One of the big changes to the pick-up market over the past few years has been the advent of double cab 4x4s groaning with extras and plastered with eye-catching decals. They’ve got leather seats, air conditioning, sat nav, metallic paint… the list of goodies seems endless.
Not every pick-up buyer wants a vehicle like this, however. People who simply require a basic working tool may be quite happy with a single cab 4x2 — not everybody needs to venture off-road regularly — with a basic specification at a budget price. That’s especially the case in the current economic climate,
Though best-known in the UK for its luxuriously appointed all-wheel drive double cabs, Isuzu has recognised that there’s interest in something rather more austere. It’s a market it started to cater for last year with the launch of the rear-wheel drive Rodeo 4x2 Single Cab; a model we’ve decided to check out.
Power comes courtesy of a 2.5-litre four-cylinder common rail diesel with a variable- vane turbocharger and an intercooler. Top output of 136hp kicks in at 3,600rpm, peak torque of 294Nm bites across a 1,800rpm-to-3,200rpm plateau and the engine is married to a five-speed manual gearbox. CO2 emissions are set at 196 g/km.
Turning to the suspension, independent coils with double wishbones are fitted at the front along with an anti-roll bar while semi-elliptic leaf springs and a live axle help support the rear. Our demonstrator’s plain steel 15in wheels were shod with Goodyear DuraSport 215/70 R15 C tyres. You’ll find ventilated 256mm brake discs at the front of the vehicle, with 254mm drums installed at the back. ABS and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution are both standard features.
Power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering is fitted offering an 11.8m kerb-to-kerb turning circle. Should you need to tackle a moderately muddy track then it’s worth noting that a rear limited-slip diff is included in the package.
Grossing at 2,850kg, the 4x2 Rodeo can handle a 1,235kg payload. It can tow a braked trailer grossing at up to 2,500kg and will happily accommodate a digital tachograph.
Release the catches at each end of Rodeo’s tailgate and it will drop down and lock horizontally. It cannot be lowered any further, however, because the rear bumper, which incorporates a handy step, gets in the way. The pick-up’s cargo box features a load lashing ring in each corner, close to the top of the sidewalls. You’ll also find five externally-mounted rope hooks down each side beneath a protective flange. A ladder rack complete with hinged stops is mounted behind the cab.
Maximum load length is 2,270mm. Maximum width is 1,520mm narrowing to 1,075mm between the wheel-boxes, while maximum load height is 450mm. Rear loading height is 686mm.
Good to see that Isuzu has not seen fit to emboss its name in big letters on the outside face of the tailgate. That should make applying livery to the vehicle a whole lot easier. Our test truck was equipped with a plastic load area liner for an extra £217; all prices quoted here exclude VAT. That’s an option worth considering if you want to protect the cargo bay against scratches and scrapes.
Acres of grey plastic plus grey upholstery dominate Rodeo’s somewhat Spartan cab interior. You get electric windows, driver and passenger airbags and an MP3-compatible radio/CD player with an awkward-to-replace removable control panel and dolls-house-scale controls, but that’s about as sophisticated as things get. The exterior mirrors have to be adjusted manually, but at least they’ve got a wide-angle section.
Storage facilities include a lidded and lockable glovebox, narrow bins in each of the doors that incorporate a cup-holder and a deep, lidless, stowage box between the seats. A shelf beneath the radio and a small cubby-hole to the right of the steering column provide further space for oddments and you’ll find a couple of cup-holders at the bottom of the dashboard.
The wipe-clean plastic floor covering makes sense given the nature of the work the vehicle is likely to be engaged in, but it’s uncomfortably slippery. More attention needs to be paid to the design of the seats too — they lack lateral support — and although the steering column can be tilted, the driver’s seat lacks height adjustment.
One clear advantage Rodeo has over certain pick-ups we’ve encountered in the past is that it’s fitted with a conventional handbrake lever rather than a vile umbrella-style contraption mounted beneath the dashboard.
What’s more, it’s got two separate bucket seats rather than a bench seat. The trouble with benches is that they have to be moved forward in their entirety if the driver wants to get closer to the pedals; bad news if you happen to be a tall passenger. Benches may of course be able, in theory at least, to accommodate a third passenger, but the accommodation offered is usually uncomfortable and not even suitable for short local journeys; never mind longer trips.
The Isuzu proved to be a far better performer than we expected it to be. While the unladen ride is choppy and acceleration from rest can be sluggish at times, the handling is surprisingly good.
In the past pick-ups of this ilk tended to lurch all over the place every time they were asked to tackle even a moderately demanding curve. With Rodeo there’s zero wallowing and it deals with bends quite happily without exhibiting a desire to wobble into the nearest ditch. Put a bit of weight in the back and the handling improves. A decent degree of feedback through the steering helps.
A precise gearchange allows you to get the best out of the engine. Although its behaviour at low speeds isn’t especially impressive, its mid-range performance is perfectly adequate. Engine, road and wind noise are reasonably well suppressed.
We averaged a reasonable 36mpg during the Rodeo’s (unladen) test period.
Solidly constructed, apart from some loose trim around the radio, Rodeo looks capable of soaking up any amount of punishment. It could do with side rubbing strips plus some protection for the wheel-arches however to defend it against minor scratches and scrapes. That was especially the case with our demonstrator because it was finished in metallic paint for an extra £315.
Remote central locking is fitted, and an internal button on the driver’s door allows you to lock both cab doors.
Service intervals are set at a pretty frequent 12,000 miles and a three-year/60,000-mile warranty is provided. It includes roadside rescue for the entire 36 months.
While Isuzu’s humble Rodeo 4x2 Single Cab may not be the most exciting or glamorous pick-up on the road, there’s no denying that it’s a solidly constructed no-nonsense load-lugger. It boasts a roomy cargo area, a generous payload and towing capacity, and it can accept a digital tachograph; an important consideration if you ever have to haul a heavy trailer. OK, the cab is basic, but it’s not entirely feature-free and we are after all talking about a vehicle that’s been designed as a working tool that can be sold at a competitive price. Rodeo handles well, its on-the-road performance is perfectly acceptable and while its unladen ride may be choppy, pick-ups aren’t intended to run around empty. Frankly, we like this no-frills, no-pretensions workhorse. It’s the ideal product for today’s austere times.