Geo Tracker Review

Geo Tracker Review

As part of its affordable new "international" line of vehicles, the Geo Tracker was introduced in select markets as a rebadged mini SUV and marketed through most of the 1990s at Chevrolet dealers across the U.S. Although the Tracker was eventually discontinued, it lived on well into the new millennium as a Chevy as well as the Suzuki Vitara, the vehicle that served as the basis for the Tracker all along. Confusing, yes, but as long as you recall the Tracker as a funky but flawed four-wheel-drive runabout, you'll understand it well enough.

Most Recent Geo Tracker

The Geo Tracker was offered for the 1989-'97 model years as both a convertible and a hardtop. Two trims were available -- base and LSi. Base models offered little more than cloth seats and power brakes. LSi Trackers added amenities like a clock and an AM/FM audio system. Options included air-conditioning and power steering.

Power from the Tracker's 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine was modest to be sure, initially delivering just 80 horsepower and 94 pound-feet of torque, but fuel economy with the standard five-speed manual transmission was in the mid-to-high 20s, good for a vehicle with four-wheel-drive capability. A five-speed manual transmission was standard, but a three-speed automatic was available as an option. A floor-mounted two-speed transfer case made it relatively easy to select 2WD or 4WD operating modes.

Inside, surprisingly comfortable bucket seats greeted the front occupants and faced a basic instrument panel with decent controls placement and a sound system offering listenable quality. The rear bench seat had room for two, though in this mini SUV they got to know each other perhaps too well and didn't receive much support even on a quick trip to the store. Folding the rear seatback down and flipping it forward revealed more than 32 cubic feet of storage. On drop-top models, this proved to be a real chore with the convertible top in place.

The Geo Tracker wasn't at its best in urban situations. Its engine was underpowered when driven on the highway; also, its ride was jarring, and its tall stance and high center of gravity created an unsettling degree of body roll in turns. Additionally, both versions exhibited quite a bit of engine and road noise. Still, there was a place for the Tracker as a no-frills 4x4 toy geared toward jumping in with a friend and heading off for a fun spin off-road.

As for the exact model changes, an upscale Tracker LSi trim debuted for 1990, and air-conditioning and an automatic transmission were made available across the lineup. In 1991, rear antilock brakes joined the standard features list on 2WD models, and four-wheel-drive LSi models benefited from auto-locking front hubs. The following year, Trackers got a revised dashboard and center console, and a tilt steering column was added to the options list. The next changes of note came in 1994, when four-wheel-drive models switched from on-/off-road tires to all-season rubber tires that provided a better ride. A CD/cassette player became available, and more sophisticated multipoint fuel injection was added to clear emissions hurdles in California and New York Trackers -- resulting in a power bump to 95 hp.

In 1995, the 95-hp engine made its way under the hood of all 4WD models and all Massachusetts-bound Trackers. The ute's convertible top was also redesigned for simpler operation. In 1996, the Geo Tracker family welcomed a new four-door model. Dual airbags became standard on all Trackers and four-wheel antilock brakes and cruise control were optional. Revised styling also graced the exterior, and daytime running lights made the tiny Tracker more conspicuous to motorists. After this heavy makeover, the last of the Geo-branded Trackers hit the streets relatively unchanged in 1997.

The one thing the Geo Tracker has going in its favor is price; it was cheap as a new SUV, and as a used one, it's even more so. Still, there are other compact SUVs that offer great value and a better ride around town; we recommend that you investigate other choices in this segment. If you have your heart set on a Geo Tracker, keep in mind that since the Geo brand has long since closed shop, not all Chevrolet dealerships will be able to service the Tracker; given that it's pretty much a rebadged Vitara, going to a Suzuki dealership should probably suffice.