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SEE ALSO: Izuzu Buyer's Guide

New Car/Review

1997 ISUZU HOMBRE 2WD

by Matt/Bob Hagin

SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 12,184
Price As Tested                                    $ 13,547
Engine Type                             2.2 Liter I4 w/SFI*
Engine Size                                 133 cid/2189 cc
Horsepower                                   118 @ 5200 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               130 @ 2800 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  108.3"/67.9"/188.9"
Transmission                              Five-speed manual
Curb Weight                                     3130 Pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  18.5 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                      205/75R15
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS)
Drive Train                   Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                       Three-passenger/two-door
Domestic Content                                 95 percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            23/30/26
0-60 MPH                                       12.7 seconds
Max payload                                     2000 pounds
Max towing capacity                             2000 pounds
     * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

(Isuzu has been in the truck business for many years and Bob Hagin owned one of the early versions. His son Matt remembers those early trucks and is happy with the fact that the new model is Americanized.)

MATT - Dad, when I was a little kid, it seems to me that you had a small four-wheel-drive Chevrolet pickup truck that was called the Luv. I don't think you had it very long, but I remember you telling me that it was really an Isuzu.

BOB - That was a long time ago, Matt, and a lot of small pickup trucks have gone under the Hagin family bridge since then. Isuzu made more than a half-million of those little lightweights for Chevy in the '70s and later on, it marketed Isuzu pickups in this country under its own name. Isuzu is big in the truck-building market - maybe one of the biggest in the world. It's really into heavy-duty trucks in other countries and here, it's a leading player in the mid-sized delivery truck business. But those big guys are imported into the U.S. as cab-and-chassis units and not made in this country like the Isuzu Hombre pickup that we tried out for the week.

MATT - The Hombre is made at the G.M. plant in Shreveport, Louisiana and it's interesting how things have changed. Where Isuzu once made trucks for General Motors, now "The General" makes trucks for Isuzu. The Isuzu plant in Lafayette, Indiana got so heavy into building the Rodeo sport utility vehicle that it had to stop making its own trucks. It then got Chevy to supply it with a rebadged S-Series pickup to round out its product mix last year. The Hombre regular cab that we drove is powered by a 2.2 liter four-cylinder engine that only puts out 118 horsepower and is backed up by a five-speed manual transmission.

BOB - Our Hombre was an honest little truck, Matt, and I liked the idea that its primary purpose in life is to haul things up to 2000 pounds in its 40 cubic-foot bed, and tow trailers that have a maximum weight of half a ton. It didn't have any frills to speak of, and I was very gratified to find that I didn't have to wrap myself up like a circus contortionist to drive it - there was plenty of stretch-out room. It came with a/c and a sound system, but they're options that Isuzu puts into all of its press fleet vehicles so we won't have ill feelings when we write up its products on hot summer days.

MATT - The Hombre line of trucks isn't quite as austere as you portray it, Dad. Besides the basic short-wheelbase two-seater, the company offers a longer wheelbase model that carries the same 73-inch bed as the work-truck version, but it has a couple of jump seats behind the driver. Isuzu calls it the Spacecab model, which can also be bought with a 4.3 liter V6 that puts out 170 horsepower and almost double the torque output of the four-banger. For upscale drivers, it comes with an automatic transmission, and can be had with power door locks, windows and outside mirrors, as well as a CD player.

BOB - The interior of our test Hombre was set up pretty well. The controls are all laid out logically with rotary knobs for the ventilation and sound systems, which is a very welcome change from some of the pushbutton systems that we've dealt with lately in the more fancy passenger cars. But if Isuzu plans to make a splash into the fancy pickup world, I think it had better come up with a four-wheel-drive option for its line. Most buyers never go off-road with a pickup or a sport utility vehicle, but the ability to go into four-wheel-drive can be very comforting when the streets and highways become covered with mud, ice or snow.

MATT - It also comes in handy when Tom and I are pulling our ski boats up the boat ramp after a few hours on the river. Those ramps get pretty slippery when they're all covered with algae, and being able to get a grip with all four wheels makes life much easier.

BOB - As much time as you guys spend out there water skiing, maybe we should get into the business of testing power boats just like we do with cars and trucks.

MATT - Dad, believe me - we're working in it.

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