By KBB.com Editors
The once-robust Isuzu lineup is down to just two models: The Ascender SUV and the i-Series pickup truck. Although the i-Series shares a common platform with the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, it offers a superior powertrain warranty at no extra cost (seven-years/75,000 miles vs. three-years/36,000 miles). The tough little i-290 and i-370 are among the few remaining small trucks that can rightfully call themselves compacts, giving them an advantage in both maneuverability and fuel efficiency over their ever-larger rivals. If you're not looking to tow heavy loads nor require copious amounts of passenger space, the i-Series trucks make a great choice.
If you're looking for a rugged compact pickup offering good fuel economy and a great powertrain warranty, the i-Series should be near the top of your shopping list.
If you're looking for a four-cylinder regular cab pickup with four-wheel drive, Isuzu doesn't make one. Those shopping for a crew cab pickup offering a V6 or V8 engine or a six-foot bed will also have to look elsewhere.
New engines for both models herald a name change, with the i-290 receiving a new 2.9-liter four-cylinder engine and the i-370 a new 3.7-liter five-cylinder engine. A tire pressure monitoring system becomes standard and the tow rating for models equipped with the manual transmission jumps to 2,100 pounds.
Driving Impressions The i-Series pickups are well mannered when traveling on paved surfaces, offering a comfortable ride and respectable acceleration. Some testers were not happy with the vague steering response and touchy...brakes, while others reported that traversing washboard surfaces caused the i-Series' rear end to jump about. In this regard, the i-Series pickups lag behind the standards set by the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier. These same testers, however, praised the i-Series models for their off-road abilities, noting the narrow body was easy to maneuver in tight spaces and the four-wheel-drive system seemed undaunted by loose sand and rocky trails. We were pleased with our test truck's 3.7-liter engine, which averaged about 18 mpg in mixed city and highway driving.
The i-Series' tailgate can be set at a 55- or 89-degree angle, the former positioning the tailgate edge at the same height as the tops of the inner fender liners, which allows items longer than the bedsuch as that 4x8 sheet of plywoodto be supported yet remain level. The tailgate is also removable and lockable.
Head-Curtain Side-Impact Airbags
The head-curtain airbags offer protection for both front- and rear-seat outboard occupants, and are standard on the i-370 and part of the Luxury trim level for the i-290.
The i-290 Extended Cab offers as an option a set of forward-facing rear jump seats separated by a small console with integral cup holders. Given the cab's limited space, these seats will not comfortably accommodate adults. The i-370 Crew Cab offers better accommodations for four, providing a split-folding rear bench seat with fixed head restraints. Though front-seat legroom and headroom is ample, the i-Series' narrow cab makes for snug shoulder and hip room, and the flat seat cushions don't offer much in the way of long-term comfort. From a purely functional point of view, outward visibility is fairly open and the i-Series instrument cluster is large and legible. Esthetically speaking, however, the abundant grey plastic creates a rather industrial interior that is neither inspiring nor inviting.Exterior
From every angle but the front, it's hard to distinguish the i-290 and i-370 from their GM cousins, the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. Isuzu makes the truck its own by grafting on the company's signature chrome grille and badging. A 126-inch wheelbase serves as the platform for all trims, with the i-290 Extended Cab offering a six-foot bed and the i-370 Crew Cab a five-foot bed. Buyers can order a number of off-road and appearance packages, including larger wheels and tires, color-keyed wheel arches and graphic decals.
The i-290 Extended Cab pickup features a 2.9-liter, four-cylinder engine, five-speed manual transmission, 15-inch aluminum wheels, four-wheel anti-lock brakes (ABS), power steering, automatic on/off headlamps and a 60/40 split-bench vinyl front seat. The i-370 Crew Cab adds a 3.7-liter five-cylinder engine, four-speed automatic transmission, shift-on-the-fly four-wheel drive, locking rear differential, off-road suspension, fog lamps, AM/FM stereo with CD-MP3 player, full carpeting, remote keyless entry, cloth front bucket seats and power windows, door locks and mirrors.
