The new four-door version of the Chevrolet S-10 is another entry into that most unlikely niche, the compact crew cab pickup truck. The genre was seemingly started in the United States by Nissan with its four-door Frontier, carried over into the sport utility realm by Ford with its Sport Trak, and made big and bold by Dodge with its crew cab Durango. Now, the S-10 crew cab offers upscale accommodations in a compact truck.
Did I say compact? Although it’s still narrow, the S-10 crew cab is plenty long enough, about the same length as a full-size Chevy regular cab pickup. The S-10 crew cab is still not a big truck, though it seems much more formidable than the other versions: regular cab short bed, regular cab long bed and extended cab short bed.
Actually, the crew cab is the same length and wheelbase as the extended cab S-10, the difference in the four-door’s extra cab length being translated into a shorter pickup bed. The crew cab’s bed is only 55 inches long, an inch wider than it is long. An optional tubular bed extender flips out onto the open tailgate.
Crew cab pickups, big or small, make plenty of sense for families who need to combine the benefits of an open bed pickup with the accommodations of a sedan. And I know these things are becoming wildly popular, for whatever reason. But as far as I’m concerned, crew cab pickups are about practicality and nothing else.
As is so often the case, practical ain’t pretty. To my eyes, the compact crew cabs look clumsy and disproportionate. But they are functional.
The S-10’s interior is fairly roomy with a back seat that is slightly cramped for legroom but not too bad. The crew cab comes standard with the upscale interior, which is reasonably nice and accommodating. The S-10 interior makes no pretense about its truckiness, obviously not trying for the look of a sport utility vehicle. The dashboard is big and squared off, the fabrics are heavy and durable-feeling, and all of the switches, controls and features fall very much in line with American truck tradition.
The S-10 also drives like a truck. If you like trucks, that’s a good thing, though I may be getting spoiled by all these crossovers that look like trucks but drive like cars. I found the four-wheel-drive S-10 test vehicle to be stiff and heavy, with a juddering ride that never let you forget that it is a pickup truck.
Whatever the case, city driving felt compromised by the lumpish handling and maneuverability, especially the unpleasantly wide turning radius. Four-wheel disc brakes are standard on the four-by-four, and they are a strong improvement over the front-disc, rear-drum setup.
I didn’t have a chance to get this four-by-four off the beaten path, but I’ve had other S-10s and S-10 Blazers on boulder-strewn trails, and I know they get you where you’re going.
Powering the test truck was the optional 190-horsepower V- 6, a big 4.3-liter mill that’s high on torque but low on refinement. It’s noisy and harsh under acceleration or hill climbing. And while it certainly has the muscle to get the job done, it would be nice if it did the job with a bit more finesse. After recently trying out the new straight-six engine offered in the Trailblazer, a 4.2-liter unit that makes a silky-smooth 270 horsepower, I’d say it’s time to retire the old warhorse V-6.
The base crew cab comes fully equipped with all the power and convenience features. That pushes the base price a bit higher than I think it should be. It would be nice to have a budget model starting at something around $20,000.
There were just a few options added to the test truck, including a locking rear differential, $270; fog lamps, $115; stereo upgrade, $100; a full-size spare, $95; and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, $54.
The S-10 crew cab is a good size for most purposes, though that short bed does have limits, even with the extender. One passenger noted that the extender does increase the size of the bed when deployed, but there is a problem with efficiency: The device is in the way if you want to secure a load with the tailgate up.