Introduction

Isuzu Rodeo offers a lightweight V6 engine, push-button four-wheel drive, sturdy construction and lots of cargo space. It combines handsome looks, a confident feel, and nimble highway manners on the road, with reasonably good capability off road.

Its dual-mode semi-active suspension system continuously adjusts to provide better handling and stability, while its drive-by-wire throttle is designed to deliver improved response and efficiency. Its optional all-aluminum 3.2-liter V6 delivers 205 horsepower.

Model Lineup

The Rodeo is available in three trim levels: S, LS, and LSE. It comes with a choice of two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive.

Two engines are available: a 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 130 horsepower is available only in 2WD S models. The 3.2-liter V6 comes standard on LS and LSE models and is available as an option on the S model.

A four-speed automatic transmission comes standard on LS and LSE. The S model comes standard with a five-speed manual transmission and optional with the automatic.

Standard equipment on even the basic Rodeo S ($18,380) includes speed-sensitive power steering, four-wheel antilock brakes, dual air bags, tinted glass, remote keyless entry, cargo convenience net, AM/FM/cassette stereo and skid plates under the radiator and fuel tank.

The V6 version ($21,265) adds anti-lock brakes, cruise control, a tilt steering column. 4WD versions ($24,695) add rear-wheel disc brakes, shift-on-the-fly transfer case and skid plate.

LS 2WD ($25,085) models add power mirrors, variable speed intermittent windshield wipers, air conditioning, power windows, power door locks, an in-dash 6-CD changer, retractable cargo cover, remote keyless entry, theft alarm, color-keyed carpeted floor mats, and a useful power outlet in the cargo area by the back door.

LS 4WD ($27,745) models also get a limited-slip rear differential.

Luxurious LSE 2WD ($29,295) and LSE 4WD ($31,730) come with fog lights, wood grain interior, heated power mirrors, power moonroof with sunshade, power reclining front seats, leather seating surfaces and Isuzu's Intelligent Suspension Control system.

Isuzu also offers an array of comfort, appearance, and preferred equipment packages. New for 2002 is the Chrome Package for the LS 4WD ($1,815) that includes 18-inch chrome alloy wheels, chrome tube side steps, chrome taillight trim and dual-mode intelligent suspension control.

Again for 2002, Rodeo comes with a generous 10-year/120,000 mile powertrain warranty, covering defects in materials or workmanship in the engine, transmission, suspension, steering assembly, and axles. It does not cover routine maintenance or adjustments. The basic warranty is still 3 years/50,000 miles, with 6 year/100,000 mile corrosion protection.

Walkaround

Except for last year's new eight-port grille, flush-mounted headlights and revised front and rear bumpers, the Rodeo's exterior appearance hasn't changed significantly since the major reworking it received in 1998.

Interior Features

The Rodeo's seat bottoms are big and deep and provide good support. Most of the controls are well placed and easy to operate, though the windshield-wiper post took awhile to figure out.

On the downside, interior passenger space, particularly headroom, is still limited for taller people. The Rodeo seats five, but rear-seat passengers should be children or short adults. The optional moonroof further reduces front headroom by an inch, which is a lot, although people shorter than 6 feet should still find headroom adequate.

However, the Rodeo offers abundant cargo space, more than 81 cubic feet of it with the rear seat folded down. That tops most other like-sized SUVs, particularly the Nissan Xterra at only 65.6 cubic feet. The Rodeo boasts slightly more space than the Ford Explorer and Toyota 4-Runner.

We dropped the back seat and loaded the cargo area with a mountain bike, a very large float tube (a giant truck inner tube encased in nylon with a backrest that sticks up about 2 feet on one side), a couple of fly rods, and some other miscellaneous fishing gear. The Rodeo swallowed it all with room to spare.

Driving Impressions

The Isuzu Rodeo is nimble and responsive. Its compact size makes it a joy to drive. It has enough power to move through crowded freeways and zip around on busy city streets. The steering is precise and sure.

The 3.2-liter V6 offers good power for the open road. The available 2.2-liter four-cylinder, while well built and reliable, seems too small for a vehicle that tops 3600 pounds.

