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A tan 2021 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison is driving through the woods.

Why a Midsize Truck Is a Better Choice

In the land of truck manufacturing, there are just a few heavy hitters building tried and true vehicles that reliably tow, haul, and off-road. Chevy is one of those heavy hitters maintaining its reputation, and with upcoming 2021 models being announced, it has competition upping the game. The midsize truck segment isn’t as popular as the light-duty, full-size models, but it has a solid base of buyers who want a truck that can do the work of bigger trucks without the massive price tag. In this segment, the 2021 Chevy Colorado holds its own as a truck that can handle towing a trailer for a little weekend fun, but it won’t make you feel like you’re going to pass out when you pull out your wallet at the gas pump. It also has beefed up its off-road capabilities for the buyers who delight in rock climbing on wheels.

Midsize Segment: Why Not Go Bigger?

When talking about midsize trucks, let’s be clear that this is the smaller truck size. You either get a midsize or a full-size truck–that’s it. You might wonder why anyone would bother with a truck if it isn’t full-size, but there is one huge reason that Chevy has addressed intelligently: off-roading. If you plan to enjoy racing around in the wilderness with your four-by-four jacked up and outfitted with all-terrain tires and skid plates, the midsize truck is what you want.

True off-road enthusiasts understand that while a full-size truck is great for some tasks, it’s often too big to be a good off-road vehicle. Also, most folks don’t need the power that even a light-duty truck offers. Too many buyers race out for their big trucks because they seem cool, but never actually utilize the real capability to tow or haul. Let’s face it: if you just go to flea markets or tow a little pop-up camper for summer trips, you don’t need a big truck. Save your money and go midsize.

An orange 2021 Chevrolet Colorado is parked with a blue dirt bike being loaded on the trailer.

2021 Colorado Specs

Pricing for the 2021 Colorado starts at $25,200 and can range all the way up to $41,600 for the top-tier without any options or packages added. At the most, the 2021 Colorado can tow up to 7,000 pounds when properly equipped, and at first, only gas-powered models will be available. Diesel engines, which will offer slightly more towing capacity, won’t be available until a date later in 2021.

The max payload is 1,550 pounds, and it can get gas mileage as high as 18 MPG in the city and 25 MPG 0on the highway when fitted with the standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. Inside, it can seat four with the extended cab, which is the best option if you plan to use the back seat for passengers. If you choose the larger box for the bed size, the Colorado has one of the biggest cargo sizes in this segment at 49.9 cubic feet.

Rear-wheel drive, which is best for towing heavy loads, is a cheaper option and is how the Colorado will come standard. Four-wheel drive is optional for all trims and is the best option if you plan to off-road or need to drive on muddy or snowy roads. Truly the best of both worlds is to get the four-wheel drive and shut it off until you need it, saving gas while you drive on pavement and then flipping the switch when you plan to hit trails or drive on rough terrain. Four-wheel drive costs extra on all but the ZR2 trim, but it’s worth it to have the option if you live on a back road or in a climate that gets a lot of snow.

Four trim levels are available for the 2021 Colorado, beginning with the lowest-priced WT, or work truck. Despite being the least expensive trim, the WT still has plenty of features to make life convenient and comfortable. Because it’s meant to be a work truck, it will come standard with vinyl flooring and cloth seats, which is smart if you know you’ll be getting muddy. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard, along with a seven-inch infotainment screen, USB ports for charging, Bluetooth for hands-free phone connectivity, powered accessories, the corner step rear bumper, a rearview camera, and electronic traction control. Options to upgrade safety features, infotainment, wheel sizes, cab size, and engine choice are all available as well.

For the LT trim, all the WT features are standard, plus additional comforts and conveniences like a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an eight-inch infotainment screen, two more USB ports, a WiFi hotspot, cruise control, OnStar capability, the EZ Lift & Lower tailgate, and a remote locking tailgate. A bed guard package, Performance Skid Plate Package, Power Package, Tonneau and Step Package, and Sports Appearance Package are all options for these trims. Each package affords additional equipment that will either enhance the truck’s look or alter the performance or utility. It helps if you know why you want a midsize truck so you can properly outfit the truck when you order it. If you plan to tow a trailer, you will need a trailering package so a hitch and proper trailering assembly equipment will be installed.

A black 2021 Chevrolet Colorado is driving down the road with mountains in the background.

The Off-Road Trims

ZR2 and Z71 are the two Colorado trims built for off-roading, an unusual move for truck manufacturers. Other brands only have one off-road variant, but Chevy perhaps saw a window of opportunity and ran with it. Having two choices for the type of off-road experience you plan to drive is a smart move. The Z71 is the less expensive option, more tuned for occasional recreation while still being usable for everyday driving. Turning toward the ZR2 means that for an extra ten grand, you can have a beast of a truck that will come prepared for almost anything, even serious water fording.

Both trucks will come standard with the 3.6-liter V6 engine, which will produce 308 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque. Gas mileage for this engine is 18 MPG in the city and 25 MPG on the highway when equipped with rear-wheel drive, only slightly lower than the four-cylinder. It’s efficient due to the engine’s variable valve timing, which also happens to reduce emissions. Four-wheel drive is optional for the Z71, while the ZR2 comes standard with this feature. All-terrain tires will come standard for both trims, along with tow/haul mode, hitch guidance, hill descent control, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, and a 3.42 rear axle ratio.

The way the two trims differentiate has most to do with how off-road-ready each truck will be. The Z71 has some standard features for off-road fun, but it doesn’t come prepared with the skid plates and transfer case like the ZR2. What does the Z71 have? An automatic rear locking differential for better traction, recovery hooks, an off-road suspension package, 17-inch all-terrain tires, and fog lamps. Certain features like skid plates or an integrated trailer brake controller can be added as options. Again, this is a truck meant for mild off-roading the desert or backwoods roads that might be too rough for most vehicles; for enthusiasts who love being billy goats in their vehicles, you want the ZR2, aka the Bison.

When you upgrade to the Bison, you have the option of the diesel engine for the most available power under the hood, which will gain much more traction control with the torque. Remember, the diesel engine is slated for “late availability,” but it will offer up to 7,700 pounds of towing capability from the turbocharged 2.8-liter four-cylinder Duramax. Up to 181 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque will be made by this engine, paired to a six-speed automatic transmission. An automatic transfer case provides the power to switch into low gears for crawling up and down inclines, and skid plates protect the truck’s underside from damage.

Enthusiasts get excited about features like the Bison’s spool valve shocks, driver-selectable full-locking front and rear differentials, off-road rocker protection, and a transfer case shield. All-terrain 17-inch Duratrac Wrangler tires come standard to provide plenty of traction off the pavement, and the ZR2 Off-Road Package also adds suspension dampers, off-road fascia for the bumpers and fender flares, and a raised and widened stance into the mix. Overall, the features for off-road readiness will make the Bison an excellent truck for adventuring.

Considerations for Midsize Options

While you shop for a midsize truck, you might want to make a list of features you need before you hop onto websites or go drooling over the sparkly paint in dealer lots. Choose the features that mean the most to you overall, and ascertain how you plan to drive your truck most often. An off-road truck sounds like a lot of fun, but if you buy it and never take it off the road, it’s a silly expenditure. Be realistic about your working and driving habits, and choose the truck that best fits what you plan to do. That way, when you do head to the building page on the website, you’ll be less likely to fall into the rabbit hole of options. The 2021 Chevy Colorado is a great midsize truck for uses that will suit most truck buyers out there, and it will save money in the long run to purchase a midsize truck over the more expensive heavy-duty trucks many people buy and don’t really need.