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2018 Toyota Tacoma vs. 2018 Chevrolet Colorado: Which Is Better?

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author photo by Chris O'Neill August 2018
  • The 2018 Toyota Tacoma offers industry-leading resale value.
  • The 2018 Chevrolet Colorado offers more space and a much better infotainment system than the Tacoma.
  • Both vehicles offer exciting off-road trim levels.

Here in 2018, there may not be a more exciting vehicle segment than that of the midsize pickup. Blame affordable gas prices, the nostalgia factor or some combination of the two, but the segment that was on life support just a few years ago is now booming, with new players like Ford and Jeep scheduled to re-enter the segment over the next few years. For now, though, the two leaders in the midsize truck realm are the 2018 Toyota Tacoma and the 2018 Chevrolet Colorado, and there's a lot to like about both. So much, in fact, that it's tough to tell which is the better buy today. Below we'll explore various attributes of both, with some hope of making sense of it all and determining which of these two is the ultimate compact pickup.

Background

First introduced in 1995, the Tacoma received a full redesign for the 2016 model year, taking it into its third generation. Historically, Toyota is an extremely conservative institution, and this is evident in the design of the Tacoma. It's a vehicle that has long eschewed fancy technology in favor of simplicity, which has contributed greatly to its renowned reliability and industry-leading resale value.

The Colorado was re-introduced to the U.S. market for the 2015 model year. Although it's been on sale elsewhere in the world since 2012, the Colorado skipped a few model years in the U.S. The current-generation model is a follow-up to the Colorado sold here from 2004 to 2012, which was the successor to the venerable S-10. While Chevrolet has followed the Tacoma's formula in its development of the Colorado, it's yet to be seen whether the current Colorado is as robust as its Japanese competitor. This is an area in which General Motors has historically underperformed, and it's likely that this fact alone will contribute to the Colorado experiencing slightly more aggressive depreciation than the Tacoma. The Colorado makes up for this, however, by offering buyers more when it comes to available powertrains, amenities and cabin technology.

Both the Tacoma and Colorado are built in the U.S. Tacoma production takes place at Toyota's plant in San Antonio, Texas, while the Colorado is assembled just outside of St. Louis, Missouri.

Trim Levels

The 2018 Toyota Tacoma is offered in a number of trim levels starting with the basic SR and SR5 models. Next up is the popular TRD sport model which features a sport-tuned suspension and a number of stylish trim pieces, such as a hood scoop and 17-inch wheels. Buyers looking to go off-road will want to look to either the TRD Off-Road or TRD Pro trim levels, either of which offers excellent off-road features like off-road suspension, a locking rear differential and available Crawl Control and Terrain Select modes, among other features. The TRD Pro sweetens this proposition by adding heavy-duty Fox suspension that gives the vehicle a 1-in lift, a ¼-in aluminum front-skid plate, blacked-out wheels, a TRD exhaust and a blacked-out grille featuring the "TOYOTA" wordmark, among other things. Priced between the TRD Off-Road and TRD Pro is the Tacoma Limited, which offers luxury touches like 18-in wheels, leather seats and a sunroof.

As of 2018, all trim levels come with Toyota Safety Sense driver-assist features as standard.

The Colorado doesn't offer as many trim levels as the Tacoma, but still covers most of the bases. At the bottom of the lineup is the humble WT, or "Work Truck." From there, buyers can step up to the LT trim, which adds amenities like an 8-in infotainment screen, 17-in wheels and body-colored trim pieces. Next up are the off-road-oriented Z71 and ZR2 models which are targeted squarely at the Tacoma TRD Off-Road and TRD Pro, respectively. Like the TRD Off-Road, the Z71 offers an off-road suspension, all-terrain tires and an (automatically) locking rear differential, but lacks the electronic off-road features of the TRD Off-Road and has an overall less-aggressive aesthetic. The ZR2 really kicks things up a notch, with high-tech spool-valve off-road suspension that gives the vehicle an increased ride height and wider overall track; a high-clearance off-road front bumper and unique hood and grille; lockable rear and front differentials; and rock rails.

Configurations

Both the Colorado and Tacoma offer essentially the same available configurations with regard to cab size and available bed lengths. When it comes to cab size, buyers have their choice of either an extended cab with two doors and room for four (barely), or a crew cab, with four doors and room for five. Neither the Colorado or Tacoma offers a single cab model. In both vehicles, the extended cab comes with a long bed, while crew cab models are available with either a short or long bed.

The Tacoma's short bed measures 5 feet in length while its long bed is 6 feet. The Colorado adds an extra 2 inches to both sizes.

Available configurations diverge when it comes to the top-tier off-road trim levels. The Tacoma TRD Pro is only available as a crew cab with the shorter 5-ft bed. The Colorado ZR2, on the other hand, can be configured either as a crew cab with a short bed, or as an extended cab with a long bed.

Powertrains

The Tacoma is offered with two powertrains. Lower-end models get a 2.7-liter 4-cylinder making 159 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque and paired with a 6-speed automatic. The majority of Tacomas on dealer lots, though, will be equipped with a 3.5-liter V6 making 278 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque and mated to either a 6-speed automatic or a 6-speed manual.

Configured with the 6-cylinder engine, automatic transmission and four-wheel drive, the Tacoma earns 18 miles per gallon in the city, 22 mpg on the highway and 20 mpg in combined driving.