The computer-controlled suspension provides a smooth and pleasant ride on the highway. We found the Rodeo to be agile and sure on paved mountain roads. The Intelligent Suspension Control monitors vehicle speed, engine rpm, brakes, and input from g-force sensors mounted on the chassis. A computer then directs step-motors that control shock valve blow-off points to adjust compression and rebound rates. The intent is to provide a smoother ride and reduced brake-dive and body roll.

Overall, the Rodeo offers a stable ride and responsive handling, a benefit of its ladder frame with eight cross-members and box-section main rails. Steel tubes in the doors, in addition to providing better passenger protection, also make the body more rigid, adding to inherent stability and solid handling.

Rodeo's dependable four-wheel drive system is a part-time, shift-on-the fly setup. At speeds below 60 mph you simply push a button to shift into 4WD-high. To drop into 4WD-low you need to stop and shift a floor-mounted lever. All 4WD Rodeos come standard with a limited-slip rear differential and rear disc brakes (2WD Rodeos have rear drums). The Rodeo rides well at moderate speeds (about 30 mph) on washboard roads.

The four-wheel anti-lock braking system works as expected and keeps the vehicle straight and true in emergency stops. In fact, the ABS even works well on rough dirt roads where other systems seem lacking.

The four-speed automatic transmission features a winter mode. When it's engaged, the transmission starts out in third gear to prevent wheelspin on icy or snowy surfaces. The transmission also has a power mode that gives better acceleration by raising up-shift points. Both modes are controlled by well-placed pushbuttons in the center console.

Summary

Isuzu Rodeo delivers agile handling, off-road capability and roomy cargo space at an attractive price. This is an underrated SUV that deserves to be on more shopping lists.


Model Line Overview

Model lineup: S ($18,380); S V6 ($22,265); LS ($25,085); LSE ($29,295); S V6 4WD ($24,695); LS 4WD ($27,745); LSE 4WD ($31,730)
Engines: 2.2-liter dohc 16v inline-4; 3.2-liter dohc 24c V6
Transmissions: 5-speed manual (available only on S and S V6); 4-speed automatic
Safety equipment (standard): dual airbags, 4-wheel ABS standard
Safety equipment (optional): N/A
Basic warranty: 3 years/50,000 miles
Assembled in: Lafayette, Indiana

Specifications As Tested

Model tested (MSRP): Rodeo LSE 4WD ($31,730)
Standard equipment: air conditioning, leather-trimmed seats and door panels, leather-wrapped wheel, power windows, cruise control, skid plates, variable intermittent windshield wipers, color-keyed bumpers, fog lamps, privacy glass, power brakes, tilt wheel, roof rack with crossbars, retractable cargo cover, power moonroof, AM/FM/cassette with six-CD changer
Options as tested (MSRP): N/A
Destination charge: ($610)
Gas guzzler tax: N/A
Price as tested (MSRP): $ 32,340
Layout: four-wheel drive
Engine: 3.2-liter V6
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 205 @ 5400
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm): 214 @ 3000
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy: 16/20 mpg
Wheelbase: 106.4 in.
Length/width/height: 177.5/71.1/69.4 in.
Track, f/r: 59.6/59.8 in.
Turning circle: 38.4 ft.
Seating capacity: 5
Head/hip/leg room, f: 37.8/52.2/42.1 in.
Head/hip/leg room, m: N/A
Head/hip/leg room, r: 37.9/52.8/35.0 in.
Trunk volume: 81.1 cu. ft.
Payload: N/A
Towing capacity: 4500 Lbs.
Suspension, f: Independent
Suspension, r: live axle
Ground clearance: N/A
Curb weight: 4163 lbs.
Tires: P245/70R16
Brakes, f/r: disc/disc with ABS
Fuel capacity: 20.0 gal.

Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle.
All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSRP) effective as of September 15, 2001.
Prices do not include manufacturer's destination and delivery charges.

N/A: Information not available or not applicable.
Manufacturer Info Sources: 1-800-726-2700 - www.gofarther.com

Copyright © 1994-2003 New Car Test Drive, Inc.
New Car Test Drive

Copyright © 1994-2009 New Car Test Drive, Inc.

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