Isuzu is still in the pickup truck business, selling their version of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon compact pickup. Isuzu’s version is a likeable truck, though the model range is limited.
At the first glance, the Isuzu i-series is often perceived, not quite correctly, as a warmed-over General Motors product. While the i-series is more or less identical to the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, the fact is that Isuzu did have a hand in the truck’s development. The deal was that Chevy and GMC would have first shot at selling the truck in North America while Isuzu would sell a slightly different diesel-powered version called the D-MAX in the Asia-Pacific region, which have been very marketable.
Isuzu started selling the i280 and i350 in the US in 2006, though sales were a fraction of those of the Colorado and Canyon. Part of the problem was lack of choice. The i-series came in just two versions: The four-cylinder manual-transmission extended-cab 4×2 i280 and the five-cylinder automatic crew-cab 4×4 i350. Chevy and GMC continued to sell their versions of the truck with a wide variety of cabs, bed, engine, transmission, and driveline combinations.
For this year, things have improved slightly. The four-cylinder Isuzu now offers an automatic transmission, while the five-cylinder model comes in both extended and crew cabs as well as with a 4×2 driveline, though the 4×4 is only available as a crew cab. Both trucks also get larger engines and new names: i290 and i370, reflecting their 2.9 and 3.7 liter engines.
There is no carpet and an AM/FM radio in the driver’s seat, though air conditioning and 4-wheel antilock brakes are part of the standard parts. The truck accessories, which contain cloth seats, carpets, rear jump seats, CD/MP3 player, floor mats, and tinted windows are worth $699 all in all. The automatic transmission is at $1,089 and the bottom line is at $19,500. It contains manual door locks and crank-up windows.
The i290’s extended cab has rear-opening doors on both sides for easier access to the second row, where there is are two fold-up jump seats with 3-point belts and LATCH child seat anchors. Like most compact pickup back seats, these are best suited for kids. Once seat are pulled up, one will find a handy plastic tool box that also flips forwards to provide flat load floor.
This year, the i-series offers side curtain airbags, a rare truck accessory in pickup trucks. They are optional on LS-model extended-cab Isuzus and standard equipment on the i370 with crew cab.
By far the high point of the i290 is its engine. At 2.9 liters, it is huge for a four-cylinder engine, and it shows in the numbers: 185 horsepower and 190 lb-ft of torque, the latter peaking at a usefully low 2800 RPM. Those numbers represent an increase of 10 hp and 5 lb-ft over last year’s 2.8 liter engine.
It would be easy to mistake the i290’s off-the-line performance for that of a six-cylinder truck. The truck loses some of its get-up-and-go at highway speeds, though passing acceleration (50 to 75 MPH) is adequate. The four-banger has enough torque to spin the rear wheels, even under moderate acceleration.
The i290 has a payload capacity of just over 1500 lbs, whose towing capacity is 2,100 with the manual and 3,100 with the automatic, more than enough to haul a small boat, a couple of ATVs, or a utility trailer. Its bed width is 4′ 9″”; bed length is 5′ for the crew cab and 6′ for the extended cab. Movable support cables allow the tailgate to be held half-way open and bear weight in this position.
The i290’s steering is light, good but not sporty. The ride is remarkably quiet at highway speeds. As mentioned earlier the i290 comes with standard antilock brakes but lacks advanced safety electronics such as electronic stability control, which is just starting to make their way into competitors’ products.