Fleet News

Roadtest: Isuzu Rodeo Denver

Pardon the puns, but they are intentional, if not original. For the Rodeo not only has an American name (our test model is the ‘Denver’ variety) but it is the most like an American truck of all the contenders in the sector at present – hard on the outside and soft on the inside.

The Rodeo replaced the old TF truck and is built in Thailand, where it has already captured 43% of the market. It will be sold in 130 countries and will bear a Holden badge in Australia and a Chevrolet one in South America.

What a crazy mixed-up world the automotive industry is becoming.

Isuzu is aiming to grab a slice of the action in the UK which is currently largely carved up between the Ford Ranger, Mitsubishi L200, Nissan Navara and Toyota HiLux. Sales aspirations are 3,500 a year, despite the recent Budget clampdown on drivers who choose these vehicles instead of a car in a bid to escape paying vast amounts of benefit-in-kind tax.

Two models are available, the 4x2 single cab with a 2.5-litre diesel unit offering 99bhp at 3,800rpm and 166lb-ft of torque at 2,000rpm and the mighty 4x4 double cab tested here, with a 3.0-litre turbodiesel powerplant offering 130bhp at 3,800rpm and 206lb-ft of torque at 1,600rpm. It’s the biggest engine of all the muscle trucks and Isuzu (hardly surprisingly) claims it is the best.

Our test model came with dazzling blue metallic paint, a load liner at £195 and a Truckman top at £1,756, making a total on the road price (including VAT) of £22,560.


All the offerings around now are handsome beasts but I reckon this one takes the number one slot just ahead of the L200. It’s a matter of personal taste of course, but to my eye, the ‘don’t-mess-with-me’ macho lines are the best by a gnat’s whisker.

Our top-spec Denver model boasts a massive chrome grille, chunky chrome side bars and a huge black towbar at the rear, to make use of the 3,000kg towing weight capability. The whole glorious lot is finished off by massive 245/16 tyres set on huge alloy wheels.

Many a wistful male eye was turned in the direction of this vehicle during my test week.

In the cab

Entry is by remote plip locking and once seated inside, the driver will realise just how ‘American’ this vehicle is. Its seats seem about 10 feet wide each, tailored exclusively for those huge American rear ends. They are comfortable enough but too soft for my liking and totally lacking in side support. Those poor diminutive Thai drivers must almost disappear in the cushions!

The general ambience in the cab is car rather than commercial vehicle, so anyone with a dirty job to do would be well advised to steer clear of this particular variant. There are lots of creature comforts such as air conditioning, electric windows and electric mirrors and the good quality CD/radio comes with a detachable front to deter thieves.

Meanwhile there are two cup holders in the centre console and two bottle holders in the doors, four grab handles for when the going gets rough and, rather curiously I thought, two coat hooks.

That massive long 3,050mm wheelbase means the cab is voluminous and there is even plenty of legroom for rear seat passengers.

In the back

The Truckman top is listed as an option but I would say it is more an essential. It will shelter any loads you carry and will also prevent miscreants using your pride and joy as a rubbish skip when you park it in the street.

However, as a means of securing valuable cargo it is pretty near useless. The rear tailgate of the truck doesn’t lock at all, so the only security measure is the fact that the Truckman rear window folds over the tailgate slightly and locks into position with a small key. Determined thieves will soon be able to yank it open, sadly.

The plastic load liner is also an essential as any muck and grime can be hosed out, leaving the truck in mint condition again. Payload is 1,055kg, and load dimensions are 4,900mm long and 1,800mm wide.

On the road

I don’t know about you but I rather like trucks with a macho roar to them and this particular one has a sound all of its own. As it isn’t a common rail unit but an old-fashioned diesel, it growls like a good ‘un in the mornings and will be sure to set you at loggerheads with the neighbours if you have to leave early for work.

But here’s a strange thing. While the engine sounds like a lion, the rest of the vehicle is more like a pussycat. The power steering is light (too light for me), the gearchange smooth and the suspension is set on the soft side so the vehicle rolls like a ship on the corners.

Few muscle truck manufacturers seem to have got this set-up just right. The L200 is far too hard to live with in everyday life and the Rodeo is too soft. In my book, only Nissan has really managed to obtain the best of both worlds.

Under way, as long as you are not pitching into a corner, this vehicle will blast on up to 96mph and should return somewhere around 30 miles per gallon. Safety is enhanced with standard ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution. As with any long wheelbase vehicle, the turning circle is something akin to the Queen Mary at 40 feet. It certainly sorts out the sheep from the goats when you try and park at Sainsbury’s on a Friday evening.

Meanwhile changes between the different gear ratios – two wheel drive high, four wheel drive high and four wheel drive low – are courtesy of a row of buttons on the dash rather than the old-style extra gearstick. It’s much more civilised.


Having complained about the softness of the ride I would have to say if I was going to drive a truck like this for a living and use it for pleasure at weekends, I would rather have one on the soft than the hard side. With its dashing good looks and comfy ambience, it’s well worth more than a second look.

Gross vehicle weight (kg): 2,900
Payload (kg): 1,055
Load length (mm): 4,900
Load width (mm): 1,800
Load height (mm): n/a
Load height from ground: 210
Max power (bhp/rpm): 130/3,800
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 206/1,600
Basic price (ex-VAT): £16,682

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