While the first generation of the S-10, Chevrolet's small pickup, sold well, no one would have called it sophisticated or wildly attractive. With the second-generation S-10 (and its GMC stablemate, the Sonoma), Chevy sought to improve the trucklet, at the same time saving development funds by basing it on the previous model.
New skin on old bones is a fair assessment, but not a complete one. Not only did the S-10 come with a new wardrobe; it had grown a size or two in interior volume, finding itself between the Japanese rivals and Dodge's near-full-size Dakota. Even better, the new S-10 displayed evidence of time in the weight room with new, robust engines.
Chevy started the second-gen's powerplant offerings with a new four-cylinder engine of 2.2 liters, featuring an iron block and an aluminum, single-cam head. It had a horsepower rating of 118, a whopping 36 more than the first S-10's 2.0-liter four-banger. This engine would remain in the lineup through the end, gaining 2 horsepower in 1998. Wisely, Chevy elected to keep the four-cylinder (thrumming through a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic) driving the rear wheels only.
If you wanted 4WD, you had to order the V-6. Where the first-gen S-10 featured a 2.8-liter V-6 borrowed from the 1980s X-cars, the new 4.3 was a different breed, though still a two-valve-per-cylinder design. Power was up, starting at 165 horses in 1994 (later dropping to 155) with a torque rating no lower than 235 pound-feet. Even better was that you could order an "enhanced" version of the 4.3 with 195 horsepower. Chevy changed to Vortec-spec engines for 1996, resulting in a 180-horsepower base engine and a 190-horse enhanced version; both were derated by 10 horsepower in 2WD models.