2002 Isuzu Rodeo
2002 Isuzu Rodeo. Click image to enlarge


By Chris Chase

Despite how popular SUVs have become, Isuzu was never able to rise above bit-player status. Not even selling its designs to Honda – the Rodeo and larger Trooper were sold as the Honda Passport and Acura SLX, respectively in the U.S. – was able to boost this little Japanese company’s fortunes and it all but disappeared after the 2003 model year.

But during the company’s time, Isuzu’s Rodeo was one of its better-known products. Certainly, it was an attractive SUV that combined what appeared to be a rugged 4×4 drivetrain bolted to a traditional ladder-type truck frame. What apparently hasn’t proven so attractive is the Rodeo’s reliability history. Engine troubles seem to be common, though comments posted on Isuzu web forums (see Online Resources below) by owners in the know say that many of these can be attributed to inattentive drivers not checking the oil level regularly enough, as excessive oil use – about a litre every 2,500 km – is considered “normal” for the Rodeo’s 3.2-litre V6. Water pumps have proven troublesome too. Transmission problems, particularly with the optional four-speed automatic, are common, and electrical gremlins have been an issue as well, as an Edmunds.com long-term report on a 1998 Rodeo confirmed.
Also, check out the forums listed at the end of this article for reliability info straight from the fingertips of other Rodeo owners.

Reliable or not, parts availability and pricing is always a concern with vehicles like the Rodeo, whose manufacturer has little to no dealer representation in Canada anymore. The Rodeo was a perennial slow seller, so finding replacement pieces in wrecking yards may be a challenge too. Independent parts suppliers may be able to source aftermarket replacement parts, but it might be wise to make sure your Rodeo is in good shape before you write a cheque for it.

Crash safety is a little more reassuring, at least according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which gave the Rodeo three or four stars (depending on model year) for driver protection in frontal impacts and four stars for front passenger protection. Side impact protection is very good, prompting a five star rating for both front and rear seat occupant protection. It’s common for the NHTSA’s crash safety ratings to differ from those issued by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and the Rodeo’s results are no exception: that organization rated 2000 and 2001 Rodeos “poor” in frontal offset crash tests, while 2002-2003 models got a slightly better “marginal” rating.

2002 Isuzu Rodeo
2002 Isuzu Rodeo. Click image to enlarge

At least fuel consumption is reasonable: Natural Resources Canada tests netted ratings of between 14 and 15 L/100 km in the city (again, exact numbers vary depending on model year) and 10.6 L/100 km on the highway. That’s not bad for this class of vehicle, particularly for a truck with a drivetrain that basically dates back to the mid-1990s.

Price-wise, used Rodeos don’t command the same kind of coin that other import SUVs do. In fact, used Rodeo prices are even a bit lower than those for some domestic trucks, notably Jeep’s Liberty and Cherokee, and on par with resale values for the Ford Explorer and Chevrolet Blazer and GMC Jimmy twins. Rodeos were last officially produced for the Canadian market for the 2003 model year, and were sold in S, SE, LS and LSE trim levels. According to Canadian Red Book, a Rodeo LS is worth $16,600 now, and the LSE is worth significantly more at $19,000. A Rodeo S is valued at about $15,575 and the SE at $16,125. Shop for a 1998 model, and a range-topping LS is worth $7,100. A good middle ground would be a 2001 model: the basic S trim level is worth $10,250 and the top-end LSE a shade more than $12,000.

With apparently so-so reliability and iffy parts availability, a Rodeo might not be the ideal vehicle for your next daily driver. But as a winter beater, second set of wheels or dedicated off-roader, an older, well-maintained example might be just the ticket, if the price is right.


Online Resources

forum.planetisuzoo.com – Despite the lack of any model-specific sections, this looks like the best Isuzu forum you’re likely to find. Troubleshooting info can be found in the General Isuzu Discussion and Drivetrain Mods & Problems sections, and there are plenty of other areas to browse too. There are only 2250 members here, but many seem to be knowledgeable about these trucks.

http://www.isuzuforums.com/ – This forum does have model specific forums, including one covering the Rodeo, but the selection of topics to browse in it is pretty lean – and the Rodeo forum is the most active one here. Scroll to the bottom of the main page and it’s obvious why: there are just 340 members here. But, any info is better than none, so definitely check this site out if you own, or are considering buying, a Rodeo.

http://www.4x4wire.com/forums/ubbthreads.php?Cat=&C=15 – If you’re considering an Isuzu Rodeo as an off-roader, you’ll want to come here first. 4x4wire.com is an excellent off-roader’s resource covering a number of makes and models, and with more than 15,000 members and active Isuzu-specific forum sections, you’re bound to find out what you need to know before you hit the trail.

http://www.pirate4x4.com/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=51 – Like 4x4wire.com, pirate4x4.com caters to off-roading enthusiasts and covers a wide variety of makes and models. The Isuzu forum here is one of the quieter sections, but looks like it has some useful information to offer, even if much of it deals with older models. There are more than 67,000 members here, so even if not all of them drive Isuzus, there’s bound to be lots of general truck info available.


Recalls

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2000085; Units affected: 2,416

1998-1999: On certain vehicles, paint may have been applied unevenly on the rear axles. In cases where the paint was too thick, the allotted drying time may have resulted in insufficient paint hardness. Should this occur on the surface that contacts the rear axle lower link bracket bolt head and/or nut, the nut may later loosen. If the nut should detach fully separation of the lower link from the rear axle could occur. This may result in loss of vehicle control and a possible crash. Correction: Dealers will remove the rear axle lower trailing link nuts and bolts and replace them with new self-lock nuts and bolts.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 1999203; Units affected: 228

1998: Certain V6 Rodeo do not comply with the requirements of CMVSS 1105 – Evaporative Emissions. The rubber purge hose of the Enhanced Evaporative Emission Control System (EVAP) may crack, due to proximity of the exhaust pipe. Correction: Dealers will install an EVAP pipe and hose assembly using a clearance template, and will inspect routing clearances after installation.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 1999038; Units affected: 793

1998: On certain vehicles, the engine wire harness ground connection terminal may fracture due to improper crimping. In a case where the terminal is fractured, the powertrain control module (PCM) may misinterpret the damage as a signal indicating a high vehicle speed. The PCM will then cut the fuel causing a “no-start” condition or an engine stall. Correction: Wire harness will be replaced with a new harness.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2003247; Units affected: 2,976

2000-2002: Certain vehicles fail to conform to CMVSS 135 “Passenger Car Brake System”. The brake warning lamp may not illuminate in the event of decreased brake fluid level. Correction: Dealer will replace the current brake fluid warning circuit diode with a newly designed diode.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2000298; Units affected: 86

2001: On certain vehicles, a fuel return hose may not contain the desired ozone protection which could result in the hose having a reduced life expectancy. Over time, the hose may deteriorate and leak fuel. Correction: Dealers will inspect the fuel return hose date code and replace the hose if required.

Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.

For information on recalls, see Transport Canada’s web-site, www.tc.gc.ca, or the U.S. National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA)web-site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.

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