Compact pickup truck; Built in USA
  • crew cab
  • ext. cab
  • reg. cab long bed
  • reg. cab short bed
  • longitudinal front-engine/rear- or 4-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,400 – $8,200*


1994 GMC Sonoma regular cab


1996 GMC Sonoma extended cab


1996 GMC Sonoma extended cab


1995 GMC Sonoma regular cab


1996 GMC Sonoma interior

Pros:
  • Acceleration (V6)
  • Optional third door (later models)
  • Instruments/controls
  • Passenger room
Cons:
  • Rear-seat room
  • Ride (some models)
  • Seat comfort (front passenger)

We rate Ford’s Ranger a notch above the GMC and Chevrolet compact pickups, due to its slightly more polished feel. Dodge’s latest Dakota, as redesigned for 1997, is bigger yet and even more polished, with stronger hauling ability and an available V8 engine. Even so, most buyers will find plenty to like in the GMC/Chevrolet compacts.

Overview

As in the pre-1994 generation, the redesigned GMC Sonoma and similar Chevrolet S-Series compact pickup shared basic styling. Each rode a modification of the prior generation’s platform, with more powerful engines than before and newly available 4-wheel antilock braking. Overall lengths increased by about 10 inches, for all three body styles: regular-cab long- and short-bed, and extended-cab short-bed. A redesigned dashboard and console included two cupholders. Pickups again came with rear-drive or part-time 4-wheel drive, with 4-cylinder or V6 engines and a 6- or 7.5-foot cargo bed. Rear antilock braking was standard on 4-cylinder models; V6s got new 4-wheel ABS that worked in both rear-drive and 4WD.

Yearly Updates

1995 Sonoma Pickup
A driver-side airbag arrived in mid-1995, along with daytime running lights.
1996 Sonoma Pickup
Engines gained horsepower, and all Sonoma models now had 4-wheel antilock braking. A rear side door (on the driver’s side) became optional on the SLS Club Coupe in mid-1996. It cannot be opened unless the front door is open.
1997 Sonoma Pickup
Automatic transmissions could now have a floor lever, and extended-cab Sonomas could be equipped with a sport suspension.
1998 Sonoma Pickup
Sonoma got a mild facelift and a restyled dashboard for 1998. The new dash adds a passenger-side airbag with shutoff switch.
1999 Sonoma Pickup
Flash-to-pass headlights and available heated mirrors highlighted the changes for ’99. However, in midyear, GMC dropped the 4WD regular-cab long-bed models.
2000 Sonoma Pickup
A handling/trailering suspension became standard for 4-wheel-drive models. The previous SLE option package was now considered the new top-line model. Horsepower of the V6 engine rose to 180 with 2WD, or 190 with 4WD. Alterations to the V6 engine and manual transmission aimed at smoother, quieter running.
2001 Sonoma
A 4-door Crew Cab model was added for 2001, and a 4-wheel-drive regular cab version was deleted from the lineup. The Crew Cab had four conventional front-hinged doors and a 4.6-foot box. Also for 2001, the sport suspension option included restyled alloy wheels.
2002 Sonoma
GMC’s version of the Chevrolet S-10 added air conditioning and a tachometer as standard on all models for 2002. And the long cargo bed, which had been dropped at the beginning of the model year, was later reinstated. A 6-disc in-dash CD changer was a new ’02 option, and Crew Cabs were now available with heated front seats.
2003 Sonoma
A new ZRX Street Rider package for the 2WD SLS short-bed included a power sunroof. Four-wheel-drive models got standard rear-disc brakes.
2004 Sonoma
Sonoma continues only as a 4WD Crew Cab in 2004.

Engines

longitudinal front-engine/rear- or 4-wheel drive

Sonomas had a choice of three engines: 2.2-liter 4-cylinder, 165-horsepower 4.3-liter V6, and an “enhanced” 4.3-liter V6 that delivered 30 extra horsepower. In 1995, the 4.3-liter dipped from 165 to 155 horsepower, while the “enhanced” version dropped to 191. For ’96, the revised 4.3-liter Vortec V6 jumped to 180 horsepower (but just 170 horses with 2WD, where the V6 was an option). A high-output version now made 190 horsepower with 4WD or 180 with 2WD. In 1997, the regular V6 was rated at 180 horsepower with 4WD, or 175 with 2WD. Those ratings grew to 190 and 180, respectively, for 2000. Most Sonomas could have 5-speed manual shift, or an electronic 4-speed automatic transmission.

ohv I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.2/134
Engine HP 118-120
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 130-140
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
23/30
20/27
22.3

ohv V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 4.3/262
Engine HP 155-180
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 235-245
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
18/25
19/24
18.4
ohv V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 4.3/262
Engine HP 180-195
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 245-260
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
18/25
20/24
18.0

Road Test

A V6 is virtually essential if you want an automatic transmission or expect to do even occasional hauling. The 4-cylinder engine works best with manual shift, providing adequate acceleration for light-duty chores.

