The Isuzu Rodeo was an SUV with many faces and names. The compact five-door, named the Wizard in Japan, was sold in the United States as the Isuzu Rodeo and Honda Passport, and under various names in Australia, South America and Egypt. No matter what name it bore, the Rodeo had a front-mount engine and either rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. Able to seat five comfortably, the Rodeo was a welcome counterpoint to the often rough ride experienced in other SUVs available when the vehicles first appeared on the market.
Weight reduction was the obsession of Isuzu engineers. By constantly tweaking the Rodeo from year to year, they carved off more than 200 pounds by using rack-and-pinion steering, changing the mount for the spare tire and switching to a five-link rear suspension set-up. Four engine options were available during its production run ranging from a 2.6-liter inline four-cylinder to a 2.8-liter turbocharged diesel four-cylinder. Assembly lines were located in Lafayette, Indiana, in the United States and abroad in Japan, Egypt, the UK, and Thailand.
First introduced in 1989 in Japan as the Wizard, Isuzu began selling its Amigo version in the United States the same year. The Amigo was a basic ride with very few amenities. The following year the full-blown Rodeo made its first appearance with a few engine options that included a GM-made 3.1-liter V6. Rather popular at the start, more than 70,000 units were sold during 1991 and1992. The second and final generation lasted from 1998 to 2004 and saw the reincarnation of the Amigo as a soft top while the Rodeo remained a hardtop.
Interior trim" is a relative term when talking about the Amigo and Rodeo. The first-generation vehicles were very plain-vanilla, the major feature being a rear seat that could be folded down to offer more cargo-hauling capacity. Additional tweaks saw a design of the central console in the 1993 and later models. Exterior trim options were quite limited as well. With the reintroduction of the Amigo, this version became the sport model with its three doors as opposed to the more upscale five-door Rodeo.
While the Amigo and Rodeo were adequate for the time in which they first appeared, the lack of significant refinements caused SUV buyers to look elsewhere for more amenities. The chassis, wheels, engine, and suspension were the focus of design and engineering but little attention was paid to the passenger compartment. Good mechanical underpinnings are desirable attributes for any vehicle but sales volume is generated by sex appeal, something the Amigo and Rodeo sorely lacked.
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