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1999 4x4 of the Year Models: Isuzu Amigo

Posted in Project Vehicles on February 1, 1999 Comment (0)
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Photographers: 4-Wheel & Off-Road Staff

Isuzu Amigo


•Peppy engine
•Surprising amount of rear legroom
•Fun to drive

•Not a five-speed
•No limited slip
•Blind spots

"This should be a fun vehicle off road," squealed one driver after noting how the Isuzu "squirted" through city traffic quickly. Others likened it to a sports car rather than a truck. And it did not take long for the rest of us to figure out that the Amigo is fun for a girl and a boy.

Although this stubby Rodeo has been in absentia for a couple of years now, it made a triumphant return with a 3.2L V-6 that hauled in acceleration runs. However, the optional four-speed auto tranny with overdrive was pooh-poohed not only for not being the five-speed but also for its complete lack of compression braking-a trait that didn't win it any group hugs on steep off-road descents.

On pavement, though, it grabbed corners, stopped well, and was the picture of stability. It did offer a challenge we chose not to accept-limited visibility courtesy of the B-pillars. Once it scurried onto the dirt, no one was fond of the multiple steps it took to get it into 4-Lo, but once it was in, the Amigo wasn't bouncy or jarring on fire roads and it scooted all over the sand. Its good approach and departure angles made it an OK rockcrawler, but more ground clearance and a traction device would have made it a true friend off road.


Besides being labeled "cute," it was appreciated for having a clean underhood, servicability, the illusion of tons of elbowroom, and cargo space. Its interior left most voters speechless-there was really nothing to complain or rave about. Having dual sunroofs for the front and rear occupants was a commendable idea, although the covers were awkward to remove without knocking the noggin. No one even dared to try and remove the rear hardtop; it looked too intimidating and complicated. And no cruise control in this day and age seemed darn near inconvenient.

In many categories, the Isuzu Amigo fared slightly better than middle of the pack-after all, it's cheap (relative nowadays), gets good mileage, has tons of energy, and is a fun little runabout.

Bottom line
Good commuter that can handle light-duty four-wheeling.


Manufacturer Isuzu
Model Amigo Hardtop
Base Price $20,250
Price as Tested $24,435
Options as Tested Preferred Equipment Package
(air conditioning; power windows and door locks; black power O.S.R.V. mirrors; center armrest pad; variable intermittent wipers; am/fm six-speaker cassette; cargo convenience net; keyless remote entry/alarm; front and rear floor mats; courtesy lamps); six-disc indash CD player; cargo mat; 16-inch alloy wheels with locks; P245/70R16 tires; foglamps; fender flares and black center post; and granite gray paint package.

Type DOHC six-cylinder
Displacement (liters/cubic inches) 3.2/193
Bore & Stroke (inches) 3.68x3.03
Compression Ratio 9.1:1
Induction Type Sequential, multiport fuel injection
Fuel Requirement/Capacity (gallons) 87 Octane
Unleaded regular/17.7
SAE Peak Horsepower 205 @ 5,400 rpm
SAE Peak Torque (lb-ft) 214 @ 3,000 rpm

Type Four-speed automatic overdrive
Model THM4L30-E
Ratios First: 2.856:1; Second: 1.618:1;
Third: 1.00:1; Fourth: 0.723:1; Reverse: 2.00:1

Transfer Case
Type Part-time two-speed
Model Isuzu
Low-Range Ratio 2.050:1

Front Type IFS
Rear Type Dana 44
Hubs Automatic
Ratio 4.30:1

Front Torsion bars
Rear Coil springs

Type Engine-rpm-sensing rack-and-pinion
Turns Lock-to-Lock/Ratio 3.7/15.4:1
Turning Radius (feet) 34.1

Size (inches) 16x7
Material Alloy

Size P245/70R16
Brand Bridgestone Dueler

Brake System
Front 11-inch discs
Rear 12-inch discs

Advertised GVWR (pounds) 4,650

As Tested (mpg) 15.42

Standing 1/4-mile (seconds @ mph) 17.62 @ 78.00

60-0 mph (feet) 114.98

Dimensions (inches)
Wheelbase 97
Overall Length 166
Overall Width 80
Overall Height 66.5
Front/Rear Track 60/60
Front/Rear Overhang 14.625/26.625
Minimum Front Ground Clearance 7.5


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