Monday, April 2, 2012

Used Car Review - Isuzu Fuego (1998-2005)

For the first time, Myk Belmonte will feature a pickup truck. This type of vehicle is your typical workhorse, being seen in construction sites and large farms in the provinces. And what vehicle brand is usually associated with the word "workhorse" gets this space. With the countless pickup trucks that offer workhorses in various flavors (luxury, utility, sporty, etc), this is the pick for this week.

1998-2005 Isuzu Fuego

Internationally, Isuzu had a reputation of building trucks and back them up with toughness and durability. Their pickup trucks are no exception to this said description. These trucks are usually seen in construction sites, farms, and inside cargo docking areas of international sea ports. Yes, I'm referring to those Elf and Giga trucks of various sizes and engine displacements. Their trucks are durable, and it is the same with their pickup trucks.

The Isuzu Pickup was manufactured and marketed by Isuzu from 1972 to 2002 (although some countries have it for a bit longer) with twins from Chevrolet, Bedford (GM's commercial vehicle subsidiary in Europe), Holden, Vauxhall, Opel, Honda (Thailand exclusive), Jinbei, and Foton (the latter two are licensed versions and still in the market). Three generations had been produced and it was phased out in 2002 to be succeeded by the Isuzu D-Max.

Locally, the Isuzu Pickup had been available since the 70s through its previous distributor, GM Philippines (General Motors had a stake with Isuzu back then). This vehicle had been passed on to the management of Isuzu Motors Pilipinas in 1989, and through its official and latest channel, Isuzu Philippines Corporation in 1995. The Pickup and LS moniker shouldered on until 1997, with the name change to Fuego in the following year. The Fuego was a sales success until it was decided by Isuzu Philippines to pass the torch to the modern D-Max. Trim lines throughout its sales life include the basic S (in both 4x2 and 4x4 flavors), 4x2 LS, and 4x4 Sporty (this variant was added in 2001 that caused the LS 4x4 to lose some key features).

Value and Costs
Diesel powered pick-up trucks (and most vehicles from Isuzu) hold their value extremely well. And because of this, Fuego second-hand prices are between P270,000-P450,000. The price range covers Fuegos of different years, of varying state of condition, and their difference in drivetrains. If possible, try to find a unit that had seen private usage rather than vehicles being used for off-road. The latter vehicle type can have more problems with their mechanical systems.

With this pickup truck not having CRDi engine technology, both 4JA1-T and 4JB1-T engines are bulletproof, with both of them can be filled up anywhere without resulting to fuel problems. The things to worry about do include hard starting issues, and common among diesel vehicles, if black smoke goes out of its tambutso. Other than the two minor issues, maintaining one is pocket friendly and engine parts are shared with the popular Crosswind (with both vehicles utilizing a timing chain). Parts are widespread and any mechanic can fix it.

Exterior and Interior
Ordinary motorists call it boxy, while hardcore off-roaders call it muscular. In stock form, especially with the 4x4 Sporty variant, it looks macho especially with its two tone paint, fender flares, and 16 inch alloys. These accessories cannot be said by other modern day trucks which try to be muscular looking, with some going for the soft looking route.

Going inside, the Fuego has equipment levels similar to a sedan (with the exception of the 4x2 S, which is aimed for business customers). Interior layout is basic, and controls are placed where it should be. From the occupant standpoint, front space is adequate but the rear bench is tight and better left inhabited if possible (if long trips would be done). Please to know that leather upholstery is standard in the 4x4 Sporty model.

A 4JA1-T 2,499cc and 4JB1-T 2,771cc engine configurations are made standard throughout its sales life. The 4JA1-T (familiar with this engine? This is being utilized in the Crosswind, although turbocharged for the Fuego) has 78hp at 4,000rpm and 170Nm at 2,300rpm while the 4JB1-T does carry 100hp at 3,800rpm and 230Nm at 2,300rpm. Both of these engines are noisy (they use timing chains, which can attribute to its noisy engine but they are durable in the long run) and pulled straight from an Elf truck. They have decent acceleration but go beyond 80kph and it will take a long time to reach triple digit speeds; in contrast, climbing ability is decent enough thanks to the abundance of low end torque.

Driving Impressions
This pick-up truck is good with its intended purpose - hauling cargo. It may be slow when it comes to achieving the century mark, but it is good in carrying stuff at its bed without drama (don't attempt to carry a horse or a cow on the bed). You can overtake small and slow hatchbacks but definitely not a good companion to relieve your Fast and Furious fantasies at night. The diesel clatter is there but once you get rolling, the noise is toned down. But if you have ear sensitive passengers and those wearing hearing aid might want to bring headphones or ear muffs (don't take this sentence seriously, ok?).

If the going goes tough, Isuzu pickup trucks are sensible choices. Whether the purpose is to haul cargo, using it as pang-harabas, going to off-road jaunts on a weekly basis, or wanting a basic commuter car with hauling capabilities; the Fuego is one good pick. Just make sure you can forgive its shortcomings, and the truck would be a good companion for all intents and purposes.

The Good:
  • Very fuel efficient
  • Tough chassis
  • Reliable and durable
The Bad:
  • Jarring ride
  • No safety features present
  • That diesel clatter
The Pick: 4x2 LS MT

Engine: 2,499cc 4JA1-T turbocharged and 2,771cc 4JB1-T I4 diesel
Power: 78hp @ 4,000rpm (2.5), 100hp @ 3,800rpm (2.8)
Torque: 170Nm @ 2,300rpm (2.5), 230Nm @ 2,300rpm (2.8)
Fuel Consumption: 10-13km/L (city), 12-15km/L (highway) (*estimated and varies)
Transmission: 5-speed manual, 4-speed automatic
Suspension: Front independent double wishbone, rear semi-elliptic with leaf springs

Price (New): P500,000-P919,000 (range from 1998-2005)
Price (Now): P270,000-P450,000
Rivals: Nissan Frontier, Toyota Hilux, Ford Ranger, Mitsubishi L200 Strada, Nissan Eagle/Power Pickup, Mazda B2200/B2500
On Sale: 1998-early 2005

Isuzu Commonwealth - 952-2760
Isuzu Quezon Avenue - 926-7111
Isuzu Manila - 562-4601

Photos courtesy of


  1. Sir i wanted to get your feedback:

    I am buying a 1999 used Isuzu Fuego. Mileage at 190,000 KMs

    Price is Php 320,000

    Is the price fair for its mileage and year of make?

    1. i bought a fuego with the same age as yours and the mileage is 176k+ but the price is 285k..i think its a little expensive though.. but knowing the quality of isuzu pick up trucks, i hope its a fair deal.

  2. Sir, i have a 2001 4x4 fuego. My fuel consumption ratio is 1L to 7km. I think its to low or is it normal? Wat can i do to improve my fuel consumption?