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SEE ALSO: Izuzu Buyer's Guide

Isuzu Amigo 4WD Hardtop (2000)

By Tom Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 20,495
     Price As Tested                                    $ 23,880
     Engine Type              DOHC 24-valve 3.2 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 193 cid/3165 cc
     Horsepower                                   205 @ 5400 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               214 @ 3000 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                   96.9"/70.4"/170.3"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     4625 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  17.7 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)               P245/70R16 all-season mud & snow
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS)
     Drive Train                   Front-engine/four-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                      Five-passenger/three-door
     Domestic Content                                 55 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            16/19/17          
     0-60                                            9.5 seconds
     Maximum payload capacity                         625 pounds
     Maximum towing capacity                         4500 pounds
                * Sequential multi-point fuel injection

The smaller SUVs take on new appeal as gas prices soar, so the days of the big rock-crusher as a primary means of transportation are waning.

The Isuzu Amigo fits between SUVs like the company's successful Rodeo four-door and the newest wave of mini-SUVs offered by other automakers. Available in two-or-four-wheel drive, with either a soft or hard top, Amigo is a niche vehicle with its sights set on fun.

OUTSIDE - After appearing in 1991 and selling in a specialty market until 1995, Amigo re-appeared again in 1998, only this time it acquired some improvements. The Amigo is the result of almost 10 inches of wheelbase and 15 inches of overall length lopped off the four-door Isuzu Rodeo. While some small SUVs look cartoonish, the Amigo is well proportioned. From its B-pillar forward, Amigo shares its sheetmetal with the company's Rodeo sales leader. Both are built on the same assembly line in Lafayette, Indiana, and both enjoy a rugged, yet civilized look. Soft-top models are transformed into open-air motoring with a few zippers, snaps and hook-and-loop fasteners. Our version came with a non-removable hard top, which made it a premium all-weather cruiser. Understated fender flares meld nicely into the front and rear bumpers, while a hard plastic cover protects the full-sized spare tire hung from the tailgate. Sixteen-inch steel wheels with P245/70R16 mud and snow tires come standard, while spoked alloy wheels are optional.

INSIDE - Hard top models feel convertible-like due to a pair of sunroofs. An advantage Amigo has over its mini competitors is its wide stance, which relates to plenty of shoulder and hip room for two-across seating. Once passengers have squeezed past the front seats, the back seat is a surprisingly nice place to ride. The dashboard is simple enough to get intuitive with, though we'd like to see the radio located higher in the instrument panel. Standard equipment on V6 models includes split folding rear seats, tilt steering, dual power ports and an AM/FM/cassette stereo. Most Amigos on dealer showrooms will have option packages that include items like power windows, door locks and mirrors, an uplevel stereo, keyless remote and variable intermittent wipers.

ON THE ROAD - You won't see many Amigos with the standard 2.2-liter, 130-horse four cylinder engine because the V6 model is so much better. This dual overhead cam, 3.2 liter V6 makes 205 horsepower and 214 lb-ft of torque at 3000 rpm. The same powerplant is under the hood of the Rodeo, which weighs more than Amigo. Zero-to-60 mph jaunts take just over nine seconds, which is in the hallmark of others costing much more. It's a sophisticated engine, too, with dual-length intake runners, low-tension valve springs and short skirt pistons for less friction. Its good torque figure gives it a good tow rating of 4500 pounds, about the weight of a small boat or a pair of personal watercraft. And when the launch ramp gets slippery, Amigo's part-time four-wheel drive system can be engaged or deactivated with the push of a dashboard button. This system can also be used at speed. A low range for serious off-roading uses the traditional floor-mounted lever.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Amigo is constructed atop a very rigid ladder frame with eight crossmembers. The suspension consists of independent upper and lower A-arms up front with torsion bars, and a solid rear axle with coil springs in back. The ride on road can be somewhat choppy, but that can be expected from such a short vehicle. And through slalom-type corners, its soft suspension settings allow for some body roll, but the grippy tires do an admirable job of keeping it firmly planted. And real off-roading is a breeze since the 4WD system can be activated on-the-fly, and an optional limited-slip rear differential further improves grip. A new rack-and-pinion steering system replaces the old model's recirculating ball setup, and now gives more feedback and road feel, while four-wheel disc brakes with an anti-lock braking system (ABS) are standard.

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

OPTIONS - Preferred Equipment Package, $2,110; cargo mat, $60, fog lamps, $70; alloy wheels, $400, limited slip differential, $250.