In their heyday, the Chevy Tracker and Suzuki Vitara (mechanically identical twins) worked hard to keep up with the likes of the Honda CR-V, the Toyota RAV4, and, later in their lifespan, the Ford Escape/Mazda Tribute. That's a kind way of saying they got tromped.
But, for those shopping the used aisle, that failure to overachieve among standout performers has graced the Tracker/Vitara siblings with low price tags. Bad for sellers, good for buyers.
How good? For year 2000 models, according to IntelliChoice, a Honda CR-V (entry-level trim) 4WD carries a retail used price of $10,722; the Toyota RAV4 4WD, $10,431; even a topline Suzuki Vitara JLX 4WD is valued at only $7212. The similar Chevy Tracker 4WD four-door is valued at just $6740. Only the highline Kia Sportage EX costs less, but not by much: $6664.
Suzuki developed the Vitara from the Sidekick, replacing formerly toolbox-svelte bodywork with something more streamlined. It made its debut as a four-door wagon and stubby two-door convertible. Likewise, Chevy pulled up the same specifications for its Tracker; the Geo sub-brand, which was once home to rebadged Suzuki products, had been dropped. While the two brands were built on the same line from the same design, the two retail channels received different trim and equipment levels. Generally, the Suzuki was relatively upscale from the Tracker, no doubt to keep from crowding Chevy's other SUVs.
While visually new, the short-and-long wheelbase chassis were an evolution of the body-on-frame design from the Sidekick. The 1999 models were incrementally larger than their predecessors: The four-door was two inches wider and an inch longer; the two-door convertible gained a massive five inches in length. Still, these are small vehicles by 2006 standards, with a 97.6-inch wheelbase for the four-door (a paltry 86.6 inches on the drop-top) and an overall length of 162.8 inches; the contemporary versions of the CR-V and RAV4 were larger and roomier.
Engine and drivetrain choices are as expected for the class. Base Trackers and Vitaras got the 1.6-liter inline-four (making 97 horsepower), while the four-door wagons came with the 127-horsepower 2.0-liter four, which was optional on the two-door. Suzuki also had a Grand Vitara version, with a standard 155-horsepower, 2.5-liter V-6. By 2001, the V-6 was available in the Chevy. For 2004, Suzuki boosted the Grand Vitara's engine by 10 horsepower in the midst of trimming the model line; the only version was the four-door with the V-6. For both lines, Chevy and Suzuki, the two-door was gone by the end of 2003. Each model could be had with either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic in RWD or 4WD configurations.
A scan of service reports and owners' comments reveals few strong maintenance concerns save for the usual smattering of transmission woes (on some models, poor shift performance on cruise control is misdiagnosed as a transmission problem when it's actually a servo issue), failed air-conditioning, and various electrical gremlins. Owners also rate the small-engine versions poorly for performance and refinement. But given the fire-sale prices, particularly on the Chevy models, pop for the V-6 and put the rest of the money into a vacation.
|1999-2004 Chevrolet/Suzuki Tracker/Vitara|
|Body type||2- or 4-door SUV|
|Drivetrain||Front engine, RWD or 4WD|
|Base engines||1.6L/97-hp DOHC I-4;2.0L/127-hp DOHC I-4;|
|Optional engine||2.5L/155-hp DOHC V-6|
|Brakes, f/r||Disc/disc, ABS|
|Price range, whlsl/ret (IntelliChoice)||$2038/$4115 (1999 2WD two-door Tracker);$10,089/$14,526 (20044WD LX Grand Vitara)|
|Recalls||Too many to list; go to www.intellichoice.com|
|NHTSA frontal impactrating, driver/pass||N/A|