What's New for 1998
Geo is gone, so all Trackers are now badged as Chevrolets. The LSi models are dropped, though an LSi equipment package is available on Base models. Two new colors are available. Second-generation airbags are standard.
To the chagrin of Chevrolet dealers, the redesigned Tracker has been slightly delayed. As a result, the 1997 model is carried over until an all-new design arrives early next year. The new truck will be slightly larger and more powerful, but is not slated to get the V6 engine that will be optional in its twin, the Suzuki Sidekick. That's too bad, because the Tracker is quite underpowered, particularly in four-door guise.
Due to its carryover status, changes for 1998 are limited. Since General Motors decided to kill the import-oriented Geo brand, the Tracker now wears a Chevy bowtie on its bonnet. The uplevel LSi trim level has been dropped, though most of the items from that model are available on base Trackers for 1998. Purple Graphite and California Gold have been added to the color chart. Prices have been set at or near 1997 levels in an effort to make the Tracker more attractive to folks cross-shopping the hot-selling Kia Sportage, Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V.
Fun-in-the-sun takes on fresh meaning behind the wheel of a snug-but-cozy Tracker convertible, whether its engine is driving two wheels or four. A 16-valve engine powers all Tracker models, sending out 95 horsepower. Naturally, the optional automatic transmission saps much of that strength.
Short and stubby, these friendly little vehicles maneuver easily but handle with a very light, sometimes twitchy touch on both the highway and off-road. They're more solidly built than they appear at first glance--not at all like a toy--and deliver a passably pleasant ride most of the time. Differing little from the Suzuki Sidekick, Trackers look and feel substantial, though during off-road driving, the door frames on the four-door shudder just enough to let in a fine silt of dust that coats every plastic interior trim piece. Front seats are firm but lack leg support, and wear nice-looking upholstery. The rear seat of four-door models is surprisingly comfortable for two adults. Dual cupholders and a storage tray sit in the center console.
Convertibles have an "easy opening" top that folds in two ways: either the front half folds back like a sunroof, or the entire canvas top can be stowed for fully-open motoring. Though improved, putting the top up and down still isn't exactly a quickie operation. "Expressions packages" feature color-keyed convertible tops and wheels, and a Tracker can be equipped to tow half a ton. Optional are automatic-locking hubs, which are nice to have if you switch often between two- and four-wheel drive.
Four-door models can be equipped with power windows, door locks and mirrors. Child security rear door locks are standard on the four-door, and daytime running lights are standard on all Trackers. The 1.6-liter engine provides barely enough power in convertibles; in the four-door the engine is severely overmatched. Interstate cruising requires putting the pedal nearly to the metal just to maintain speed.
Would you want the convertible as your sole vehicle? Probably not, but a soft top Tracker in the garage just might turn sunny summer days into a veritable binge of adventure. Practical-minded folks, on the other hand, might prefer the weather-tight construction of a hardtop model. Sadly, we can't recommend using a Tracker for anything but light duty in the flatlands. The 1.6-liter motor is zippy enough to keep up in city traffic, but a heavy load of passengers or cargo keeps the Tracker's breathless engine wound out tightly on slight inclines or at freeway speeds. With a bigger engine, lightly equipped Trackers would certainly give the competition a run for the money.