Reasons for such a pathetic response are numerous, but most revolve around the fact that the Isuzu trucks may be the lamest example of rebadging to date. Based on the unimpressive and, frankly, uncompetitive Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon twins, the i-Series trucks wear a unique grille, specific stick-on badges, and, here’s a stretch, center hubcap covers and a steering wheel cover that read Isuzu. Even the headlights and taillights are the same. Apparently management’s recipe for success (so far apparently not exactly on track with the Ascender SUV, a GMC Envoy with similar lack of individuality) is to have the GM delivery truck stop off at the scant scattering of Isuzu dealers with a few pickups and some boxes of click-on parts and stickers.
Ah, but there is one saving grace. Each 2006 Isuzu i-Series pickup sold, surely to number in the tens if not hundreds, is backed by a three-year/50,000-mile basic warranty and seven years or 75,000 miles of powertrain coverage, with rust-through protection for five years or 100,000 miles. And base prices for the i-280 and i-350 are lower than equivalent Chevy Colorados and GMC Canyons, despite recent price reductions on both General Motors models.
Like those exact models with which it now competes, the Isuzu i-Series pickup comes equipped with one of two engines. The base i-280 model, available in extended cab guise only, features a 2.8-liter, dual overhead cam, 16-valve, four-cylinder engine offering a respectable 175 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 185 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,800 rpm. A standard five-speed manual transmission delivers power to the rear wheels, though a four-speed automatic is optional. EPA fuel economy is rated at 20 mpg city and 27 mpg highway for the manual and 17/23 mpg for the automatic. Each Isuzu i-280 rides on an independent front suspension and live rear setup with leaf springs, with stopping power provided from front vented discs and rear drums. Steering is of the power rack-and-pinion variety. Base i-280 S models, starting at $17,649 including a $660 destination charge, feature 15-inch alloy wheels riding on General 225/75 tires, antilock brakes, air conditioning, a basic AM/FM radio, rear step-up bumper, cruise control, tilt steering, and a locking tailgate. The i-280 LS, with a base price of $19,649, adds rear jump seats, cloth seats and carpeting, CD and MP3 players, power mirrors, manual lumbar support for the driver, and floor mats. The base S model can be ordered with the Preferred Equipment Package, including an upgraded radio, carpeting, rear jump seats, floor mats, and cloth seats. LS buyers have the option of the LS Package, with power windows and door locks, upgraded cloth seats and interior trim, and more; or the Luxury Package and its side-curtain airbags, locking rear differential, traction control, leather steering wheel, six-disc CD changer, sliding rear window, and other luxurious features.
Drivers wanting a bit more space and four-wheel-drive functionality will need to look at the 2006 Isuzu i-350. This crew cab pickup is powered by a 3.5-liter, dual overhead cam, 20-valve, five-cylinder engine pushing 220 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and cranking out 225 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,800 rpm through a four-speed automatic transmission. Each i-350 comes equipped with that tranny, a four-wheel-drive system with a two-speed transfer case and automatic locking hubs, and LS badging, as well as an independent torsion bar front suspension and a live rear with leaf springs. The EPA rates fuel economy at 17 mpg city and 22 mpg highway. In addition to the standard features found on the i-280 LS, the Isuzu i-350 adds a locking rear differential, power windows and door locks, a 60/40 split folding rear bench seat, skid plates, and side-curtain airbags, all for the asking price of $28,018, including the $660 destination charge. A Limited Package adds leather seats, a six-disc CD changer, front power and heated seats, an exterior temperature gauge and compass, and a sliding rear window.
Our driving time took place in a 2006 Isuzu i-280 LS with a sticker price of $20,867. That included a dealer-installed bedliner, the Preferred Equipment Package, and the LS Package. For the better part of a week and hundreds of miles, we traipsed about Southern California’s city streets and highways, commuting and running errands in our copper orange tester.