1998 Isuzu Amigo Review

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Nick Twork Nick Twork Editor
August 3, 1998

Summer fun. That is what the 1998 Isuzu Amigo is all about.

After a three-year absence from the market, our friend the Amigo is back - with several notable improvements. Since the Amigo is essentially a two-door version of the Isuzu Rodeo, it shares many of the same enhancements that vehicle has acquired in the Amigo’s absence.

In particular, Amigo now features the Rodeo’s smoother 205-horsepower V-6 engine, plus a great deal of its new sheet metal. What it does not get is the Rodeo’s automatic transmission. For 1998, a five-speed manual is the only gearbox offered with the Amigo. If you want an automatic, you will have to wait until the 1999 model year. In addition to the V-6, a 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine is available.

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All two-wheel-drive Amigos will come exclusively with four-cylinder engines. A nonremovable hardtop version of the Amigo is also planned for the 1999 model year. It should be at dealers just in time for the winter sales season.

1998 Isuzu Amigo 1

1998 Isuzu Amigo 1

Soft suspension gives car-like ride

Our test vehicle was a V-6 powered soft-top model. Its smooth 3.2-liter DOHC engine provided enough power to make the Amigo feel rather quick in comparison with other SUVs. However, the Amigo’s soft suspension makes it lurch back and forth slightly if the manual gearbox is shifted too quickly. On the other hand, that softer suspension gives it a more compliant, car-like ride - both on and off road.

On the inside, a bigger interior makes room for a new instrument panel that can accommodate the optional CD player and cassette combination. The sound system in the Amigo proved useful in drowning out the expected road noise when the top was down on our test vehicle.

1998 Isuzu Amigo

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Transforming the Amigo to open form requires the removal of a glass panel over the front seats, unzipping of the three rear windows, plus unlatching and folding of the convertible top. Plan on spending a couple minutes to do this. Frankly, the amount of time it takes to perform these chores sure tempers the excitement of open-air motoring somewhat. It also makes you pay much closer attention to weather forecasts.

Top removal is time-consuming

Most owners aren’t likely to relish the thought of taking so much time fumbling with a multitude of zippers and latches whenever the weather takes a turn for the worse and it becomes necessary to suddenly close up the Amigo. In this situation, the Amigo ceases to be much of a friend, belying its name. Unfortunately, that wind-in-the-hair experience makes the soft-top Amigo a fair-weather friend.

But in all fairness, it’s still easier - and takes less time - to open the Amigo up than it does the Jeep Wrangler, its closest competitor. However, don’t expect it to be as easy as unlatching the top and pushing a button, which is the case on many of today’s open-top cars. Once the top is down, though, the fun begins in earnest. The feeling of the wind in your hair tends to make the ride home from work rather enjoyable instead of just dreadful.

Make Amigo your friend

It would be great second vehicle, but we do not think it would be much fun to rely on the Amigo for everyday transportation. With the top up, the interior of the Amigo is somewhat loud. Still, for around $20,000, it provides an alternative to the Jeep Wrangler or open-top Toyota RAV4. Against these competitors, it compares rather favorably.

If you like the idea of a two-door convertible SUV but prefer more room and a powerful V-6, be sure to make friends with the Isuzu Amigo.

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