Two new pickups coming later this year should to appeal to truck buyers who don’t necessarily need a bulkier full-size model
Pickup truck sales are booming thanks largely to the recovering economy, specifically in the housing and construction markets. Most of these are full-size models, with the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and the Dodge Ram 1500 accounting for three out of the top five selling vehicles in the U.S. last year.
But whatever happened to the smaller pickups that were once popular among younger and more-casual truck buyers? In recent years the segment dwindled down to just two models – the Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma – as most buyers either migrated to SUVs or crossovers, or just traded up into full-size pickups that deliver added capabilities. Still, those with only modest needs have largely been neglected in this dwindling segment. “The compact truck market is screaming for attention,” says Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book in Irvine, Calif.
Perhaps coming at an ideal time with big pickups commanding increasingly bigger sticker prices, General Motors recently unveiled a pair of new midsize models for 2015, the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, that will return to dealers’ showrooms later this year after a prolonged absence from their respective lineups.
“The new Colorado and Canyon, with bold styling, lightweight engineering and lifestyle-friendly equipment, should take a bite of existing Tacoma and Frontier sales, especially for domestic truck fans that have been patiently waiting for a compelling compact from Detroit.” Brauer says.
Sharing platforms and components, styling differences – mostly at the front and rear ends – will largely set part the two models. The Chevy will carry the brand’s signature split grille and bow-tie emblem, while the GMC version will affect a bolder front-end treatment. Both will be offered in extended cab and four-door crew cab versions with six- and five-foot cargo boxes.
Developed specifically for the North American market, the new trucks are engineered according to the same standards as the brand’s full-size models, albeit for buyers who don’t necessarily think bigger is better.
Both the Colorado and Canyon will come powered in their standard versions by a fuel-efficient 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with 193 horsepower for light-duty needs, with a 302-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 alternately available. Both feature the latest engine technology to help maximize both power and fuel efficiency, including variable valve timing, direct fuel injection and jet-spray piston cooling. The V6 is predicted to afford an impressive maximum towing capacity of over 6,700 pounds when properly equipped.
A 2.8-liter four-cylinder diesel engine is expected to join both lines for the 2016 model year that would deliver both higher mpg and added torque for heavier-duty needs.
Rear-drive will be standard with four-wheel-drive, a locking rear differential and specific off-road equipment optional. A six-speed automatic transmission with a tow/haul mode will be standard in most versions, with a six-speed manual gearbox alternately offered in base four-cylinder rear-drive models. Standard four-wheel disc brakes should afford ample stopping abilities, while a coil-over-type front suspension and electric power steering promise responsive handling; a fairly short turning radius (about 41 feet) will likely make the truck far easier to park in tight urban areas than their full-size counterparts.
Inside, both models will treat occupants to nicely designed interiors that feature bold, upright instrument panels with large and legible instrumentation, assorted storage cubbies and bins and car-like floor-mounted center console shifters. Options will include a sophisticated infotainment system with a dashboard-mounted touch screen and the ability to recognize natural language voice commands. Along with six standard airbags to protect occupants, the trucks will be the first in their segment to offer forward-collision and lane-departure warning systems to help drivers avoid getting into crashes.
No word as yet on cost, but given that General Motors’ full size trucks start at around $25,000, the coming midsize Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon should feature base prices below the $20,000 mark when they debut this fall.
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