Car reviews - Holden - Rodeo - LT Sport 3.0 Tdi 4-dr ute
Strong auto transmission, responsive engine with good torque curve, Sport features
Room for improvement
Excessively noisy diesel engine, poor brake-force distribution at the rear, outdated interior design
11 Oct 2002
HOLDEN wheeled out the first Rodeo 4x4 utility in 1981 to combat the Toyota HiLux, released as a 4x4 in 1979.
The Rodeo would go on to spawn a wide range of model variants - now totalling 35 - but Holden would spend nearly 20 years working its model range up to the level of an LT Sport 4x4.
First released in January 2000, the Rodeo LT Sport came with the choice of a 3.2-litre V6 petrol or 2.8-litre Tdi engine and both vehicles were offered in manual transmission only.
By January 2002 Holden was ready to trot out its first 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine for the Rodeo, complete with a four-speed auto option.
Toyota had led the increase in four-cylinder capacity with its own 3.0-litre HiLux engine in December '99 and Nissan had followed suit exactly two years later by using its Patrol engine, minus the intercooler.
Holden may have made up for this late start by becoming the second manufacturer to offer the option of automatic transmission in a 4x4 light commercial - the first was Mitsubishi in the Triton GLS back in '96.
The LT Sport crew-cab 3.0-litre Tdi is feature packed and despite its price tag putting it on par with many of the medium sized 4x4 wagons, it does offer the unique versatility of a ute.
The cabin on the Rodeo is average for its class - not too big and not too small.
The interior styling is less than current and this is due to the Rodeo having reached the end of its model life with an all-new model due on sale in early 2003.
The cabin sits five adults in a twin front bucket/bench rear configuration - though, like all crew-cabs, the centre rear seat is really only suitable for a child at best.
Legroom in the rear is satisfactory when the front seating position is not set to greedy.
The LT Sport gets leather trim on the steering wheel and gear knobs, but that's the limit of the plush interior other than carpet and velour trim.
The rest of the features come in the form of safety and driver controls such as dual front airbags, cruise control mounted on the steering wheel, electric windows and mirrors, central locking and immobiliser.
However, air-conditioning is not standard.
A six-stacker CD sound system adds a nice touch to the cabin and helps drown out the very vocal diesel engine.
The features on the exterior of the LT Sport are more aesthetic than functional, such as the alloy sports bar at the back of the cabin, the plastic wheel arch flares and the rear chrome step bumper and alloy side steps.
Five-spoke alloy rims are fitted with wide 245/16R tyres and the colour coded front grille and two-tone paint finish complete the slightly overdressed package, which all adds up to a ute with attitude.
The grunt of the 3.0-litre turbo-diesel helps this attitude achieve reality rather than it fading away as you take-off.
The auto shifts smoothly between the first, second and third gear ratios until it finally drops into fourth and you're set to cruise at around 2250rpm - all day long.
A lack of engine braking is the only noticeable dislike from the auto. Diesel engines are often selected over petrol engines on the basis of high compression ratio and therefore strong engine braking when towing or hill climbing in four-wheel drive mode.
The ease of selection of high-four on the move is nice, as the LT Sport has auto front hubs, while the limited-slip differential in the rear gives the ute good grip on wet roads, gravel and off-road.
Rodeo is a vehicle with a long-standing reputation for durability and hard work in an affordable package.
It may not be the refined machine that we have come to expect from the slightly larger wagon market that has blossomed over recent years, but there are still those that are happy with its simplicity and rugged looks.
Despite Holden's attempts to tart up this humble ute it still can't hide the fact it's a light commercial with lots of extras.
For those requiring the versatility of the dual-cab configuration, towing capacity, fuel economy and more than average levels of appointment in a work-horse, the LT Sport might be just the thing.
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