What's New for 1996
Finally, Isuzu's Rodeo can be equipped with four-wheel antilock brakes, and 4WD models get a standard shift-on-the-fly system. New style wheels debut, and the engine now makes 190 horsepower. Increased wheel track improves ride quality, and spare tire covers are redesigned.
Except for freshly styled alloy wheels, not much was new with Isuzu's Rodeo as the 1995 model year began. Midseason, Isuzu issued a notable upgrade, adding airbags for the driver and front passenger. Also new were roof-mounted speakers that expanded available cargo space in the revised interior, plus an improved stereo system. The new dashboard, designed with assistance from Honda, did away with the old angular look, replacing it with an organically swept affair complete with more legible gauges and improved ergonomics.
For 1996, Isuzu finishes the Rodeo off with available four-wheel disc antilock brakes, more power for V6 models, and standard shift-on-the-fly operation for 4WD models that can be engaged at speeds up to 62 mph. Wheel track is wider, improving ride quality, and new 16-inch alloy wheels have been added to the options list for S models. Better yet, the SOHC V6 engine's output now matches that of last year's DOHC motor: 190 horsepower.
Rodeos are spacious for five inside, and V6 models have a swing-out spare tire that creates even greater elbow room. The rear seat folds flat, resulting in a long cargo floor, but the clamshell tailgate design makes it difficult to access the back of the cargo area easily. Fortunately, the rear glass will open independently. Oddly, the only way to get a 60/40 split folding rear seat is to order a top-of-the-line LS model; not very convenient, or sensible. Options include side steps and a brush grille guard.
Road noise might be a drawback, though the 3.2-liter V6 engine is quiet-running and strong with either five-speed manual shift or the available four-speed automatic transmission. A 2.6-liter four-cylinder engine, delivering 70 fewer horses, powers the two-wheel-drive S edition, which comes only with manual shift. Automatic transmissions have Power and Winter modes, the latter starting off in third gear to reduce wheelspin on slippery pavements. Towing capacity is 4,500 pounds with the V6 engine, but only a ton with the four-cylinder.
Anyone seeking a capable blend of comfortable highway ride and tempting off-road talents could do well to look for an Isuzu dealer. Honda markets a version of the Rodeo and calls it the Passport. The Passport tends to be a bit more expensive, and doesn't come with as comprehensive a warranty. For those reasons, we suggest you stick with a Rodeo.