1999 Chevrolet Tracker 2.0 inline four from North America
Cute, but could be better
Right outer CV axle boot blew out, leaking grease.
Rear axle blowing gear oil out of vent hose.
Leaking front oil seal.
This cute little sport utility has been a mixed bag. The rather small 2.0 liter inline four is surprisingly powerful, but needs to be revved up to generate power; it has a double overhead cam layout that favors higher rpms for power output. The automatic transmission seems tight and solid, and shifts easily and predictably. The cabin is very spacious for a small vehicle and has a surprising amount of room; it's easy to fit 4 skiers and all their gear into the vehicle.
The cabin itself is trimmed in gray fabric and plastic. It's pretty bland and basic, but inoffensive for the most part, and easy to clean up and keep looking new with vinyl protectant. Controls and gauges are easy to read and use, and it's loaded with nice features like reading lights, cup holders, cruise control, rear wiper, etc.
Despite its small size and small engine, the little SUV easily keeps up with the big gas guzzlers on mountain roads and in bad conditions. It is a bit lacking in top end power, but it handles highway driving well. The ride is a tad choppy due to relatively stiff springs; it rides better when fully loaded.
On the downsides, the fact that the rear axle is blowing oil out of the vent hose is a sign of bad design; the mechanics simply shrug their shoulders and leave me to my own devices. There isn't anything wrong with the rear axle, but having to check it frequently on a road trip to make sure there's sufficient gear oil is not a happy compromise.
The leaking front oil seal is also bothersome; given the level of sophistication demonstrated by the little motor, it's a shame that something as simple as an oil seal fails and allows oil to spray out. It's a small leak, so I'll just keep mopping it up every now and then, but such a thing shouldn't happen on a relatively new vehicle.
Another minor glitch is that during winter driving, it's almost impossible to shift into four wheel drive while the vehicle is moving. If you stop, you can make the shift, but if the vehicle is rolling along, it's very hard to get it to shift. Not a handy feature when driving in wintry or snowy conditions. Once it's in four wheel drive, it's very grippy and handles well.
A final gripe: the paint seems rather fragile. It already has a fair number of little chips on the hood. Judging from these, the paint job is on the thin side. This does not bode well for long term durability.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 4th February, 2007
Update: My Tracker now has 120,000 miles on it, and despite my initial misgivings, this has proven to be a very solid and dependable vehicle. I've now seen Trackers with 200,000 and even 300,000 miles on them. A local mechanic has three of them. All of this speaks highly of the Tracker's virtues.
It still looks pretty much like new, although the side moldings have all started to pop loose as the foam tape that holds them in place deteriorates.
The inline four 2.0 liter engine has been very reliable, and the automatic transmission is also trouble free.
Avoid the V6 engine, which seems to have valve train problems related to its complex chain drive system.