The 2019 Chevrolet Colorado introduces a new top off-road trim, the ZR2 Bison.
The Toyota Tacoma comes standard with a full suite of driver-assistance safety features.
For the past few years, the two leading midsize pickups on the market have been the Toyota Tacoma and the Chevrolet Colorado. Both offer a variety of benefits, such as loads of utility, mechanical simplicity and fun off-road variants. Here we’ll take a look at their updates for the 2019 model year and attempt to determine which is the better buy in 2019.
The Tacoma was fully re-designed for the 2016 model year and offers a unique mix of extreme simplicity with a few modern features, such as radar cruise control and blind spot monitoring. Its strongest selling points are its renowned reliability and its resale value. See the 2019 Toyota Tacoma models for sale near you
After a brief hiatus, a new Colorado went on sale in the U.S. for the 2015 model year. Chevrolet has mirrored Toyota pretty closely in its design and packaging of the Colorado, but the verdict’s still out on whether the Colorado matches the Tacoma’s impressive long-term reliability. As General Motors has historically struggled in this area, the Colorado will likely see slightly more aggressive depreciation than its Japanese counterpart. Still, the Colorado offers more when it comes to available powertrains, off-road trim levels and infotainment technology, which serves to close the gap a little with the venerable Tacoma. See the 2019 Chevrolet Colorado models for sale near you
The Colorado and the Tacoma are both built in the U.S., with Tacoma production taking place in San Antonio, Texas, and Colorado production occurring in St. Louis, Missouri.
The Tacoma line starts with the basic SR and SR5 trim levels. Step up from the SR5, and buyers are looking at the TRD Sport model, which offers road-tuned suspension and a variety of stylish trim pieces like 17-inch wheels, body-colored fender flares and a hood scoop. Buyers wanting to take to the dirt should look toward a TRD Off-Road or TRD Pro model. The TRD Off-Road offers 16-in wheels, Bilstein suspension, standard all-terrain tires, a locking rear differential, Toyota’s Multi-Terrain Select and Crawl Control features, as well as black plastic fender flares.
The TRD Pro adds to the TRD Off-Road with heavy-duty Fox off-road suspension that results in a 1.0-in lift, black wheels offering an additional inch of track width, a quarter-inch aluminum front skid plate, a TRD exhaust, blacked out headlight and taillight bezels and a black plastic "TOYOTA" wordmark grille, among a few other things. New for the 2019 TRD Pro model is an optional fender-mounted desert air intake that relocates the vehicle’s air intake from inside the wheel well, allowing it to breathe cleaner air in dusty off-road environments. As is the case with every new model year, the TRD Pro will also be available with a new unique color, Voodoo Blue, for 2019. As with the special TRD Pro colors of past years, Voodoo Blue was originally a color unique to the FJ Cruiser.
Positioned between the TRD Off-Road and TRD Pro models is the Limited, which trades off-road features for luxury items like 18-in wheels, a sunroof and a brown leather interior.
All 2019 Tacomas come with Toyota’s suite of driver-assistance features as standard.
The Colorado offers trim levels that are mostly in line with the Tacoma. The lineup starts with the Base and the WT, or "Work Truck" spec models. Next is the LT trim, which comes with an 8.0-in infotainment screen, 17-in wheels and mostly body-colored trim pieces. The Colorado skips a luxury trim level, allowing you to choose between three off-road models instead, one of which is new for 2019. Off-road trims start with the Z71 model, which adds off-road suspension, mild all-terrain tires and an automatically locking rear differential. The Colorado Z71 lacks the unique electronic off-road features of the Tacoma TRD Off-Road and is slightly less aggressive. The ZR2 turns things up a bit, offering a unique spool-valve off-road suspension that results in an increased ride height and a wider track, a unique bumper offering increased ground clearance, a unique hood and grille, lockable front and rear differentials and standard rock rails, which aren’t offered on any Tacoma model.
New for 2019 is the Colorado ZR2 Bison model, which was developed in partnership with American Expedition Vehicles, better known as AEV. On top of a standard Colorado ZR2, the Bison introduces comprehensive underbody protection in the form of steel skid plates covering the oil pan, the gas tank, the transfer case and the front and rear differentials. Additional features include a unique front bumper that offers winch compatibility, a unique rear bumper with standard recovery points, fender flares, unique wheels, a unique "CHEVROLET" wordmark grille and an available optional snorkel.
Additional Colorado changes for 2019 include the discontinuation of some old colors in favor of a few new ones, along with black bowtie emblems and new wheels for the ZR2.
The 2019 Toyota Tacoma and the 2019 Chevrolet Colorado offer pretty much the same options when it comes to configuring cab size and bed length. Buyers of either vehicle have their choice of an extended cab with room for up to four or a crew cab model with four full-size doors and room for up to five. Neither vehicle offers a single cab model. Extended cab models come fitted with a long bed — a 6-ft bed in the case of the Tacoma and a 6-ft 2-in bed on the Colorado. Crew cabs can be fitted with the long bed or a short bed, measuring 5-ft on the Tacoma and 5-feet 2-in on the Colorado.
The Tacoma TRD Pro is only available in crew cab, short-bed configuration, while the Colorado ZR2 is available as either a crew cab with the short bed or as an extended cab with a long bed. The same will go for the ZR2 Bison once it goes on sale.
The Tacoma is available with two different engines. Entry-level models come with a 2.7-liter 4-cylinder making 159 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque and paired exclusively with a 6-speed automatic. The majority of Tacomas you’ll find, though, are fitted with a 3.5-liter V6 making 278 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque and are offered with either a 6-speed automatic or a 6-speed manual.
