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SEE ALSO: Izuzu Buyer's Guide

There is an old adage that states, "Keep doing what you do best." Isuzu, who has a long history of producing both cars and trucks decided to do just that. With the decline in the U.S. automotive market for subcompact cars Isuzu decided to concentrate on what it does best - produce and assemble sport utility vehicles, compact pickups, and commercial trucks. The Rodeo is assembled in its joint- venture Isuzu-Subaru plant in Lafayette, Indiana.

The Isuzu Rodeo made its debut in 1990. Although it is a slightly smaller and less expensive, than the Trooper it offers almost the same luxury as well as good riding and handling. characteristics. The Rodeo was specifically designed to be built and sold in the Americas with a sizable domestic content of parts and labor. In the past five years it has been continuously improved and upgraded, and has been one of the largest selling import nameplate Sport Utility Vehicles in the nation.

In our week with the Rodeo LS in addition to our regular test area, we drove it across the San Juaquin Valley and up to the Sierra Nevada mountains. There we had and excellent chance to see how it handled in the snow and rain, as well as on steep grades, and in two and four-wheel drive. It came through with flying colors.

APPEARANCE: The four-door Rodeo looks sturdy and not too boxy. Its two-tone paint finish is separated by the bumpers and side rub strips. All of its edges have been rounded, and its curved sides are highlighted by fender flares with stainless trim. Its four doors open wide, and the bright side mirrors are large and fold back when additional side clearance is needed. Its Goodyear Wrangler all- purpose P245/70R16 tires are mounted on newly-styled cast alloy wheels.

COMFORT: The fully equipped LS version of the Rodeo has comfortable seating for four, with front supportive bucket seats and rear seats that can be folded forward 40/60 if more cargo area is needed. Rear access for loading is via tailgate and lift up window with a defogger and washer/wiper. The fold-away spare tire operates easily, and the rear window has a remote release. The carpeted rear area has a cargo net and tie-down rings. The heater/air conditioner unit comfortably handled a wide variety of temperature and weather conditions. The complete sound system (AM/FM/CD/cassette) pulls in distant stations and provides excellent fidelity. It is located very low on the front console. A full complement of power accessories side mirrors, locks and windows makes driving or riding in the Rodeo easier and more convenient.

SAFETY: The body of the Isuzu is mounted on a steel ladder frame which provides a rigid platform for its suspension, and added strength in the event of a collision. It is equipped with three-point outboard seat belts, but air bags are not yet available. Four wheel disc brakes and rear wheel anti- lock brakes along with power steering allow for quick maneuvering and stopping in emergency situations.

ROADABILITY: The suspension of the Rodeo is calibrated to provide good road-holding characteristics on a wide variety of road surface and weather conditions. Power steering plus disc and rear antilock brakes result in confidence in foul weather driving, as well as commute and normal road situations. The Goodyear Wrangler tires hold the road well, and new insulation and weather stripping reduces road and wind noise. All-around vision is very good, especially with the large truck- style side mirrors.

PERFORMANCE: Isuzu's 3.2 liter, V-6, single overhead cam, 24-valve, multiport fuel injected engine has been in service for a couple of years now, and has maintained a good service record. When mated to its electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission and its computerized engine management system the newest Rodeo has abundant power to handle steeper grades without down-shifting. It can easily maneuver for city parking and merging and passing at freeway and city interchanges. The Rodeo LS has adequate performance and handling to confidently go almost anywhere at almost anytime.

CONCLUSIONS: The Rodeo LS with on-demand four-wheel drive is "made with pride in Indiana." It has been one of the top-selling Sport Utility Vehicles in the foreign category since it was first introduced in 1990, and has been continuously improved since then.


       Base Price             $  26,260  
       Price As Tested        $  27,930
       Engine Type            V-6, sohc - 24-v, mpfi
       Engine Size            3.2 liter/193 cid        
       Horsepower             175 @ 3200
       Torque (ft/lbs)        188 @ 4000
       Wheelbase/Length       109"/185 
       Transmission           four-speed ECautomatic w/overdrive
       Curb Weight            4000
       Pounds per Horsepower  23  
       Fuel Capacity          20
       Fuel Requirement       Unleaded regular (87 oct)              
       Tires                  Goodyear Wrangler AP P245/70R16 M+S
       Brakes                 rear antilock-standard   ventilated discs 
       Drive Train            Front engine/rear drive 
                              four wheel drive on demand
       Towing Capacity (lbs)  4500
       EPA Economy - miles per gallon,       
         city/highway/observed        15/18/16.3
       0 to 60 mph                    10.7 sec
       1/4 mi (E.T.)                  18.0 sec
       Coefficient of Drag  (Cd)      .42