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With all the upgrading, upscaling and upleveling going on in the truck business these days it would be easy to ignore the fundamental premise of why someone might want a pickup in the first place: To haul stuff around, be reliable and not cost too much money.
It's this back-to-basics concept that defines the Isuzu Hombre and its mission. Not the fanciest, nor the most powerful, nor the most loaded with options, the Hombre offers honest truck-hauling at an affordable price.
The Hombre is a new model on the market, but that doesn't mean it will take time to work the bugs out. The Hombre is built by General Motors, in Shreveport, Louisiana, and is, with some exceptions, a mechanical twin of the Chevrolet S-10 and GMC Sonoma compact pickups. That means it's a proven commodity.
Even though it's mechanically the same as the S-10/Sonoma, it has a different look, as the Isuzu designers have given the Hombre its own front-end styling treatment. It's also contented differently, with an option list that's reined-in somewhat from that offered on the GM models. Put this together and you've got a sensible, reliable pickup that won't rip the seams out of even a modest budget.
The Hombre feels like a truck, rather than a car with a big box in back. With that in mind, we'll say that it rides and drives like a truck and would never confuse anyone in a blindfold test into thinking it's a luxury sedan. While the ride motions are predictably truck-like when empty, we wouldn't expect it to be much better unless the cargo box was carrying a heavy load.
The Spacecab we drove had a wheelbase of 122.9 inches, and it should ride nicer than the shorter regular cab version with its 108.3-inch wheelbase. Not to say this is bad, mind you, because even the most truck-like of today's pickups would put many a car of the fairly recent past to shame. But, in today's terms, the Hombre is a tool for hauling things and getting the job done.
Handling is predictable and without surprises. Steering feel is about average and the Hombre goes where it's pointed. Driving it around town or down the freeway is easy, but it's unlikely to be a vehicle in which you search out the long way home just because the roads are more fun.
We'll give the Hombre a big gold star for the 4.3-liter V6 engine. It makes good power and the torque band is very useable, so there's plenty of punch to get you going. Acceleration is peppy, and it feels as if it wouldn't really have much trouble dealing with a loaded cargo box or a 5,000-pound trailer.
Anyone expecting the Hombre to be one of those pickups for dressing up and heading off for dinner at the country club could be in for a disappointment. If luxury or sport aren't in this truck's definition, what is? We think it's work and value.
There's a certain honest feel to the Hombre. Behind its plain face and unadorned appearance there's a feeling of quiet ruggedness and dependable durability. This might not be the set of new wheels that gets your heart pounding and your temperature rising, but if you don't want to drop a lot of money and you need an honest truck that will haul some hay, it's worth your time to take a look.