Bob Cooke – contributor
I remember being thoroughly impressed with the Isuzu Rodeo when it first appeared in 2003 as a replacement for the truly trucklike Vauxhall Brava. Not that I approved of the styling, particularly, too school-run sleek for my liking compared with my favourite at the time, the Nissan Navara, which has a much more off-roady appeal. But I did like the gutsy 3.0-litre turbodiesel, which gave the Rodeo lustier acceleration and much easier cruising than its 2.5-litre opponents.
Hence I was pleased to have the opportunity to drive the long-term Denver Max LE. My, what a lot of pretty chrome trim, pretty blue-illuminated dials, complete with sporty red needles, and what a lot of gadgetry to play with! Personally, I could do without the silly gleaming sidesteps, all they really end up doing after a spell of off-roading is to smear mud all over your trouser legs as you get out; I’d be too afraid of scraping the plating off against a rock. I’d rather have a chunky length of angle iron there to protect the sills. Still, the rest of the chrome I can live with. What did leave me cold, however, was the sat nav system. I don’t really have a problem with systems that don’t allow you to select a destination on the move, but this one seems only to allow you to do so after first initialisation, which takes agonising minutes. If you drive off while it’s initialising thinking to pull into a layby later to set your destination, forget it – you’ll have to switch off again and wait for the entire deadly boring initialisation process to happen again. And then…the system doesn’t seem to recognise postcodes, so you have to go through the whole process of selecting city, street etc which is of no use at all if you’re going to anywhere that hasn’t got a suitable street number.
Even more annoying is that, even when you haven’t selected a destination, the sat nav still appears to follow your progress and every time you reach the speed limit on any road you happen to be driving on, a sarcastic woman’s voice warns you that ‘you are over the speed limit’. The only saving grace is that the voice is quite clearly Holly, the computer from ‘Red Dwarf’. Oh, yes, the Rodeo Denver Max LE – a great truck, very enjoyable to drive with its strong acceleration, lovely gutsy engine noise and superb handling. The loadbay proved more than adequate to handle my expansive collection of camping gear (see feature p52), and even though the nasty push-button four-wheel drive selection took its time to engage and disengage at times (how I prefer a simple lever working directly on the transfer box) it behaved remarkably well off-road in spite of our guide’s concern that we might knock the rear bumper off. We didn’t, even though we did need a bit of extra speed to get though some wheel-in-the- air cross-axle sections to compensate for the lack of a locking rear differential.
I also enjoyed blasting the Denver Max back from our camping trip in Herefordshire, frequently ‘over the speed limit’, with its bright headlamps piercing a clear path through the darkness as it traced a neat trail along the narrow lanes. I know Hils finds the gearshift a bit floppy, but when the truck was really flying and I was only switching between third for tight bends and fifth for cruising, each shift needed no more than a flick of the finger. Hope to have it again some time.
Model: Isuzu Rodeo
Spec: Denver Max LE
Recent costs: none
Arrived: March ’10