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The Sonoma offers an extensive array of available configurations and options. Too bad high-quality interiors and rock-solid build quality aren't on those lists, otherwise we might recommend it. But as it stands, we'd stick with a Ford Ranger or Toyota Tacoma.
Sporty styling, fuel-efficient base engine, powerful optional V6.
Cheesy interior plastics, low seating positions, spotty build quality.
Available Sonoma Models
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Four-wheel-drive Sonomas get a higher-output V6 and a handling/trailering suspension standard. GMC drops the 4WD long-bed and High-Rider regular-cab models and adds a new, lower-priced base-trim extended-cab model. All versions get a boost in trailer ratings and a new paint color.
With an aggressive look, available sport suspension, a third-door extended cab, snazzy Sportside bed and a strong 4.3-liter V6 under the hood, GMC's Sonoma is being positioned as a more versatile alternative to the traditional sporty coupe. But pitchmen aside, Sonomas can actually be fitted to suit just about any requirement, from utility hauler to off-road bruiser. You can choose from three wheelbases, three cabs, a short box or long box in Wideside or Sportside configuration and two- or four-wheel drive. Then, you still have to consider three trim levels (SL, SLS and SLE), two engines (a four-cylinder or V6), a manual or automatic transmission, and no less than five different suspension systems (three for 2WD and two for 4WD models). Whew!
Four-wheel-drive models, which already have four-wheel disc brakes and GM's electronic InstaTrac transfer case standard, find more power from the Vortec 4300 V6, and a standard handling/trailering suspension that was optional last year. The high-output V6 now makes 190 horsepower (up 10 from '99) and is standard on all 4WD trucks. Opt for the 4.3 in a 2WD Sonoma, and it will deliver 180 horsepower. The base powertrain is a 120-horsepower 2.2-liter four-cylinder mated to a five-speed manual gearbox. A four-speed automatic is optional.
Two-wheel-drive buyers can choose from an all-purpose "smooth-ride" suspension, a firmer "heavy-duty" setup for work, and a handling-oriented ZQ8 "sport" suspension tuned for optimum cornering. With the "high-payload" suspension standard on 4WD trucks, you'll want to order the High-Rider package if serious off-roading will be part of your driving mix. Tagged the ZR2 option, High-Riders boast a bigger, reinforced frame, beefy shocks and three-ply all-terrain tires.
Inside, Sonomas and Chevrolet S-Series pickups are virtually identical, with a roomy cab and modern dash layout. Center stack controls are canted toward the driver for easy access. Unfortunately, the cloth trim and carpeting feel thin, and plastic used for dash panels and switchgear still looks as though it was sourced from a toy company. On extended-cab trucks, an optional left-side access panel makes loading passengers or cargo into the rear of the cab much easier, but choosing the three-door cab eliminates one of the rear foldout jump seats.
Outfit a Sonoma with the 180-horse V6 and five-speed stick and add the ZQ8 sport suspension, and this little truck performs as energetically as some sports cars did a decade or so ago. The curvy Sportside box and sharp, five-spoke alloys nicely complement the package, turning the Sonoma into a true factory sport truck.
Sure, competitors from Ford and Toyota come across as more refined vehicles than Sonoma, and the one from Dodge feels large enough to be in a class by itself. But if you're looking for a sporty hauler at a value-packed price, Sonoma is the hot ticket.
Laura's old car was costing her a small fortune every month for gas and repairs. She didn't even want to drive her kids to the park any more. But buying a new Kia Soul changed all that.