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Isuzu Rodeo


A combination of a wider range of double-cab models and an apparent 'loophole' that means the business driver is only liable for company car tax on a flat £500 a year could have something to do with it.

It makes the blend of high driving position, off-road ability, 1,000kg-plus payload and car-like features an acceptable compromise for drivers who need an all-round vehicle. The Isuzu Rodeo has a tough task when it arrives in the UK this month. Not only does it have to compete with the likes of Ford, Mazda, Toyota, Mitsubishi and Nissan, but as the Isuzu Trooper is being phased out, it must also persuade loyal Trooper drivers that it can offer them what they need in a high-spec off-roader.

The Rodeo has to be able to mix business with pleasure, and there will be entry-level rear-wheel drive only single cab models as well as the plush Rodeo Denver double cab.

And in a first for the diesel double-cab sector, the top-of-the-range model is available with a four-speed automatic transmission.

The Rodeo replaces the Isuzu TF and is the fifth-generation Isuzu pick-up. They have been sold in 130 countries worldwide, wearing Holden badges in Australia and Chevrolet badges in the United States.

Although it would be an impossible challenge to make a vehicle like the Rodeo car-like to drive, Isuzu wanted to include car-like features to ensure better comfort and attractive styling.

A standard feature will be anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution which compensate for load differences between the front and rear axles during braking before the ABS intervenes.

All Rodeos have twin front airbags and side protection door beams for all doors. Front seatbelts are fitted with load-limiting pre-tensioners, while in the double cab, there are three three-point belts.

The front passenger seat and the two outer rear seats are fitted with ISOFIX child seat mountings, boosting the Rodeo's credentials as a part-time family car.

The top-spec Denver model includes an alarm and remote central locking, electrically- operated door mirrors, front fog lamps, air conditioning, higher-grade cloth seats and door trim, and a leather-covered steering wheel with height adjustment.

In a remarkable departure for a vehicle with a utilitarian leaning, the 4x4 models use a dashboard-mounted button to engage four-wheel drive and an additional button for the low-ratio gearbox. Most vehicles of this type have a secondary lever next to the gearstick.

Key customers in the UK will be utility firms, farmers and the construction industry for the workhorse models, but the Rodeo Denver is aimed at company car drivers. Isuzu hopes to sell 3,500 Rodeos a year in the UK, determined to poach a few buyers from Mitsubishi, Ford, Mazda, Nissan and Toyota.

Behind the wheel

THE Rodeo stands out from the current crop of pick-ups with its car-like face. There is a General Motors family look to the front end and the large headlamps are more in tune with cars like the Vauxhall Vectra and Meriva than a utility truck.

The Rodeo Denver in particular, with its chrome grille and door mirrors, looks quite elegant for a commercial vehicle.

It feels sturdy on the outside, with narrow panel gaps adding to the quality look, while inside it is evident that Isuzu has made concessions to people used to driving cars (or Troopers). There are soft-touch plastics and the cloth feels and looks as if it is from a medium-spec family car.

The rear seat backrest is angled so sitting in the back is more comfortable than in some other double-cabs where the backrest is almost upright, while legroom and headroom are generous enough for all but the tallest of people to sit in comfort.

Only Denver models were available to test, both on and off- road, so although it denied us the opportunity to try the workhorse end of the range it also provided us with the chance to decide whether the top-of-the-range models were suitable for work and play.

All four-wheel drive models come with the punchy 3.0-litre turbodiesel, which is a little rough around the edges compared with the latest breed of SUVs, but not too far removed from some of the proper off-roaders on the market.

The optional automatic transmission is a godsend for people used to more civilised means of transport. As the current rules on benefit-in-kind tax for commercial vehicles are not based on a vehicle's carbon dioxide emissions, drivers would be able to select the Rodeo without the higher emissions increasing the amount of company car tax they pay. The four-speed automatic model has a little more torque than the manual and makes the Rodeo much easier to drive.

Off-road test cars were fitted with mud tyres and felt unstoppable. On the road, the Rodeo feels a little unsettled when accelerating without a load in the back, as if it is bouncing along, but this is typical of vehicles in this sector. However, it drives quite well if you make allowances for slowing right down for corners and tight bends, and it is reassuring to have ABS with electronic brake force distribution as standard.

Driving verdict

THE Isuzu Rodeo is taking aim at the higher-profile vehicles in this sector, such as the Mitsubishi L200 and Nissan Navara, and has all the ingredients to succeed. The auto option on the Denver is welcome as Isuzu also hopes to keep buyers of the old Trooper model loyal to the brand.

Isuzu Rodeo
Model 4.2 4x4
Engine (cc): 2,499 2,999
Max power (bhp/rpm): 99/3,800 129/3,800
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 167/2,000 207/1,600 (217/1,600)
Max speed (mph): 93 96 (99)
0-62mph (sec): n/a n/a
Fuel consumption (mpg): 34.9 30.7 (28.8)
CO2 emissions (g/km): 214 243 (258)
Maximum towing weight (kg): 2,000 2,500
Payload (kg): 1,135/1,110 1,095/1,055
Transmission: 5-sp man, optional 4-sp auto
Service intervals (miles): 12,000
On sale: Now
Prices (OTR ex-VAT): £11,357-£17,302
Figures in brackets for auto models. Secondary figures for double-cab models

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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