1998 Holden Rodeo LX

By NRMA Motoring on 17 June 1998
1998 Holden Rodeo LX

Engine
Transmission
Fuel Economy
16.4 L/ 100km
Output
ANCAP rating

Not Tested

Following the 1997 release of a new range of Holden Rodeo commercial utilities from Isuzu-General Motors Australia is the addition of a gutsy new V6 engine option to the line-up.

Sales figures indicate that the Rodeo is a popular choice of light commercial vehicle buyers in Australia. The 1998 model line-up includes single cab, space cab and crew cab body styles, a choice of two or four wheel drive on many models and now three different engine variants (turbocharged four cylinder diesel, four cylinder petrol and V6 petrol).

For those interested in the added performance that the V6 petrol engine offers, the models that are available with a six cylinder engine include the 4x2 cab chassis, the 4x4 cab chassis, the 4x2 crew cab and the 4x4 crew cab. Interestingly, the two wheel drive V6 models are available with a choice of manual or automatic transmissions, while the four-wheel drive V6 models are fitted with a manual transmission only.

The V6 Rodeo evaluated for this report was a two- wheel drive cab chassis variant fitted with a five speed manual transmission. The vehicle was equipped with a large aluminium rear tray body of dimensions 2400 x 1800 mm which gives a large load carrying area.

Features and equipment

The six cylinder cab chassis Rodeo, as tested, and the six cylinder four wheel drive variants are available in one interior trim specification only, the LX. In contrast, the two wheel drive V6 crew cab gives buyers a choice from two trim levels, the LX and the LT. The LT benefits from the inclusion of a number of additional features as standard equipment.

Pricing for the new V6 engine option starts at a reasonable $21,990 for the two wheel drive Rodeo cab chassis with a manual transmission. This represents a price increase of only $314 above the equivalent model Rodeo with a four cylinder petrol engine. Those who prefer the convenience of a self shifting transmission will have to pay a significant premium for the privilege, as the automatic two wheel drive cab chassis Rodeo is listed at a recommended retail price of $24,950.

The interior of the LX Rodeo tested is designed to be functional rather than flashy and the equipment levels reflect the intended practical use of the Rodeo as a work vehicle. Vinyl floor coverings allow for easy cleaning, while cloth trimmed seats and door trims provide a good level of occupant comfort and a modern finish. Further enhancing driver comfort is a nice thick rimmed four spoke steering wheel and the versatility of a tilt adjustable steering column. Other standard features include map pockets in both front doors, a twin cup holder, security coded digital radio cassette, tachometer, intermittent wipers with mist function, a lockable glovebox and large side view mirrors.

In NRMA's security evaluation the Rodeo achieved a theft rating of just 22 points out of a possible score of 100, indicating that there is considerable room for improvement in the area of vehicle security.

The new six cylinder engine really packs a punch and is quite a high tech engine for a commercial vehicle. The V6 engine is an all alloy fuel injected engine with a displacement of 3.2 litres. The engine features direct acting overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. The performance boost on offer is a massive 59 percent power increase over the four cylinder petrol engine which was found to perform quite well when previously tested. Official figures from Isuzu - General Motors indicates that the V6 engine produces 140 kW of power at 5400 rpm and an equally important 265 Nm of torque at 4200 rpm.

The two wheel drive six cylinder Rodeos have a number of different features from the two wheel drive Rodeo variants powered by four cylinder engines. The V6 models feature an increased ride height, underbody radiator protection and 15 inch wheels with heavy duty tyres. The increased ride height and larger wheels and tyres combine to give the vehicles excellent ground clearance and some off road ability.

In addition, 4x2 cab chassis models fitted with the V6 have the added option of a limited slip differential for $500 extra. A rear limited slip differential is fitted standard on all 4x4 Rodeos.

