Redesigned 2023 Chevrolet Colorado Doubles Down on Off-Roading

All versions are crew cab configurations with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine

2023 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 front Photo: Chevrolet

Chevrolet has redesigned the Colorado pickup truck, focusing on adding modern conveniences, expanding off-road trim levels and capability, and reducing powertrain variations. 

There’s a single body style with this generation: a four-door crew cab with a short bed. An extended cab model with the long bed won’t be offered with the new truck. Also cast aside are V6 and diesel engines, leaving the truck centered on a turbocharged four-cylinder engine available with different horsepower ratings. 

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There’s a striking focus on off-roading, perhaps inspired by the attention-grabbing success that competing brands have garnered with their trail-centric trucks and SUVs. There are just two trims among five that are available with two-wheel drive. The others are strictly four-wheel drive, with a range of hardware upgrades to expand their abilities. 

All versions use a new chassis that stretches the wheelbase by 3.1 inches compared to the outgoing short bed crew cab, which is used to shorten the front overhang and improve the truck’s ability to approach steep inclines. Overall length is nearly the same.

And more importantly, each trim now comes with a comprehensive suite of active safety features, something that was absent on the outgoing truck. 

Production begins at the Wentzville, Mo., plant in the first half of 2023. Pricing and fuel-economy estimates will be available closer to the expected spring on-sale date. 

Here is what we know so far. 

What it competes with: Ford Ranger, Jeep Gladiator, Nissan Frontier, Toyota Tacoma.
What it looks like: A Chevrolet Silverado 1500 zapped with a shrink ray.
Powertrains: 237-hp or 310-hp, 2.7-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine; 8-speed automatic transmission; rear- or four-wheel drive.
Price: $26,000-$46,000 (estimated).
On sale: Spring 2023.

2023 Chevrolet Colorado truck family
The 2023 Chevrolet Colorado family: LT, Trail Boss, and ZR2.

Photo: Chevrolet Photo: Chevrolet

CR's Take

Launched for the 2015 model year, the current Chevrolet Colorado (and twin GMC Canyon) is due for a redesign. It simply hasn’t been competitive. Those trucks have middling road-test scores for their segment. 

Sure, the current trucks have their virtues, such as relatively responsive handling and simple controls. But the driving position is awkward, the ride is choppy, and the seats are uncomfortable. Plus, both reliability and owner satisfaction have been critical shortcomings, with CR members consistently reporting both are well below average. 

We hope this redesigned truck brings improvements in all those areas. It does look sharp, with a clear design connection to the full-sized Silverado trucks. 

There’s no longer an extended cab, long bed body style offered for drivers who need to haul stuff more than people. GM explained that it was focused on what most customers want and on simplifying manufacturing complexity when mapping out the variations for this new truck. There are many configurations for buyers to choose from, especially for those who favor venturing off pavement. 

Along with increased power, the move to a four-cylinder turbo engine may bring fuel-economy gains, something that would be more persuasive in the current market than doubling down on off-road ability. 

There are a number of detail changes that sound promising, such as the upgraded interior, larger infotainment system screen, and available tailgate storage, to name a few. 

But probably the most significant change, beyond the powertrain, is making core advanced safety features standard equipment across the range. Previously, forward collision warning and other common systems required buying a higher trim and even then adding an options package. We applaud this move and look forward to experiencing the truck when we buy one to test.

2023 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 front
2023 Chevrolet Colorado Z71.

Photo: Chevrolet Photo: Chevrolet

Outside

The Colorado looks like a scaled-down version of the Silverado. There’s a much closer visual connection than ever before, and even the various trim levels mirror the Silverado offerings, including the new Trail Boss. The Colorado’s more modern appearance, with complex geometric shapes in the body and around the grille, makes the rival Ford Ranger look dowdy by comparison. 

It rides on a wheelbase that’s 3.1 inches longer than the 2022 Colorado crew cab with the short bed yet preserves the same 213-inch overall length. This enables a shorter front overhang that provides a more aggressive approach angle for off-roading. 

The bed measures 5 feet, 2 inches. Longer items can be handled by positioning the tailgate halfway open. There are eight tie downs, with the ability to add nine more, to help secure cargo. Four stake pockets on the bed rails allow for adding side walls or a ladder rack, helpful for commercial use. There are pockets in the bed to allow 2x6-inch lumber to be used for breaking up the storage space. Options include remote tailgate lock/unlocking, a 110-volt bed outlet, and a spray-on bed liner.

