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By Jim Flammang
April 29, 2003
Vehicle Overview Once known as the Amigo, the compact Rodeo Sport sport utility vehicle essentially a shortened version of Isuzus Rodeo four-door wagon comes as a two-door hardtop or a convertible. The Rodeo Sports front-end styling has been enhanced for the 2003 model year. The instrument panel and trim on the seats and doors are new. An integrated keyless entry system is now standard.
Isuzu promotes its Rodeo Sport by saying it gives consumers the original SUV driving experience. Competitors include the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V and Mazda Tribute. The convertible version has a manual removable sunroof, a folding fabric top over the rear seats and a hardtop over the front seats. The hardtop model substitutes a second sunroof over the rear seats in place of the convertibles folding top. Like the larger Rodeo, the Rodeo Sport models use the same four-cylinder and V-6 engines and an identical four-wheel-drive (4WD) system. Sales of the Rodeo Sport have been sluggish, dropping by 46 percent to just 4,990 units during 2001, according to Automotive News.
Exterior The Rodeo Sport is nearly 9 inches shorter than the four-door Rodeo and is built on a shorter version of its truck chassis. Riding a 96.9-inch wheelbase, the SUV stands 67.1 inches tall and measures 70.4 inches wide and 170.3 inches long overall. Both the hardtop and convertible models have two side doors.
Corrugated styling accents the lower door panels. Broad fenders and gray overfenders enhance what Isuzu calls the vehicles performance-oriented go-anywhere look. The Rodeo Sports box-section ladder frame has eight cross-members. Alloy wheels hold 16-inch tires, and an outside-mounted spare tire is installed. Skid plates and front and rear tow hooks are also included. Tubular side steps and fog lights are optional.
Interior The Rodeo Sport and its larger Rodeo sibling both seat five occupants on front buckets and a three-place folding rear bench though space on the bench seat is modest. The Rodeo Sports front passenger seat has a walk-in feature that slides the seat forward when the backrest is released.
Standard equipment on the Rodeo Sport includes a cassette stereo, tachometer and intermittent wipers. When equipped with V-6 power, it gets a tilt steering wheel and cruise control. Air conditioning is an optional item.
Under the Hood A standard 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine develops 130 horsepower, and an optional 3.2-liter V-6 pumps out 205 hp. Both engines are available with a four-speed-automatic or five-speed-manual transmission. Part-time 4WD with either engine should be used only on slippery surfaces.