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1998 Isuzu Amigo

by John Heilig


ENGINE:                  3.2-liter V-6
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE:       205 hp @
TRANSMISSION:            Five-speed manual
FUEL ECONOMY:            18 mpg city, 21 mpg highway, 18.7 mpg test
WHEELBASE:               96.9 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 167.8 x 70.4 x 66.6 in.
FUEL TANK:               17.7 gal.
PAYLOAD:                 975-1,115 lbs.  
TIRES:                   P245/70R16
INSTRUMENTS:             Speedometer, tachometer, fuel level, 
                         water temperature
EQUIPMENT:               Power windows, power locks, cruise control, 
                         tilt steering wheel, stereo AM/FM with cassette,
                         ABS, skid plates, air bags.
STICKER:                 $23,115

Isuzu appears as if it's trying to compete with Chevrolet and offer a full range of sport utility vehicles. Actually, this "full range" is more like Jeep's.

Isuzu offers the full-size Trooper, the mid-size Rodeo and the compact, two-door Amigo. Amigo is definitely Jeep Wrangler size and even offers the option of removing half the top for something close to open-air motoring.

During the week we had the Amigo we put almost 800 miles on the vehicle, including Interstates and dirt roads, some off-road, twisting roads and daily commuting. We also treated it as a utility vehicle/truck at times, so our tester experienced the full range of usage opportunities.

Amigo is powered by a [something] engine. It drove the wheels through a five-speed manual transmission that was a smooth gearbox. I'm not the world's best shifter, but I felt as if I did a good job with the Amigo. there were few jerky starts and no complaints from my wife.

The engine itself is relatively quiet, which you don't normally expect in a truck-based vehicle. It would get to anything resembling what any other vehicle was doing on the highway, and in some cases we were traveling at close to 80 mph (so were the other cars). And yet it cruised along comfortably at 30-30 mph as well. This is a good engine/gearbox combination for this vehicle.

Amigo, as you may know, is a "convertible" sport utility with a canvas-topped rear section. We also had a sunroof. The canvas rear section, while it did offer convertible possibilities, also made it difficult to load objects in and out of the rear compartment. For example, if you want full access to the rear you must unzip the rear window and remove it from the top. Otherwise, there is a solid bar across the middle of the rear opening that make loading difficult. You can cheat (we did) by unzipping the rear window 90 percent and folding it up, but that doesn't quite do the job. Being a two-seater, access to the rear is limited from the front anyway, so full access to the rear section is difficult.

The rear bench seat does fold down to provide a good-sized carrying compartment. The rear sets themselves offer a decent amount of legroom. Access is difficult, of course, but the passenger seat tilts and slides forward to ease entry to the rear.

Ride quality was typical short wheelbase sport utility quality. It was slightly better than you'd expect from a Wrangler but not as good as a Rodeo. It was particularly annoying on some of the poorly repaired roads that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation offers us. On roads where the trucks find it bad in the right lane and shift to the left it's advisable to follow them because there's a lot of road noise and you feel every tar strip.

On decent highways and dirt roads it's fine, though, which is really all you'd ask.

Instrumentation was a speedometer, tachometer, fuel and water gauges. The fuel gauge seemed to go down rapidly. A full tank is only good for about 300-400 miles of highway driving. It's a relatively small fuel tank at 12 gallons. Fuel economy is good, but we seemed to spend more time in gas stations than we did on dirt roads.

Other accessories were cruise control, power windows and door locks, AM/FM stereo radio with a cassette player.

Amigo is Spanish for friend, and the Isuzu Amigo is a friendly car to drive. While the seats were not wildly comfortable, they weren't uncomfortable, either. Even after 350 miles of driving we didn't have back aches when we were done.

While we didn't do any true off-roading in the Amigo, what we saw we liked.