The number-one reason that sport-utility vehicles are so popular is their versatility. But with the addition of 4-door and crew cab models, pickup trucks are now just as flexible for day- to-day driving demands. The newest entries for this growing market are these snappy crewcab compacts from Chevrolet and Toyota. Both offer four car-like doors, yet retain their yeoman cargo-hauling capability, and further blur the line between SUV and pickup. The appeal of both full-size and compact crew cab pickup trucks, like the 2001 Chevrolet S-10 LS Crew Cab and the 2001 Toyota Tacoma Double Cab, is in a word, flexibility. These crossover models can carry people like an SUV and work like a truck. If you can afford only one vehicle per household, the crew cab pickup would be it! Take the 2001 Chevrolet S-10 Crew Cab for example. It’s built on the same frame as the S-10 Extended Cab, but with a passenger compartment lengthened by almost 18-inches. That allows for the addition of the cab’s second pair of full-size doors. While the cargo bed has been shortened by a similar amount, and now measures 55.2-inches, or a bit over 4 feet long. But that’s still enough for our 4-wheel-drive Fleetside test truck to carry 30.2 cubic-feet of homeowner cargo, weighing up to 1,111 pounds. But what you lose in cargo space, you gain in people space. The rear car-like doors make quick entry for adults. Back seat comfort is comparable to the Chevy Blazer SUV. Leg room is a bit snug, but there’s plenty of head and hip room. This is while still retaining the same front seat room as the extended cab. To easily carry the extra load is the standard Vortec 4.3-liter pushrod V6. Output is 190 horsepower, and 250 pound-feet of torque, fed through a standard smart-shifting 4-speed automatic. This willing powertrain gives our S-10 Crew Cab, with standard part-time four-wheel drive, the punch to tow up to 5,200 pounds, and plow through even deep, sticky mud. Though a more aggressive tire should be mounted on the standard 15-inch aluminum wheels if you intend to off road on a regular basis. On the road, the front torsion bar and rear multi-leaf spring suspension delivers a solid, but comfortable, ride. Better than you expect from a pickup. As is handling that is quite nimble by truck and SUV standards. Despite a grille that mimics Chevy’s newest SUVs, the S-10’s exterior styling, which was due for a complete overhaul years ago, is our only real reservation about the S-10 Crew Cab. And, we have no reservations about price. The 4X4 2001 Chevy S-10 LS Crew Cab starts at $25,369. That price includes a long list of features like AC, power windows, and CD-player. So, in performance and price, the S-10 crew cab is a solid alternative to a mid-size sedan, or SUV, or both. Our second compact crew cab model is a little less well equipped, and a little more down and dirty. The 2001 Toyota Tacoma PreRunner Double Cab. Shorter, but wider than the S-10, the Tacoma boasts aggressive, big-truck styling that’s new this year. Its 121.9-inch wheelbase is an inch shorter than the Chevy’s. But our 2-wheel-drive PreRunner sits 3-inches higher off the ground. A full inch of that courtesy of our truck’s optional 16-inch alloy wheels, wearing fat 265/70 tires. Like the S-10 Crew Cab, the Tacoma Double Cab has been lengthened, but by only 13- inches. And the cargo bed shortened accordingly, to 61.5-inches, or a bit over 5-feet. Total payload is 1,629 pounds. As with the Chevy, entry to the Tacoma’s rear seat is easy through the rear car-like doors. Once in, leg room comes up short compared to the S-10, though headroom is greater. Up front, the straightforward cockpit provides plenty of room, although you do sit with your legs out a bit too straight. Powering our truck is the optional 3.4-liter dual-overhead-cam 24-valve V6. It delivers 190 horsepower, and 220 pound-feet of torque. That’s the same horsepower as the Chevy, but 30 pound-feet less torque! A 142-horsepower 4-cylinder is standard on the Double Cab. A 4-speed automatic is also standard. Like the S-10 Crew Cab, no manual gearbox is available. The powertrain feels ready and willing, though rougher under hard throttle than the Chevy. Towing capacity for our PreRunner is a solid 5,000 pounds. The ride from the double-wishbone suspension is also rougher, with the PreRunner bouncing and stuttering over bumps and expansion joints. Too harsh for most of us. Though handling, despite slow, heavy power steering, is quite capable for such a tall vehicle. Yet, PreRunner Double Cab prices are fairly low, starting at $19,195. But that’s before you add 4-wheel drive, AC, a CD stereo, and other features standard on the S-10. Still, it’s a lot of flexibility at a low price. With crossover vehicles like these providing true 4-door comfort, and oversized hauling capabilities, the line between pickups and sport-utes is indeed almost impossible to see. Yet, from the consumer’s point of view, they’re close to picture perfect.
Engine: 4.3-Liter Vortec V6
Torque: 250 Lb Feet