There are some things you can always count on from Chevrolet: the Corvette, Camaro and Caprice and a fleet of tough, rugged, dependable trucks. This week's test vehicle - the S-10 - is Chevy's smallest truck.

Chevrolet has been locked in a battle royal with Ford over truck sales for decades. In fact, Chevy knocked Ford out of the top slot in full-size truck sales in February. But competition in the small-truck market today is extra tough - foreign automakers also are fielding a variety of small trucks.

Chevy has taken a slightly different approach with the S-10. No matter what you are looking for in a truck - flashy colors, chrome, luxury, economy, sportiness, performance, - you can get it in the S-10.

With three body styles, three engines, three trim packages and the choice off our-wheel drive - you can outfit the S-10 nearly any way you like. If you are in the market for a small pickup truck, the versatile S-10 can beat around a construction site all day - and then take you and your mate to dinner in the evening.


The test truck had Chevy's 125-horsepower, 2.8-liter V-6 and a five-speed manual transmission. Two other engine choices are available: There's a 94-horsepower four cylinder and a bigger V-6 with a 4.3-liter unit that pumps out 160 horsepower.

The smaller V-6 is ideal. It offers terrific performance and fuel economy that averaged 21 miles per gallon in combined city/highway driving. The 2.8-liter engine has enough torque to easily rip the rear wheels loose when you are not carrying cargo in the 58-inch-by-73-inch bed.

The five-speed manual gearbox has a heavy-duty feel to it and is a fairly smooth-shifting transmission with widely spaced gear ratios. Cruising at highway speeds in fifth gear keeps the engine quiet and its thirst for unleaded gas minimal. The clutch feels just right - not too light, not too heavy. The pedal is smooth throughout its range of travel. The long shift leveris easy to reach.


Power steering is standard on V-6-powered S-10s. The wheel spins lightly and easily. The steering radius is tight, enabling the S-10 to get out of small places.

That powerful V-6 engine could cause problems. On wet pavement, the rear wheels lose traction with little provocation. Unless the bed is filled with cargo all the time, this could be a problem. I suspect the absence of traction is caused by the lack of weight in the back of the truck. Maybe a set of tires that grip better could alleviate the problem. In any case, the driver must be extra careful in bad weather.

To the S-10's credit, it handles a curve nicely. The suspension system can be summed up in one word: rugged. I bounced it over curbs and drove down pothole-filled roads and the S-10 handled it all with ease. In rotten terrain, nothing rattled, squeaked or shook loose.

The brakes are a power disc/drum affair with anti-lock active on th e rear drum brakes. In emergency stops, the S-10 still skids, but the truck stops quickly. For Chevy, this brake setup is a familiar one that is used on several models, and it works well. Still, why doesn't Chevy go all the way and add anti-lock brakes to the front wheels too?


The S-10 test truck came with a tasteful and sporty interior. The bucket seats were covered with black cloth with orange pinstripes. The same material was used on the door panels.

The bucket seats are fairly comfortable, but they could use a bit more lower back support. The seats fold forward but there isn't much room behind them to store anything other than an umbrella.

A deep center console and a ledge on the dash are designed to accept most items that wouldn't be placed in the bed.

The gauge package features a big speedometer in the middle flanked by instruments for oil pressure and water temperature, volts and fuel gauge. I've seen easier to read gauges before, but the S-10's are still decent. Chevy should make a tachometer standard on vehicles with the manual transmission.

The rest of the controls - for lights, windshield wiper and air conditioner, are all standard issue GM. They work well and are easy to reach and use, but they aren't flashy by any means.

The S-10 is available with a short bed, a long bed and with a bigger cab that offers auxiliary seating for two passengers.

The test truck came with a chrome rear bumper and a sliding rear window, which are optional on many other trucks. The truck sported a bright red paint job and had attractive alloy wheels.

The competition in the truck market is sizzling. Nearly every automaker has a small truck available. Few offer the possibilities of the S-10. And with Chevy's reputation for building durable, dependable trucks, the S-10 should definitely be on your test-drive list.