Wednesday 2 March 2011
It may not be the biggest seller in the 4x4 truck market but the new Isuzu Rodeo has a plethora of talents.
Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest 4x4 truck of them all? That very much depends on the eye of the individual of course.
Some think the Mitsubishi L200 is a classy looker while others admire the chunky, macho lines of the Ford Ranger. Me, I've always admired the boy on test here, the Isuzu Rodeo, and reckon it just nudges ahead in the looks department from the Nissan Navara.
The fact that the Rodeo lags behind the others in the sales league is probably down to no more than the dearth of Isuzu dealers in the UK, because in terms of practicality and reliability this truck is very much up with the rest of them. Even in the days at the turn of the millennium when most of the offerings in this sector were pretty rough and uncomfortable, the Rodeo offered something a little more alluring that the average driver could live with on a day-to-day basis without having to have fillings replaced on a regular basis.
And this new contender, which arrived in the UK last year, is even more capable. Isuzu may be a small player in the UK but it will surprise you to learn that in fact it is the biggest maker of diesel engines in the world. And the Rodeo commands a 37% market share in its home country of Thailand, 32% in Australia and New Zealand and a massive 79% in Egypt. No mean feat.
On offer in the UK are three models, the Denver, Denver Max and range-topping Denver Max LE, the model on test here. Prices range from £13,999 to £19,999 (ex-VAT, prices as of April 2008). All these are five-seat double-cabs, meaning Isuzu can't offer some of the cheaper 'farmer's' models that the opposition have.Under the bonnet goes a 2.5-litre common rail diesel engine offering 135bhp at 3,600rpm, while the range-topper comes with a ProDrive performance pack that boosts power at the touch of a button to 166bhp. Meanwhile torque is a meaty 217lb-ft or 292lb-ft. Braked towing weight is 3,000kg.
The basic model comes with air-conditioning, electric windows, 16in alloy wheels, keyless-entry central locking and a fascia-mounted two wheel drive/four wheel drive selector. The Denver Max adds chrome side steps, soft front A bar, rear step bumper and load liner while the Max LE has 18in chrome alloys, leather seats a mesh grille, DVD sat-nav and a Bluetooth kit. Fuel economy is 34.9 mpg on the combined cycle.
It is not only this truck's looks that are stunning - I was genuinely shocked to see that nigh on two tonnes of beefcake and all that kit comes at such a low price.It's a package that none of the other manufacturers can match on price and could well sway buyers towards it.
Climbing aboard, the dashboard, knobs and switches are all of Tonka toy proportions that befit the Rodeo and the leather seats are soft and figure-hugging, although I did feel that tubbier characters might find them tight. There is a reasonable amount of room for rear seat passengers and the cab in general feels more car than van. There are some nice silvery touches round the switches and trim and the sat-nav unit is a touchscreen one which can be understood without going to college first and gaining a degree in electronics.
In the back, the bottom section of the tailgate folds down to make a solid base for sitting on or sliding loads in. The load liner means the rear end can be hosed out after carrying dirty loads. The engine fires up with a nice meaty thrum and then settles down to a gruffle that doesn't intrude into the cab. The floor-mounted gearshift proves slick and sure although on motorway surfaces the steering feels a bit vague and uncommunicative. But there is certainly none of the old problems of hard suspension that these trucks used to suffer. My workmate and I managed two 150 mile non-stop journeys with no back pains and twinges.
It's nice to see that changes into four wheel drive can be made with the press of a button and although we didn't exactly take things to extremes, the bit of off-roading we managed saw this vehicle behaving admirably.
The classy exterior of the Rodeo may lead some to believe that it isn't up to the dirtier jobs. But during our test week, it proved a pretty tough cookie and a credible alternative to the more mainstream offers.
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