The truck market is dominated by high torque numbers, ridiculous towing ratings, big crew cabs, and huge V8 engines, but there’s more to the segment than that. Modern midsize trucks have brought a new dimension to the pickup market, but we still think they try to play the big truck game, albeit they’re easier to drive, park, and generally live with.
Full-size, heavy-duty, and modern midsize trucks still aren't the whole story of the truck market, though. Before this new crop of midsize trucks swept in, there was a slew of small and practical pickups that captivated a certain portion of the market. Near the head of that group of compact trucks was the Chevrolet S-10.
What Was It?
The Chevrolet S-10 did battle with the Ford Ranger, Toyota Tacoma, Nissan D21 Hardbody, and Dodge Dakota to give people a smaller and more affordable alternative to full-size trucks. The S-10 model line started in 1982 as a boxy pickup with square headlights (pictured above) and ended its life with slightly sleeker and more rounded edges in 2004 (pictured below). Throughout its run of 22 years, it went through only two generations. It was offered in regular, extended, and even (near the end of its life) crew cab configurations and either a short or long bed. GMC also offered a version of the truck known as the S-15 at first, and later the company called it the Sonoma.
Chevrolet offered four-cylinder and V6 engine options and either an automatic or manual transmission for each engine. Throughout the years Chevrolet offered a few different engines, and the model line ended with the base 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine or the optional 4.3-liter Vortec V6 under the hood. The S-10 couldn’t tow as much as its Silverado big brother, but it could handle most recreational towing needs. Properly equipped V6 models could tow over 5,000 lbs easily, making it more than suitable for most jobs.
The interior was on par for the time period but lacked some of the nicer amenities. Many S-10s came with manual windows and door locks and featured a basic radio. Forget about the infotainment systems you see in just about every car and truck out there today. Even in a decked out S-10, you didn't get much. Most of the materials were on the lower end and the truck retained its purposeful design. This was a basic, affordable truck for getting around and getting work done, and its no-nonsense approach was evident from the moment you climbed into the driver's seat.
Why We Miss It?
Don’t get us wrong, we love the new Chevrolet Colorado, especially the ZR2 version. The thing is, the smaller trucks of today make pickups like the S-10 look tiny. The Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon aren’t really all that much smaller than a full-size pickup. The S-10 was a compact truck that occupied what used to be the space below the full-size truck category. Today, it serves as a reminder that vehicles, especially trucks, have just gotten bigger and more complex over time.
There’s a modesty about a Chevrolet S-10 that doesn’t come with the new Colorado. It’s a basic, utilitarian approach to transportation that also comes with a simple bed good for almost any job. If you own one of these trucks, you know that you're the first to receive a call anytime a friend has a job their sedan can't handle. You can buy a base stripped-down Colorado today to fulfill these same needs, but the Colorado still has the aura of a bigger truck. The S-10 didn’t. With this in mind, it’s important to note there’s a hole in the market. Until some automaker fills it with a good small truck, we’ll love the S-10 for its size, simplicity, and practicality.