Check It Out If: You want a compact that's a capable crawler. Avoid It If: You work yo
It's had a great run-22 years, in all-but eventually all things come to an end (unless you're talking about the Suburban), and that holds true for the venerable Chevy S-truck. Introduced in 1981, the S-series helped to redefine the small-truck segment by grafting the handling and performance characteristics of a midsize sedan (MacPherson IFS, V-6 power) onto a compact pickup platform. The S-10 will still be available for 2004 as a Crew Cab model before going completely away next year.
Enter its replacement, the all-new Colorado. Originally planned as a joint venture with Isuzu, and sharing some common architecture with Isuzu's D-Max pickup, the Shreveport-built Colorado-and its stablemate, the GMC Canyon-has morphed through the R&D stages into its own unique entity. The only parts the new Chevy shares with the D-Max are the transfer case and dash-mounted 4WD pushbutton panel. (The D-Max, built in Thailand, isn't offered for sale in North America.) Chevrolet plans to manufacture 175,000 to 200,000 units annually.
At the heart of the Colorado is the 211ci Vortec 3500 I-5, basically five-sixths of the modular 4200 straight-six found in the Trailblazer/GMC Envoy SUV. Rated at 220 hp at 5,600 rpm and 225 lb-ft of torque at 2,800 rpm, the sequentially injected DOHC five-banger employs dual balance shafts to counteract the effects of the vibration inherent with any oddball cylinder count. Acoustic-foam-treated induction manifolds and isolated cam covers also help to reduce noise, vibration and harshness, and a trick three-stage catalytic converter that's integral to the exhaust manifold helps the new mill meet California LEV standards. (Also available-actually, the base-model engine-is a four-cylinder version, displacing 2.8L and producing 175 hp.)
Backing the engine is either the standard Aisin five-speed manual or optional Hydra-Matic 4L60-E four-speed automatic trans, both of which mate to an Isuzu-sourced two-speed transfer case with 2.48:1 low-range gearing and Instatrac shift-on-the-fly four-wheel drive. Power is transferred to an AAM-sourced independent 751/48-inch frontend located by twin A-arms and torsion bars and damped by monotube gas shocks (2WD models get coilovers); out back, a solid AAM 8-inch rear axle rides on dual-stage leaf packs and gas shocks.
Four-wheel ABS is standard on all models, though 4x4 versions of the Colorado aren't offered with traction control. Three cab styles are offered for '04-a two-seater standard cab, a slightly stretched extended cab and a four-door Crew Cab.Our test-model standard cab came equipped with the I-5 and automatic, as well as the Z71 Off Road package, which includes twin tow hooks up front; skidplating for the engine and gearboxes; the lowest-offered 4.10:1 axle gears; an Eaton G80 automatic rear locker; and P265/75R15 (approx. 31x10.50) General Ameritrac radials on 15x7 aluminum wheels.