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More and more people are buying trucks for what marketing gurus call "personal use," which means using a truck like a car for daily transportation. Lost in that is the main reason pickups were designed in the first place: To haul stuff around. In the old days, pickups were supposed to be reliable and not cost too much money.
It's this back-to-basics concept that best defines the mission of the Isuzu Hombre. Not the fanciest, nor the most powerful, nor the most loaded with options, the Hombre offers honest truck hauling at an easily affordable price.
Isuzu's Hombre was introduced just last year, but that doesn't mean it requires more time to work the bugs out. The Hombre is built by General Motors, in Shreveport, La., and is a mechanical twin of the Chevrolet S-10 and GMC Sonoma compact pickups. So it's a proven commodity.
The primary difference is that Isuzu has its own styling treatment for the front of the Hombre. Also, fewer options are available than those offered on the GM models. The result: A sensible, reliable pickup that won't rip the seams out of even a modest budget.
Four-wheel drive has been added to the Hombre line this year.
The Isuzu Hombre feels more like a truck than a car with a big box in back. It rides and drives like a truck, and it certainly won't confuse anyone in a blindfold test that it's a luxury sedan. The ride motions are truck-like, particularly when unloaded. We didn't load it up, but we'd suspect the ride might not get enormously better unless its cargo box was carrying some fairly serious weight. For all that, the Spacecab we drove had a wheelbase of 122.9 in. The regular cab version is on a shorter 108.3-in. wheelbase, so the longer Spacecab probably has a better ride quality than its shorter sibling.
Not to say this is bad, mind you, because even the most truck-like of today's pickups would put many a car of a couple of decades ago to shame. But, by today's definitions, the Hombre is a tool for hauling things and getting the job done, not impressing the parking valet at the snooty restaurant.
Handling, as it applies in a truck sense, is predictable and without surprises. Steering feel is about average, and the Hombre goes where it's pointed. Driving it on the city streets or open highway is an easy no-brainer, but it's unlikely to be one of those vehicles in which you purposely search out the long way home just because the winding roads that way are more fun.
We 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 brisk, and it feels as if it wouldn't really have much trouble dealing with a loaded cargo box or one of those 5000-pound trailers. Or maybe even both at once.
Anyone expecting the Hombre to be one of those pickups for dressing up and heading off for dinner at the country club might 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 shiny new alloy 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 and money to take a look.