First drive: Isuzu Rodeo Denver

  • 3.0-litre diesel Isuzu's max braked trailer weight is 3000kg
  • Performance and emissions far from outstanding
  • Difficult to drive in town but rugged and tough for traders

We've been driving the double-cab Isuzu Rodeo with a tweaked 3.0-litre diesel engine to find out if the latest model is OK... Corral.


Performance from the 3.0-litre diesel engine with 161bhp means, er... a gallop from 0-62mph in 10.7 seconds and top speed of 108mph. Not exactly figures likely to set the racing world alight, but that's not what this car is about. Pulling power is the aim of the game and the max braked trailer weight is a substantial 3000kg. Its load space is 1360mm long, 1340mm wide and 450mm high - reasonable but not outstanding when compared with the competition.

Considering its a diesel, fuel economy isn't brilliant. Official figures say 33.6mpg is possible on the combined cycle while 222g/km of CO2 comes out of the tailpipe. This means company car tax is payable in the highest 35% BIK band. Our test car had a five-speed gearbox which was akin to stirring a bag of rocks, with first gear often elusive during normal driving.

Around corners the unloaded Rodeo can get wild if you're not awake. In two-wheel drive mode - the mode you'd use to drive normally to save fuel and increase manoeuvrability - there's a serious lack of anything resembling grip on anything but clean, dry tarmac. When un-laden in the wet the back end constantly steps out and coupled with the bouncy jarring ride you begin to discover why this car is really called the Rodeo. It is a case of 'hang on cowboy'. 

You have the option to switch from two-wheel drive to either high- or low-ratio four-wheel drive if the terrain gets challenging.

Driving through town the 12.2 metre turning circle becomes arduous: having to perform three- and five-point turns to get into parking spaces is laborious, time-consuming and tiring.

Inside it's a combination of cheap but hard-wearing plastics and a baffling DVD head-unit that apparently does navigation, if (unlike our tester) you can work out how it works. The volume control buttons on the stereo are painfully small - you'll have better luck trying to find the Ark of the Covenant - and the whole arrangement for the audio system is unnecessary arcane.

It's okay inside, if a little rough and ready. The front seats are comfortable on longer journeys, while the rear seats have enough space for three adults in relative comfort.

So all in all, the Rodeo isn't particularly wonderful but this model was reasonably affordable £20,784 plus VAT of £4,157 with a delivery charge of £460 including number plates, but if you do plan to lasso one in the future you have to accept that it does have its faults.