2015 Mid-Size Truck Shootout: Colorado vs. Tacoma vs. Frontier + Video

Jan. 07, 2015 By Josh Burns, Photos by Josh Burns and Scott Rousseau, Video by Jay McNally

Stagnant. Boring. Neglected. There are plenty of adjectives that can be used to describe the mid-size truck market the past few years, but “exciting” certainly isn’t one of them. With hardly any manufacturers left in the class, save for Toyota and Nissan, it’s as if the mid-size segment parallels the fading sport of boxing – it once garnered the attention of fans the world over, but now many have left and moved on to something else.

Where some see a dying segment, Chevrolet sees opportunity. Parrying questions and counterpunching the doubters, Chevy looks to deliver a roundhouse kick to the head of the mid-size truck market much like UFC did with professional fighting. UFC could see the potential of mixed martial arts if it presented the right product, and Chevy has that same vision of the mid-size market, and it believes it has constructed a head-turner with the all-new Colorado. Chevy appears to have produced a fighter worthy of entering the mid-size truck Octagon for 2015, and all of the sudden it looks like we have a fight on our hands.

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Tale of the Tape
The all-new 2015 Chevy Colorado is clearly what prompted this test, and like Bruce Buffer hailing the start of a UFC main event fight, “It’s time!” to kick off our Mid-Size Truck Shootout. Putting these mid-size fighters to the test would be Powersports Editorial Director Sean Alexander, Editor-in-Chief of our sister site DirtBikes.com Scott Rousseau, and Off-Road.com Editor-in-Chief Josh Burns.

The all-new 2015 Chevy Colorado features sleek, sporty styling. For our test Chevrolet removed the air damn from the bottom of the front bumper, because although it aids in fuel economy it reduces ground clearance significantly for off-highway use.

 Highs:     Lows:
  • Smooth Steering
  • Class-Leading Fuel Economy
  • Heated Seats
  • Multi-Stage Heated Seats
  • Limited Suspension Travel
  • No Manual Rear Diff Lock
  • Plastic Interior Components
  • No Rear Cargo Extras Standard

The newcomer Colorado enters the ring with its chest puffed out and its head held high, thanks to its class-leading 305 horsepower produced by its 3.6-liter V6. The Colorado’s motor is the thriftiest at the pump as well. Even Chevrolet would agree that the last version of the Colorado wasn’t quite up to the challenge of earning the segment’s belt, so the team hit the gym to chisel a truck with more style, muscle, refinement, and improved agility. The question is: Did Chevy build an also-ran competitor, or is this the next mid-size champion?

The Toyota Tacoma T/X Baja Series truck in our test features upgraded suspension that provides a 1.5-inch lift up front and a 1-inch lift out back over stock. This gives the truck a taller stance than the other trucks in the class and the most ground clearance to boot.

 Highs:     Lows:
  • 66mm Bilstein w/Remote Reservoir Front Shocks
  • Suspension Travel
  • Ground Clearance
  • Upgraded BFGoodrich T/A KO
  • High Price Tag
  • T/X Baja Graphics
  • Loose Steering
  • Rear Drum Brakes

During the 10-year lifespan of the second-generation Tacoma, Toyota could draw comparisons to Anderson Silva’s long run of dominance in the Octagon. Since its introduction in 2005 the Tacoma has yet to be knocked down in the ring and has retained the belt for best-selling truck each and every year during that time. Available with either a five-speed automatic or a (rare and hard-to-find) six-speed manual transmission, the Tacoma’s 4.0-liter V6 motor may produce the lowest horsepower and torque figures of the bunch, but it enters the ring with a huge lead in consumer confidence and all the sales to back it up. For our test, Toyota provided its 2014 T/X Baja Series package, highlighted by a race-inspired Bilstein shock and spring package, TRD wheels fitted with BFGoodrich T/A KO all-terrain tires and an upgraded TRD exhaust. We expect this truck to deliver knockout blows in the dirt, but will it have enough all-around performance to retain the class title?

The Nissan Frontier has sat on the same fully boxed ladder frame since 2004, but Nissan did restyle the front end in 2009. Sure, both it and the Tacoma are due for an overall, but the Nissan still is a nice-looking truck in spite of its age.

 Highs:     Lows:
  • Sunroof
  • Dual Climate Control
  • Heated Seats
  • Locking Rear Diff
  • Heavy Steering
  • Flat Seats
  • Dated Interior
  • Poor Fuel Economy

Although the Frontier hasn’t won the battle against the Tacoma in last few years, the Nissan still has plenty left in its tank with its focus on providing value. A wily veteran with a few tricks up its sleeve, our 4x4 PRO-4X is the only truck in the class to feature a sunroof, dual-zone climate control, backup sensors (which can easily be switched-off) and a roof rack for added storage up top. Much like the Tacoma, the second-gen Frontier is saddled with dated styling... it was first introduced in 2005 and only received a minor facelift in 2009. The Frontier’s 4.0-liter V6 produces a class-leading 281 lb.-ft. of torque and sits mid-pack in horsepower with a respectable 261. However, but its combined 17 mpg is the lowest EPA fuel economy rating of the group. The Frontier is powered by a five-speed automatic transmission, and like the Tacoma it also has an optional six-speed manual. Will its value-minded proposition be enough to keep it in the fight?

Mid-Size Truck Shootout Shortcuts
Jump to: Engine, Speed Testing

Jump to: Handling, Suspension

Jump to: Towing, Ergomomics & Features

Jump to: Additional Features, Conclusion


Next Page... 2015 Mid-Size Truck Shootout

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