1998 Chevrolet Tracker

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2001 Chevrolet Tracker

This 2001 review is representative of model years 1998 to 2004.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

Rugged, small sport-utility vehicle is more competitive with its first V6.
Pros:
  • New V6
  • Rugged
  • Slick styling
  • Nimble
  • Good off-road abilities
Cons:
  • Average 4-cylinder
  • Narrow tires
  • Notchy shifter
  • Soft brake pedal

The 2001 Chevrolet Tracker finally gets a V6 to make it more competitive and loses an underpowered 4-cylinder engine.

The 155-horsepower V6 is from the Suzuki Vitara because the Tracker is nearly identical to that vehicle, except for such things as badges, grilles and minor trim.

But that's okay because Suzuki is an old hand at making small, tough sport utes. The Tracker has the same rugged construction as the Vitara and shares unusually good off-road abilities.

A Leg Up
The body-on-frame construction gives the Tracker a leg up on such popular rivals as the car-based Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V—at least if owners plan to do more than drive on regular roads or smooth off-road trails.

The Tracker can be had with rear-wheel drive or an above-average 4-wheel-drive system that can be shifted on the fly but isn't for use on dry roads. Low range gearing allows tough off-road trips.

Two Engines
Thankfully, the small 1.6-liter 97-horsepower 4-cylinder has been dropped. That leaves the new model with a 2.0-liter 127-horsepower 4-cylinder and the V6.

Only the hardtop gets the V6, and the 4-cylinder is offered for the Tracker convertible, which has a folding soft-top over the rear seats. The quieter V6 comes only with a responsive 4-speed automatic transmission, while the 4-cylinder can be had with a standard 5-speed manual or the automatic.

Fairly Roomy
Both the convertible and longer, heavier 4-door hardtop model have room for four 6-footers, although those in back have little room to spare. A low floor allows easy entry, although the hardtop's rear doorways are too narrow for easy entry and exit.

A huge windshield and high seating allow good views, but rear headrests and the outside-mounted spare tire partly block visibility through the back window.

Gauges can be read quickly, but climate controls are notchy and have old-fashioned slide controls. Curiously, the turn signal lever feels flimsy, but the windshield wiper lever feels sturdy.

Wrong-Way Tailgate
Rear side windows conveniently lower all the way. But the tailgate swings open to the right, which makes it harder to load from curbside.

The hardtop has considerably more cargo area behind its rear seat, but both models have flip-forward rear seats that increase cargo capacity.

The 4-cylinder is noisy and works harder than the V6 even with the manual transmission, which doesn't soak up power like the automatic. The manual helps wring the best acceleration from the convertible, but has a notchy shifter. The automatic is the way to go if the convertible mostly will be driven in congested traffic during, say, leisurely trips to the beach.

No Fireball With V6
The DOHC V6 doesn't make the Tracker a fireball. While stronger than the 4-cylinder, it provides only average acceleration—as if 15-20 horsepower got lost somewhere. A manual would allow brisker acceleration, but at least the V6 registers a fairly relaxed 2600 rpm at 65 mph.

Estimated fuel economy is 23-24 mpg in the city and 25-26 on the highway with the 4-cylinder engine. Figures for the V6 are less impressive for a small sport utility at 18 city and 20 highway. However, both engines only require 87-octane gasoline.

Fun to Drive
The Tracker generally is fun to drive, with quick steering and nimble handling. But handling would be better if tires were wider. The brake pedal should be firmer, and anti-lock brakes are a $595 option.

The hardtop has a 97.6-inch wheelbase, but the convertible has a pretty short 86.6-inch wheelbase and thus occasionally delivers a choppier ride. However, both Trackers have a suspension that soaks up bumps pretty well without jarring.

Tracker list prices range from $15,435 for the rear-drive convertible with the manual transmission to $21,430 for the top-line V6 hardtop.

All Trackers are fairly well equipped. And air conditioning and an AM/FM/cassette audio system now are standard.

New Trim Levels
There are new, sportier ZR2 convertible and hardtop 4-wheel-drive models. They have a charcoal grille, additional equipment and alloy wheels under wheel flares that provide a more rugged stance.

There also is a new upscale LT V6 hardtop with 2- or 4-wheel drive, chrome grille, silver body-side cladding, running boards, and spare tire cover. The LT also has a lot of power accessories, AM/FM/CD audio system and optional $595 leather upholstery.

The V6 should help sales of the Tracker, which already has the widely recognized Chevy nameplate and above-average construction going for it.

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BB05 - 7/26/2014 12:34:33 AM