There are three distinct chassis configurations, with taller versions for off-road trims that enable more ground clearance and beefier tires:

  • WT and LT trims:  7.9 inches of ground clearance.
  • Z71: 8.9 inches of ground clearance.
  • Trail Boss: a 2-inch lift and 9.5 inches of ground clearance.
  • ZR2 : a 3-inch lift and 10.7 inches of ground clearance.

The ZR2 is the ultimate off-roader in the lineup, with 33-inch tires, special shock absorbers, cast-iron control arms, additional protective skid plates underneath, unique front and rear bumpers, and rocker panel protection. 

Plus, when folded down, the inside of the tailgate on the ZR2 can open to expose a 45-inch wide, 4-inch deep storage compartment. 

There’s a special-edition ZR2 Desert Boss package, inspired by desert racing, that adds bead-lock-capable wheels to reduce the risk of tire separation when rock crawling, a roof-mounted light bar, an off-road bumper, an underbody camera, a sports bar for the bed with sail panels, and obligatory decals. 

Numerous options can further outfit the truck for adventure, including off-road lights, bed rails, side steps, and tailgate audio.

2023 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 interior
The interior of the 2023 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2.

Photo: Chevrolet Photo: Chevrolet

Inside

The cabin looks quite modern, with a striking 8-inch instrument panel display and large center 11.3-inch infotainment screen as standard equipment on all versions. Even with all that digital real estate, there are still plenty of physical buttons and switches to control climate, four-wheel drive, and other features.

The WT and Trail Boss have a simple, all-business design with a plain black decor. The LT is dressed up with silver accents, more soft-touch surfaces, and a premium steering wheel. The Z71 and ZR2 look rugged but more upscale. They have cloth-and-leatherette upholstery, color accents, and more equipment, like cruise control, a sliding back window, and a 110-volt outlet in the front console.

A powered moonroof will be offered for the first time on a Colorado.

What Drives It

The Colorado is fitted with a 2.7-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine adapted from the full-sized Silverado and upgraded to produce more torque. It will be offered in three configurations, all with an eight-speed automatic transmission engineered to balance comfort and off-road durability. Each uses regular gas. 

The base engine produces 237 horsepower, and it allows a 3,500-pound maximum tow capacity. This is significantly more powerful than the 200-hp four-cylinder engine in the 2022 Colorado.

The midlevel “Turbo Plus” has 310 horsepower, 390 lb.-ft. of torque, and a 7,700-pound max tow capacity. There’s a “High-Output” version with the same horsepower, but the torque peak is elevated to 430 lb.-ft. There’s no change in tow rating. 

These 310-hp engines produce more horsepower and torque than the 3.6-liter V6 and the 2.8-liter turbodiesel offered in the 2022 Colorado. 

There are up to five driver-selectable modes, depending on the model, to harness the increased off-road and trailering abilities: Normal, Off-Road, Terrain (low-speed off-road), Baja (high-speed off-road), and Tow/Haul. 

Some tech features further assist with trailering, starting with a hitch guide on the backup camera display to help line up a trailer, and a zoomed-in view to position the hitch ball with the trailer coupler. In total, Colorado offers up to 10 exterior camera views. The Chevrolet Trailering App is accessible through the infotainment system or a smartphone, and it assists with trailering, from making connections to summoning roadside assistance. 

Two-wheel drive is available only on the WT and LT trims. The others come standard with four-wheel drive. 

Safety and Driver Assistance Systems

All Colorados are equipped with Chevy Safety Assist, which includes forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane keeping assistance, lane departure warning, and automatic high beams. 

This suite can be augmented on all trims with adaptive cruise control, active blind spot warning, and rear cross traffic warning with reverse automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection. The Super Cruise hands-free active driving assistance feature won’t be offered on the Colorado.


Jeff S. Bartlett

A New England native, I have piloted a wide variety of vehicles, from a Segway to an aircraft carrier. All told, I have driven thousands of vehicles—many on race tracks across the globe. Today, that experience and passion are harnessed at the CR Auto Test Center to empower consumers. And if some tires must be sacrificed in the pursuit of truth, so be it. Follow me on Twitter (@JeffSBartlett).