Full 2008 Isuzu i-Series Review
What's New for 2008
The 2008 Isuzu i-Series compact pickup has minor feature availability adjustments. The i-290 LS trim level has also been eliminated.
Isuzu? They still make those? Well, yes, Isuzu models are still for sale, but they are essentially rebadged General Motors models and not exactly the best ones either. The Isuzu i-Series compact pickup truck was introduced two years ago to help revitalize the Isuzu lineup and is a near clone to General Motors' Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon twins. To help differentiate its truck, Isuzu gives the i-Series slightly tweaked styling -- including a distinctive, in-your-face chrome grille and Isuzu-badged wheels -- as well as minor interior fabric and trim variations.
The 2008 Isuzu i-Series is available in two basic versions with distinct body style options: the extended-cab-only i-290 pickup with four-cylinder power and rear-wheel drive, and the i-370 with a significantly more powerful five-cylinder engine. The i-370 is also available with an extended cab or crew cab body, and rear-wheel or four-wheel drive (crew cab only).
On paper, the i-Series offers most of the right stuff to satisfy a majority of small truck shoppers. In reality, though, it feels cut-rate at nearly every touch point, even in a class of vehicles where functionality and value come before upscale appointments. The doors are lightweight and hollow-sounding when shut, and after you slide behind the wheel its compromised dash design, subpar upholstery and fit-and-finish quality are plainly evident. On the road, both i-Series models ride and handle well enough and offer adequate power and responsiveness, but both still lag behind their V6- and V8-powered competition when extra oomph is needed.
The 2008 Isuzu i-370 and i-290 appeal mostly as reasonably priced value buys or decently engineered GM spin-offs. However, even considering its lower price of entry, generous standard features and extended powertrain warranty, the i-Series struggles to keep up with its more refined compact/midsize competition. For most buyers in this segment, we suggest sticking with a top compact or midsize pickup such as the Nissan Frontier or Toyota Tacoma.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Isuzu i-Series is a compact pickup truck available in i-290 and i-370 models -- the numbers refer to engine displacement. An extended cab and 6-foot bed is available with both models, while a crew cab body style with a 5-foot bed is available with the i-370 only.
The i-290 comes in one trim level with standard equipment that includes air-conditioning, cruise control, a vinyl split bench seat and not much else. The Preferred Equipment Package adds rear jump seats, rear tinted windows, cloth upholstery and a CD/MP3 stereo. These items are standard on the i-370, along with foglamps, a sliding rear window, front bucket seats, center console, full power accessories, keyless entry, leather-wrapped steering wheel and an upgraded six-speaker stereo system.
Available on the i-370 crew cab is the Limited Package, which adds leather upholstery, power and heated front seats, an in-dash six-CD changer and an auto-dimming rearview mirror with a compass.
Powertrains and Performance
The Isuzu i-290 is powered by a 2.9-liter inline-4 rated at 185 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to the rear wheels via a five-speed manual transmission. A four-speed automatic is optional. The Isuzu i-370 features a 3.7-liter inline-5 that produces 242 hp and 242 lb-ft of torque. The four-speed automatic is standard. Crew cabs can also be outfitted with four-wheel drive. The 4WD i-370 can tow 5,500 pounds when properly equipped.
All 2008 Isuzu i-Series come with four-wheel antilock brakes, while traction control is optional on the i-370 extended cab and standard on the two-wheel-drive i-370 crew cab. Side-curtain airbags are optional on the i-370 extended cab and standard on the crew cab. In government crash tests, the i-370 earned a top five-star rating for both driver and front passenger protection in frontal-impact testing. In the side impact test, the truck earned four stars for front passenger protection and five stars for rear passenger protection. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the i-370 received a "Good" rating (the highest possible) in frontal offset collision testing.
Interior Design and Special Features
Trucks may have gotten more accommodating in recent years, but don't expect anything extra-fancy inside the Isuzu i-Series. The quality of materials ranges downward from acceptable to below average, and build quality is spotty, too. On a brighter note, large and simple climate and stereo controls make adjustments a snap and help the interior feel familiar as soon as you climb in. Extended-cab models feature small reverse-opening rear doors on both sides for access to the back, and two tiny, don't-even-think-about-it jump seats inside. Larger crew cab models offer four regular-size doors and a standard 60/40 split-folding rear bench seat that can accommodate three adults when upright.
On the road, the 2008 Isuzu i-290 and i-370 feel like their GM relatives, offering a solid presence, reasonably refined (though modest) power, a well-cushioned ride and surprising agility. Still, the i-Series falls short of more powerful, evolved and well-rounded compact/midsize trucks. The engines deliver adequate, efficient power that's fine for simply getting around -- just don't expect much in the way of surplus grunt or top-end power. Shifts from the four-speed automatic are firm and timely, though, and the throws of the i-290's five-speed manual gearbox are among the best we've found in a smaller truck. We find the i-290's suspension tuning to be on the soft side, and the i-370's ride just a bit less so -- but both trucks handle and steer surprisingly well and rate above average compared with their peers.