Versus the competiton:
When we think of trucks, we think of cowboys, not high school kids who want a status vehicle or moms who are sick of minivans. That’s why the 1998 Chevrolet S10 with the ZR2 sport performance bundle is so appealing. Even though it’s a compact, the S10 honors the true nature of that most American of vehicles with a practical, workhorse spirit – plus it can handle an offroad workout with ease.
Despite its merits, Paul argued that a Ford or Toyota truck might be a better choice. Here’s why:
He: OK, put me on the spot right from the start, huh? My point is, if you’re simply shopping for the best-built compact truck, I’d stop first at a Ford or Toyota dealership. All right, I’ve got that off my chest. Now, let’s talk about pickup personalities. I would never refer to a truck as “huggable” or “cute,” but the Chevy S10 seems an awful lot more warm and fuzzy than most of its competitors. That’s taking nothing away from the ZR2 package, which really extends the S10’s offroad capability. We had a really decked-out extended-cab model with the third door, and it straddled the fence perfectly between the workaday world and the leisure set – not too macho, not too cute.
She: Sounds like a description of the ideal husband. I’ve always liked the S10’s softer exterior design, which is not nearly as brutal-looking as the Dodge Dakota. But this is no “driveway” truck either. The ZR2 package, which is offered only on 4×4 models with LS trim, is just right for the offroad crowd. You get the 180-horsepower 4.3-liter V-6 engine, which has plenty of muscle. Plus you get beefier axles and tires, and heavy-duty Bilstein shocks, a good brand name. I have a few gripes – the ride is really harsh and choppy on the highway, and the 4×4 is harder to climb up into because it sits higher off the ground.
He: That’s the downside of being 5-foot-3. If you don’t really need four-wheel drive, better to skip the whole ZR2 deal and go with a 4×2 model with the optional SQ8 sport suspension. You’ll get a smoother ride, and even a shrimp like you will be able to jump in with no problem. I’d stick with the extended cab, though. The third door is pretty useful, too, for stashing stuff behind the seats. I’m not sure I’d want to ride very far in those rear jump seats, especially in a 4×4.
She: I like the cabin on the S10. This is not a luxury vehicle – despite the $25,000-plus sticker – but it’s very friendly, with all the controls intuitively laid out for easy use. And that third door is tremendous – very practical, especially if you’re hauling kids or groceries.
He: I liked the concept of the extra door on the extended cab. So why not offer four instead of three, like the Ranger is doing in May? Chevy builds and sells a four-door S10 pickup down in South America, and I hope they bring it here soon. As far as the three-door goes, I thought the trim around the upper latch on the driver’s side looked a bit rough and shoddy. Some of the other trim di dn’t fit together well either, which bugged me on a $25,000 vehicle.
She: You’re not giving Chevrolet credit for all the attention to safety. They added a passenger-side air bag this year with a cutoff switch if you have to put a child in that seat. The S10 also comes with standard four-wheel anti-lock brakes and daytime running lights, plus four-wheel power disc brakes on the 4×4 model. Traction control would have been a nice addition for when you’re traveling in two-wheel drive on the highway. But then there are all kinds of other thoughtful features, such as battery-rundown protection and automatic headlight control – even Scotchguard fabric protector for the seats. Plus you get a three-year/36,000-mile roadside assistance package.
He: I know what you’re getting at. It’s a neat bundle, even if the 1SR preferred equipment package bumps the price up nearly $5,000, after you figure in the discount. Twenty-five grand is a lot of dough, but at Chevrolet, it buys a lot of t k.
She: I really like the Chevy brand. It says a lot to me. When it comes to trucks, I’d buy a Chevrolet over, say, a Nissan. That Chevy bowtie says I’m being practical, that I’m buying into the heritage behind the Chevy brand. It reminds me of Sears. You want to buy a tool, you go to Sears. You want to buy a serious truck, you go to Chevy.
He: So now you’re going to cheese off Nissan and Kmart.
She: And I’ll never be able to show my face at Target either.
1998 Chevrolet S10 with ZR2
Type: Four-wheel-drive, four-passenger pickup truck
Price: Base, $19,582; as tested, $25,458 (including $510 destination charge)
Standard equipment: Four-wheel power disc brakes, Anti-theft system, Variable intermittent wipers
Safety features: Dual air bags with deactivation switch for passenger air bag, Four-wheel anti-lock brakes
Options on test vehicle: CD player ($200), Third door ($375), Tinted glass ($115), Equipment group 1SR ($5,835) including air conditioning, leather-wrapped steering wheel, tachometer, front floor mats, rear step bumper, fleetside body, wide-stance sport performance package, shield package, V-6 engine, four-speed automatic with overdrive, locking differential, 3.73 rear axle ratio, 15″x 7″ bright aluminum wheels, 31×10.5R-15 on-off road blackwall tires, reclining high-back bucket seats, power door locks, windows and mirrors, tilt steering and speed control, keyless entry
EPA fuel economy: 16 mpg city/21 mpg highway
Engine: 4.3-liter V-6; 180 hp at 4,400 rpm; 240 lb-ft torque at 2,800 rpm
Transmission: Four-speed automatic
Where built: Shreveport, La.