What's New for 2002
The Tracker gets only minor changes for 2002. An AM/FM/CD stereo is now standard equipment on all models, while both LT and ZR2 models get new alloy wheel designs. Four new colors have been added to the color palette: Medium Green Pearl Metallic, Medium Red Metallic, Light Bronzemist Metallic and Indigo Blue Metallic.
The underpowered and undersized Tracker faces stiff competition in the hot mini-ute category. Newer competitors like the Ford Escape, Hyundai Santa Fe, Mazda Tribute and Toyota RAV4 are larger, more appealing alternatives, albeit at a price premium.
Unlike many of today's unibody mini-SUVs built on car platforms, Tracker boasts full body-on-frame construction. Attention to suspension and steering tuning mask the old-tech underpinnings, resulting in decent ride and handling, with surprising stability and substantial road feel. Power front disc brakes with rear drums bring things to a halt, while four-wheel ABS is optional. A "shift-on-the-fly" four-wheel-drive system with automatic locking front hubs is standard on all 4WD models.
With its rounded roofline, sloping hood and sleek flanks, Tracker's design is stylish enough; whether you choose the two-door soft-top model or four-door hardtop. Better still, Tracker's interior is reasonably comfortable and ergonomically designed, but the material quality could use some improvement.
Four-door Trackers come in three trim levels: base, ZR2 and LT. The ZR2 could be considered the sport model, with a blacked-out grille, wheel opening moldings, five-spoke aluminum wheels and wider tires. The LT is the luxury model that includes a premium cloth interior (leather is optional), chrome grille and silver body-side cladding, in addition to the normal amenities like power windows, door locks and mirrors.
All Trackers get standard air conditioning and an AM/FM/CD stereo, while four-door models get child security rear door locks and a roof rack. Four-door Trackers have surprisingly comfortable rear seating for two adults. Stowing the rear seat provides a nearly flat load floor, but maximum cargo space still trails primary competitors'.
The two-door convertibles have a two-piece "easy-opening" top that opens up the front section, rear section or both to the sun, but you'll still utilize the uncouth parts of your vocabulary while raising or lowering the adversarial roof. Dealer-installed exterior accessory packages can also be added to custom-tailor your Tracker for more serious on- or off-road duty, if you so desire.
A 2.0-liter 16-valve DOHC four-cylinder engine is standard on base model four-doors and both ZR2 and base two-doors. It puts out 127 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 134 pound-feet of torque at 3,000 revs through a five-speed manual or optional four-speed automatic transmission. Four-door models in either ZR2 or LT trim get upgraded to a 2.5-liter DOHC V6. Putting out 155 horsepower and 160 lb-ft of torque, the engine is a welcome improvement, but it still lags behind the V6s of the Ford and Mazda twins whose top engines manage a healthy 200 horses.
Power-hungry drivers aside, there's no denying that fun-in-the-sun motoring is possible from behind the wheel of a little Tracker convertible -- even more so with the go-anywhere attitude afforded by its optional four-wheel drive. But if you're looking for a full featured four-door mini-ute, we would recommended checking out the competition first before settling on the outdated and outclassed Tracker.