Fleet News

First drive: Isuzu Rodeo

ISUZU has revamped its Rodeo pick-up with a new diesel engine, a new five-speed manual gearbox, beefed-up brakes and mild changes to the exterior and interior styling.

Launched at 2006’s Paris Motor Show, the newcomer is due here next month (April).

A new four-cylinder common rail 2.5-litre diesel replaces both the old 2.5-litre and the 3.0-litre diesel previously available.

Maximum power of 135bhp kicks in at 3,600rpm and is 35bhp more than the departing 2.5-litre could muster. It beats the old 3.0-litre too, albeit by just 5bhp.

Top torque of 217lb-ft bites at 1,800rpm. That equates to 50lb-ft more than the previous 2.5-litre and a modest 10lb-ft more than the 3.0-litre.

A 3.0-litre diesel is on offer in other markets along with an automatic gearbox, but there are no plans to market them in Britain. Instead, importer Isuzu (UK) is likely to offer Rodeo’s 2.5-litre with an optional Prodrive conversion that will boost output to 162bhp.

Rodeo will initially be sold solely as a 4x4 five-seater four-door double-cab with a maximum payload capacity of 1,075kg. Access to the cargo box is by means of a tailgate that can either be locked horizontally or dropped down completely, and the cargo box features four load-lashing points.

Other models are in the pipeline, including 4x2 single and double-cabs.

ABS brakes come as standard on the 4x4 double-cab, along with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and a rear limited slip differential. Electronic Stability Programme is not fitted and is not available as an option.

Exterior alterations include a new bonnet, bumper, wings and grille. Rodeo is now equipped with high-intensity projector-type headlamps that Isuzu says offer 50% better illumination than the headlamps previously fitted.

Inside you’ll find a new instrument panel, new air vents, a new centre console, new cloth trim for the seats and doors, and a new steering wheel. While the importer has yet to make a final decision on equipment, the 4x4 is likely to be offered with three different levels of specification, with a CD player plus driver’s airbag as standard.

Behind the wheel

THE new Rodeo is built in Thailand, and we flew all the way there only to discover that while Isuzu had a 3.0-litre automatic double-cab 4x4 and a 2.5-litre manual double-cab 4x2 for us to sample, no 2.5-litre manual double-cab 4x4 was on offer.

Driving what was available however gave us a fair idea of how the model destined to be shipped to Britain is likely to behave.

On the plus side, the steering is responsive, contributing to safe and predictable handling. Unlike so many other pick-ups the solidly constructed Rodeo does not bounce around all over the place when lightly laden and the manual gearbox offers a smooth, user-friendly gearchange. The 2.5-litre offers ample performance, but the levels of wind noise and road roar we experienced when driving the 4x2 double cab needed to be better-controlled. They were lower in the 4x4, which is encouraging.

Off-road the level of suspension articulation offered by the 4x4 made tackling rutted, boulder-strewn tracks a breeze. You can select either two-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive at speeds of up to 60mph, and either a high- or a low-ratio set of gears when in 4x4 mode.

There’s a reasonable amount of storage space in the cab, including a bin between the front seats with a lidded tray built into the lid, and more room in the back of the double-cab than you might expect. It seems a pity though that the occupant of the rear centre seat has to rely solely on a lap belt and is not protected by a headrest. If the driver suddenly slams on the brakes, then the hapless passenger is likely to smack the back of his or her head on the rear window.

Verdict

LIKE its predecessor, the latest Rodeo is an impressive piece of kit that looks more than capable of tackling a lot of hard work. If it has a disadvantage, it is that Isuzu is not as well known as Mitsubishi, Toyota, Nissan, Ford and Mazda; and they all offer rival products.

Fact file

Power (bhp): 135
Payload (kg): 1,075
Towing capacity (kg): 3,000
Fuel economy (mpg combined): 34.9
Price: TBA

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