My friend wanted a pickup. He travels during the week for his white-collar job, and on weekends helps out with house projects in the neighborhood.
He’d take out the seats to load up the minivan with tools, materials and sawhorses. Yet he couldn’t convince the more pragmatic part of the family that a pickup made the most sense, as a married father of three.
He ended up getting a Honda Pilot.
He still wants a truck. Most guys do. So do most kids.
The return of the midsize pickup segment, led by the 2015 return of the GMC Canyon and Chevy Colorado, followed by the Pilot-based Honda Ridgeline, are making a lot of consumers consider swapping that crossover for a pickup.
With modern pickups offering all the creature comforts and technological sophistication of their car-based counterparts, the line of family utility has become blurred. A week with the 2017 Chevy Colorado shows as many arguments could be made for it as against it.
For a family of five, like my friend’s, you’d need a second vehicle with a third row. There’s no wedging three kids in the rear seats like on family road trips of years gone by. Even with my family of three, I’d want a second vehicle. On a typical errand-driven weekend, we had to move the sport bags and the groceries from the bed to the rear seat to run another errand. That inconvenience is easily resolved with a locking bed cover, but the crossover is more practical for most family weekends. For people without kids, those flip-up rear seats do just fine to securely store everything.
Yet pickups are social creatures, good for tailgating, monkeying around in the bed, and helping people out. There’s nothing better for the weekend handyman, lifetime family man than a midsize pickup.
Pickups are more fun to drive. Not in the sense of hitting the corner with a hot hatch, but more in the sense of hunting for the next snow bank. There’s a can-do attitude in a pickup that makes crossovers seem delicate by comparison. Taking that $45,000 Pilot or Ford Explorer off-road down a well-trodden and rutted path can be done, but not nearly with the same conquering verve. A crossover can take a path. A pickup can take the woods.
How often would you be doing such things? More often than if you were in a crossover.
Pickups are more fun to push around town, too. Aside from dedicated performance crossovers, a subsegment that has proliferated in the last few years, a pickup has more pick up.
The new V-6 engine paired to the eight-speed in the Colorado is plenty peppy, and the responsiveness fits with the feel of a truck. It makes a bit more horsepower (308 over 305), but also has cylinder deactivation to shut down those that are unnecessary at cruising speed and reserve fuel. We averaged just under 20 mpg at just under 39 mph, comparable to the fuel economy of many midsize crossovers.
Pickups have convenient and functional technology without the sophisticated — often times confusing — packaging that comes in most crossovers. Certainly, a shopper can trim up and get all the beeps, dings and shakes, but there’s some comfort in low-level models like the WT trim on the Colorado, a vehicle that costs less than the average new car.
A midsize also can fit into most garages and parallel parking spots.
There’s a small touch screen, but the climate and radio functions still use buttons and dials. The radio could use a dial tuner instead of a tedious arrow button, but the inconvenience is overcome by setting presets. The only steering wheel control was for cruise control.
The vehicle information display is accessed from the indicator stalk, so aside from the weak touch screen, most everything can be controlled with calloused or gloved hands. The Colorado gives you what you need, plus some convenient standard equipment like Wi-Fi access, Apple Car Play, Android Auto and a rear seat reminder of the precious living cargo in the rear seats. Offered on more than 20 models, GM’s rear seat reminder monitors rear door usage within 10 minutes of starting the car or any time the engine is in motion and, once shut off, alerts the driver with a message in the information display and a series of quick dings, not unlike cars that ding when the headlights are left on. It’s a proactive step forward in helping harried drivers remember pets and babies in back.
It’s another blurring of the line between crossover and midsize pickup, which, from the right side of the argument, can double as a family vehicle.
2017 Chevy Colorado 4WD WT
Vehicle type: Midsize pickup
Base price: $30,820
As tested: $32,775
Mpg: 17 city, 24 highway
Engine: 3.6-liter V-6
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic