Compact SUVs are meant to provide a good level of off-road performance, cargo capacity and toughness without asking drivers to make the same sacrifices that go hand in hand with owning a full-size vehicle: poor fuel economy, difficult parking and a rough ride. This class of sport-utility can also allow those who only have an occasional need to take full advantage of the features offered by a rugged platform a chance to own a vehicle that has a practical, everyday side as well.
GMC had been building both large and small SUV's for decades before hitting on the dual attack of the big and small Jimmy. By leveraging the use of their full-size and compact pickup truck frames, GMC was able to offer two different flavors of sport-utility vehicle that stemmed from the same family. The larger Jimmy was the twin of the popular Chevrolet Blazer, a vehicle known for its short wheelbase and excellent trail potential, while its little brother had more in common with the S15 pickup truck. Over time, it became clear that the compact Jimmy variant was the more popular option amongst buyers, and when the 1990's rolled around the other vehicle of the same name was dropped in favor of the Yukon.
The new Jimmy platform, which made its debut in 1995, still shared much with the GMC's compact truck. Engine choice and front end bodywork were shared, but the square look of the older vehicle was dropped for a much more aerodynamic treatment that fit in better with the styling trends of the day. The Jimmy was also longer and wider than the model it replaced, and it began to stretch more towards the luxury end of the spectrum as GMC tried to find a way to steal sales away from the surging popularity of compact crossover suvs. The vehicle was still being offered in both two-door and four-door editions, but gradually the company would slow sales of the sportier edition and focus exclusively on the more upscale four-door Jimmy. By the end of the decade, even the base model of the vehicle would be gone, with intermediate trims stepping in to take up the slack and much more comfortable versions of the truck taking their place at the top of the trim ladder.
1998 - 2001 GMC Jimmy
Fans of traditional SUVs who aren't interested in driving something big and bulky are well served by the 1998 - 2001 GMC Jimmy. With a full frame and a robust suspension system married to optional four-wheel drive, the Jimmy provides throwback design combined with the interior comforts that most modern drivers have come to expect. In fact, it is possible to option a Jimmy to the point where the equipment level begins to rival that of a luxury sedan. Heated leather seats with memory functions, wood trim, a CD changer and power door locks, windows and mirrors are all available on the vehicle and come standard on the top of the line Envoy trim.
In both two-door and four-door form, the only engine available in the 1998 - 2001 Jimmy is a 4.3-liter V-6 that tops out at 190 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque. With a curb weight of just under 4,000 lbs, this is more than enough power to make the Jimmy feel quite responsive to throttle inputs, particularly when shifted through the 5-speed manual transmission available in the two-door vehicle. The four-door makes use of a 4-speed automatic. The Jimmy's suspension can sometimes make it feel like a bit of a handful on bumpy terrain, but highway manners are excellent, with a minimum of body roll and an anti-lock braking system that keeps the vehicle safe in wet conditions. Automatic four-wheel drive can be selected to engage whenever the vehicle detects traction loss, but a standard low-range option is also provided for serious mudding or difficult terrain.
The 1998 - 2001 GMC Jimmy is the last of its breed, as the automaker chose to exclusively produce mid and full-size trucks once production of this vehicle ended. With a number of bargains to be found in the secondhand market place, the Jimmy is easy to recommend as a used compact SUV.