Monday, September 10, 2012

Used Car Review - Isuzu Trooper (1996-2005)

There are cars that are out of the spotlight for so long and some are as impressive and competitive with today's cars. With that in mind, Myk Belmonte reviews a classic which would give modern competitors a run for their money. He hopes to reminisce with you, too.

1996-2005 Isuzu Trooper

There was a time that sport utility vehicles had to do with basic amenities and anemic engines - but had a step in height not friendly to the senior crowd. What do I mean with this? Passengers had to roll down the windows, air-conditioning had to be purchased separately (in some markets, but this is hell in the Philippines), and it would give you pogi points outside but very bare inside - which didn't matter before.

The Trooper was both a success and a controversy for Isuzu. It became a runaway success for the truck maker. This vehicle sold well and exported to different parts of the world as the Isuzu Trooper, Isuzu Bighorn, Caribe 442, Acura SLX, Chevrolet Trooper, Subaru Bighorn, Honda Horizon, Opel/Vauxhall Monterey, Holden Jackaroo, and Holden Monterey.  If there is good news, the bad news involved the rollover controversy that a consumer oriented magazine found out. This issue caused Isuzu some sales and the discontinuation of the Trooper in 2002 (but others had it a little bit longer).

In the Philippines, the Trooper was a behind choice of executives, with most of them driving the Pajero or Patrol Safari. Re-introduced in 1996 by Isuzu Motors Philippines, the Trooper was offered in both gasoline (possibly the only Isuzu with a gasoline engine sold locally) and diesel engines. An update in the millennium year dropped the gasoline motivator and added luxury features such as LCD monitors and a sunroof (dubbed as the Skyroof). The Trooper's name got tarnished with engine defects and Subic imports (specially with the Bighorn name), and with these factors, the Trooper made way for the D-Max based Alterra in 2005.

Value and Costs
If you find Pajeros and Patrols out of your budget, please to know that the Trooper's second hand prices could get you nearly the cheapest unit you can find. A local unit can set you back P400,000-P680,000 which encompasses various year models and standard equipment. Be cautious of units bearing the Bighorn, Plaisir, and Lotus names since they are Japan sourced units. As always, steer clear from these since they can be potential headaches and spoil the ownership experience.

Parts can be obtained at a good price, but the gasoline engine is an exception. To explain further, the gasoline engine is such a rarity from Isuzu that has been sold locally with most of their vehicles are diesel powered. Since I had mentioned earlier the failure of the 4JX1 engine, it would be better to examine the unit by conducting a test drive, and asking for the service maintenance records. If you seek is a 2002 and after models with sunroof, best to check if it functions well.

Exterior and Interior
The second generation Trooper leaves the previous gen's razor sharp corners and replacing them with soft sides that make the SUV smooth looking while remaining macho. Notice the plastic fender flares and side body cladding adds a touch of ruggedness while providing a limited amount of resistance from stone chips and dings. Standard is a side swiveling rear loading doors that open 75:25 with a mounted spare tire that can be a boon or a bane for some.

You can describe the Trooper's interior as bare, or functional - depending on what you perceive. Interior nitpicking aside, the seating and driving position is impressive all around. Front and second row space is good but the jeepney style third row seats are definitely the antithesis of comfort, but you'll remove them anyways. Sunroof (with the Skyroof edition released in 2002), and a VCD player (this is definitely useless in the age of flash drives and blu-ray discs) are standard amenities. Controls are easy to reach for and manipulate.

Two diesel motivators and a lone gasoline engine rounds up the Trooper's power plant choices. Listing down the diesels (since they're the most popular among buyers) are a 3,059cc with 114hp at 3,600rpm and 260Nm at 2,000rpm and a 4JX1 2,999cc that carries 160hp at 3,900rpm and 333Nm at 2,000rpm. The only engine choice that consumes gasoline fuel is a 3.5 6VE1 V6 with 215hp at 5,000rpm and 312Nm at 3,000rpm. Both diesel engines are quick off their feet even without that heavy foot, unless you have overloaded the vehicle. And mind you, these two diesel engines defy their body mass since they accelerate quickly. The gasoline engine is nothing special to write about since you'll be picking the diesel ones right?

Driving Impressions
Thanks to the abundance of low end torque (attainable at 2,000rpm), the Trooper is one fuel efficient mate and infact, reaching 16km/L with diesel fuel is attainable in the open roads if you are easy on the pedal. Mash it up, and get 12-13km/L - still decent figures. Handling is well even in stock and breaking is excellent, but emergency breaking is wanting because of the over reactive brakes and make the Trooper lundag which is something not unusual among SUVs. To compare this with the Alterra, this one offers a comfortable ride

This SUV can be an alternative to an expensive European SUV. It possess all the qualities that one looks for a SUV and the Trooper still has the presence despite being an old model.

The Good:
  • Fuel economy is very impressive (with the diesel)
  • Comfortable to ride in
  • Luxurious appearance
The Bad:
  • Good luck finding parts for the V6 engine
  • Where's the airbags??
  • Imported units spoil the resale value (but it makes used cars worthwhile choices right?)
The Pick: Any well maintained diesel variant, local unit

Engines: 3,059cc 4JG2 (pre-2000) and 2,999cc 4JX1 I4 diesel and 3.5 6VE1 V6 gasoline
Power: 114hp @ 3,600rpm (4JG2), 160hp @ 3,900rpm (4JX1) and 215hp @ 5,000rpm (6VE1). 
Torque: 260Nm @ 2,000rpm (4JG2), 333Nm @ 2,000rpm (4JX1) and 312Nm @ 3,000rpm (6VE1)
Fuel Consumption: 6-10km/L (city), 10-16km/L (highway) (*estimated and varies)
Transmission: 5-speed manual, 4-speed automatic
Suspension: Front independent double wishbone, rear 4-link with coil springs

Price (New): P1,200,000-P1,600,000 (range from 1996-2005)
Price (Now): P400,000-P680,000
Rivals: Mitsubishi Pajero, Nissan Patrol, Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, Ford Explorer
On Sale: 1996-2005


  1. Thank you for the information on the Trooper. Would you still think it's a good buy at present?

  2. Since the Trooper isn't anymore available, looking at other rivals (such as the Pajero and Patrol) would be better especially that it is nearly 10 years ago that this car got discontinued, parts can be difficult although attainable.