Isuzu’s Rodeo Denver Max LE is an odd beast. Low slung looks combined with large anthracite alloy wheels give it an almost sporty, pimped-up look. And this is all standard specification.
But you should never judge a book by its cover. And despite this three-litre version offering 163hp and 360Nm of torque available from 1,800 to 2,800rpm, the truck lacked sparkle with the Rodeo’s 1,940kg kerb weight.
In this ensemble, it does offer a class-leading towing capacity, shared with Ford’s Ranger, at a healthy three tonnes. But pulling our 2,250kg trailer and load, it struggled with just five speeds lugging up some of the steeper hills around our demanding Cotswold test route. Ride quality also suffered too and was not quite what we were expecting.
Braking under load was good however, showing the Isuzu can easily control its towing limit. And unladen, the ride and handling did not change for the better. Like the L200, the Rodeo felt loose and bouncy on the back roads.
The front seats are comfortable and there is a generous amount of space for rear seat passengers too, even with the front seats pushed fully back. A full width backrest on the rear bench seat folds down, creating some additional load space, but it does not split like the more
The Rodeo’s cab is perhaps the most utilitarian of the group and is finished in tough, wipe-down plastics that look capable of handling dust and grime. It is built more with work in mind, rather than play.
It does come up trumps on storage though, as there are plenty of cup holders and cubby holes, in which to place pens, notebooks, paperwork and the usual array of electronic gadgets used during the daily grind.
We liked the clarity and simplicity of the main instrument cluster, which gets a large speedometer taking centre stage. The Pioneer audio and sat nav system doffs its cap to the Rodeo’s bling potential, though it proved fiddly to use and produced glare at night, bouncing off the back window and putting an unwanted reflection in the rear view mirror. We also had reflections in the door mirrors from the silver-trimmed dash vents.
While the gear lever has a rather vague feel to it, the Rodeo redeems itself with a simple push button control on the dash for two/four wheel drive and low range selection.
There is no selectable locking differential but a limited slip item is fitted in the rear axle. While this may reduce the off-road appeal for some, this is not a problem that is exclusive to the Rodeo.
Allow yourself plenty of space when manoeuvring, as the Rodeo shares the same super-tanker numbness as the Navara when making a U-turn. So plan carefully, especially when towing a trailer.
The Denver Max LE is the only truck here that comes with a lockable hard top as part of the standard specification. However, the load bay is not the best quality and the Trux loadliner leaves something to be desired. And it lacks tie down points inside which makes it impossible to stop cargo from sliding about once placed inside the bed. Expect collateral damage or spilt loads as a consequence.
In a moment of rare generosity, this is the truck that Ebeneezer Scrooge might buy for his farm manager.