Review: Isuzu Rodeo (2003 – 2011)
Tough workhorse, excellent tow vehicle, tailgate drops lower than others, compatible with digital tachographs from 2007, good value.
Originally less refined than many contemporary pick-ups but much improved from 2007 facelift, only one star Euro NCAP rating.
Recently Added To This Review
Water leak into 2005 Isuzu D-Max/Rodeo 3.0 double-cab finally traced to a poor assembly weld under the rear window. Read more
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Isuzu Rodeo (2003 – 2011): At A Glance
- On average it achieves 81% of the official MPG figure
Isuzu liked to describe the Rodeo as the 'pick-up of professionals' so while it may not have been the most refined or luxurious of vehicles it was designed first and foremost for work. Thanks to Isuzu's background in larger commercial vehicles, it means the Rodeo is properly robust and strongly built.
Originally launched in 2003 the Rodeo built up a reputation as a good value, albeit fairly old-school, pick-up that was more no nonsense but also less refined than alternatives like the Mitsubishi L200. However it was given a substantial revamp in 2007 with a far better interior and a new engine that made it a much more viable option for those used to the quality of rival pick ups.
It was far better to drive than before but the new engines made the biggest difference. A new 2.5-litre diesel replaced the previous 3.0-litre unit and has much better throttle response with plenty of torque from low down. It's also much quieter and less coarse than the old engine. There's also a new 3.0-litre engine with 360Nm of torque which is ideal if you intend on towing.
There's plenty of choice too with eight models, single and double cab body styles, two diesel engines, two- or four-wheel drive and manual or automatic transmissions. The entry-level Denver model is well equipped for the money with air-conditioning, four electric windows, 16-inch alloy wheels, keyless-entry central-locking, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a CD stereo with iPod connectivity. The top Denver Max LE is the more showy model favoured by private buyers and gets 18-inch Shadow Chrome alloy wheels, stainless steel mesh front grille and a body-colour hard top with locking tailgate.
What does a Isuzu Rodeo (2003 – 2011) cost?
Isuzu Rodeo (2003 – 2011): What's It Like Inside?
The Isuzu Rodeo’s doors open wide to allow easy access to the cab and it’s less of a climb up into the Rodeo’s saddle than in many other pick-ups. Once installed in the seat, you’ll find that it’s set lower than much of the competition to give the Isuzu more of a family car feel than that of a commercial vehicle. However, it’s still easy to spot all four corners of the Rodeo for ease of parking and reversing, though the rear view will be compromised if you fit a hard top over the load bed.
A reasonable driving position is undermined to some extent by the steering wheel only adjusting for height and not reach as well. This is all the more of a pity as the Rodeo offers excellent room for the driver’s legs, head and shoulders. It also offers a clear, uncluttered dash with all of the major and minor controls placed logically and within easy reach so the driver doesn’t have to stretch to operate them. However, the gear lever may seem a little too far forward for some drivers.
Behind the front cab of the Rodeo is a rear passenger area that can carry three adults in decent comfort, which makes it a better choice of crew cab than some rivals. It’s not blessed with acres of leg room in the back, but the Rodeo still offers just enough for adults to be comfortable.
It’s also well equipped in every trim level, with basic cars equipped with air conditioning, electric windows, CD stereo, electric door mirror adjustment and 16-inch alloy wheels. Later cars also come with Bluetooth hands-free mobile phone connection, while the upscale Denver Max has chrome side steps, brushed steel door guards and CD autochanger, while the Denver Max LE gains leather upholstery and satellite navigation.
One area where the Rodeo does fall very flat, however, is safety. It performed miserably in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, which is likely to put off those looking to mix work and play in the Rodeo. It has twin front airbags, anti-lock brakes and Isofix child seat mounts in the back seat, as well as a trio of three-point seat belts. Even so, it doesn’t do a great job of absorbing a crash or protecting pedestrians.
It does do a good job of carrying loads in the cargo bed that can cope with up to 1075kg of goods. This space can also deal with pallets and there’s good space between the wheelarches for bulkier goods. The drop-down tailgate is another Isuzu plus as it folds down lower than many other pick-ups to make it easier to lift heavy items in and out.
The Isuzu Rodeo can also tow braked trailers up to 3000kg to make it a useful vehicle to have when you need to haul mass.
What's the Isuzu Rodeo (2003 – 2011) like to drive?
During its life, the Isuzu Rodeo was offered with 2.5 and 3.0-litre turbodiesel engines, with the latter also available with a power upgrade kit. The Rodeo was also the first pick-up to be offered in the UK with the option of an automatic gearbox, which broadened its appeal to private buyers who wanted a practical tow car as much as those looking for a workhorse.
With 100PS on offer from the 2.5-litre turbodiesel, it was far from the most potent engine compared to rivals and is best avoided. Much better is the revised later 2.5-litre unit with 134PS, though this engine still misses the low and mid-rev shove of many of its competitors such as the Mitsubishi L200 and Toyota Hilux. This engine is further hampered by its low, recalcitrant gearchange in the manual gearbox.
It’s best to seek out the 3.0-litre version of the Rodeo, which has 130PS, or more with the power upgrade kit. It’s a willing performer and happier to rev cleanly and strongly from low revs than its 2.5-litre sister engines. On the move, this engine feels decently potent and makes sure the Rodeo is not left lagging behind away from the traffic lights or on the motorway. It’s also by the far the best bet for those looking to tow a horsebox or heavy trailer.
However, even the 3.0-litre engine is a noisy lump at all speeds, if not quite as rowdy as the 2.5-litre units. The 3.0-litre also has to endure the lumpy, lazy manual gearbox shift, so if you can find one of the automatic-equipped models for sale this is the one to have to make your life much less taxing on the arms.
If the engines are middling to poor, the Rodeo does make up some ground with the way it handles and steers next to its rivals. The steering is power assisted and light when turning tight corners or parking, and it also doesn’t suffer much kickback when the front wheels encounter any obstacles while driving off-road or tackling larger kerbs while manoeuvring a trailer.
There’s a fair degree of body roll in the soft-set suspension, which is just as well as it warns the driver to ease off long before the Isuzu’s low levels of traction give up the fight with physics and let the pick-up begin to wander from the driver’s intended path.
However, the same soft suspension set-up does not equate to a supple ride and the Isuzu more than lives up to its Rodeo name by bucking and carousing over every bump, jitter and dip it encounters in the road’s surface.
Real MPG average for a Isuzu Rodeo (2003 – 2011)
Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their vehicles could not match the official figures.
Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.
Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.