A bit unrefined. Bumpy ride. Sounds like a real SUV to us.
Perhaps there’s a reason why the Jeep Wrangler still doesn't have a direct competitor. Is it because Jeep has built the best small-ish SUV with an open top? Yes. Fact of the matter is that it owns the segment its ancestors created more than six decades ago. While we’ve heard rumors here and there about potential competitors rising, back in the late 1990s it was Isuzu who decided to take a crack at it. Remember Isuzu? Anyone? It stopped selling vehicles in the US back in 2009, and even then it was barely making a dent into the competition.
A decade before, however, Isuzu made a bold attempt to take on the Wrangler when it re-launched the Amigo. Like the Jeep, it had a soft top. It was only a partial unit, but at least it was built on a proper SUV platform with a solid rear axle. Of course it lacked the refinement of other compact “SUVs” like the Honda CR-V, but that was part of its charm.
Even Motor Week, in its latest Retro Review, took note of that. The Amigo also came powered by an optional 3.2-liter V6 with a decent 205 hp and 214 lb-ft of torque and paired to a five-speed manual. Combined with 4WD, this engine-gearbox combo was the way to go, though the price tag was nearly $24,000. Adjusted for inflation that’s nearly $37,000. Come to think of it, that’s about what Jeep is charging for a new Wrangler today. But the Amigo, like Isuzu, didn’t make it. One reason was a serious damage to its reputation when the Trooper SUV began tipping over because it was too top-heavy, but that’s another story for another time.