What's New for 1998
The S-10 gets a sheet metal makeover and a new interior with dual airbags that incorporate second-generation technology for reduced force deployments. The basic four-cylinder engine benefits from Vortec technology this year, while 4WD models now have four-wheel disc brakes and a more refined transfer case on trucks with an automatic transmission. New radios, automatic headlight control and a standard theft-deterrent system sum up the changes.
Like most of today's compact trucks, Chevrolet's S-Series grew more car-like when it was redesigned for 1994. That's the trend, and Chevy has done a good job of transforming its small-scale pickups without blurring their identity as practical machines. Riding smoother and handling better, they gained plenty in performance potential and overall refinement, ranking closer to their main competition, Ford's similar-sized Ranger. Grasp the S-10's long manual-transmission gearshift lever and it's easy to imagine you're wielding a big rig, while enjoying the blissful comforts of a compact.
Four-cylinder models need that manual shift to derive top performance, but the two V6 engine options are strong with either manual or automatic transmissions. For maximum output, the optional 180-horsepower L35 Vortec 4300 V6 is the engine to select (190 horsepower in 4WD models). The slightly less energetic LF6 Vortec 4300 V6 is no slouch, nearly matching the L35 in power and torque.
Extended cab models can be equipped with a handy access panel that opens wide to allow for easier access to the rear of the cab. Located on the driver's side, the optional third door deletes one of the extended cab's jump seats, but makes it much easier to load cargo, a friend, or your pal Spot into the S-10. Be warned, the third door can make for aggravating rattles on broken pavement.
Two- and four-wheel drive trucks come in several configurations, with a short or long bed, fleetside box or sportside box, and a short or extended wheelbase available. Ride comfort varies from car-smooth to strictly firm, depending on the choice of suspensions and tires.
Headroom is ample and seats are supportive, but the driver sits low, facing a tall steering wheel and cowl. In theory, three people fit across an S-Series bench seat, but it's hard to imagine an adult human being slim enough to squeeze into the space allotted. Surprisingly, the extended cab's rear jump seats are comfortable for short trips, as long as only one adult occupies the space behind the front seats.
Full gauges are excellent and easy to read, but the upright dashboard is constructed of cheap and brittle-looking plastic. Despite a low-height windshield--not unlike the Ranger's--visibility is super, helped by huge mirrors. Dual airbags and daytime running lamps are standard. All models have four-wheel antilock braking. Off-roaders will want the burly ZR2 package that makes the truck's body wider and taller, featuring special wheel flares, tough suspension components, and aggressive rubber.
For 1998, the S-10 gets a new front end and redesigned rear bumper. The new styling helps to associate the S-10 with the rest of the Chevy truck lineup thanks to a thick horizontal chrome bar and thin stretched headlamps just below the edge of the hood. The interior is revised, and a new dashboard debuts with dual airbags. Ergonomics are very good, but the plastic used to construct the dash still looks like it belongs on a Tonka truck. Standard equipment now includes a theft-deterrent system and automatic headlight control. On 4WD models, four-wheel disc brakes have been added, and with an automatic transmission, the transfer case is refined for smoother and quieter operation. The standard 2.2-liter four-cylinder benefits from the same Vortec technology Chevrolet bestows upon the optional V6 engines. There are also new radios and automatics have a column-mounted shifter instead of a space-robbing console stick.
Like many Chevrolets, the S-10 is loaded with value, but we've never warmed up to it. With the refinements made for 1998, perhaps this little pickup will prove to be likeable.