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By Jeremy Cato
You need the nose of a bloodhound to track the history of the Tracker in Canada – even then, the Tracker can get tricky. For the unprepared used car buyer the whole story is downright confusing.
Now it’s true that the most recent bit of history is easy. The 1999 Chevrolet Tracker got a big boost in terms of styling, comfort, road manners and performance. I emphasize the name Chevrolet because in the decade prior to the last major Tracker makeover, this little sport-utility vehicle was sold as not just a Chevy, but also a Geo, a GMC, a Pontiac (Sunrunner) and an Asuna (Sunrunner).
Asuna? That was a little brand marketing initiative at General Motors of Canada back in 1993 that the company would Asuna forget. A complete, utter disaster. Eventually the vice-president who dreamed it up was shown the door – complete with security escort. For the record, the Geo name was formally discontinued for the ’98 model year.
And just to mix things up a bit more, a Tracker by any name is also a Suzuki Sidekick. No kidding.
Not to be lost in all this are some very simple Tracker truths. Launched in 1989 as both the Chevy and GMC Tracker, it was originally a two-door small sport-ute sold with either a canvas or hard top. The 80-horsepower, 1.6-litre engine has proved durable if uninteresting in terms of performance. Just avoid the automatic if you plan to pass anyone, ever.
For the most part, the Tracker was unchanged through 1998, except for the addition of a four-door version in 1997. Tall and narrow, the Tracker should be driven carefully in turns. The high centre of gravity means you must cope with plenty of body lean. Still, the ride is choppy, not to mention noisy.
On the plus side, a Tracker’s interior is surprisingly roomy given the modest exterior dimensions. Yes, the back seat is more a place for kids, but the tall seating position at least provides a good view of the road and reasonable thigh support.
Cargo space? There’s not a lot of it behind the back seat in Trackers of this vintage. But you can fold the seatback forward. As for the rest of the cabin, the controls are simple to operate and the gauges easy to read. Nothing complicated at all.
Perhaps this little truck’s most endearing quality is its durability. Like the Energizer Bunny, Trackers last and last and last. They may not be pretty as they age (rust can be a problem in older ones) but they just keep going.
Indeed, as the service bulletins, recall notices and customer surveys confirm, the Tracker has not suffered from an abundance of problems in its history (see Buyer’s Alerts for details). Prices are highly affordable, too.
If you’re looking at an older Tracker here are some product milestones to keep in mind:
- 1990: Tracker convertible CL debuts and an automatic transmission becomes available across the lineup.
- 1991: A two-wheel drive convertible debuts.
- 1992: Aluminum wheels become available on all models.
- 1994: Optional new design aluminum wheels, all-season tires.
- 1995: Easy up/easy down top for convertible.
- 1996: Revised exterior appearance; standard driver and passenger airbags; four-wheel anti-lock brakes become available; 1.6-litre SOHC engine made standard; hardtop model discontinued.
- 1997: Four-door, four-wheel drive hardtop arrives.
- 1998: Geo name discontinued and Tracker permanently renamed as a Chevrolet; two-wheel drive/two-door model and Tracker LSi four-door hardtop discontinued.
- 1999: All-new two- and four-door Tracker arrives
- 2002: AM/FM/CD standard, along with roof rack and rear wiper on hardtop.
As you can see, until the big re-do in 1999, GM and its Suzuki partner did not invest in major Tracker change. If nothing else, that means parts are readily available. Not a small consideration for older car owners.
Point is if you’re looking for a cheap little four-wheel sport-ute, the Tracker might fit the bill.
Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.