In the 1980s, compact Japan-made trucks were popular in the United States. As a response, American companies came up with their own versions, hoping to beat the competition. This gave birth to the Chevy S10 truck.
The Chevy S10 is a compact pick-up truck released in 1982. Made by GM, it is an affordable, dependable, customizable, and versatile vehicle. Over the years, three generations were introduced. It was discontinued in 2004 upon the introduction of the Chevrolet Colorado.
Read on to learn more about the Chevy S10, including its specs and features, as well as its pros and cons.
About the Chevy S10 Truck
Early in the 80s, pickup trucks from Japan were mainstream in the United States. Domestic manufacturers felt the pressure to introduce highly-capable vehicles that come in small sizes. This was when GM made the Chevy S10 pickup truck in 1982, an economical and versatile truck that provides users with plenty of options for customization.
The First Generation
The Chevy S10 pickup truck is the first compact pickup truck from an American company, making it historic. It is inspired by the Chevy LUV (light-duty vehicle) manufactured from 1972 to 1982.
During the Arab oil embargo in the 1970s, manufacturers felt the pressure to develop more efficient cars. Fuel consumption was a major issue. Different companies built smaller and less powerful cars, and this was when the first generation of the S10 came into the picture.
The first generation of the S10 truck ran from 1982 to 1993. It is available in two styles – regular and extended cab. The regular cab version has two doors. Meanwhile, the Insta-Trac and Club Coupe extended-cab models have a longer body and more powerful engines.
The company manufactured different versions during the truck’s first generation. One of the most notable was the S10 Baja. It was a rugged four-wheel model with either a 2.8 or 4.3-liter V6 engine. It was an instant hit following its introduction because of the popularity of off-roading in the United States in the 80s.
Other versions during the vehicle’s first generation were Sonoma GT, Typhoon, and Syclone.
The Second Generation
The truck’s second-generation model was released in 1994 until 2004. Three versions were available – regular, extended, and crew cabs. Meanwhile, the truck beds were available in long and short configurations.
At the time of its release, one of its main competitors was the Ford Ranger. New engines were introduced to keep up with its rival – the 2.2L four-pot and 4.3L Vortec V6.
With the increasing pressure to go greener due to the Clean Air Act, the second-generation models had CFC-free R134a refrigerants. The latter improved the truck’s air conditioning units, generating lesser emissions while producing the same power.
Despite the improvements that came with the new models, the company kept some of the components in the first-generation trucks. A good example of this was the steering wheel, which did not have airbags. And this affected the quality of these models.
As a result, the performance declined. Newer competitors have emerged. With this, Chevrolet discontinued manufacturing the S10 pickup in 2004. Chevrolet Colorado replaced the S10.
The Third Generation
Even if the production of the S10 truck has halted in the United States, a third-generation model was introduced in Brazil in 2012. It was available in engines with either 147 or 180 HP. A year after, an improvement in the diesel engine increased the power to 206 HP.
GM teams in Thailand and Australia designed the third-gen S10 truck. The company sold it in Asia, New Zealand, and Australia. It was also available in Latin America. However, GM changed its style to fit the intense competition for midsized pickups.
S10 Electric Version
While it was not as popular as the other variants, the S10 pickup truck was also once available as an electric vehicle. Production was from 1997 to 1998, and only about 1,100 units were made. It was available on a lease-only basis. Some of its select customers were the U.S. Air Force, Virginia Power, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, and Boston Edison.
This electric version has 27 batteries, which collectively weigh 1,400 pounds. When full, the battery ran for 2.5 hours. Meanwhile, it has an approximate range of 45 miles.
Except for the 60 units sold, the company destroyed all other S10 electric variants in circulation. This was a move to protect their electric vehicle technology.
With the discontinuation of the S10 truck in 2004, the Chevy Colorado was born. The wheelbase was slightly longer than the original S10. The overall body was also longer, taller, and wider. Despite the increase in size, it was still considered a compact to the mid-sized truck.
The earliest versions of this truck had two engine versions – 16-valve, four-cylinder Vortec 2800 with 175 HP and the 20-valve, five-cylinder Vortec 3500 engine with 220 HP.
Chevy S10 Truck Specs and Review
To give you a better idea of the overall performance of the Chevrolet S10, this section briefly looks at some of its most important technical specs:
The heart of any car, the engine, is crucial to the overall performance. With this, Chevy used exceptional engines without the burden of weight and size of its more powerful counterparts.
S10’s earliest base model has a 1.9L Isuzu four-cylinder engine. There is also an upgrade option, which came with a 2.8L V6 engine. Two more engines were introduced a year after, 2.0L and 2.2.L, both of which had four cylinders. More so, newer models have high-performance V6 engines.
Aside from the type of engine, horsepower is another important consideration with a huge impact on performance. Depending on the specific version, S10 pickup trucks had different HP ratings. For instance, the 2.5L four-cylinder engine generates 105 HP. Meanwhile, the 4.3L V6 engine has 165 HP. Meanwhile, the 4.3L L35 engine produces 195 HP.
