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A somewhat-charming specialty SUV let down by sloppy handling dynamics and an unrefined interior.
Hard or soft-top option, youthful appeal, attractive design.
Excessive engine noise, sub-par suspension and handling, cramped interior.
Available Rodeo Sport SUV Models
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Other than new 16-inch wheels, Isuzu's two-door Rodeo Sport SUV is unchanged for 2002.
Looking for a fairly affordable vehicle that offers a sporty personality, decent off-road skills and the possibility of open-top excitement? The Isuzu Rodeo Sport could be the vehicle for you.
Formerly known as the Amigo, the Rodeo Sport comes in a multitude of configurations including a hard or soft top, two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, four-cylinder or V6, and manual or automatic transmission.
When you're out for a jaunt in the sun, the soft top can be stored in the cargo area, while the hardtop features a rear passenger moonroof for maximum UV exposure. A hard plastic spare tire cover is standard with the 16-inch wheels.
Powering the base Rodeo Sport is a 2.2-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine that pumps out 130 horsepower and 144 pound-feet of torque. The more powerful 3.2-liter V6 engine, the same one found under the hood of its four-door Rodeo sibling, makes 205 horsepower and 214 pound-feet of torque. Four-wheel drive models have a dash-mounted switch that engages the shift-on-the-fly transfer case at speeds up to 60 mph.
While on-road ride quality is better than a Jeep Wrangler's, it's still a generally unpleasant affair. The Rodeo Sport handles sloppily and does not inspire confidence in the vehicle's abilities. Disconcertingly light steering, a shaky ride and sub-par brakes all contribute to the sensation that this SUV shouldn't be taken to the limit. Its short wheelbase (96.9 inches), however, does make it easy to maneuver around town and into parking spaces.
Four-wheel ABS is standard on all models, with cruise control standard on V6 editions. You'll also get driver and passenger airbags and rear bench seats that fold down to reveal more than 62 cubic feet of space. Power windows, locks, air conditioning, keyless entry and a CD player are all available options. If you're worried about durability, know that all Isuzus come with a transferable 10-year/120,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Blithely fun-loving individuals might be willing to overlook Rodeo Sport's flaws in favor of its sunny demeanor and truck-based utility. The four-wheel-drive model offers a viable alternative to those who crave the Jeep Wrangler's off-road ability and youthful appeal, but appreciate Isuzu's slightly more refined design and comparatively quiet cabin. For buyers looking for a cute-ute with genuine off-road ability who don't mind putting up with stunted on-road performance, the Rodeo Sport might be the answer. But we recommend taking a close look at some of the other small SUVs on the market and going on a few test-drives before settling for this warmed-over Amigo.
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