I drove a $42,000 Chevy Colorado Z71 to see if the pickup truck could live up to its aggressive looks - here's the verdict

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2019 Chevy Colorado Z71Matthew DeBord/BI

  • The 2019 Chevy Colorado Z71 is a bold and aggressive mid-size pickup truck.
  • At $42,000, the Chevy Colorado Z71 is not exactly cheap.
  • But the pickup is every bit as good as its siblings, the base Colorado and the offroad-optimized ZR2.

With its Colorado mid-size pickup, Chevy basically revived the small truck segment in the US. I first sampled the pickup back in 2015 when it was first rolled out and have since enjoyed the ZR2 top-trim level, and more recently, a $42,000 Chevy Colorado Z71.

There's an argument to be made that of all the pickups, big and small, on the road today, the Colorado does the best job of serving the needs of most non-professional pickup owners. I'm talking about the weekend warriors who need to haul mountain bikes to trails, or home-improvement obsessives who have VIP status at Home Depot. These people need a truck bed and a back seat, but they don't need the scale of a full-size truck.

The Colorado fulfills their needs while adding an excellent, modern infotainment system and a compliant ride that isn't too carlike.

The Z71 "Midnight Edition" package I tested brings edge and aggression to this vibe. The base Colorado is a versatile contemporary mid-size pickup, and the ZR2 is at home offroad. But the Z71 gets you noticed.

And noticed I was in the New Jersey suburbs while putting the Colorado Z71 through its paces. Read on to see how it went.

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The Chevy Colorado landed at our suburban New Jersey test center sporting a menacing all-black exterior.

The Chevy Colorado landed at our suburban New Jersey test center sporting a menacing all-black exterior.

This pickup was the Z71 trim level. The "Midnight Edition" special package added roughly $5,000 to the base price of $37,000.

This pickup was the Z71 trim level. The "Midnight Edition" special package added roughly $5,000 to the base price of $37,000.

Last winter, we checked out a Chevy Silverado Z71 — the Colorado Z71's big brother.

Last winter, we checked out a Chevy Silverado Z71 — the Colorado Z71's big brother.

Read the review.

As far as the "Midnight" package goes — Chevy isn't messing around! The Colorado was all blacked-out, with both the grille and the Chevy bowtie marque given the noir treatment. No exactly chrome town.

As far as the "Midnight" package goes — Chevy isn't messing around! The Colorado was all blacked-out, with both the grille and the Chevy bowtie marque given the noir treatment. No exactly chrome town.

Scary!

Scary!

A closer look. This is rugged black-tie, folks.

A closer look. This is rugged black-tie, folks.

The Colorado has been a successful mid-size pickup for Chevy, reviving that market after General Motors and other automakers left it to Toyota. I've been quite impressed with the platform.

The Colorado has been a successful mid-size pickup for Chevy, reviving that market after General Motors and other automakers left it to Toyota. I've been quite impressed with the platform.

Most recently, I enjoyed the Colorado in offroading-oriented ZR2 trim. It was an outstanding pickup.

Most recently, I enjoyed the Colorado in offroading-oriented ZR2 trim. It was an outstanding pickup.

Read the review.

The Z71 also boasts serious offroad cred ...

The Z71 also boasts serious offroad cred ...

... With all-terrain tires and a proper four-wheel-drive system, complete with a locking differential and a hill-descent mode.

... With all-terrain tires and a proper four-wheel-drive system, complete with a locking differential and a hill-descent mode.

A Z71 suspension bolsters the Colorado's capabilities.

A Z71 suspension bolsters the Colorado's capabilities.

Getting in and out of the short-bed is made easier by recessed steps ...

Getting in and out of the short-bed is made easier by recessed steps ...

... On either side of the Colorado's rear bumper.

... On either side of the Colorado's rear bumper.

The blacked-out bowtie badge is replicated on the liftgate.

The blacked-out bowtie badge is replicated on the liftgate.

You're not getting much chrome on this truck.

You're not getting much chrome on this truck.

And the nameplate reminds you that a beefy engine lurks beneath the hood. More on that in a second.

And the nameplate reminds you that a beefy engine lurks beneath the hood. More on that in a second.

Short boxes are fine for sport trucks. A bigger bed is what you need for hauling around house-building supplies, not mountain bikes. If it isn't enough, you can always hitch up a trailer: the Colorado Z71 with a V6 motor can tow an impressive 7,000 lbs.

Short boxes are fine for sport trucks. A bigger bed is what you need for hauling around house-building supplies, not mountain bikes. If it isn't enough, you can always hitch up a trailer: the Colorado Z71 with a V6 motor can tow an impressive 7,000 lbs.

Our test truck came with a sprayed-on bedliner.

Our test truck came with a sprayed-on bedliner.

Low-key tail-lights are just about the only low-key elements.

Low-key tail-lights are just about the only low-key elements.

The Colorado Z71 is a pretty dashing pickup. Not too big, not too small, and plenty aggressive.

The Colorado Z71 is a pretty dashing pickup. Not too big, not too small, and plenty aggressive.

How about we take a look under the hood?

How about we take a look under the hood?

The 3.6-liter V6 makes a purposeful 308 horsepower and is a reminder in the age of turbocharged four-pots that GM has always been good at sixes. Fuel-economy is an appealing 17 mpg city/24 highway/19 combined — not great, but also no bad given the oomph provided by the V6.

