New Car/Review

1997 ISUZU OASIS LS

by Tom Hagin

Isuzu

SEE ALSO: Izuzu Buyer's Guide

SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 25,990
Price As Tested                                    $ 26,505
Engine Type                             2.2 Liter I4 w/MFI*
Engine Size                                 132 cid/2156 cc
Horsepower                                   140 @ 5600 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               145 @ 4600 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  111.4"/70.6"/187.2"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     3525 Pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  17.2 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     P205/65R15
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                        Six-passenger/five-door
Domestic Content                                  5 percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            20/24/22
0-60 MPH                                         11 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                       18.7 seconds @ 76 mph
Top-speed                                           104 mph
     * Multi-port fuel injection                           

Honda has made good on its promise to provide Isuzu with a quality minivan to market and Isuzu's Oasis is, in reality, a rebadged Honda Odyssey. The Oasis seems more of a tall station wagon than a minivan and this week we test the top-of-the-line LS version.

OUTSIDE - Oasis has adapted a fully wedged shape and according to Isuzu, its four hinged doors are more durable than the sliding mechanisms found on other minivans. It's easy to climb aboard Oasis, as the door sill step-up height is just 15 inches, compared to the traditional minivan's 17-inch or more climb. The rear door windows roll all the way down, too, a feature that will be greatly appreciated by most buyers. The expansive windshield and side glass make for great outward viewing, but it is sometimes difficult to keep them fog-free on frosty winter mornings. Its low cowl provides good forward visibility, though the long snout can make parking distances difficult to judge. Body-color outside mirrors and side molding are LS exclusives, and our test van also came with a roof rack and wheel arch moldings. Four new exterior colors are offered for 1997, and our test vehicle came standard with alloy wheels and 15-inch all-season tires.

INSIDE - Oasis can carry six or seven passengers, depending on the seat selection. The front seats are supportive buckets, while the middle row can be a bench or a pair of captain's chairs. At 39 pounds each, the middle bucket seats are easy to detach and remove, which opens up plenty of space for cargo. Legroom up front is ample for all but the longest of legs and the same holds true for the center seating, but those in back had best be small, because legroom there is sparse. This rearmost seat, however, does something no other minivan's can do: it performs a disappearing act on command. Flip a latch, fold the backrest forward, flop it over, and the whole seat stores neatly into a well beneath the floor. With the seat in the upright position, there is enough room for a large cooler in the empty well. Our LS test vehicle came equipped with such standard features as remote keyless entry, a power height adjustment on the driver's seat, front and rear air conditioning, cruise control and power windows, door locks and outside mirrors.

ON THE ROAD - Oasis uses a 2.2 liter four cylinder engine that produces 140 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque. It's been "massaged" with a mild version of Honda's variable valve timing, the system that produces spectacular results with some of the company's other products. Electronic fuel injection and internal balance shafts help keep it running smoothy and efficiently and its acceleration is brisk, but power is adequate at best, and the smallish engine works very hard to pull the 3500-pound van to a hustling pace. It also feels slightly underpowered on long upgrades at freeway speeds, where engine noise intrudes into the cabin area and a drop-down of the gearshift selector becomes necessary to maintain the pace. Its fuel economy is 20/24 city/highway on regular unleaded fuel. The Oasis comes only with a four-speed automatic transmission that senses when the van is moving uphill or down, then selects the appropriate gear.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Oasis is based on Honda's Accord chassis, and feels like one on the road. It features fully independent double wishbone suspension front and rear, a setup normally reserved for pricier sporty vehicles. A pair of fat anti-roll bars front and rear give its suspension a snug feeling, aided further by stiffer bushings than the sedan on which its undercarriage was based. It feels solidly planted on twisting roads, with little body roll and just a slight amount of dive and sway, but far exceeds the handling skills found with the current crop of minivans. Its power rack-and-pinion steering is nicely weighted and crisp, with good turn-in and excellent tracking, even in heavy crosswinds. A turning circle of 37.6 feet makes it easy to forget this is a minivan and Isuzu has opted to provide four-wheel disc brakes with standard anti-lock control on both Oasis models.

SAFETY - Dual airbags, ABS and side-impact beams are standard.

OPTIONS - A storage tray under the second-row seats added $70.

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