Used 1999 GMC Sonoma Regular Cab Review

Edmunds expert review

What's new for 1999

The '99 Sonoma touts four new exterior colors, a new steering wheel with mini-module depowered airbag and larger, more robust outside rearview mirrors, with the uplevel power mirror gaining a heated feature. AutoTrac, GM's electronic push-button two-speed transfer case, is now standard on four-wheel-drive models, and all Sonomas get a content theft alarm with remote keyless entry as well as a flash-to-pass headlamp feature for the smart stalk. Serious four-wheelers can now order composite skid plates.

Vehicle overview

Looking for a way to distinguish the GMC Sonoma from the pedestrian Chevrolet S-10, marketers have decided to sell the Sonoma as a capable alternative to the traditional sporty coupe. With an aggressive look, available sport suspensions, a third-door extended cab, snazzy Sportside bed and a strong 4.3-liter V6 under the hood, it shouldn't be a hard sell.

Despite this new advertising image, Sonomas can be fitted to suit just about any requirement, from strict utility hauler to off-road bruiser. 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, SLE), three engines (a four-cylinder or two V6 choices), a manual or automatic shift, and no less than seven different suspension systems-three for 2WD and four for 4WD models. Whew!

GMC substantially improved the Sonoma inside and out last year, so minor revisions were on tap this time around. Four-wheel-drive models, which already have four-wheel disc brakes standard, now get GM's AutoTrac, an electronic two-speed transfer case that detects wheel slippage and automatically directs power to the axle with the most traction-all at the push of a button. Other minor upgrades, such as new colors, bigger outside mirrors and a content theft alarm with remote keyless entry, round out the changes for '99.

With the high-output, 180-horsepower Vortec 4300 V6 on tap, and the ZQ8 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. If off-roading is your thing, GMC offers the Highrider, sporting a reinforced frame (four inches wider, two inches taller) and beefed-up suspension riding on three-ply all-terrain tires. The GMC Sonoma can outperform Ford's Ranger on or off the pavement, but when it comes to interior fittings, Ford still has the General beat by a wide margin.

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 improved 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 Fisher Price. 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.

For our money, the Ford Ranger, Dodge Dakota and Toyota Tacoma come across as more refined vehicles than the Sonoma, and their sticker prices reflect this impression. But in the compact truck value-per-dollar equation, GMC just might best deliver all the goods you're seeking-especially if what you're after is a sporty little truck able to sprint like a sports car off the line and through the twisties.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.