Through the years, there were different versions of the S10 pickup. They came with both manual and automatic transmissions.
4. Fuel Economy
One of the main ideas behind building the S10 pickup is to offer better fuel economy. With this, regardless of the chosen model, it is efficient.
On average, the truck’s version with a regular cab has a fuel economy of 22 mpg for city driving. On the other hand, it is 28 mpg for highway and 24 mpg in combined conditions.
Similar to most of the S10’s specifications, the wheelbase varies from one model to another. For a regular cab short bed, the wheelbase is 108.3 inches. Meanwhile, a regular cab with a long bed has a wheelbase of 117.9 inches. On the other hand, it is 122.9 inches for an extended cab with a short bed.
The length of the S10 pickup ranges from 190 to 205 inches, depending on the type of body or the cab. Meanwhile, the width is 67.9 inches, and the height is 63.5 inches.
Design and Build of the Chevy S10 Truck
One of the reasons for the popularity of the S10 pickup was its design. It is a mid-sized truck with sufficient space for hauling cargo. Since it is compact, it is easier to drive, especially in a city. Not to mention, it is more fuel-efficient compared to regular pickup trucks:
Chevy S10 Baja
This is one of the earliest designs of the S10 pickup. It is available in three colors – midnight black, frost white, and apple red. Other design features include a tubular grill in the front, fuel tank and front differential shields, roll bar, Baja stickers, and Chevrolet windshield banner.
S10’s performance package, this monochrome pickup truck, has wide aero and a low stance. It is a predecessor of the 1991 Syclone, but the main difference is that the Sonoma GT is less powerful. It has bucket seats, red and black piping door inserts, and a center console.
There were only 806 of the Sonoma GTs available in 1992.
For those who find the traditional S10 design boring, the ZRT Sport is a notable upgrade. It has a sportier appearance, which is made possible by the black bumpers, 15-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, and a longer frame.
Chevrolet S10 SS
Similar to the ZR5 Sport, this is another high-performance version. Built from 1994 to 1998, it has three colors – summit white, apple red, and onyx black. Its bumpers and grill have the same colors as the body. More so, it has 16-inch wheels and regular cabs.
Chevrolet S10 Xtreme
This was Chevrolet’s response to the growing market for economical, sporty pickups. It was designed to attract younger customers. The pickup truck has a low height, 16-inch wheels, ZQ8 suspension, sway bars, and an aggressive body. This version is available in both regular and extended cabs.
Chevrolet S10 2020
While it is no longer available in the North American market, the Chevrolet S10 refreshed in 2020. Aside from a more refreshing modern look, it has new interior and exterior features to compete with the newer pickups. The truck also offers modern connectivity options to meet the needs of modern drivers.
How Much Does the Chevy S10 Cost?
Since Chevrolet no longer manufactures the S10 pickup, your only option is to buy it from third-party dealers. A quick online search reveals differing prices, which range from $2,000 to $10,000. Many are only base models. Hence, you will need to spend on the aesthetic and performance upgrades that you want.
Pros and Cons of Chevy S10 Pickup Truck
Even by today’s standards, the S10 is an iconic pickup truck. While it is generally good, there are also some drawbacks:
What makes the S10 a great truck? Below, we’ll list down some of its most notable benefits:
- Compact: This is S10’s biggest selling point. At that time, it was an excellent alternative to regular pickups since it is smaller. Despite the size, it has plenty of hauling space that makes it functional.
- Affordable: It became an instant hit following the introduction because of its price. Compared to larger trucks with more powerful specifications, it catered to people on a budget.
- Fuel-Efficient: With a smaller body and less powerful engines than full-sized trucks, the S10 offers great fuel efficiency. From city to highway driving, mileage is a good thing in this pickup.
- Options for Customization: The S10 offers freedom when it comes to customization. If you are lucky enough to get this car today, you will love how you have several options to personalize the interior and exterior as you wish.
Despite the good things, the Chevy S10 has several drawbacks, including the following:
- Quality: Overall, the quality is quite underwhelming. As earlier mentioned, the priority is cost. The company wanted to offer something affordable. With that, the materials used are not at par with their higher-end counterparts.
- Safety: Aside from quality, safety is also an issue in the S10 pickup truck. There are minimal safety features, especially in the early models.
- Hard to Find: Chevrolet no longer manufactures this pickup. You won’t find it in official dealers. The only way to buy it is to go for a second-hand model, most of which are available from online sellers.
Conclusion – Chevy S10 Pickup Truck
The Chevrolet S10 is a compact and affordable truck. It was designed to rival the dominance of Japan-made pickups in the United States. More than being economical, it also became popular because of the different options for customization.
The truck had three generations since 1982. The first generation had basic features and two cab types – regular and extended. Meanwhile, the second version retained most components but had minor improvements, including a third crew cab version. Lastly, the third generation was the model built in Brazil after S10’s production was discontinued in the United States.