GMC Sonoma can be a hard-working commercial truck, a pre-runner-style sport truck, a hardy off-road scrambler, or even a comfortable sedan with a pickup box out back. More standard equipment, more options, and a simplified model lineup all enhance Sonoma's value for 2002.
Anyone shopping for a cost-effective midsize pickup should be able to find a Sonoma to serve his or her needs. A quietly handsome appearance, healthy V6 torque, and a myriad of options all argue in the Sonoma's favor.
The GMC Sonoma is an attractive truck with a smooth, aerodynamic hood that wraps around at the front end. Its clean exterior lines include a body-colored front bumper (on SLS), as well as a headlamp design that integrates all forward lighting functions into a single unit. Composite headlamps are standard, with fog lamps available as an option. The front license plate bracket is molded into the charcoal-colored lower valance, while a center step cutout in the rear bumper gives easy access to the cargo area. The stiff, box-section ladder frame dips in the center to make it easier to step up into the seats, without sacrificing ground clearance for off-highway use.
A clamshell-style third-door on the driver's side is now standard on Extended Cab models, making it easier to load personal gear, pets and an occasional passenger.
Maximum towing capacity is 6,000 pounds (for a 2WD Extended Cab with a 4.3-liter V6 engine, automatic transmission, and aftermarket weight-distributing hitch). The standard step bumper is capable of handling trailers of up to 3,500 pounds.
Four-wheel-drive models come standard with InstaTrac, a shift-on-the-fly system that allows the driver to shift between two- and four-wheel drive by pressing a button. An optional locking rear differential ($270) improves traction in slippery conditions.
The bed on the Crew Cab model measures just 55 inches (4.6 feet), short when compared to standard six-foot beds.
The Sonoma offers a good seating position, with an open, airy feel. A sloping hood, narrow A-pillar and unobstructed views to the rear make for good visibility in all directions.
The interior is roomy, comfortable and functional. The long, wide body, along with a relatively thin door design, translates into impressive shoulder and hip room for a compact pickup. Seat choices are high-backed bucket seats for two passengers, a bench seat for three, or a reclining 60/40 split bench. Front bucket seats are standard on four-wheel-drive SLS regular cabs along with all Crew Cabs and four-wheel-drive extended cabs. Driver lumbar adjustments and reclining backrests enhanced comfort in our test model.
Extended-cab Sonomas have a single fold-down jump seat for the occasional rear occupant, though there isn't a lot of space back there for an adult.
Four-door Crew Cab models offer comfortable rear seats relative to this class. The seatbacks are slightly raked, an improvement over the upright designs found in some other mid-size crew-cab pickups. Rear legroom is adequate for people with feet that are small enough to slide under the front seats. Getting out of the back seats is a bit awkward, however, because it requires pulling your feet in and threading them between the B-pillar and the seat bottom. Also, the rear door handle is a bit awkward. We use the phrase "a bit" because the little people who are most likely to ride back there probably won't complain.
The sculpted instrument panel includes radio and ventilation controls angled 15 degrees toward the driver for improved accessibility. One neat detail is a passenger-assist grip located on the dashboard. Up-level models have two dash-mounted power outlets below the ashtray. The center console can accommodate an optional cassette player. Other options include power windows and door locks, tinted glass, and an upgraded remote keyless entry system with security alarm. Safety features include tall integral headrests, and a seat-belt design that allows the belt to travel with the seat. That provides a safer, more comfortable ride for occupants of all sizes.
The GMC Sonoma come with a choice of suspensions and they should be chosen carefully. A Sonoma 4x4 with the Z85 Heavy Duty suspension offers jouncy ride quality. It is at its best when hauling a heavy load or pulling a trailer, and rides better with a cord of wood in the back.
The Z83 Smooth Ride suspension is more comfortable for everyday use, yet still works well for the light-duty work most compact pickups perform.
The Vortec V6 engine delivers healthy throttle response across the power band, which makes everyday driving enjoyable. Passing maneuvers can be completed without drama. On 4WD models, the V6 is rated at 190 horsepower at 4400 rpm and 250 pounds-feet of torque at 2800 rpm. When fitted on 2WD models, the V6 produces 180 horsepower and 245 pounds-feet of torque at the same engine speeds. Both V6 variants use sequential port fuel injection and offer an excellent combination of horsepower and torque.
Sonoma's Insta-Trac electronic transfer case is easy to operate. Simply push a button to shift between two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive. Low range is available for traversing steep or slippery ground.
Driving off road is aided by the Sonoma 4x4's high ground clearance, optional locking differential, aggressive tires, gas-pressure shocks and heavy-duty multi-leaf rear springs.
We particularly enjoyed the feel of the 4WD Sonoma's brakes. Brake pedal travel is relatively short, with good feedback. Four-wheel discs are standard on four-wheel-drive models. Two-wheel-drive Sonomas come with disc brakes in front and drum brakes in the rear. All Sonomas have four-wheel ABS.
It's been around for a while and it may not attract a lot of attention, but the GMC Sonoma is a capable compact truck. With an almost bewildering array of models and options, the Sonoma offers plenty of choices to suit a wide range of drivers.
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