Absent from the North American midsize pickup market since the 2012 model year, Chevrolet made its much-anticipated return official today with the unveiling of the 2015 Colorado at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show. Billed as the third element in a three-truck strategy-Silverado Heavy Duty, Silverado half-ton, and midsize Colorado-the new pickup was characterized as a "scaled down Silverado" by Jeff Luke, chief engineer for pickup trucks at General Motors. Luke added that this doesn't mean the Colorado revival will be based on the Silverado chassis, nor will it be a version of the Colorado that continued to enjoy strong sales in Thailand after GM pulled the plug on North American sales. Like the Silverado, the new Colorado will ride on a fully boxed frame, but the chassis will be unique to the mid-size truck, according to Chevrolet.Although dimensional specifics weren't announced, Luke noted that the Colorado will be 5 inches narrower, 3 inches lower, and some 900 pounds lighter than the Silverado, thanks in large part to a chassis that's about 40 percent lighter than that of the full-size truck

Three engines

When the truck goes on sale in the fall of 2014, Colorado buyers will have two engine options: a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder rated for 193 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, and a 3.6-liter V6 good for 300 horsepower and 270 lb-ft. Both engines already exist in the General Motors North American powertrain inventory. Engine choices will expand to three in 2016, when a 2.5-liter turbodiesel 4-cylinder becomes available, a first in the midsize pickup category. Chevrolet did not release output figures for the diesel. All engines will be mated with a 6-speed automatic transmission, and buyers will have a choice of rear- or 4-wheel drive. Chevrolet sources also hint that another transmission choice may become available shortly after launch, but declined to furnish specifics other than to say that a manual gearbox is unlikely. Towing capabilities will range up to 6700 pounds, which Chevrolet anticipates will be best in class.

The company also expects Colorado fuel economy ratings to be tops among midsize pickups. While the truck's EPA ratings are yet to come, that would mean maximums of at least 22 mpg city/26 highway for a rear-drive 4-cylinder model. Toyota's Tacoma, the segment's current bestseller, maxes at 21 mpg/25 highway for a standard cab rear-drive model with a 4-cylinder engine and manual transmission. The revivalist Colorado will be offered in extended and crew cab body styles -- no standard cab. Extended cab models will come with a 6-foot cargo bed, Crew Cabs with a 5-foot bed, the longest bed in the midsize segment for a four-door pickup according to Chevrolet. Suspension elements consist of coil-over front springs and 2-stage semi-elliptic leaf springs at the rear. The brake system comprises discs front and rear, Like the Silverado, the Colorado will offer an EZ-Lift tailgate and a standard Step Assist pad at each end of the rear bumper to make it easier to climb in and out of the cargo bed. The bed rails and cargo floor will include 13 tie-down points, and a standard two-tiered storage system will expand cargo bed versatility. Chevy also plans to offer a variety of cargo accessories. There will be three trim levels-the basic WT (for Work Truck), mid-grade LT, and top-of-the-line Z71, designed to tackle off-road work. All three versions will be available in extended and crew cab body styles, and all offer the option of 4-wheel drive. 

Also: More first looks from the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show

The Inner Colorado

Inside, the Colorado's instrumentation and center stack echoes that of the new Silverado, and shares much of the full-size truck's features, including Chevrolet's MyLink infotainment and connectivity system. An 8-inch color touch screen dominates the center dash in LT and Z71 models, which also include USB drives. A 4.2-inch driver information screen enhances the instrument cluster, and a navigation system with voice recognition will be an available. Key instruments will include halo backlighting, making them easier to find and operate at night, and the standard center console is big enough to swallow a tablet computer. All trim levels will be furnished with cloth upholstery, and Z71 models will have unique color and trim details, including embossing on the seatbacks and contrasting stitching. Unlike the Silverado, the Colorado's shifter will be in the traditional center position, between the front seats. Standard safety features include front and side curtain airbags; rear view camera; Stabilitrak stability control with rollover mitigation; trailer sway control; and hill descent control. The Colorado will also offer the option of forward collision alert and lane departure warning, both firsts in the mid-size pickup segment according to Chevrolet.

Pricing With the Colorado's on-sale date almost a year away, Chevrolet refrained from furnishing any pricing specifics, other than to say that the new truck would have the "best value proposition" in its class. However, it's likely that Chevy's new truck will be priced against the Tacoma and Nissan Frontier, the two trucks that currently dominate the hitherto shrinking midsize pickup class. Current Tacoma pricing ranges from about $18,000 up to about $30,000. Chevrolet's L.A. presentation made it clear that the company is bullish on its new truck, and the future of the midsize category. Chief engineer Luke flatly expects the Colorado to be "the most capable, fuel efficient, versatile midsize truck." Mark Reuss, president of General Motors North America, goes further, stating that the Colorado "reinvents the midsize truck, while reinvigorating the segment at the same time." How much room does that leave for the GMC Canyon, the Colorado's upscale clone? We'll have to wait for January's Detroit auto show to learn the answer to that question.

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