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.
Acceleration as a subset of performance is determined by the power-to-weight ratio, and that could be all over the board in the S-10 game because of the myriad iterations. As it did (and does) with the full-size trucks, Chevy built an amazing number of configurations. There's the standard cab (no back seat, no storage to speak of), an extended cab, and, beginning in 1996, a third, driver's side door on those models.
By 2001, Chevy had followed the then-current small-truck trend with a four-door crew-cab iteration. There are many, many trim levels: Choose from Base or LS, plus variations like the Wide Stance, Xtreme, ZR2 (big tires and 4WD), in addition to suspension options.
The S-10 had mechanical issues, prompting four brake-system-specific recalls. Owners also rate the early trucks' brake feel as subpar. Through 1997, the S-10's fuel-injection system is said to be troublesome, as are the transmissions and transfer cases in the 1995-2002 models.
While the first S-10 in 1994 is currently valued slightly above the outgoing Toyota Pickup, it significantly lags behind the next year's offerings, when Toyota introduced the Tacoma, particularly where 4WD trucks are concerned. (The Toyota has dramatically better resale.) Overall, the S-10's value remains close to the Ford Ranger's, making the larger, more-powerful Chevy an enticing choice.
| 1994-2004 CHEVROLET S-10 |
| Body type || Two-, three-, or four-door pickup |
| Drivetrain || Front engine, RWD/4WD |
| Airbags || Dual front |
| Engines || 2.2L/118-120-hp SOHC I-4; 4.3L/155-195-hp OHV V-6; 4.3L/170-190-hp OHV V-6 (1996-on) |
| Brakes, f/r || Disc/drum or disc/disc, ABS |
| Price range, whilesale/retail (est) || $775/2175 (1994 regular cab, short bed, 2WD); $8475/$12,600 (2004 crew cab, 4WD) |
| Recalls || Too many to list; see www.intellichoice.com |
| NHTSA frontal impact rating, driver/pass || Three stars/three stars |