Optional on the i-290 is an AM/FM stereo with CD-MP3 player, rear jump seats, full carpeting, tinted windows, cloth seats, power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, bucket seats, side molding and remote keyless entry. Choosing the Luxury trim level adds a limited-slip differential, traction control, head-curtain side-impact airbags, sliding rear window with defroster, six-disc CD changer and fog lamps. A four-speed automatic transmission is offered as a stand-alone option. The i-370's Limited trim level offers leather seating, six-disc CD changer, heated eight-way power driver's and six-way power passenger's seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a sliding rear window.
The i-Series offer two engine choices. A 2.9-liter, in-line four-cylinder engine with an impressive 185 horsepower teamed to a five-speed manual transmission powers the i-290. As four-cylinder engines go, the i-Series is one of the most powerful and fuel-efficient in its class. Those needing more power can opt for the 3.7-liter in-line five-cylinder engine offered only on the i-370 Crew Cab. Rated at 242 horsepower, the 3.7-liter seeks to strike a balance between power and fuel economy. This year's larger displacement bumps the torque rating into the acceptable range, improving passing and acceleration over last year's model.
2.9-liter in-line 4
185 horsepower @ 5600 rpm
190 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/26 (manual), 17/24 (automatic)
3.7-liter in-line 5
242 horsepower @ 5600 rpm
242 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4600 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/22
By Mac (NE) on Tuesday, February 14, 2012
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 60,000overall rating 4 of 10rating details
Pros: "Reliable mechanically"
Cons: "Electrical issues, quality of parts knobs, seats.."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 2
"I have never broke down in this truck. I was disapointed when I found out the Chevy Colorado (the almost exact truck) was cheaper. My seat has torn at the stitching, the heat control knob broke (I replaced it $150 junk yard), heater has had electrical issues, and the chrome is separating from the grill. Like I said, I haven't been stranded but there are several small issues that have costed a great deal of money to fix and shouldn't have went wrong in the first place. Overall I rate this truck a 2 out of 5."
3 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By Max (WV) on Sunday, February 05, 2012
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 49,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Vehicle drives quite well . Fuel economy : Town is 23.5 mpg . Highway is 28.2 mpg . I love the generous 7 year 70,000 mile warranty this vehicle has though I have never needed to use it . Rear folding seats are not very comfortable to set in on extended trips . For a 4 cylinder this truck has plenty of power for hauling and towing my small trailer . I would love to purchase another new truck like this but unfortunately Isuzu has discontinued making this truck in the USA ."
2 people out of 2 found this review helpful
By butchie (FL) on Monday, January 23, 2012
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 124,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "fun to drive great response"
Cons: "interior cheep non reclining seats"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"other than the cheeply made interior door handles and seats not reclining the truck is perfict tows my 38 ft flat bed with out issues i love it had no problems at all 2.9 is not to bad on fuel"
3 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By Matt (KY) on Friday, December 16, 2011
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 80,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Truck is no frills, moderate quality of materials. Proven very reliable for me and impressive for a four cylinder. I'm trading for more cab space but other than that I'd never have gotten rid of it."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By AlohaVikes (Aiea, HI) on Sunday, January 16, 2011
overall rating 8 of 10rating details
"Basically a Chevy Colorado with a longer warranty and lower price tag. Pros: Inline 4 has plenty of power, have no problems on freeway. Problem free! No issues & I have 45K miles now. Gets good gas mileage for a pickup. Comfortable seating, great AC, nice MP3 audio. Rear doors are a GREAT addition. Storage under jump seats also helpful. Cons: Economy vehicle: some rattles and squeaks. No tilt seating, even on drivers' side. Suspension a little tight. Jump seats are small, seating tight, and a car seat BARELY fits. No center console/arm rest (and it's difficult to find one that fits. Overall: If you can only afford a car, but want a 2WD truck for $15K, this is the one to get."
8 people out of 10 found this review helpful
By Trish on Wednesday, September 01, 2010
overall rating 2 of 10rating details
"This vehicle gets poor gas mileage at this point it is getting about 5 miles to the gallon. It was purchased a a brand new vehicle."