Isuzu is a brand that barely resonates with today’s personal use truck buyer. Well regarded for heavy commercial vehicles and stout diesel engines, their last light duty pickup was the 2000 Hombre. Now, for 2006, with a little help from a friend, they’ve jumped into the heart of the mid-size pickup market with the Isuzu i-350 Crew Cab. Let’s see if it’s worth a look for your crew.

If the new 2006 Isuzu i-350 looks familiar to you, that’s OK. The i-350 and stable mate, the i-280, are in fact lightly reworked versions of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon mid-size pickups, which Isuzu helped design. The Louisiana-assembled i-Series are real trucks, built with a separate body on a stout ladder-type frame. Both ride on the platform’s longest 125.9-inch wheelbase, as Isuzu chose to pass on a base regular cab and offer only two models, an i-280 Extended Cab 4x2 with a 6-foot steel bed, and our test i-350 Crew Cab 4X4 with a 5-foot box.

Drivetrains are also unique to each model. This i-350 packs GM’s well regarded 3.5-liter dual-overhead-cam inline 5-cylinder engine. With variable-valve timing output is 220 horsepower and 225 pound-feet of torque.

The only transmission is a 4-speed automatic, with standard shift-on-the-fly part-time 4-wheel-drive with low range. This combination will tow 4,000 pounds and carries an EPA fuel economy rating of 17 city/22 highway. We averaged a respectable 20 miles-per-gallon in mixed driving.

If you want to punch the economy numbers up a bit, you can opt for the i-280 Extended Cab with its 2.8-liter dual-cam 4-cylinder. Power output is 175 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. Both a 5-speed manual and 4-speed automatic transmission are available, but in 2-wheel-drive only. This pumps EPA mileage numbers up to 20 city/27 highway with the manual, 17 city/23 highway with the automatic.

And while we’re talking numbers, the i-350 can stride from 0 to 60 in 9.3 seconds, and finish the quarter mile in 17 seconds at 84 miles-per-hour. Not bad results for a real truck. As in the Colorado we tested earlier, the Isuzu’s inline-5 powertrain is smooth if a little soft at the bottom end, with clean and positive transmission shifts. 

Handling from the torsion bar front and leaf spring rear suspension is standard issue pickup truck, with generous front end push and body roll. The rack-and-pinion steering is fairly quick, but as usual short on feel. Braking is by front discs and rear drums, with standard ABS. Our truck averaged a long but stable 154 feet from 60 to 0, or about 10 feet more than our last Colorado test. Ride quality is very good for a mid-size truck. It’s firm, but easily soaks up all but the biggest bumps and potholes.

The i-350’s basic interior layout will also be familiar to any Colorado/Canyon owners. The instrument panel is efficient, the gauges are clear, and controls are well placed and easy to operate. The i-350 comes only in well outfitted LS trim with air, CD-stereo, full power accessories, cruise, and remote keyless entry. Plus head curtain airbags for both rows of seats. As to which, the front buckets are wide and flat, and can be ordered with leather trim and power adjustments.  The rear seat is a 60/40 split bench that can manage two adults or three children in good comfort. It also folds into a very useful cargo shelf.

Prices for Isuzu’s new pickup start at $17,649 for a base bare bones i-280 Extended Cab 4X2.  The well equipped i-350 Crew Cab 4X4 begins at $28,018. While comparably equipped Chevrolet Colorados cost a little less, Isuzu has a stronger warranty with powertrain protection for 7 years and 75,000 miles.

Isuzu is Japan’s oldest truck brand, and provided GM with the Chevrolet LUV compact pickup back in 1972. Now, GM is building the i-350 and i-280 for Isuzu. It’s a collaboration that has worked for a generation, and this new generation of mid-size trucks will help Isuzu re-establish itself as a truck player in America once again.



  • Engine: 3.5-Liter Dual-overhead-cam Inline 5-Cylinder
  • Horsepower: 220
  • Torque: 225 Lb Feet
  • 0-60 MPH: 9.3 Seconds
  • 1/4 Mile: 17.0 Seconds @ 84 MPH
  • 60-0 MPH: 154 Feet
  • EPA: 17 City/22 Highway MPG
  • Mixed Loop: 20 MPG