It gets worse. Isuzu trucks will come with a 7-year/75,000-mile powertrain warranty and seven years and 75,000-miles of roadside assistance. That pretty much trounces the 3-year/36,000-miles of coverage offered on the Chevy and GMC. Assuming that 2006 Isuzu i-280 and i-350 pricing is competitive, which would you rather buy - a Chevy Colorado or an Isuzu-badged duplicate with four years and 39,000 miles of extra warranty coverage?
We're betting on the Isuzu. But notice that this warranty is not as good as the old one Isuzu used to offer on models like the Rodeo. Lack of confidence in the product, perhaps?
The Isuzu i-280 and i-350 pickup trucks were unveiled at the 2005 New York International Auto Show. Production is due to begin in June 2005 at GM's Shreveport, Louisiana assembly plant.
What it is
Isuzu i-280 and i-350 pickups are essentially Chevrolet Colorados and GMC Canyons wearing different nomenclature. According to Terry Maloney, President of Isuzu Motors America, GM and Isuzu collaborated on the original design of this vehicle, with Isuzu taking the lead on packaging, interior design, and powertrains, while GM worked on styling and prototype production. GM's versions hit the market in 2004, and the first Isuzus will be sold as 2006 models.
The i-280 is a two-wheel drive, extra-cab pickup equipped with a 2.8-liter four-cylinder engine that provides 175 horsepower and 185 lb.-ft. of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard and a four-speed automatic is optional. Isuzu's i-350 pickup is a four-wheel drive, four-door pickup featuring a 220-horsepower, 3.5-liter, five-cylinder engine that provides 225 lb.-ft. of torque. The four-speed automatic transmission is standard.
Why it matters
This new truck is HUGE for starving Isuzu dealers. The Isuzu Trooper? Retired. Isuzu Rodeo? Long since bucked. Rodeo Sport? Game over. Hombre? Adios. Axiom? Disproved. Plans for an all-new small SUV in 2007? Vaporized. That leaves only five- and seven-passenger Isuzu Ascenders on the lots, which are nothing more than Chevy TrailBlazers with different grilles and better warranties. Kinda like the new i-Series pickups.
When you can buy it
Production of the Isuzu i-280 and Isuzu i-350 pickups is scheduled for June 2005, and models should start arriving on dealers' lots soon thereafter. Can't wait for a test drive? Head down to your local Chevy or GMC dealer, place some duct tape over the badges and logos, and be one of the first to experience a new Isuzu pickup.
How much it costs
Isuzu has not released pricing for its new i-280 and i-350 pickups, though the cost of admission should be in line with the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. In theory, adding much better warranty coverage could add to the price of the Isuzu trucks, though the brand's do-or-die position in the North American market means that any new vehicle wearing an Isuzu nameplate needs to be an outstanding value.
How quick it is
Buyers looking for shotgun acceleration will benefit from shopping the small/midsize truck field before settling on the 2006 Isuzu i-280 or i-350 pickup. Company officials have not released performance data, but figures should be nearly identical to the GM trucks on which the new Isuzus are based. The 2.8-liter equipped, base two-wheel-drive Chevrolet Colorado reaches 60 mph in about nine seconds, and the heavier, though more powerful 3.5-liter four-wheel-drive model achieves 60 mph in about ten seconds.
What it looks like
Peel off the i-280/i-350 adhesive badges, remove the chrome H grille, and pop off the Isuzu logos from the center wheel caps and the steering wheel, and what you'll see is the familiar Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon. For those not acquainted with those models, they're good looking trucks. Headlights and signals are stacked vertically and surround a distinctive grille, which gives the pickup a bold face. Sides are free of any exaggerated bodywork, though the wheel arches rise toward the rear of the wheel wells; the i-350 features oversized flares. Along the top of the tailgate is a small lip.
What it does best
Finding what the Isuzu i-280 and i-350 do best is as easy as opening up the owner's manual and searching for the warranty information. In GM guise, these trucks trail the pack with outgunned engines, relatively weak towing and payload ratings, and the General's 3-year/36,000-mile powertrain warranty. However, Isuzu will offer the same vehicle to the buying public with an impressive 7-year/75,000-mile power warranty backed up by 7 years and 75,000-miles of roadside assistance. So, with GM and Isuzu it's an apple-to-apple comparison, but Isuzu's fruit shines up better and has fewer bruises.
What we think
Paramount to Isuzu's success and its future in the North American market is adding vehicles for dealers to sell. In an ideal world, a number of innovative new designs with impressive powertrains and unique features would rumble into town proudly displaying an Isuzu badge, but we're stuck with reality and are not afforded the luxury of idealism. So, the best Isuzu can do, right now, is offer a truck we all know as something else, albeit with a much better warranty. While this action won't turn Isuzu around, it may be enough to get more people talking about the brand, stimulate sales a bit, and buy some time until more models are ready for the showroom.
Photos by Erik Hanson