While trying out different editions of previously tested models, we again sampled the 1996 Chevy Sportside pickup truck–this time in extended-cab version (regular cab, Cartalk, May 26).

Sportside means the rear bed was tweaked to look fashionably slim for thosewho probably will never haul 4×8 sheets of plywood in their compact pickup. The Sportside is more fun than function, though there is enough cargo room to cart a bike or two.

In driving the regular-cab model our only criticism–other than Chevy’s reluctance or inability to come up with a design to place the catalytic converter flat under the passenger floorboard without a bulge that spoils passenger foot room and gives off too much heat–was the need for the enclosedcargo/people carrying capability an extended cab allows.

And when you get that extra space in the S-10 Chevy pickup, you can add theoptional third door in back for $345.

The third door sure makes it easy to take advantage of the room behind the front seats, though that door leaves a place for only one pull-down jump seat for the kids. So one of the trolls has to stay home.

While Chevy engineers were able to add a third door, they still haven’t added a passenger-side air bag upfront and won’t until the 1998 model year.

Four-wheel ABS is standard.

The test vehicle was a 2WD version that starts at $14,385. Add $1,249 for the recommended 4.3-liter, 180-h.p., V-6 engine over the base 2.2-liter, 118-h.p., 4 for optimum power though the price tag is grossly unrealistic and reeks of greed. Also add $1,070 for 4-speed automatic over the base 5-speed manual.

A combined $2,319 for V-6 and automatic can only mean someone who juggles numbers in the Chevy marketing department has a brain like a rock if he or shethinks that’s reasonable.

And speaking of the marketing department, the standard 15-inch all-season radials cost $121 more when you opt for raised decorative letters. $121 to raise letters?

Add $805 for air conditioning, $535 for power locks/windows/mirrors, $395 for tilt steering and speed control, $248 for aluminum wheels, $135 for remotekeyless entry, $166 for reclining bucket seats, $20 for floor mats, $54 for leather-wrapped steering wheel and $284 for AM/FM stereo with compact-disc player and clock.

Finally, add $485 for freight, which means when you are done dressing up the Sportside you’ll be in debt for about $20,000 for what started as a $14,385 machine, though, in fairness, Chevy tosses in a free video explaining how ABS works, a must-see for all consumers.

But remember, this is the 2WD version. The 4WD regular-cab version starts at $17,515 and the 4WD extended-cab Sportside starts at $19,015.

To add fun to function, Chevrolet has added a Sportside version of the S-10pickup for 1996.

This is a sporty S-10 with side steps along the cargo walls and a bed that’s 3.9 inches narrower tha n on the regular model.

It’s a truck for folks who will be hauling dirt bikes or Jet Skis or camping gear rather than plywood, paneling or bricks.

We tested the four-wheel-drive LS regular cab version, which is roomy and comfortable, though you may want to consider the extended-cab version so you can haul some of your camping gear sheltered from the weather in the cabin. And when you opt for an extended cab, you can order the optional third door, which makes it easier to store the gear–and get the kids in the jump seats.

We would also recommend the optional ($113) slide-open rear window for improved ventilation.

Sportside rides and handles like a car and comes with a driver-side air bagand four-wheel ABS as standard. But it doesn’t offer a passenger-side bag and won’t until 1998 at the earliest.

The 4.3-liter, 180-h.p. V-6 is rated at a respectable 20 m.p.g. city/24 m.p.g. highway and adds smooth, quiet operation.

Base price of the 4WDLS S ortside is $17,515 ($19,015 for the extended cab). There are numerous options–$1,070 for the four-speed automatic with overdrive; $805 for air conditioning; $535 for power locks/windows/mirrors; $395 for tilt steering and speed control; $335 for oversized radials; $284 forAM/FM stereo with CD player and clock; $259 for the high-output Vortec V-6; and $123 for an electronic shift transfer case so you can shift into 4WD on the fly by pressing a button.

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