Sometimes a head-to-head battle between rival vehicles isn’t even a contest. Such is the case with the matchup between the Chevrolet Colorado and Nissan Frontier.
We’d expect that. After all, the Frontier is an aging vehicle that saw its last redesign in 2005. The Colorado, on the other hand, is a decade newer than its rival, as it was just revived last year.
With its new engineering and technology, the Colorado outclasses the Frontier on a variety of fronts, including packaging and interior space, clever new connectivity and bed features, V-6 gas mileage, and simple things like driving position.
MORE: Read our latest reviews of the 2016 Chevrolet Colorado and 2016 Nissan Frontier
Styling, however, isn’t an issue for the Frontier and we rate both trucks equally. The Colorado stretches and pulls the traditional truck shape in some interesting ways. It’s not as rectilinear as its full-size counterpart, the Silverado. Instead, the Colorado adopts a smaller, slimmer grille and rising shoulder line that softens the usual pickup silhouette, though with boxy fenders. The Frontier comes from a previous era. The exterior sheet metal is still interesting, modern, even fresh after all these years. The Colorado, however, offers three cab styles—regular, extended and Crew—while the Frontier is only available as the extended King Cab and longer Crew Cab.
While we rate the performance of both trucks equally, in the context of all vehicles, the advantage within the truck segment clearly goes to the Colorado. The Colorado’s ride and handling are superior to the Frontier. The electric power steering is weighted well, and the suspension setup makes the most out of coil-over front shocks and a live rear axle and leaf springs.
The Colorado offers three powertrains. The standard 200-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine is much stronger than the Frontier’s inline-4, and its 305-hp 3.6-liter V-6 is more refined than the 281-hp 4.0-liter V-6 in the Nissan. Chevy’s V-6 delivers 7,000 pounds of towing capacity and strong mid-range acceleration. Improvements to the Nissan V-6 have boosted gas mileage slightly over the years, helping to keep the V-6 competitive. It has good power and can tow up to 6,500 pounds, but if you want a 4×4 Frontier, the V-6 is your only option.
Chevrolet also offers a 2.8-liter turbodiesel inline-4, making 181 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. It can tow up to 7,700 pounds, and deliver up to 30 mpg on the highway.
The diesel is the most efficient choice, but Chevy’s V-6 checks in at 21 mpg combined, while the 4-cylinder rates 22 mpg combined. The base Frontier earns 21 mpg combined, and the V-6 rates 19 mpg combined. Again, our ratings are the same, but the Colorado is a bit more efficient.
Interior comfort and quality are also in the Colorado’s favor. No matter which cab is chosen, the Colorado has a great space for the front two passengers, with better materials and a better, more natural driving position than the Frontier. It’s all truck-ish enough, but there’s more than a passing resemblance to the latest General Motors sedans in the bolstering of the seats, the intersection of trim on the doors and dash, and even in the soft-touch, aluminum-look trim itself. Rear-seat space is also in favor of the Colorado in both the extended cab and Crew Cab body styles.
The Colorado’s bed is available with bed extenders, so an 8-foot object can be brought home without much fuss. Thoughtful touches include a corner bumper step and easy-lowering tailgate on all versions, as well as some 17 tie-down spots inside the bed. It can be fitted with either a spray-in bedliner or a drop-in one; cargo dividers; a system of racks and carriers dubbed GearOn; cargo nets and tonneau covers; a drop-in toolbox; and of course, trailer hitches and harnesses.
The Frontier’s bed has some handy factory features as well, including a sprayed-in bedliner, available Utili-Track cargo tie-down system, and a Value Truck Package that bundles a trailer hitch, dual-zone climate control, a bed extender, and more.
The feature set of the Colorado is perhaps is greatest advantage over the Frontier. All Colorados come with a touchscreen-controlled audio system that incorporates Apple CarPlay. An 8.0-inch touchscreen is available, as are multiple USB ports, navigation, and 4G LTE data connectivity.
The older Frontier can’t match the equipment set of the Colorado, but buyers can get the NissanConnect connectivity kit, which links the car’s audio system with smartphones and enables mobile apps for infotainment.
We rate both trucks equally for safety, but the Colorado has the slight advantage of actually having recent crash-test data—though the NHTSA rates it at a good, but not great, four stars. All versions have a rearview camera, six airbags, stability control with trailer-sway control, and hill start assist; the off-road-oriented Z71 models also get hill descent control. Forward-collision alerts and lane-departure warning systems are available. The Frontier gets good safety ratings, but lacks some of the safety features of the Colorado.
The numbers show that the Colorado is the better choice than the Frontier, though we still like Nissan’s aging pickup. A new Frontier is due in 2017, so perhaps this battle will be closer when the new one arrives.
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