Configured with the V6, automatic transmission and 4-wheel drive, the Tacoma is rated at 18 miles per gallon in city driving, 22 mpg on the highway and 20 mpg overall.
The Colorado is unique in that it offers a diesel engine in addition to two traditional gas powerplants. Entry-level models come with a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder putting out 200 hp and 191 lb-ft of torque. This engine comes with either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic transmission. A 3.6-liter V6 is available, which makes 308 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque, that’s paired exclusively with an 8-speed automatic. The Colorado’s Duramax diesel engine makes 181 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque and offers a best-in-class 7,700-lb tow rating. The diesel also earns 20 mpg city/28 mpg hwy/23 mpg overall, compared to the V6’s figures of 17 mpg city/24 mpg hwy/19 mpg combined. Consensus is that despite its positives, the diesel Colorado is pretty slow, and it takes 9.7 seconds to get to 60 miles per hour, compared to the V6 model, which needs only 7.1 seconds. The diesel costs a good bit more, as well, carrying at least a $3,000 premium, depending on trim level. The Colorado diesel comes with a 6-speed auto.
The Tacoma’s reliability is proven, and as a result, it offers some of the best resale value on the market. The jury is still out on the Colorado. GM’s track record with reliability is spotty in areas, but given the Colorado’s mechanical simplicity, we don’t see much reason to worry. Both Toyota and Chevrolet offer a 3-year/36,000-mile basic and a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.
The Colorado and the Tacoma both earn scores of Good across the board in crash testing conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The Tacoma also offers a bevy of standard driver-assistance features, most of which are unavailable on the Colorado. Safety offerings on the Tacoma include automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic assist. The Colorado is only available with forward-collision alert and lane-departure warning, neither of which is standard.
Technology and Infotainment
One of the Tacoma’s major weak points is its infotainment offering. The majority of the lineup is offered with a 7-in touchscreen, but like most Toyota products, the Tacoma lacks Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, forcing buyers to live with the automaker’s dated and primitive Entune system. The Tacoma offers an available JBL audio system and a wireless charging pad for mobile devices, but only one USB port.
Starting with the LT trim level, the Colorado comes with an 8-in infotainment screen running Chevrolet’s intuitive MyLink infotainment system and offering Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. The Colorado is also available with 4G LTE with Wi-Fi connectivity. The Colorado offers a total of four USB ports.
Altogether, the Colorado offers a much better infotainment experience than the Tacoma.
The Colorado is bigger on the inside than the Tacoma, as well, offering best-in-class front-seat dimensions. Headroom is an ample 41.4 inches, while legroom is an also spacious 45 inches. These figures are almost on par with the full-size Chevrolet Silverado. The Tacoma offers 39.7 inches of headroom and 42.9 inches of legroom in the front seat.
While neither vehicle offers a particularly plush back seat experience, the Colorado is larger in the second row as well. The Colorado crew cab offers 38.3 inches of headroom and 35.8 inches of legroom, compared to the Tacoma’s 38.3 inches and 32.6 inches, respectively.
The Colorado offers more bed space than the Tacoma as well, with 41 cu ft. in its short bed, compared to the Tacoma’s 38 cu ft. The same goes for the long bed — the Colorado offers 50 cu ft., while the Tacoma offers 47 cu ft.
Despite it being a little smaller, the Tacoma’s bed is far more functional than that of the Colorado’s. The Tacoma’s bed is made from a composite material that doesn’t require a bed liner, while the Colorado’s bed is made of steel. A spray-on bed liner from Chevrolet is an extra $475. The Tacoma’s bed also incorporates two small storage compartments, including a unique sliding deck-rail system that can help with tying down loads and a convenient 3-prong 120-volt power inverter.
Neither the Tacoma nor the Colorado offers a particularly luxurious interior — it’s quite the opposite, in fact. Either vehicle is worthy of criticism for overusing hard plastics. At least the Colorado offers a standard power driver’s seat and optional power passenger’s seat; no trim level of the Tacoma offers even a power driver’s seat. The Tacoma could use it, too, as it’s seating position is a bit awkward. Still, both vehicles can be optioned with leather seats, which makes cleaning a lot easier after a day off road.
Given its popularity among the off-road, overland adventure crowd, the Tacoma is supported by a massive aftermarket of third-party parts suppliers that offer accessory suspensions, underbody protection, bed caps, roof racks, heavy-duty bumpers and just about anything else buyers could want for personalizing their vehicle. Given that it’s still relatively new and lacks the enthusiast following of the Tacoma, aftermarket support of the Colorado isn’t as widespread. Chevrolet has attempted to counter this through its own offerings, as a variety of accessory parts are available for the Colorado through the Chevrolet accessory catalog. These include a bed-mounted spare tire carrier and an overhead roll-bar with accessory lights. To take things a step further, buyers can also opt for the ZR2 and the ZR2 Bison models, which offer fully warrantied items like rock rails, a locking front differential and a variety of skid plates. Toyota doesn’t offer any of those directly.
The Tacoma and the Colorado both offer exceptional utility and a number of fun trim levels. The Tacoma seems to fall back on its exceptional reliability, high resale value and driver-assistance safety features as its main selling points. Toyota’s offering lacks a modern infotainment system, really only has one viable engine option and offers cramped, awkward cabin ergonomics.
The Colorado, on the other hand, lacks the reputation of the Tacoma, but makes up for it by offering a larger cabin, a better infotainment experience, more exciting off-road trim levels and an available diesel engine.
It’s hard to recommend one of these vehicles over the other, as they both have their major selling points along with some drawbacks. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide which is right for you, as you really can’t go wrong with either one. Find a Toyota Tacoma for sale or Find a Chevrolet Colorado for sale