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by Steve Siler

Chevrolet Tracker / Suzuki Vitara /
Suzuki Grand Vitara
2003 Chevrolet Tracker

Among the oldest of the trucks listed here (and I use the word truck deliberately - see next paragraph - is this trio from Chevy and Suzuki. Having been with us now since 1998, the current generation of Vitaras (initially called the Sidekick) and Trackers are ripe for an update, which is coming soon, thanks to the arrival of the new Equinox this fall. Why am I bringing all of this up? Because it's gonna be deal time at the Chevy and Suzuki dealers as the Equinox and its Suzuki stablemate approach.

So what about the current Tracker and Vitara? They are delightfully unpretentious, straightforward and easy to use. Two-door models are convertibles, which ups the fun factor; four-door models are hardtop-only, but understandably raise the practicality quotient more than a little bit. Not surprisingly, some interior materials are cheap-feeling, although high-trim level versions try to disguise their low-rent origins with niceties like leather seats, power amenities and keyless entry.

All are built on a sturdy truck platform (body-on-frame), which translates into a much stiffer ride than that of the car-like (unibody) mini-utes from Honda and Ford, yet it's the truck in them that makes them so at ease when the pavement ends. Still, their engines aren't the most powerful in the market, not by a long shot: the base four-cylinder makes modest 127 hp, and the top-line V-6 in the Grand Vitara produces just 165 hp. Noteworthy is that although the new Equinox will have a more powerful V-6 standard, it won't be built on a proper truck platform, making it more of a road vehicle than an off-road playmobile. Its price also will likely rise a bit. If that bums you out, then snatch up a Tracker or a Vitara now.