these competitors before settling on the aging Colorado.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Chevrolet Colorado is a compact/midsize pickup offered in three body styles: regular cab, extended cab (with small rear access doors) and crew cab (with four regular doors).
Crew cabs come equipped with 5-foot cargo boxes while other models feature a 6-foot box. The Colorado is offered in either a basic Work Truck or a premium LT trim, with the latter available in LT1, LT2 and LT3 subsets tailored to specific needs. Every model of the rear-wheel-drive Colorado except for the LT3 offers four-wheel drive as an option.
Standard features for the Work Truck version of the Colorado include 16-inch steel wheels, a front split bench seat, a tilt steering column, air-conditioning, cruise control, OnStar, Bluetooth and an AM/FM stereo. The LT1 adds 16-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass, deluxe cloth upholstery, full power accessories, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and upgraded audio with a CD/MP3 player and satellite radio.
The LT2 models gain an off-road suspension, a sliding rear window, chrome exterior trim and front bucket seats. The LT3 is similar but has the V8 engine and a sport suspension. Leather seating is an option for crew-cab Colorados.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 Chevrolet Colorado offers three engines. The base engine is a 2.9-liter four-cylinder generating 185 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque. Optional for all trims (and standard on 4WD Crew Cabs) is a 3.7-liter five-cylinder that produces 242 hp and 242 lb-ft of torque. Finally, a 5.3-liter V8 rated at 300 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque comes standard on the LT3 and is optional on LT2 models.
A five-speed manual transmission is standard for most four-cylinder Colorados, with a four-speed automatic optional; the five-cylinder and V8 engines are equipped only with the automatic. Four-wheel-drive models feature a dual-range InstaTrac transfer case with controls conveniently mounted on the dash.
EPA estimated fuel economy ranges from 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway and 21 combined for the regular cab model equipped with the four-cylinder to 14 mpg city/19 highway and 16 mpg combined for crew cabs equipped with the V8 and four-wheel drive. A properly equipped V8-powered Colorado can tow up to 6,000 pounds.
The 2012 Chevy Colorado comes standard with OnStar, antilock brakes, stability control, traction control and side curtain airbags.
In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, an extended-cab Colorado received a top-ranked score of "Good" for frontal offset collisions. The crew cab model, however, fared worse and earned a second-best "Acceptable" ranking for the same test and a worst "Poor" rating for side-impact protection.
Interior Design and Special Features
Although the Colorado looks handsome from the outside, sharing chiseled cues with the full-size Silverado, the cabin appears stuck in time. While rivals have become more refined, the Colorado continues with mediocre cabin furnishings, plenty of hard plastic trim and seats that are barely comfortable, much less supportive.
On the other hand, controls and instruments are arranged in a simple and straightforward fashion, and there's plenty of room up front. Passengers in non-crew cab models, however, will have to shuffle and twist to reach the rear seats through the small door openings. Once back there, they'll likely find small quarters and tight legroom.
Outside, the Colorado's tailgate can be set partially open to furnish a flat loading area for 4x8 panels or long items.
The 2012 Chevrolet Colorado's smaller four- and five cylinder engines are smooth enough, but fall short of the competition's V6s. The V8 compensates for this deficit, although at the expense of fuel economy. The Colorado's four-speed automatic transmission shifts cleanly, yet it can't deliver the acceleration or fuel economy delivered by the competition's five-speed automatics.
Around town, the Colorado is reasonably quiet, although the amount of wind and road noise is certainly trucklike. The standard suspension affords plenty of load-carrying capability, but at the price of plenty of bounce across bad pavement and dirt roads.