You'll Like The 2008 Isuzu i-290 If...
If you're looking for a rugged compact pickup offering good fuel economy and a great powertrain warranty, the 2008 Isuzu i-Series should be near the top of your shopping list.
You May Not Like The 2008 Isuzu i-290 If...
If you're looking for a four-cylinder regular cab pickup with four-wheel drive, Isuzu doesn't make one. Those shopping for a crew cab pickup offering a V6 or V8 engine or a six-foot bed will also have to look elsewhere.
Some trim and package reconfigurations mark the major changes for 2008. Towing capacity for the i-290 is increased from 2,100 to 2,200 pounds, while the i-370 sees a 37-percent increase in towing capacity, jumping from 4,000 to 5,500 pounds. Traction control is made standard on all 4x2 Crew Cabs.
The i-290 Extended Cab offers an optional set of forward-facing rear jump seats separated by a small console with integral cup holders (standard on i-370). Given the cab's limited space, these seats will not comfortably accommodate adults. The i-370 Crew Cab offers better accommodations for four, providing a split-folding rear bench seat with fixed head restraints. Though front-seat legroom and headroom is ample, the i-Series' narrow cab makes for snug shoulder and hip room, and the flat seat cushions don't offer much in the way of long-term comfort. From a purely functional point of view, outward visibility is fairly open and the i-Series instrument cluster is large and legible. Esthetically speaking, however, the abundant grey plastic creates a rather industrial interior that is neither inspiring nor inviting.
From every angle but the front, it's hard to distinguish the i-290 and i-370 from their GM cousins, the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. Isuzu makes the truck its own by grafting on the company's signature chrome grille and badging. A 126-inch wheelbase serves as the platform for all trims, with the i-290 and i-370 Extended Cabs offering a six-foot bed and the i-370 Crew Cab a five-foot bed. Buyers can order a number of off-road and appearance packages, including larger wheels and tires, color-keyed wheel arches and graphic decals.
The i-Series pickups are well mannered when traveling on paved surfaces, offering a comfortable ride and respectable acceleration. Some testers were not happy with the vague steering response and touchy brakes, while others reported that traversing washboard surfaces caused the i-Series' rear end to jump about. In this regard, the i-Series pickups lag behind the standards set by the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier. These same testers, however, praised the i-Series models for their off-road abilities, noting the narrow body was easy to maneuver in tight spaces and the four-wheel-drive system seemed undaunted by loose sand and rocky trails. We were pleased with our test truck's 3.7-liter engine, which averaged about 18 mpg in mixed city and highway driving.
The i-290 Extended Cab S has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting around $18,000, while the i-370 Extended Cab starts around $23,000. The two-wheel-drive i-370 Crew Cab LS starts around $25,000, while the four-wheel drive model starts just under $29,000. Similarly-equipped models from Chevrolet and GMC are nearly identical in price, yet offer a better overall warranty and more configuration choices. Before you decide on your new truck, be sure to check the Fair Purchase Price, which shows the typical transaction prices others in your area are paying for the i-Series. Over a five-year period, the i-290 and i-370 are expected to retain an average resale value, on par with the Chevrolet Colorado and Ford Ranger, slightly below the Dodge Dakota and far below the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier.
The i-290 Extended Cab pickup features a 2.9-liter, four-cylinder engine, five-speed manual transmission, 15-inch aluminum wheels, four-wheel anti-lock brakes (ABS), power steering, automatic on/off headlamps and a 60/40 split-bench vinyl front seat. The i-370 Extended Cab adds a 3.7-liter five-cylinder engine, four-speed automatic transmission, fog lights, sliding rear window, full carpeting, remote keyless entry, cloth front bucket seats, power windows/door locks/mirrors, air conditioning, AM/FM/CD/MP3 player with six speakers, cruise control and two forward-facing rear jump seats. The Crew Cab 4x4 includes a shift-on-the-fly four-wheel drive, locking rear differential and an off-road suspension.
Optional on the i-290 is the Preferred Equipment Package that adds an AM/FM stereo with CD-MP3 player, rear jump seats, full carpeting, tinted windows and an under-seat storage bin. A four-speed automatic transmission is also available. The i-370 Extended Cab offers an automatic locking rear differential, traction control, head-curtain side-impact airbags, six-disc CD changer and a rear bumper with integrated trailer hitch. The i-370 Crew Cab offers leather seating, six-disc CD changer, heated eight-way power driver's and six-way power passenger's seats and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
The i-Series' tailgate can be set at a 55- or 89-degree angle, the former positioning the tailgate edge at the same height as the tops of the inner fender liners, which allows items longer than the bed -- such as that 4x8 sheet of plywood -- to be supported yet remain level. The tailgate is also removable and lockable.
Head-Curtain Side-Impact Airbags
The head-curtain airbags offer protection for both front- and rear-seat outboard occupants, and are standard on the i-370 Crew Cab and optional on the i-370 Extended Cab.
Under the Hood
The i-Series offer two engine choices. A 2.9-liter, in-line four-cylinder engine with an impressive 185 horsepower teamed to a five-speed manual transmission powers the i-290. As four-cylinder engines go, the i-Series is one of the most powerful and fuel-efficient in its class. Those needing more power can opt for the 3.7-liter in-line five-cylinder engine offered only on the i-370 Crew Cab. Rated at 242 horsepower, the 3.7-liter seeks to strike a balance between power and fuel economy.
2.9-liter in-line 4
185 horsepower @ 5600 rpm
190 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/24 (2WD, manual), 18/24 (2WD, automatic)
3.7-liter in-line 5
242 horsepower @ 5600 rpm
242 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4600 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/22 (2WD), 15/20 (4WD)
The once-robust Isuzu lineup is down to just two models: The Ascender SUV and the 2008 i-Series pickup truck. Although the i-Series shares a common platform with the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, it offers a better powertrain warranty for those who don't put a lot of annual miles on their vehicles and tend to keep them for a longer time (seven-years/75,000 miles vs. five-years/100,000 miles). The tough little i-290 and i-370 are among the few remaining small trucks that can rightfully call themselves compacts, giving them an advantage in both maneuverability and fuel efficiency over their ever-larger rivals. If you're not looking to tow heavy loads nor require copious amounts of passenger space, the i-Series trucks make a great choice.