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The Isuzu Amigo: History, Generations, Specifications

All things Isuzu Amigo on Automobile.

Aaron GoldWriterManufacturerPhotographer

Isuzu Amigo Essential History

The Amigo Comes to America

Isuzu introduced the Amigo to the American market in 1989. It was a two-door semi-convertible SUV with a sunroof above the front seats and a folding soft top out back—sort of a rolling mullet with business up front and a party in the back. Though Isuzu's cars weren't particularly strong sellers in the US, the Trooper was an important player in the budding SUV market, and the company had made a name for itself with its amusing Joe Isuzu ads.

Based on Isuzu's pickup truck and loosely related to the four-door Rodeo (which wouldn't appear until the 1991 model year), the Amigo bridged a three-way gap between two-door SUVs like the Toyota 4Runner, Nissan Pathfinder, Ford Bronco and Chevy Blazer, "cute utes" like the Suzuki Samurai and Sidekick, Geo Tracker, and Daihatsu Rocky, and the hard-core off-road Jeep Wrangler.

The Amigo debuted with two four-cylinder engine options, either a 96-horsepower 2.3-liter or a 120-horsepower 2.6-liter, both paired with a five-speed manual transmission. Four-wheel drive was available only with the larger engine, and the Amigo didn't get an automatic transmission option until 1992, and then only for the 2.6-liter rear-drive version. Both the 2.3-liter engine and the automatic transmission option were gone for 1994, which was the last year for the first-generation Amigo.

Second-Generation Amigo

Isuzu redesigned its hot-selling Rodeo in 1998, and the Amigo made a surprising return, with a commercial that perfectly parodied the old Slinky ads. With a wheelbase 10 inches shorter than the Rodeo, the new Amigo was distinguished from the first-generation model by its body-color eggcrate grille and glass side windows behind the doors. The second-generation Amigo offered a choice between a 130-horsepower 2.2-liter four-cylinder or a 205-horsepower 3.2-liter V-6, the latter available only with four-wheel drive.

The second-gen Amigo didn't quite share the original's aversion to change. Isuzu added a hardtop version for 1999, along with an automatic transmission for the V-6. For 2000, styling was refreshed and the Amigo was offered with electronic adjustable dampers. In 2001 the Amigo was renamed Rodeo Sport, and it gained an automatic option for the four-cylinder engine. The Rodeo Sport was discontinued after 2003, and Isuzu never replaced it.

Isuzu Amigo Highlights

The Isuzu Amigo has had more identities than a secret agent. Isuzu sold it as the MU in Japan. General Motors sold it as the Frontera Sport under the Vauxhall, Opel, and Holden brands in the U.K., Europe, and Australia respectively.

Honda also sold a rebadged version in Japan called the Honda Jazz—the name that would later be applied to the car we know as the Honda Fit.

Isuzu built one-off two-door convertible variants of other SUVs, including the Trooper, VehiCross, and Axiom, as concepts for the auto show circuit, but none made it into production.

Despite its availability in North America, automatic Amigos were hard to come by. The first-generation Amigo only offered an automatic for two of its five years (1992 and 1993), and the second-generation Amigo didn't get an automatic transmission until its second year of production.

Isuzu Amigo Buying Tips

The Amigo hasn't gained much popularity with collectors, though it probably should—it was a unique and trendy vehicle, and like other Isuzus was rugged and well-built.

The second-generation Amigo and Rodeo Sport (as well as the Rodeo and Axiom) had a notable problem with rust at the rear of the frame, leading to a 2012 recall that affected all models sold or registered in 21 Eastern states and DC. The undercarriage could rust badly enough that the lower suspension link would separate from the frame. Cars with moderate rust had a bracket installed, while those with severe rust were bought back by Isuzu. Be sure to carefully check the rear frame for rust damage or repairs.

Isuzu Amigo Articles on Automobile

Isuzu Amigo Recent Auctions

Isuzu Amigo Quick Facts 

  • First year of production: 1989
  • Last year of production: 2003
  • No production: 1995-1997
  • Original base price (1989): $8,999
  • Characteristic feature: Two-door, semi-convertible version of Rodeo

Isuzu Amigo FAQ

Was the Isuzu Amigo a good car?

The Amigo was hailed during its production as providing a nice middle ground between small "cute utes" and bigger SUVs. Its semi-convertible roofline and small size made it an enjoyable off-roader like the smaller SUVs, but its larger size gave it a more comfortable ride.

Why did Isuzu stop making the Amigo?

The Amigo was renamed Rodeo Sport in 2000, which led to a brief bump in sales, but sales continued to drop steadily into the 2000s. Sales dropped by half between 2000 and 2001, and again between 2001 and 2002.

In what years was the Isuzu Amigo made?

The Isuzu Amigo was made between 1989 and 1994, and again between 1998 and 2000. From 2001 to 2003 it was sold as the Isuzu Rodeo Sport.