Sometimes you just want a vehicle to be rugged and ready for anything. Not luxurious, not smooth, not refined, just rugged. Built with grit and sheer determination engineered into its very structure. The kind of vehicle that just gets on and does the job. Happily, that’s exactly what the Isuzu Trooper is.
What you’re looking at here is a tough old bus that positively welcomes a smack in the face. This sucker won’t whimper. It’ll just growl at you and ask you to do it again, but harder. Yep, the Trooper is quite a, um, trooper. Sorry, we didn’t thank that through.
We’ve had a bit of a thing for 4x4s of late, what with covering the Navara, the teeny Jimny and the Freelander. However, the Trooper is a different beast. The Freelander is good off-road, but you can live it with day to day. The Jimny is a plucky little scamp, but really you’d only use it for off-road fun. As for the Navara, it’s tough, but over the years been softened to make it easier to live with.
The Trooper, which has been around in one form or another, since 1981 has always been one thing: a workhorse. Over the years, the Trooper hasn’t been diluted to make it appeal to school run mums. It’s not been made more plush and comfortable. No, it’s just carried on being the go-to vehicle for people who need a vehicle that works as hard as they do. So, farmers, basically.
Think of the Trooper as a big hammer. It’s simple, it’s effective and it does what it’s supposed to do very well indeed. It’s chunky, utilitarian design is pure function over form. It has lights, it has windows, it has seats, but only because it has to. If the Trooper could have existed with one seat and minimal bodywork, like a tractor, it would have done.
As you’d expect, this all means the Trooper is far from luxurious. It is however, very durable. The bumpers are designed to take a knock, the ground clearance is plentiful and the tyres are chunky. Internally, it has some creature comforts like air con and a radio, but only because such things are expected these days. Other than that, you’re faced with rugged, chunky plastics and switchgear. The kind of stuff that is easy to use when your hands are caked in mud. As for the seats, which are relatively comfortable and supportive, some models like the Citation could be specified with leather, as some sort of nod to luxury. Failing that, you have swathes of easy to clean velour.
In terms of engines, we’re going to focus on the final run of the Trooper, which was available from 1998 through to 2003. In this model, you could have a petrol 3.5 litre V6. It delivered decent pace, but that was about all it had going for it. Considering the Trooper is constructed from granite and girders, the economy was far from spectacular.
What you really want is the 3.0 diesel. While the Trooper might be an agricultural beast, the diesel engine is relatively modern thanks to a turbocharger and common rail diesel injection. It’s a bit gutless at the top end, but that doesn’t matter, because you’re not buying a Trooper for that. What you are buying it for is the low-down grunt so you can pull cows out of wells, or whatever it is that farmers do. Happily, the Trooper has plenty of it.
On the road, the Trooper does that job, but that’s it. There is no flair, no dynamism and no excitement. The body likes to roll about in its high position, while the steering isn’t quite as direct as it could be. gear changes are direct and feel pleasantly mechanical and reassuring. At speed, road noise from the big tyres and wind noise from a face less aerodynamic than John Travolta’s is quite intrusive. However, should the road in front of you explode, the Trooper will plough right on through the wreckage thanks to its impressive four wheel-drive capabilities, including a low ratio ‘box.
The Trooper also excels at towing. Its sheer size means there’s very little you can bolt to the rear end that can unsettle the Trooper’s footing. In fact, towing is where the Trooper really shines. If it’s something you do often, this is a car that needs to be on your list.
Planning to hit a wall? Probably best to avoid that, as it only has a couple of airbags and that’s about your lot. You do have size and height on your side though, not to mention the sheer inertia of the thing. Plus, you get ABS, so you should be able to keep the beast under control.
In terms of buying one, much like the Navara you’re going to have to expect the odd bump and scrape. The Trooper is a working vehicle and as such, is seldom bought to be family transport. Don’t spit your dummy out if there’s a bit of mud in the carpets or a bit of paint missing from the bumpers. Do spit your dummy out, however, if the chassis shows signs of heavy corrosion or damage. That’s what kills the Trooper off – rust.
Other than that, the trooper is a tough, hard-working, ready to go machine. If you need a car to work as hard as you, this is it. Unless you work in IT, in which case you can buy a 3-Series or something.