Body and finish

The Rodeo has quite modern styling for a commercial vehicle and is characterised by a more rounded frontal appearance than the previous model Rodeo. As already mentioned, the cabin of the Rodeo tested sits a lot higher off the ground than the four cylinder variants, thus giving it a more aggressive overall appearance typical of most off road vehicles.

Galvanised body panels are used throughout the Rodeo and should provide good resistance to body corrosion and increase vehicle longevity. As a rule, cab chassis vehicles are sold without any form of rear load carrying tray. It is therefore in the hands of each individual owner to choose a rear tray that will best suit their load carrying needs. Aluminium is a sensible material to choose because its light weight (in comparison to steel) will help to keep total vehicle mass to a minimum and it is highly corrosion resistant. Owners requiring a heavy duty rear tray may find a steel body will cope better with more abuse and may be a more practical alternative.

The build quality of the Rodeo was very good. Throughout the test vehicle a high standard of paint finish was evident, equal to most modern passenger cars that are manufactured in Japan. Overall, the Rodeo displayed a solid feel that is typical of a vehicle that should provide many years of trouble free motoring.

Comfort and space

Despite the Rodeo having a practical or worklike theme to its interior fitout, comfort levels for both driver and passenger alike have never been better. Isuzu - General Motors Australia claims to have placed a high priority on providing a comfortable environment for vehicle occupants when designing the new Rodeo and the result is a modern, car-like interior that no longer means driving a light commercial need be a chore. 

The test vehicle was fitted with nicely contoured and cloth trimmed bucket seats that featured side bolstering on both the cushion and the backrest. During the period of evaluation the seats were found to be both comfortable and supportive. 

Interior cabin space has always been somewhat limited in a single cab utility, although head and leg room is quite generous in the Rodeo. Unfortunately, good rearward seat travel results in a particularly small space behind the seats that is not very useful for storing goods. Interior storage is limited to a glovebox, map pockets and the space between the seats. Those who require a reasonable amount of in-cabin storage in order to secure valuable items such as power tools may want to opt for the space cab Rodeo which features a dedicated in-cabin storage area behind the front seats. 
Behind the wheel

The Rodeo range has one of the most car-like interior layouts of all the light commercial vehicles available. A tilt adjustable steering column and a good range of seat movement should allow most drivers to find a comfortable driving position, while the elevated ride height provides the driver with an excellent view of the road ahead. 

A modern looking dashboard houses a typical array of instruments and controls which are clearly positioned and easy to operate. Driver comfort is further enhanced by the addition of a thick rimmed steering wheel that is easy to grip and large external mirrors allow excellent vision to the rear. 

The clutch and the brake pedals are both quite light to use. In keeping with the characteristics of the other controls, the gearshift has a positive action that requires little effort to select gears and helps to make the Rodeo an enjoyable and an easy vehicle to drive. 
On the road

The six cylinder Rodeo delivers an outstanding level of performance for a light commercial vehicle. The V6 engine is a modern engine that is quiet, smooth running and free revving. The engine produces loads of power right across the rev range, and in the unladen condition it is easy to spin the wheels of the Rodeo when starting off quickly. The V6 Rodeo should have no problem coping with its maximum towing capacity of 1800 kg. 

Considering the Rodeo is designed to carry a one tonne payload the ride when empty is still quite comfortable and further improves when some additional load is carried. Handling of the Rodeo is only average by passenger car standards which may well be a result of the increased ride height and higher centre of gravity. When cornering the Rodeo displayed a tendency to lift the inside rear wheel causing wheelspin. 

The brake pedal required a light pressure to effect a stop under all conditions, although during heavy braking the rear wheels were prone to lock when the vehicle was unladen.

Summary

The addition of a new optional V6 engine to the Rodeo range of light commercial vehicles should further broaden the appeal of an already popular model among tradespeople. 

The six cylinder engine is both modern and refined, and provides the sort of performance most commercial owners can only dream of. A comfortable and contemporary interior makes the Rodeo enjoyable to drive.

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