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1996 GMC Sonoma Review
A great bang for the buck truck.
Reviewed by Automotive on
The 1996 GMC Sonoma classifies as a compact pickup truck manufactured by General Motors. It debuted in 1982 as the GMC S-15, with the Sonoma name being used for a particular trim level. This continued through the first generation of the truck.
The Sonoma only provided the model during the production of the second generation. During this period, it received several changes that made it a greater competition to the Ford Ranger.
Engines: 4.3-liter V-6, 2.2-liter I-4
Transmissions: four-speed automatic, five-speed manual
Models: GMC Sonoma SL, GMC Sonoma SLE, GMC Sonoma SLS Sport
The extended cab models of the 1996 GMC Sonoma now come with an optional driver’s-side rear access panel. All models also come standard with four-wheel anti-lock brakes. This year marks a revision in the suspension to provide sportier handling.
The 1996 GMC Sonoma comes with a new five-speed manual transmission along with improved shifter location and operation when combined with a base four-cylinder engine.
The 1996 Sonoma uses many of the chassis components from its previous generation. For example, the A-frames used by both generations remain the same and come from the G-body vehicle lineup. The short-bed version of the 1996 GMC Sonoma has a length of 190 inches, while the long-bed version reaches a length of 205 inches. The extended cab version stretches to a length of 203 inches.
The 1996 Sonoma has a very similar interior to the S-Series pickups. The cabin feels spacious with a decent amount of legroom and headroom all around, and the seats themselves feel comfortable. The dashboard looks like an aesthetic disaster, appearing completely out of place in a rather well-made cabin.
The Sonoma’s biggest weakness inside concerns the poorly designed graphics, which change a little this year. However, the interior of the 1996 GMC Sonoma still retains a plastic-like ambiance. The optional rear door for the truck proves easy to use and provides a very convenient feature for the extended cab models. However, trucks with this door also lack a second jump seat.
Performance & Handling
The 1996 GMC Sonoma offers three engines. The more powerful engine, a revised 4.3-liter Vortec V-6, delivers 180 horsepower, although the two-wheel drive gets an optional 170-horsepower version of the engine. The four-wheel-drive models get a high-output version of the V-6 engine that delivers 190 horsepower. The base engine, a 2.2-liter four-cylinder, delivers 120 horsepower and 140 lb-ft of torque.
The four-cylinder base engine works best with the manual transmission, offering adequate acceleration. However, it can only handle light-duty work at best. If drivers need the 1996 GMC Sonoma for even moderately heavy-duty work, the automatic transmission works better, and the V-6 engines provide the best options.
The suspension does not really kick in unless it carries some load, which means that a Sonoma with an empty cargo bed tends to rattle and hop a lot, but a loaded truck is affected by the “smooth-ride? suspension. Body lean remains evident, but the Sonoma still feels poised and balanced, even in the face of strong crosswinds.
The 1996 GMC Sonoma gets a mediocre three-star rating for driver and passenger safety in frontal-impact tests conducted by the NHTSA.
EPA Fuel Economy
- Spacious interior
- Good V-6 acceleration
- Optional third door
You Won't Like
- Lacks rear-seat room
- Poorly designed controls
A great bang for the buck truck.
If You Like This Vehicle
- Ford Ranger
- Toyota Tacoma
- Isuzu Hombre