Isuzu will enter the four-wheel-drive mini utility market with the Amigo. It will go on sale in March shortly after an appearance at the Chicago AutoShow Feb. 11-19 in McCormick Place.

Amigo will compete with the Chevrolet GEO Tracker, Suzuki Sidekick andJeep Wrangler.

Amigo is built on a 91.7-inch wheelbase and is 164.2 inches long, whichcompares with a 90.6-inch wheelbase and 162.3 inch length for the IsuzuTrooper II two-door from which it sprung and which it strongly resembles. Byfurther comparison, the Tracker is built on an 86.6 inch wheelbase and is142.5 inches long.

When it goes on sale in March, the utility vehicle will be offered intwo-wheel or four-wheel drive and two-seater or four-seater versions with anoptional back seat. The four-wheel-drive version requires shifting thetransfer case and getting out to lock the hubs. Amigo has a vinyl/canvas topfor the open rear cargo area.

Isuzu spokesman Jeff Ringsrud said supplies will be limited at theoutset, and only about 5,000 are earmarked for the U.S. through the end of1989.

It will take a while for the pipeline to be filled with such limitednumbers. The Amigo will be introduced on the West Coast in the biggestquantities first, with only a handful coming into the Chicago market, he said. The two-wheel-drive Amigo has a 2.3-liter, carbureted 4-cylinder engineas standard that develops 96 horsepower. A 2.6-liter fuel-injected 4-cylinder that develops 120 h.p. will be optional. Both engines are offered with only a 5-speed manual. There will be no automatic because shipments here will be solow.

The fuel economy ratings are a bit skimpy considering the size of theunit. The two-wheel-drive unit with base 2.3-liter engine is rated at 19 milesper gallon city/22 m.p.g. highway and with the 2.6-liter engine at 17 and 21. With four-wheel drive, the rating is only 16 and 19 m.p.g.

Standard goodies include full-size spare tire mounted in back, 15-inchradials, power brakes, a 21.9-gallon fuel tank, tinted glass, dual mirrors andreclining bucket seats. Air conditioning, removable sunroof, power steeringand AM-FM radio with cassette are among the options.

The Amigo has been priced at $9,000 for the two-wheel-drive version,$10,000 for the four-wheel-drive version.

Isuzu supplies Chevrolet with the Spectrum car for 1989, which will bereplaced by the sporty Storm in 1990. Chevrolet said it has no plans to add a version of the Isuzu Amigo to its line and will rely on the four-wheel-driveTracker supplied by Suzuki in the mini utility market.