Used 1997 Isuzu Rodeo Review

Edmunds expert review

What's new for 1997

All 4WD models get a standard shift-on-the-fly transfer case, and improvements have been made to reduce noise, vibration and harshness.

Vehicle overview

Isuzu's Rodeo is getting a bit long in the tooth. Only mild updates have accompanied new model years since midseason 1995, when Isuzu added airbags for the driver and front passenger housed in a redesigned dashboard, 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, replaced the old unit with an organically swept affair complete with more legible gauges and improved ergonomics.

This year is no different. Isuzu puts the finishing touches on the first-generation Rodeo with standard shift-on-the-fly operation for 4WD models that can be engaged at speeds up to 62 mph and NVH improvements. Continuing from last year is optional four-wheel antilock brakes and two trim levels; basic S and more luxurious LS.

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, though buyers may want to wait for the all-new, completely redesigned 1998 Rodeo. Comparison shoppers beware; 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.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.