Bob Cooke – contributor
The Muddy Bottom site in the New Forest is well named, so much so that we dared not take the Rodeo directly up the main access road to the camping area further up the hill – it was a grim, grey and drizzly day, the muddy road up was slippery, rutted and steep, too steep, we decided, to trust the Rodeo’s road tyres considering the load the truck was carrying. Hence we took a zig-zag detour across open ground which, although covered in wet grass and scrubby undergrowth, allowed us to approach our goal on less of an incline. In fact, the Rodeo managed the terrain with very little trouble, even though our chosen route included a few unexpected humps and hollows – these at least had not been polished slippery smooth by the passage of many whirling mud terrains, as had the access track.
We’d piled the Rodeo’s capacious loadbay high with a combination of camping gear – two tents, a selection of camping stoves and barbecues and one of those gazebo things to protect us from the weather during the evening meal – as well as our usual selection of recovery gear. Add overnight accoutrements and extra wet and cold weather gear, comfortably-sized camp beds, sleeping bags and pillows, and it mattered not that the Denver Max has darkened windows, because we couldn’t have seen out through the rear windows anyway because of all the stacked-up gear.
Not that the load tested the Rodeo’s carrying capacity to any extent. The motorway cruise from the south east was covered in the truck’s usual refined style, the 3.0-litre turbodiesel humming sweetly in the background at an indicated 80 (the sat nav said we were legal) and even though the tarmac was wet and slippery on the country roads leading to the Muddy Bottom site there were no exciting moments. I’d even go so far as to distance myself from other users of the Rodeo (hey, nothing personal, guys) who’ve argued that they find the steering a bit vague and the gearshift too imprecise. Trouble is there are too many folk about who expect a truck like the Rodeo to handle like a VW Golf GTi, whereas it needs to be treated like a good ‘ol boy’s Tennessee backwoods runabout, letting the big torque do the work, shifting gear only when it’s really necessary and leaving a hand free for the can of Coors… I’ll certainly miss the truck now that its time with me has ended.
Ultimately, I have only two gripes about the Rodeo, and neither of them concern the truck’s dynamic behaviour, which I reckon is no worse than might be expected considering the relaxed comfort of the interior. One is that universally disliked sat nav system; fortunately, I have a very polite portable Garmin that doesn’t mess me about at all, and I was seriously pleased to hear that Isuzu has decided to go with an alternative and, we hope, more user-friendly system. The other annoyance is the Rodeo’s tendency to lock itself while I wasn’t looking, so I spent the whole time with the truck worrying that it might lock itself with the keys inside. The Denver Max is packed with gimmicks, most of which I could live with, and I know security is a serious issue these days, but a secret self-locking system is, for me, one luxury too far in a workhorse truck.
Model: Isuzu Rodeo
Spec: Denver Max LE
Recent costs: None
Arrived: March ‘10