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Expert Reviews 2 of 9
By Richard Truett
September 9, 1999
Chevrolet had great expectations for the new version of the Tracker minisport-utility vehicle. The old model was a poorly built box on wheels that felt cheap and wasn't much fun to drive. The new model, completing its first year on
the market, has a handsome new body and a smartly designed interior. It doesn't feel cheap. So what's the problem? Performance -- or the significant lack thereof. As before, the Tracker is made by Suzuki, the weakest and least
experienced of the Japanese automakers. I have to think that there's enough engineering and design talent within General Motors to build a better small sport-utility vehicle than the current Tracker. I'd like to think that the folks
at GM would have more respect for the Chevrolet name than to slap it on a vehicle that isn't worthy. But I guess that's not the case. Sales of the new Tracker are not encouraging. After one year on the market, Chevrolet has already started
piling on the rebates. Performance, handling The whole idea of owning a vehicle of this type is to have a little fun behind the wheel. That's exactly what you'll have in the base model Tracker: little fun. The puny 1.6-liter
engine just can't get the job done. It wheezes and huffs and puffs and tries hard but fails to deliver adequate power to the wheels. It's a 97-horsepower weakling. Passing slower traffic can be a chore. And with the kamikaze antics on Central
Florida roads these days, you almost need a lot of power just to avoid some of the foolishness out there. If you must have a Tracker, opt for the 127-horsepower, 2.0-liter, double overhead cam engine, five-speed manual transmission and
two-wheel drive. I've tested this model. Though it's no powerhouse, it is adequate for city slickers. Our test vehicle was outfitted with a five-speed manual gearbox. No complaints here. The shifter moved precisely and crisply into each
gear; the clutch required very little effort. Once under way, the Tracker offers a tolerable ride. The front McPherson struts and solid rear axle deliver a smooth, stable ride. This version of the Tracker doesn't get blown all over the
road like the old model did. But, despite its looks, the base model Tracker is not a vehicle in which you'd want to venture very far off the road. The ride is far too soft and the engine too weak to go churning through swamps and soft
sand. I found the power-assisted, front disc/rear drum brakes to be adequate and nothing more. The anti-lock system is optional. I'd skip it. I tested the ABS system on a dirt road, and it seemed to kick in too early and actually lengthen
the stopping distance. The power-assisted, rack-and-pinion steering is excellent. The Tracker
can turn a complete circle in about 31 feet. That makes it highly maneuverable in parking lots and when angling for a slot on a crowded street. All the Tracker needs to compete with the Honda CR-V and Toyota Rav4 is a 150-horsepower
engine and a firm suspension system. Fit and finish In terms of quality and assembly, the Tracker is not bad for a vehicle in its price range. I've noticed a big improvement on Suzuki-made vehicles in the last three years and, indeed,
I heard no squeaks or rattles -- and nothing broke or fell off during the week I tested the Tracker. Also, the Tracker is fairly quiet with the top and windows up. It's not easy making a vehicle like this that isn't plagued with wind and
water leaks, but Suzuki has done a credible job. You don't get a heck of a lot for $16,000 and change these days, but the base model Tracker with the No. 2 option pack age ($1,195) comes
well-equipped. Our tester came with air conditioning, cruise control, tilt steering wheel, and an AM/FM radio with a CD player. The Tracker is most fun to drive with the top down. Yet getting it down is a time-consuming task involving
zippers, snaps and plastic strips. You don't want to get caught in the rain with the top down. It took me at least 15 minutes to put the top up. However, the Tracker does have one nifty feature related to the convertible top. The front
half unlatches and flips back; the opening is not unlike a sunroof. For a two-door, the Tracker offers respectable rear seat room. Two adults can sit back there in reasonable comfort. Or, you can remove the headrests and fold the seat forward
and use the added space for cargo. Generally, the front part of the Tracker is an OK place to be. The cloth bucket seats are firm and moderately comfortable. The analog gauges are plain but easy to read. For a change, the switchgear feels
like it won't fall apart in your hands. Very few vehicles ever come out needing no improvements. The first editions of the Honda CV-R and Rav4 needed work. But now they are the best minisport-utilities available. With a stronger
engine and revamped suspension system, the Tracker might also someday tread on that hallowed ground. 1999 Chevrolet Tracker 2WD Convertible Base price: $13,635. Safety: Dual air bags and anti-lock brakes. Price as tested: $16,630. EPA
rating: 23 mpg city/25 mpg highway. Incentives: $1,500. Length - Overall : 151.6 Front Compartment - Head room: 40.9; Leg room: 41.4 Rear Compartment - Head room: 39.5; Leg room: 35.9 Warranty - Three-year, 36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper and drivetrain
coverage and six-year, 100,000-mile rust protection. Mechanical - Drivetrain layout: Front-mounted engine and transmission, rear-wheel drive; Brakes: Power-assisted, front disc/rear drum with ABS; Engine: 97-horsepower, 1.6-liter, overhead cam
four-cylinder. Transmission: Five-speed manual. Other Models - Tracker 2WD Four-door: $14,835; Tracker 4WD Convertible: $14,735; Tracker 4WD Four-door: $15,935. Inches unless otherwise specified