What's New for 2002
For 2002, Isuzu has fiddled with the Rodeo's option packages and improved the available Intelligent Suspension Control (ISC) system.
One of the more hotly contested segments in the automotive world is the midsize SUV arena. Just about every major auto manufacturer either has, or is planning on, a four-door five-passenger sport-ute.
The Rodeo is Isuzu's take on what a midsize SUV should be, offering streamlined styling and a big warranty in the hopes of attracting buyers looking for something cheaper and more aesthetically appealing than the typical sales leaders.
The basic Rodeo has two-wheel drive and a 130-horsepower 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine. Even with the five-speed manual transmission, acceleration leaves something to be desired. The Rodeo LS and LSE have a more powerful 3.2-liter 24-valve four-cam V6 engine, rated at 205 hp and 214 pound-feet of torque. The V6 comes mated to a four-speed automatic with special "power" and "winter" driving modes.
Four-wheel-drive models feature an electronic shift-on-the-fly system. Operated by a dash-mounted switch, the driver shifts the vehicle into 4WD-High at the touch of a button and at road speeds up to 60 mph. While the Rodeo's mechanical hardware and 8.2 inches of ground clearance make an acceptable performer off-road, other SUVs like the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Toyota 4Runner clearly outpace it.
For 2002, Isuzu has updated the Intelligent Suspension Control (ISC) that comes standard on LSE trim. This system constantly monitors and adjusts shock valving to provide improved ride and handling. Hopefully this update will improve the Rodeo's handling, as previous models we've tested were marked by a jiggly ride and excessive body movements during launches and stops.
Three trim levels are available: S, LS and LSE. LS models add four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, along with a limited-slip differential and underbody skid plates. If you're looking for more luxury, top-of-the-line LSEs add an in-dash six-disc CD changer, leather seating and a power moonroof. Note that the option packages are slightly different this year, with a new Special Edition package for Rodeo S and a new Chrome package and revised Comfort package for Rodeo LS.
Inside, the Rodeo provides a maximum of 81 cubic feet of cargo capacity (with rear seats folded down). We've never been fond of the front seats, which we think lack the proper lumbar, lateral and thigh support. Although there is a good amount of legroom and height-adjustable seatbelts, the lack of foot- and shoulder-room and the generally unpleasant ride greatly reduce the enjoyment of driving this vehicle. Cheap-feeling interior materials and questionable build quality are other negatives.
Isuzu does provide a transferable 10-year/120,000-mile powertrain warranty for all of its SUVs, making it the longest one of its kind offered by any automaker in the United States. But that's not enough help for what is otherwise a middling SUV quickly being outpaced by fresher and more competent vehicles. If you're interested in a Rodeo, make sure you check out the wide range of competitors in this price range before settling on the Isuzu.