Full 2007 Isuzu Ascender Review
What's New for 2007
The extended-wheelbase, seven-passenger Ascender has been discontinued. Otherwise, Isuzu's only SUV carries over unchanged.
Despite its decades-long alliance with industry titan General Motors, tiny Isuzu has existed on the fringes of the light truck market -- and been left for dead in the sales and branding department -- for quite some time. In fact, a lack of money for new product investment and marketing in the last few years has forced Isuzu to rely almost entirely on its partnership with GM -- if it weren't for the current i-Series pickup and the Ascender sport-utility vehicle derived from existing products, it's conceivable Isuzu might have already been relegated to the retailing graveyard of American automotive history.
But soldiering on and carrying over mostly unchanged on the sport-utility side of the store is the capable, oddly familiar 2007 Isuzu Ascender five-passenger SUV, which was introduced in 2004 and is based on and mechanically similar to GM's midsize truck-based SUVs. Compared with its corporate cousins, the Ascender has slightly tweaked styling -- including a different front grille, front and rear bumpers, unique lighting and Isuzu-specific 17-inch wheels -- as well as minor interior fabric and trim variations.
The 2007 Isuzu Ascender appeals mostly as a reasonably priced value choice with otherwise solid GM-engineered credentials. Considering its low price of entry, long list of standard/available features and generous powertrain warranty, the Ascender generally matches up well with its midsize sport-utility competition. For the best deal, though, we suggest careful comparison shopping -- paying particular attention to final price and warranty terms now that some competitors have extended their coverages into Isuzu's formerly exclusive territory.
If you typically carry no more than four or five and don't mind its truck-based origins and lack of contemporary refinement, features and style -- or are a niche user looking for a capable and relatively economical medium-duty tow vehicle or confident all-weather/off-road utility vehicle and simply appreciate a good value -- then by all means put the powerful, price-competitive 2007 Ascender to the test. Keep in mind, though, that given Isuzu's marginal, class-trailing status, ultimate resale value will be lower on the Ascender than on other more mainstream -- and more desirable -- rivals like the Ford Explorer and Toyota 4Runner.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2007 Isuzu Ascender is a well-equipped five-passenger midsize SUV available in either rear-wheel or four-wheel drive. Two-wheel-drive S models include standard features like tire-pressure monitoring, foglights, powered accessories, dual-zone air-conditioning with rear-seat climate controls and a CD stereo. Select the Preferred Equipment Package (PEP) as most do to add privacy glass, power driver seat, remote keyless entry and cruise control -- or spec a 4WD S model and you'll get them anyway.
Upgrading to the midlevel LS package adds a limited-slip rear differential, a moonroof, outside mirror defrosters, steering-wheel audio controls and an in-dash CD changer. The fully loaded, gotta-have-it-all Luxury package gets you leather seating with power/heated front seats and driver-seat memory, power-adjustable pedals and six-speaker Bose sound. To maximize your listening choices, both these models may also be equipped with optional satellite radio.
Powertrains and Performance
The Isuzu Ascender is available with rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive with low-range gearing. Either way, a 4.2-liter inline six-cylinder rated at 291 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque is under the hood. Although a V8 is no longer available, this smooth and impressive inline-6 engine has shown itself capable of outmuscling other competitors' V6s and many of their V8s, too. It's mated to GM's proven-but-aging four-speed automatic transmission. EPA estimates are 15-16 mpg/city and 21-22 mpg/highway, depending on drivetrain. When it's time to work or play, though, properly equipped Ascenders can tow up to 5,800 pounds with the standard trailer hitch.
All 2007 Isuzu Ascenders include antilock disc brakes, tire-pressure monitoring and stability/traction control technology; side curtain airbags are available. Government crash tests yielded three out of five stars for frontal-impact protection and a top-ranked five stars for side impacts (when equipped with side-curtain airbags); the independent IIHS rated the Ascender "marginal" -- the second lowest of four rankings -- in frontal-offset crash testing.
Interior Design and Special Features
The five-passenger Isuzu Ascender might appeal to young, value-conscious families or empty-nesters who don't need three full rows of seating. Though the Luxury package adds inviting leather and wood trim, other interior materials and detailing are similar to those of its GM cousins, which is average at best. If you can overlook its truckish lack of refinement, there are more than 80 cubic feet of cargo space out back with the rear seat folded -- about mid-pack among its competitors.
With the rear seat up, the Ascender offers decent accommodations for two adults, provided they can fit through the narrow rear door openings. Although there's plenty of legroom and foot room to go around, a low-mounted seat bottom cushion forces some tall persons to sit with their knees high and legs uncomfortably splayed apart. Storage space is not particularly plentiful, though rear passengers score a pair of average-size cupholders that can hold larger beverages than the undersized holders up front.
On the road the 2007 Isuzu Ascender offers a solid, powerful presence and a well-cushioned ride, but falls short of more evolved, well-rounded midsize SUVs. Though now-standard stability control is a welcome addition at the limit, our editors report the Ascender is generally plagued by sloppy handling and "loose" steering with vague on-center feel sometimes requiring correction when headed straight down the highway. Road feel is hard to discern and response to driver input can be both slow and numb, exacerbating the problem. Off-road, though, the Ascender comes more into its own and is more sure-footed; it's capable of tackling the typical obstacles one encounters while accessing trailheads and campsites -- mountaintops, too -- with the available four-wheel-drive hardware.