What's New for 1999
Isuzu juggles minor standard and optional equipment for 1999, making items from last year's S V6 preferred equipment package standard on the LS, and last year's LS equipment standard on a new trim level called LSE.
Choices in the compact sport-utility class are numerous. Figuring out which truck best meets your needs almost always requires a compromise of some sort or another. The closest thing to perfect in this price range has been the lower trim levels of the Ford Explorer, and spectacular sales of this popular SUV prove that buyers find its combination of room, style and power the best in the segment.
The Explorer is a fine sport-ute, but there's another face in this neighborhood that deserves consideration. Enter the Isuzu Rodeo, which was completely redesigned last year, adding modern styling, a user-friendly interior, more V6 power and extra passenger and cargo room.
The Rodeo's interior provides cupholders, excellent ergonomics, the industry's most perfectly designed steering wheel, and plastic trim that looks anything but cheap. Clamber aboard and head for the hills; it's easy to thwart nature's obstacles with push-button 4WD and standard antilock brakes.
Buyers can select a hatchback that lifts up from top to bottom or a hatchgate, which employs flip-up glass and a tailgate that swings from right to left. The full-size spare tire can be stored under the vehicle or on the hatchgate. Three trim levels are available: S, LS and LSE. The basic Rodeo has two-wheel drive and a weak 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine. Step up to the S V6 and a 205-horsepower, 3.2-liter unit whisks you along with verve.
At the top of the complaint list about the truck is the absurd location of the push-button 4WD switch, located directly next to the cruise control button, where it could be activated accidentally. Off-road, the new Isuzu feels somewhat undersprung, but takes bumps and dips easily if speeds are kept to a minimum. Front bucket seats are quite uncomfortable over the long haul, though rear seat riders enjoy a supportive bench seat and plenty of leg room.
For 1999, Isuzu added a gold trim package to the Rodeo LSE's option list and enhanced rear window defrosters with a timer. All V6 models receive a more powerful 90-amp alternator and a tilt steering wheel, while four-wheel drive versions get a limited-slip differential.
The Rodeo is an excellent blend of old-fashioned truck toughness and modern day car-like convenience. If you're looking for a new $30,000 SUV, this one should be on your shopping list.