The Colorado differentiates itself from the Tacoma by offering a diesel engine in addition to two gas powerplants. Lower-end, gas-powered models get a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine making 200 hp and 191 lb-ft of torque. Optional is a 3.6-liter V6 good for 308 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque. The Colorado's diesel engine is a 2.8-liter 4-cylinder Duramax making 181 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. While the diesel offers a best-in-class 7,700-lb towing capacity, consensus is that this engine is pretty slow; the diesel Colorado takes 9.7 seconds to accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour, while the V6 model needs only 7.1. The diesel carries a hefty price premium as well, adding at least $3,000 to the cost of the vehicle, depending on trim level. A 6-speed manual or automatic is available with the base engine, while the diesel gets a 6-speed automatic, and the V6 comes with an 8-speed automatic.

With the V6, automatic and 4WD, the Colorado earns 17 mpg city/24 mpg hwy/19 mpg combined. With the diesel, those figures increase to 20, 28 and 23, respectively.

Reliability

Tacomas are known for their reliability, which is part of the reason they hold their value so well. Colorados are still relatively new to the market, so it's difficult to assess their reliability. Nonetheless, both vehicles come with a 3-year/36,000-mile basic and 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Safety

In third-party crash testing conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, both the Tacoma and Colorado receive crashworthiness scores of "Good" across the board. The Tacoma scores additional points for its driver-assist collision-avoidance systems.

Speaking of driver-assist safety technology, all 2018 Tacomas come standard with automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.

The Colorado offers only forward-collision alert and lane-departure warning, both of which are optional.

Technology and Infotainment

The Colorado blows the Tacoma away when it comes to infotainment, and it isn't even close.

The Tacoma offers a rather weak infotainment experience for a vehicle for sale in the year 2018. Most trim levels are available with a 7-in touchscreen, but buyers are forced to tolerate Toyota's antiquated and highly-limited proprietary Entune infotainment system; like most Toyota products, the Tacoma eschews Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. These systems may become available in the future, but for now, the Tacoma lags sorely behind the competition when it comes to infotainment. Still, the Tacoma does offer an available wireless charging pad for compatible mobile phones and a JBL audio system.

Save for the base and WT trims, the Colorado comes with an 8-in infotainment screen running Chevrolet's MyLink infotainment system and complete with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. 4G LTE with Wi-Fi is also available. The Colorado also offers four USB ports to the Tacoma's one.

Interior Dimensions

With 41.4 inches of headroom and 45 inches of legroom, the Colorado offers best-in-class front seat dimensions, almost on par with those offered in the full-size Silverado. The Tacoma offers a still-manageable 39.7 inches of headroom and 42.9 inches of legroom up front.

Being that these are trucks, neither offers a particularly comfortable back seat experience. The crew cab Colorado offers 38.3 inches of headroom and 35.8 inches of legroom in the rear, while the four-door Tacoma offers an identical 38.3 inches of headroom, but a paltry 32.6 inches of legroom.

The Beds

The Colorado also offers more space in the bed. The Tacoma's short bed measures 5 feet in length and has 38 cu ft. of room, while the Colorado's short bed measures 5 feet, 2 inches in length and offers 41 cu ft. of space. The long bed is more of the same: The Tacoma's is 6 feet and offers 47 cu ft. of storage, while the Colorado offers an extra 2 inches and 50 cu ft. of space overall.

The Tacoma offers a unique composite bed that doesn't require a bedliner, as it is already made of a bedliner-like material. The Colorado, on the other hand, offers a regular steel bed and a spray-on bedliner as a $475 optional extra, except for in the ZR2 where it comes standard.

The Tacoma's bed also comes standard with a deck rail system and two convenient storage compartments, and is also available with a 120-volt, 3-prong power outlet.

Interior

While both vehicles offer a trucklike, functional interior, they receive criticism for using too much hard plastic. The Colorado offers a standard power adjustable driver's seat and optional power adjustable passenger seat, while no trim level of the Tacoma offers power seats.

Both trucks have available leather-seating surfaces, including on their off-road trim levels, making for easy cleaning after a day out in the dirt.

Overall though, neither truck offers interior refinement on par with what you'd find in a comparably-priced midsize sedan, which is to say that both Toyota and Chevrolet seem to have invested their development budgets into other parts of the vehicle.

Aftermarket

Since it's been around longer and therefore has a larger enthusiast following, the Tacoma offers a greater overall variety of available aftermarket accessories, including suspensions, roof racks, underbody protection, bed caps and storage systems, among other things.

As it's still fairly new to the market, the Colorado doesn't quite have the aftermarket support of the Tacoma, but Chevrolet has taken measures to rectify this on its own by offering a number of attractive accessories, including a roll-bar with overhead auxiliary lights and a bed-mounted spare tire carrier.

Conclusions

Both the Tacoma and Colorado offer immense utility, functionality and, on certain trim levels, grin-inducing off-road bliss. After examining both vehicles, though, you can start to see the different strategies employed by their respective manufacturers. Having been top-dog in the midsize truck market for over two decades now, Toyota has taken an extremely conservative approach with the Tacoma, offering tried and true engine and transmission combinations that contribute to the vehicle's renowned dependability, but have also started to feel a bit dated in the modern era. Add in the lacking infotainment experience and cramped cabin quarters, and the Tacoma is left with fewer tangible selling points.

Chevrolet, knowing that the Colorado hasn't yet earned the same reputation as the Tacoma, has turned its offering up a notch with regard to infotainment, cabin dimensions and its top-tier off-road offering -- the ZR2 -- which is a slightly more in-your-face vehicle than the Tacoma TRD Pro. Add in the fact that the Colorado offers a diesel engine, and Chevrolet's offering becomes a lot more interesting.

When it comes down to it, the Tacoma really only bests the Colorado in two objective areas: driver-assist safety features and reputation, neither of which should be ignored. Whether that's enough to sway you one way or the other is up to you.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2018 Toyota Tacoma vs. 2018 Chevrolet Colorado: Which Is Better? - Autotrader