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Isuzu Trooper

Test venue: North Shropshire and West Midlands

The Trooper has been the mainstay of Isuzu's place in the UK market since its launch in 1987, a subsequent facelift in 1992 and a new-look diesel model, which was first introduced in 1998. The company is now Japan's largest and best-selling manufacturer of trucks and is 49% owned by General Motors.

This Trooper was the first UK passenger car to utilise common rail and an electronically-controlled injection system for increased efficiency. The 3.0-litre Duty diesel turbo model I tested recently around the lanes of North Shropshire and the West Midlands motorway network was first introduced last year and features several marked refinements and improvements, including a new grille and velour trim for Duty and Citation models.

Isuzu claims better fuel efficiency and lower emissions, with the manual Trooper Duty capable of between 27 and 32 mpg. Improvements have been made to reduce noise and engine clatter on start-up and the car benefits from better throttle response.

The diesel engine features a re-designed intake manifold, a new water-cooled heat exchanger and modified turbocharger. A new automatic transmission system is also available in place of the five-speed manual gearbox fitted in my test model.

Sit behing the wheel of the Trooper and you have a seating position which gives you excellent visibility of the road ahead. The traditional attachment of the rear wheel to the outside of the rear door acts as an annoying vision blocker, but otherwise there are only limited blind spots.

The 3.0-litre diesel engine is powerful, torquey and responsive, particularly for overtaking and motorway cruising, although the long-throw manual gearchange can become a little tiresome and you need to practice choosing reverse gear to avoid baulking the gear selection.

The diesel engine develops 159 bhp and an impressive 245 lb ft of torque. The factory claims a top speed of 99 mph, although don't expect to win the traffic light grand prix: it will take you over 13 seconds to reach the legal speed limit.

The V6 petrol option develops 215 bhp and 228 lb ft of torque, reaches the speed limit two seconds earlier and is good for a top speed of 112 mph.

The dashboard is plasticky to say the least, but all the controls are easily accessible and functional. The range-topping Insignia comes equipped with leather seats, a CD player, climate control and air conditioning. Automatic versions of the Insignia are also equipped with a new Torque-on-Demand (TOD) 4x4 system, which switches between two and four-wheel drive depending upon the road conditions.

On the motorway you can make swift progress in comfort, although the suspension is a little bouncy and the car skitters somewhat on undulating country roads - reminiscent of its Daihatsu Fourtrak rival in the market place.

Four-wheel drive (4H) can be selected via a button on the dashboard, which is active at speeds up to 62 mph. This is effective, easy to operate and improves fuel efficiency and tyre wear. Low range (4L) four-wheel drive is engaged in the traditional manner with a lever near the gearstick.

Prices for the long wheelbase 3.0-litre diesel - the best selling of the available engine derivatives - start at 21,755 for the Duty manual, rising to 28,755 for the range-topping Insignia automatic. Short wheelbase models are priced between 19,995 and 23,705 and there are two 3.5 V6 options available for 23,700 and 28,750.

The SUV (sports utility vehicle sector) has been the most popular of the 4x4 markets in recent years at the expense of the larger 4x4 market, but the Trooper remains a firm favourite with all-terrain car enthusiasts.

It stands alongside the Land Rover Discovery, Mitsubishi Shogun and Jeep Cherokee in a fiercely competitive and desirable market sector, but I can't help feeling that the Trooper needs another facelift in the near future to bolster market share and broaden its wider appeal.


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