It's not as strange as it looks.
Isuzu is no more in the US. It hasn't been in our neck of the woods since 2009 and there are no plans for its return. Isuzu is still a relatively small Japanese automaker that simply couldn't keep up with Toyota and Honda. How come Subaru has managed to weather this storm and Isuzu couldn't? Because Subaru has always had a far more diversified product lineup, including traditional sedans, sporty coupes, wagons, and SUVs. Isuzu, on the other hand, relied mainly on pure body-on-frame SUVs, which are not exactly the most fuel-efficient. The Isuzu Trooper was one of its most well-known models until the laws of physics struck.
Beginning in 1995, the top-heavy Trooper was embroiled in a rollover controversy following Consumer Reports' testing. Although the NHTSA conducted its own tests and never issued a recall, the damage had been done by the initial report. People were suddenly afraid to buy and own a Trooper. Looking back, this very well could have been the beginning of the end of Isuzu in America. But before it closed up shop, Isuzu didn't give up. It decided to fight.
Not only did the Rodeo SUV stick around, but another new model was launched and it was controversial in an entirely different way.
The Isuzu VehiCROSS was a compact SUV that hit the US market in 1997. Although it was impossible to tell by its futuristic and polarizing exterior design, it shared many of its components with the Trooper, including 3.2- and 3.5-liter V6 engines, the latter producing a respectable 215 horsepower and 230 lb-ft of torque.
Combined with a BorgWarner 4WD system, the VehiCROSS is something we don't see much of anymore: a sporty two-door SUV with true off-road capabilities. Fortunately, the reborn Ford Bronco will also (supposedly) offer a two-door body style, so there's some hope the segment will continue to be further revitalized.
But the VehiCROSS, unlike any Bronco old or new, had styling that didn't appeal to everyone. It was one of those love it or hate it type of things, but no one questioned its SUV credentials. Isuzu was just plain good at building SUVs. But as Isuzu's fortunes in the US continued to decline, as did those of the VehiCROSS with production ending in 2001. The second generation and more traditionally styled Rodeo Sport took its place in the lineup for the next few years until Isuzu officially called it quits.
Because it was a mainstream production model, Isuzu built a solid number of VehiCROSS SUVs, but it's actually kind of hard to find one for sale in good shape.
This 2000 model year is one of those rare finds. It's up for sale right now on Bring A Trailer with a current bid of $9,000, though there are still several days left until the auction ends. This example is the Ironman Edition, meaning it has a Victory White paint job contrasting with black lower body cladding. There's also an Ironman hood graphic and unique badging. The red and black interior features Recaro front sport seats and an aftermarket Pioneer stereo fitted with Apple CarPlay. There's also a Fender subwoofer installed inside the spare tire in the rear door. Power comes from the 3.5-liter V6 paired to a four-speed automatic gearbox. It has a total of 10,000 miles on its clock and the seller claims it was involved in an accident a few years ago but no specific details were provided.
Is it still a bit funky-looking today? Yeah, but we happen to think its styling has aged quite well. And it is sure to draw plenty of attention.