1997 GMC Sonoma Review
Pros & Cons
- Fuel-efficient base engine, sporty styling, powerful optional V-6, handy third door option
- Shabby build quality, uncomfortable seats, rattly third door option
Edmunds' Expert Review
Compact trucks are hot sellers, and GMC's entry into that market delivers hard-to-beat value--even if it doesn't stand at the top of its class in every way. A driver airbag with knee bolster and daytime running lights are standard. All Sonomas are equipped with four-wheel antilock braking, and a handy side access panel is optional on the extended cab.
Sonomas can be fitted to suit just about any requirement, from strict utility to sporty style and performance. Choose from three wheelbases, two cab types, a regular-size or long cargo bed in Fleetside or Sportside configuration, and two- or four-wheel drive. Whew! You still have to consider three trim levels, five suspension systems, three engines (a four or two V6 choices), and manual or automatic shift.
GMC changes little for 1997. Extended cab models can be equipped with the Sport Suspension for the first time, and powertrains have been improved for better efficiency. Order bucket seats and a center console, and you'll get a floor-mounted shifter rather than one sticking out of the steering column. Remote keyless entry key fobs are redesigned, and Fairway Green and Smoky Caramel replace Radar Purple and Bright Teal on the color chart. Plug-in half-shafts on 4WD models are lighter-weight and easier to service.
With the high-output, 180-horsepower Vortec 4300 V6 on tap, and the Sport Suspension package, the Sonoma performs as energetically as high-priced sports cars did a decade or so ago. By any definition, that's progress. The Sportside box and sharp five-spoke alloys nicely complement the top powertrain and suspension, turning the Sonoma into a true factory sport truck. For off-roading duties, GMC offers the Highrider, riding three-ply all-terrain tires and sporting a reinforced frame (four inches wider, two inches taller) and toughened suspension. Either Sonoma outperforms the Ranger on or off the pavement, but when it comes to interior fittings, only the Nissan Truck is more archaic.
Inside, Sonomas and Chevrolet S-Series pickups are virtually identical, with a roomy cab marred by an aesthetic disaster of a dashboard, which looks and feels as though it were lifted from some defunct Buick project, and uncomfortable bucket seats. A passenger airbag is unavailable. On extended cab trucks, an optional left side access panel makes loading passengers or cargo into the rear of the cab much easier, but takes the place of one of the fold-out jump seats in the rear.
Ford's Ranger, Dodge's Dakota, and Toyota's Tacoma come across as more refined, and their sticker prices reflect this impression. In compact-truck value per dollar, though, GMC just might deliver all the goods you're seeking.