Nissan’s Murano CrossCabriolet has been controversial, to say the least. Yet had history gone a little differently, the insults, questions, and confusion directed Nissan’s way could have instead been targeted at Isuzu.
Remember Isuzu? Although the company is now relegated to selling commercial trucks in North America, it found booming business hawking light SUVs to North American consumers in the mid-1990s. We’re not exactly sure why, but the company apparently saw fit to craft an SUV for every conceivable buyer — including those who enjoyed motoring en plein air.
A Trooper ‘vert, based off the limited-production three-door RS model, appeared on the auto show circuit in 1993 to “measure consumer interest in this newest Trooper variation.” There wasn’t enough to push it into production, despite the fact a drop-top SUV wasn’t exactly new — after all, Isuzu itself had been building the Amigo since 1989.
The convertible idea moved over to crossovers shortly after Isuzu launched the wacky-looking VehiCross in 1999 (“NOT A CAR,” screamed the dealer literature). That same year, Isuzu (and ItalDesign’s American operations center) wielded an ax to the roof structure, resulting in the even wackier VX-02 concept. More roadster than convertible, the VX-02 scrapped the puny rear seats and cargo hold — and, apparently, any semblance of a top — in favor of a leather-clad interior and a curvy rear decklid. Critics panned the vehicle as much as they did Disney’s Mission to Mars film — which, ironically, featured the VX-02 as Gary Sinese’s dream machine.
If that wasn’t enough to kill the idea, Isuzu toyed with the notion one last time. The angular Axiom, inspired off the 2002 ZXS concept, debuted in 2001 as a 2002 model. To celebrate the launch of what would prove to be Isuzu’s last SUV developed in-house, it produced three pimped-out Axiom concepts for the auto show circuit. A lowered sport version wasn’t all that outlandish, nor was a four-door pickup variant, but the XSR — a stubby Axiom treated to essentially the same modifications used on the VX-02 — was unbearable to look at. If the shape was bad, the color scheme (retina-melting yellow with a matching interior) was absolutely atrocious.
Keep these vehicles in mind the next time you lay eyes on a CrossCabriolet. Yes, Nissan’s soft-top Murano is odd, but things could have been worse. After all, Isuzu could have beaten Nissan to the punch…