The 2015 Motor Trend Truck of the Year is...not the new Ford-150.
The Ford full-sized pickup truck has gotten a lot of buzz for its aluminum body, a first for a mainstream vehicle. But in a surprise, Motor Trend magazine on Wednesday announced that the Chevrolet Colorado, a mid-sized pickup, did better in the categories it judged and was perfectly sized for the needs of many truck users.
“Colorado is a smart, capable and refreshingly honest truck that makes a strong value and efficiency statement,” said Edward Loh, editor-in chief at Motor Trend.
The F-150 wasn’t even the runner up. That went to the truck-based Ford Transit commercial van which is made at the company’s Claycomo plant. The 2015 F-150, which is currently made at a Michigan plant, will also be produced at Claycomo starting in early next year.
Ford’s new aluminum-bodied F-150 pickup was dubbed one of the most audacious engineering projects in the automaker’s history by a Morgan Stanley analyst. But Motor Trend was less impressed, saying the benefits didn’t show up on the road.
The F-150 is a fine truck and the lighter aluminum body boosted fuel economy, Loh said, but it’s only one or two miles per gallon better than the competing Ram and Chevrolet Silverado pickups.
“The advantages of going to aluminum didn’t really appear to us in testing.” Loh said.
The Transit was noted for its three different body styles that can be outfitted for cargo hauling with creature comforts inside.
“The van is insane,” Loh said. “It’s like the Transformer of vans and it drives really well.”
Mike Levine, a Ford spokesman, said in a statement that “we always are honored to earn awards and recognition. We are most proud of creating the toughest, smartest and most capable F-150 ever for customers.”
The Truck of the Year award had six criteria: design advancement, engineering excellence, efficiency, safety, value and how it performed its intended function.
“After days of testing hundreds of miles on the road and our most rigorous track-testing program to date our editors unanimously selected the Chevy Colorado as our 2015 Truck of the Year,” Loh said.
The magazine singled out its handsome design, excellent handling, overall capability and best-in-class fuel economy.
“The Colorado is a very honest, right-sized pickup,” Loh said. “It’s also very handsome, which means a lot in that market.”
The truck takes aim at the the market for smaller pickups which Detroit automakers had essentially abandoned.
The award is a boost for GM after so much of 2014 has been dominated by the company’s recall of 2.59 million small cars due to a defective ignition switch linked to at least 36 deaths.
“We’re very proud,” said Mark Reuss, GM’s executive vice president for global product development. “It’s a big day for us after a tough year.”
Reaction to the award was swift on the magazine’s website with posted comments ranging from “terrible choice” to “sorry, but this is not the year for Ford.”
If the only perceived improvement from the aluminum truck is fuel economy, car reviewers like Motor Trend can be underwhelmed, said Alexander Edwards, president of San Diego- based marketing consulting firm Strategic Vision.
“No one award is better than another,” Edwards said. “The one customers look to the most is Consumer Reports.”
Motor Trend’s 2014 Truck of the Year was Chrysler’s Ram 1500. The Ford F-150 got top honors in 2009 and 2012.
Bloomberg News contributed to this story.
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