With an empty cargo bed, the Sonoma’s back wheels tend to hop over sharp bumps and ridges in the road. Otherwise the basic “smooth-ride” suspension handles most pavement imperfections with little harshness and minimal bounding. Body lean is evident in turns, but the truck feels balanced and poised, providing fine resistance to gusty crosswinds. Power steering has a natural feel. Four-wheel antilock braking, standard on all late models, is a definite bonus. However, the brake pedal is spongy and has plenty of play before you feel any stopping power.

The optional rear door is easy to use and a genuine convenience, allowing unprecedented access to the rear of extended-cab models. A Sonoma equipped with that door, however, lacks the second jump seat. The 2001 Crew Cab’s independent front hinged rear doors are more convenient than any extended-cab’s rear-hinged doors, but its seat is low to the floor and there isn’t a lot of legroom.

Ratings

Model Tested: 2002 GMC Sonoma ext. cab 4WD, auto

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.

Performance

Acceleration - 5
50%
Fuel Economy - 5
50%
Ride Quality - 3
30%
Steering/Handling - 3
30%
Quietness - 3
30%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 5
50%
Room/Comfort Front - 4
40%
Room/Comfort Rear - 1
10%
Cargo Room - 3
30%

Other

Value - 4
40%

Total: 36

Specifications

crew cab
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
122.9 205.3 67.8 63.4
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
1111 18.0 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
39.6 38.2 42.4 34.6
ext. cab
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
122.9 203.7 67.9 62.2
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
1461 20.0 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
39.5 NA 43.2 NA
reg. cab long bed
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
117.9 205.0 67.9 62.1
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
1727 20.0 3
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
39.5 NA 43.2 NA
reg. cab short bed
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
108.3 189.0 67.9 62.1
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
1667 20.0 3
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
39.5 NA 43.2 NA
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1999 Sonoma reg. cab short bed

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 3
60%
Front Passenger Injury - 3
60%

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
80%
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

HLDI

(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision 86
Injury 77
Theft 78

Trouble Spots

Air conditioner
Description: The HVAC system mode switch gets stuck in the vent position as oil gets into the control head as a result of a leaking vacuum switch on the transfer case and a redesigned switch is available. (2001-03)
Doors
Description: The power door locks may not operate due to a rubber bumper falling off of the actuator arm. (1997)
Engine knock
Description: Engine knock in the 4.3-liter engine is usually eliminated by using an oil filter with a check valve. If this does not work, GM has revised PROMs for the computers and will even replace the main bearings. (1990-95)
Engine misfire
Description: The EGR valve may stick open due to carbon deposits causing rough idle. (1994)
Engine temperature
Description: Poor cooling or irregular gauge reading possible after water pump replacement. (1994-95)
Engine temperature
Description: Overheating and coolant loss may be due to rough surface on radiator filler neck. Neck should be sanded smooth and cap replaced. (1999-2000)
Fuel pump
Description: The fuel pump may run after the key is turned off. (1994-95)
Hard starting
Description: Engines with TBI may be hard to start after hot soak. (1994)

Recall History

1994 w/2.2-liter engine
Description: Vacuum hose can detach from power-brake-booster check valve as a result of backfire.
1994
Description: The windshield wiper motor may fail on certain vehicles. Dealer will inspect and replace affected parts.
1994-96 w/ABS
Description: Increased stopping distances can occur during ABS stops while in 2WD mode.
1994-97
Description: Seatbelt webbing on certain models can separate during frontal impact.
1995 w/air conditioning and 4.3-liter engine
Description: Rivets can break and allow fan blade to separate from hub; if hood were open, a person could be struck by blade and be injured.
1995-00
Description: When the hazard flasher switch is used to turn the hazard-flashers on or off, the retained accessory power feature can be activated without a key in the ignition.
1995-96
Description: Windshield wipers may work intermittently.
1996
Description: Top coat of paint on a few trucks peels severely.
1996 2WD manual shift w/2.2-liter engine
Description: Drive wheels could seize and lock while truck is moving.
1996-97 w/4.3-liter engine
Description: Front brake line can contact oil pan, causing wear that may result in fluid loss.
1998
Description: Fatigue fracture of rear-axle brake pipe can occur, causing slow fluid leak and resulting in soft brake pedal; if pipe breaks, driver would face sudden loss of rear-brake performance.
1998
Description: Daytime running lights do not comply with FMVSS No. 108 requirements.
1998
Description: Wiring-harness clip can melt and drip onto exhaust manifold, possibly resulting in fire.
1998-00
Description: Left-hand safety-belt retractor may not meet the retractor locking requirements of the standard.
2000 w/2WD
Description: Right ABS module-feed pipe and/or brake-crossover-pipe tube nuts on certain vehicles could have been improperly tightened; seal could have been broken, resulting in leakage.
2000 w/all-disc brakes
Description: Out-of-spec spring clip in ABS motor could allow bearing to become misaligned; ABS and dynamic-rear-proportioning system would become inoperative.
2001
Description: Seatbelt buckles were not properly heat treated and do not pass the load-bearing requirement of the standard.
2003-04
Description: Incorrect labels about airbag safety may have been installed in the vehicle. Dealers will distribute correct labels.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.

Pricing

Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.