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New Car Review

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SEE ALSO: Izuzu Buyer's Guide


by Tom Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 28,260
     Price As Tested                                    $ 30,865
     Engine Type                            3.2 liter V6 w/SPFI*
     Engine Size                                 193 cid/3195 cc
     Horsepower                                   190 @ 5600 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               188 @ 4000 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                   102.4"/67.4"/182.6
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     4465 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  21.9 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                     P245/70R16
     Brakes (F/R)                              Disc-ABS/disc-ABS
     Drive Train                   Front-engine/four-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/five-door
     Domestic Content                                 40 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            15/18/16
     0-60 MPH                                       10.6 seconds
     1/4 mile (E.T.)                       18.0 seconds @ 76 mph
     Towing Capacity                                 4500 pounds
     * Port fuel injection

With sport utility vehicles (SUVs) maintaining a hot sales pace, it's hard to beat an SUV as an only vehicle. Spacious and versatile, the SUV can transport the kids to school, luggage to the airport, and at the same time slog through heavy snow with complete confidence.

The Isuzu Rodeo can do all of the above, and with new mechanical components that give more power and easier operation, it should continue to be one of the hottest-selling import SUVs on the market.

OUTSIDE - Rodeo's appearance hasn't changed much since its 1990 introduction, although it's been mildly massaged in an effort to keep in step with the other SUV makers. Its looks are somewhat dated, but unlike newer, softer SUVs that look more like upscale station wagons, the Rodeo offers a muscular profile with its high beltline and large tires. A low cowl makes the view over the hood simple for all but the shortest drivers. Our tester came outfitted with handsome five-spoke alloy wheels that rival the best that the aftermarket companies have to offer, special two-tone paint, chrome trim and a slim, aerodynamic roof rack. We'd like to see Isuzu remove the rear-mounted spare tire and place it underneath the floor pan like other makers are doing, as well as switching to a two-piece rear tailgate.

INSIDE - Our LS test model's cloth-covered seats provide generally good, firm support and lots of adjustments to tailor a comfortable driving position. Those in back, however, won't be so relaxed, as the rear seat backrest is quite erect and its cushioning quite low. But this is typical of may compact SUVs, where interior room is limited. A decent amount of cargo room is available behind the rear seat, with 35 cubic feet of cargo space with the 60/40 split rear seat in the up position, and nearly 75 cubic feet with the rear seat folded flat. Rodeo LS is well-equipped with standard luxury features like air conditioning, power windows, door locks and outside mirrors, cruise control, tilt steering, heavily tinted rear glass, and a six-speaker, AM/FM cassette stereo. Our test model came with an optional in-dash CD player, along with a tilt-up, removable moonroof.

ON THE ROAD - While base model two-wheel-drive Rodeos can be had with a four-cylinder engine, for 1996, Rodeo LS features a fresh powertrain. It retains the 3.2 liter single overhead cam V6 engine of previous models, but it has been reworked to produce 190 horsepower - up 15 ponies from before. Torque output has remained the same at 188 lb-ft, however, but it's still enough to maintain a quick pace. The power increase is due largely to a fully sequential port fuel injection system. Its power delivery comes on at higher rpms, but fortunately, the engine likes to rev. Our 0-60 mph times were roughly equal to those of comparable SUVs of past evaluations, but with a full load, things slowed somewhat. Rodeo LS models can be fitted with either a five-speed manual transmission, or an electronically-controlled four-speed automatic, as was the case with our test vehicle.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - The latest trend in SUV building is to make them ride like a car. This is great on the highway, but not so good off-road. The Rodeo is built on a ladder-type full-frame chassis, like that of a truck. Its independent front suspension consists of double wishbones, torsion bars and a 27 millimeter anti-roll bar, and the rear uses a traditional "live" (solid) axle with coil springs. While the Rodeo is very adept at handling the rough stuff, it gives some kickback on the road to those inside. Our test model's optional P245/70R16 tires were soft, and helped calm the ride considerably. Four-wheel disc brakes are standard, while an anti-lock braking system (ABS) is an $800 option. In the past, we've had the Rodeo in off-road situations that were downright scary. Steep climbs and descents, river crossings and traversing boulder-strewn trails were all part of an Isuzu-sponsored event. The Rodeo easily handled everything in its path.

SAFETY - Dual airbags are standard, as are side-impact door beams. ABS is optional.