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Car reviews - Holden - Rodeo - LT Sport 4-dr utility

Our Opinion

We like
Tough, practical workhorse with style, economy of turbo diesel
Room for improvement
Ride is too rough for urban use, upright rear seats

10 May 2001

ONE-TONNE 4WD pickups have not yet made it into the softer, lifestyle end of the market. These are still fundamentally workhorses, designed with a more pragmatic bent than new-age 4WDs like the Toyota Prado or Mitsubishi Pajero.

But this underlying, no-frills nature hasn't stopped Isuzu-Holden from putting its Rodeo to (what would be considered by most one-tonne owners) more frivolous uses.

The product planners took a look at the basic crew-cab Rodeo one-tonne ute and figured it could be made to look pretty smart with the addition with a few items familiar to the urban 4WD set.

So they added a set of alloy wheels, flared the wheel arches and bolted on a set of side steps and created the Rodeo LT Sport.

The LT Sport is probably not exactly the best thing for churning through building sites with five blokes and their gear on board, but it looks the part down by the beach with a surfboard or two in the back. And it doesn't look too bad under the city lights in the upmarket side of town either.

In fact with a decent lineup of standard equipment including central locking, power windows, power steering with adjustable column and a six-disc CD stacker, the Rodeo feels more like a regular sedan than a workhorse one-tonner.

Driver and front passenger airbags are also optional, while the inclusion of a solid-looking alloy roll bar in the tray area is a nice security measure.

The front section of the cabin offers plenty of space, with comfortable seats and a neat, well laid out dash, but the back seat is set low and tends towards a vertical plane so it's not exactly the best thing for a long trip into the bush. The rear doors also don't open very wide, sometimes making entry something of a squeeze.

Our test Rodeo came with the torquey and thrifty 2.8-litre turbo diesel, which detracted somewhat from the cushy, urban image. But it at least gave a tough edge that would be appreciated by some aspiring Rodeo Sport owners.

The other engine option is the 3.2-litre V6 also used in the Holden Frontera models.

Looking at the pushrod turbo diesel's specifications doesn't arouse much excitement: It produces just 74kW from its 2.8 litres, while the torque is really nothing special at 225Nm at 1800rpm (for example the 2.7-litre turbo diesel in the Mercedes-Benz ML270 produces 400Nm), but it actually propels the 1735kg Rodeo quite swiftly and doesn't falter on long hills.

Relatively low gearing means second-gear takeoffs are easy. The Rodeo responds well to the accelerator, yet cruises with relative ease (about 2700rpm at 100km/h in fifth) and there's not too much racket from the direct injection diesel either. It is not exactly quiet mind you, but most would consider this suits the nature of a one-tonne crew cab anyway.

In terms of suspension ability the Rodeo shows its only major shortcoming by subjecting passengers to an uncompromisingly harsh ride. In order to carry that one-tonne payload the rear end is set up firmly, with the result that just about any bump will throw the vehicle about in a frantic sort of way.

Even with four passengers on board to settle things down a bit, the ride is still too rough compared with regular 4WD wagons. Urban users would probably need to consider throwing in the ubiquitous sandbags to get the leaf springs working, thereby softening the ride.

The Rodeo's handling is actually quite acceptable, with the power assisted steering offering a light action and allowing the vehicle to be kept on line with reasonable accuracy. But the firm rear end does cause the pickup to skip around if the road is at all rough.

Being a crew cab, the LT Sport doesn't have the largest tray area (2.3 cubic metres compared with 3.5 cubic metres in the single cab pickup), but it offers a reasonable compromise considering the fact it can at least carry five passengers.

As a practical family conveyance able to tackle the rough stuff while still carrying whatever you like up back, the crew cab concept is hard to beat.

This is a genuine off-roader, with a two-speed transfer case, a high clearance and manually lockable front hubs as well as a limited-slip rear differential to maximise grip.

The turbo diesel in fact is a good choice for those wanting to trek regularly into the bush although the slightly smaller 63-litre tank capacity dictated by the crew cab configuration does decrease the cruising range.

But as a crossover between lifestyle 4WD and rugged workhorse, the Rodeo LT Sport comes closer to legitimacy in the macho market than most other off-roaders on the market.

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