Off-road enthusiasts love compact 4x4 pickup trucks. Some of their prominent attributes include easy maneuverability, decent fuel mileage, a good power-to-weight ratio, and as a bonus, they cost thousands of dollars less than their fullsized brethren. Unfortunately, standard-cab models leave much to be desired in interior storage capability, which creates a problem when hauling a passenger or two - you have to leave your laptop or MX helmet and boots in the bed of the truck while it's raining. Extended-cab models are a major improvement in generating storage space, but grown men have been known to sob uncontrollably when asked to ride in the tiny rear jump seats due in part to the nauseating seating position created by a perpendicular view of the passing landscape.
The new crop of compact four-door pickups solve these space and ergonomic problems, so it is no surprise they've gathered a fair share of the truck market in an extremely short time. We recently spent some time on and off road in Chevrolet's first entry into this crowded segment, behind the wheel of a '01 S-10 Crew Cab 4x4. Our testing took place in the dead of winter during a brutal cold snap that pushed the nightly low well below zero and the daily high barely into the 20s. During the test, we used the S-10 Crew Cab just as anyone would, to haul the kids, get groceries, commute to work, and go to dinner. We also used it to bust through 2-foot snowdrifts, to retrieve a sick calf from the back forty, to pull-start a cold-blooded tractor, and to haul straw and oats for Max the horse. All of these experiences left us with several impressions of the little S-10 regarding the truck's basic design and the new Crew Cab option.
It's Still A Pickup Truck
In order to place the new, longer Crew Cab body on the current Extended Cab frame, Chevy engineers designed a new cargo box specifically for the Crew Cab. It measures 17.6 inches shorter in overall floor length than the short box used with the Extended Cab, but creates exactly the same 17-foot overall vehicle length measurement of the Extended Cab short box model. This length creates a vehicle that is easy to park and maneuver, and by keeping the wheelbase short, the S-10 doesn't have the rearend looseness of longer pickups because its overall weight is distributed more evenly on the axles. As we found out, this helps decrease the need to lock in the transfer case in order to simply get moving in low traction conditions. Plan on hauling stuff? The payload capacity is 1,111 pounds, which is 278 pounds less than the Extended Cab model, but reflects the Crew Cab's 278-pound weight increase over the Extended Cab. The LS model comes standard with a bedliner, which guards the welded, double-wall unit against the abuse truck owners tend to deal out, and we found that an average-sized dirt bike will fit in the bed as long as it's positioned at an angle.
Opening the rear doors of a Crew Cab reveals an interior that is almost a duplicate of a Blazer, minus the covered cargo area. Ingress and egress to the rear seats doesn't require the lithe qualities of a gymnast because the rear doors' width and height are substantive. Once inside, the deluxe cloth bucket seats offer premium comfort, and the front seats offer manual recline. Of course, rear seat legroom is dependent on how far to the rear the front-seat passengers have their seats positioned, but we found the legroom to be livable even with the seats all the way back. We're not saying we'd like to ride coast to coast back there, but for short trips, it's fine. We were impressed by how quiet and tight the S-10 seemed, with minimal road and wind noise in the cabin. The heating system is also worth noting for two reasons: its ability to rapidly produce heat and its quiet fan operation. We like the design of the interior, which included the shift lever on the column, because this allows for more storage in the center console. Off road, the S-10's soft seats mixed with the soft suspension produce a very comfortable ride, even when bouncing over cornfields. This is one compact truck that has a bit of a big truck feel, and we like that.