The 3.6-liter V6 makes a purposeful 308 horsepower and is a reminder in the age of turbocharged four-pots that GM has always been good at sixes. Fuel-economy is an appealing 17 mpg city/24 highway/19 combined — not great, but also no bad given the oomph provided by the V6.

This runner makes stepping in and out of the Colorado a breeze.

This runner makes stepping in and out of the Colorado a breeze.

The black interior is nothing fancy. The seats are comfortable, but the synthetic upholstery and heavy-duty floor mats are intended to endure abuse. The seats are heated, a nice touch.

The black interior is nothing fancy. The seats are comfortable, but the synthetic upholstery and heavy-duty floor mats are intended to endure abuse. The seats are heated, a nice touch.

The rear seats in the "Crew" configuration are a simple bench design. Adults can squeeze in, but we're not dealing with a full-size rig here.

The rear seats in the "Crew" configuration are a simple bench design. Adults can squeeze in, but we're not dealing with a full-size rig here.

Nothing snazzy for the driver to look at, just analog gauges and a gold (not black) bowtie badge. Even though the Colorado Z71 is optimized for performance offroading, the steering around town was remarkably car-like. The steering wheel is also heated.

Nothing snazzy for the driver to look at, just analog gauges and a gold (not black) bowtie badge. Even though the Colorado Z71 is optimized for performance offroading, the steering around town was remarkably car-like. The steering wheel is also heated.

That's right! You crank the ignition with an old-school key!

That's right! You crank the ignition with an old-school key!

The eight-speed automatic handles the Colorado Z71 power without straining. Shifts are smooth.

The eight-speed automatic handles the Colorado Z71 power without straining. Shifts are smooth.

I've driven three different versions of the Colorado and the pickup always puts a smile on my face. This truck is bliss to live with.

I've driven three different versions of the Colorado and the pickup always puts a smile on my face. This truck is bliss to live with.

Built with pride in Missouri.

Built with pride in Missouri.

The eight-inch touchscreen runs Chevy's superb MyLink infotainment system. Note the knobs and buttons, however. Sometimes, the old ways are best, especially when it's cold and you're wearing gloves.

The eight-inch touchscreen runs Chevy's superb MyLink infotainment system. Note the knobs and buttons, however. Sometimes, the old ways are best, especially when it's cold and you're wearing gloves.

The Colorado doesn't have a crazy awesome audio setup, but it sounds fine. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also available, as is 4G LTE wifi, along with the usual USB/AUX ports for devices.

The Colorado doesn't have a crazy awesome audio setup, but it sounds fine. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also available, as is 4G LTE wifi, along with the usual USB/AUX ports for devices.

So what's the verdict on the Chevy Colorado Z71?

So what's the verdict on the Chevy Colorado Z71?

Interestingly, I tested the Colorado Z71 right after sampling the all-new Silverado — and I liked the Colorado better!

The comparison isn't fair, but for a lot of folks who favor the idea of a pickup yet balk at the idea of parking a big ol' Silverado in the driveway, the Colorado is the ideal compromise. And unlike the small, basic, starter trucks of the 1980s, the Colorado is properly a mid-size. It can handle outdoorsy weekend fun, home-improvement projects, and still haul around a family of four.

The mechanically similar GMC Canyon is more luxurious, the stalwart Toyota Tacoma has decades of reliability to back it up, and the Honda Ridgeline is probably the best choice as a pickup truck for the 'burbs. But the Colorado is the mid-size pickup that I think puts everything together in the most complete and compelling way. The Ridgeline, for example, is a pickup that acts totally like a car — it's the modern-day El Camino. The Taco is a darn serious truck — maybe too serious. The Colorado, meanwhile, is very much a pickup, but with just enough accommodations to non-truck livin' to rise to the top of the pack.

Now, do you need the Z71 package? It does add thousands to the price tag, and when it's all said and done, the $42,000 Z71 that I sampled isn't much cheaper than the top-of-the-line, $43,500 ZR2 I tested last year. But the ZR2 has more of a hit-the-dunes vibe to it, while the Z71 is just a 4x4 Colorado with some added flash and beefed up performance aspects. So if you have plans for your Colorado that might be more on the brash side, and if you don't mind the menacing appearances, the Z71 trim is at least worth a gander.

I sort of wound up ignoring some of the Z71 jazz while I was testing the truck, but when it came time to savor the punch of the V6 and at least consider the notion of getting down in the mud and muck or thinking about hitching 7,000 lbs. to the rear end, I appreciated the extras. The Colorado Z71 just feels beefy, for a mid-size pickup, even if the 0-60 mph dash happens at a relatively leisurely 7-8 seconds. The velocity just feels more substantial, thanks the to V6's horsepower.

Beyond that stuff, the Z71 looks bold on the outside, but it's a mostly mellow place to spend time on the inside. The durable interior doesn't demand weekly cleanups, and when tooling around town, the Colorado presents few difficulties with parking or weaving through traffic. But you can decide on the spur of the moment to swing by the garden center and load up on gravel or mulch or buy a couple of trees.

You also know that if the weather or roadways turn foul, you have a robust 4x4 pickup to deal with nature's worst. And if you favor an active lifestyle that abjures pavement, the Colorado Z71 can handle challenging and tricky trails.

The bottom line is that the Chevy Colorado Z71 is a worthy member of the Colorado family.

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