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All-new US-built Isuzu mid-size pickup roomy, powerful and  economical GM copy
by Bruce W. Smith - Special to GCN

Isuzu, eager to get their share of the mid-size pickup market, has finally been given the green light by parent company General Motors. The result is the 2006  i-Series pickups that are basically  re-badged Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyons—’05 models that replaced the venerable S-10 back in late 2004.

Two models are available—the i-280 Extended Cab 4x2 ($16,989) that features a 2.8-liter inline four-cylinder engine with 175 horsepower and 185 ft.-lbs. of torque, and the Isuzu i-350 Crew Cab 4x4 that is equipped with the 3.5L, 220hp inline five-cylinder.

The latter, in the mid-level LS version, is the model we tested. It’s a very nice package. Like all of the i-Series models, our test truck was built right along side the Chevrolet Colorados (and GMC twin, Canyons) at the Shreveport, Louisiana, General Motors assembly plant.  

Buyers will find the i-350, which is the designation of Isuzu pickups powered by the Vortec 3500 inline-5 cylinder, to be quite a pleasant change from the old S-10s. The new truck has a lot more interior space, a wider range of cab and suspension options, considerably more power, and significantly better fuel economy. EPA numbers on our test truck were 17 city, 22 highway.  

The cabs are the largest in the compact/mid-size market. In fact, for many who take a spin in the i-350 it will be a viable alternative to a full-size Silverado or GMC Sierra pickups. Although the seats in the LS leave a little to be desired in long-distance comfort, the offer a lot of legroom for the lanky types—even while sitting in the rear.

Comfort also comes in the suspension;  the i-350 ride is very pliant and it feels a lot more comfortable than one would expect from a small pickup. It is also very quiet inside, which gives one a sense of quality craftsmanship.

Another comforting feature is the i-350 Crew Cab is a surprising performer behind the four-speed automatic. GM lopped of one cylinder from the DOHC 270-hp modular in-line six found in the Ascender (a TrailBlazer clone) of SUVs to serve as the only available engine for the model.

The result is a 220hp 3.5-liter I-5, making it the most powerful “base” engine in the mid-size pickup market (This is the option engine for the Colorado/Canyon). Better still, the Vortec 3500 is rated to deliver better than 22mpg on the open road with the four-speed automatic.  That means you can cruise some 400 miles before a fill-up on the 19.6-gallon gas tank.

It also works well as a boat-towing, light-duty cargo hauler. Tow capacity is 4,000 pounds, with a cargo rating of 1,190 in the five-foot bed. A bed liner is standard, which is nice when hauling roofing materials like we did during the test.

Our road test model priced out at $28,015, which includes the requisite $660 destination charge and places it right in line with the other GM pickups of this same vintage.

Although priced competitively with its GM counterparts, Isuzu has the edge in warranty as the added value. Isuzu’s 7-year/75,000-mile powertrain limited warranty is from two to four years longer than any other powertrain warranty offered on a 2006 model year pickup truck of any size in the U.S.

The 3-year/50,000-mile basic “bumper-to-bumper” limited warranty offered by Isuzu is also 14,000 miles longer than the basic limited warranties provided by Honda, Nissan, Subaru, Toyota, Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford, or GMC. And Isuzu’s 6-year/100,000-mile limited warranty against perforation from corrosion is one year longer than the anti-corrosion warranties provided by Honda, Mazda, Nissan, Subaru, Toyota, Dodge, Ford or Lincoln.

Isuzu Motors America president J. Terry Maloney said, “There are over 30 different pickup truck models for customers to choose from in 2006. Our outstanding limited warranty coverage, combined with the value pricing we have prided ourselves on for years, will make it easier for customers to recognize Isuzu as their smartest choice for a new pickup.”

Whether or not you see a longer warranty as enough added value to go with the Isuzu brand rather than the Chevy or GMC nameplate, the i-350 Crew Cab 4x4 delivers what it promises.   

 – Bruce W. Smith

Basic Specifications: 2006 Isuzu i-350 Crew Cab 4x4

Price as tested: $28,018

Wheelbase: 111.2”  - 125.9”

Cargo box length: 61.1

Cargo box width: 52.4”

Suspension:  High-Stance Off-Road; IFS front. Live-axle rear

Engine:  220hp DOHC Vortec 3500 I-5  

Transmission:  4spd Automatic

Fuel tank: 19.6 gal

EPA fuel economy: 17 city / 22 hwy

Max Tow rating:  4,000 lbs.

Payload: 1,190 lbs

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