Yesterday, Isuzu Philippines Corporation (IPC) officially launched the all-new Traviz; a light commercial vehicle in cab and chassis form that is meant to compete with the likes of the Mitsubishi L300, the Hyundai H100, and even the Kia K2500.
For efficiency, the Traviz uses some key components that already exist in the Isuzu parts bin, chief of which is the frame itself: it uses the chassis of the D-Max, albeit in shorter wheelbase for a better turning radius of 4.5 meters.
But one very important side note is the engine: the Traviz uses a 4JA1 turbodiesel engine. Isuzu fans would know that the 4JA1 is the code for the engine that has powered the now defunct Crosswind AUV. Owners of the Crosswind would know that the engine is proven to be reliable, very easy to maintain, and very fuel efficient. In the last fuel economy run done by Isuzu with the Department of Energy, the Crosswind 2.5 XT with the 5-speed manual was able to achieve 20.76 km/l of diesel.
There is, however, one problem: emissions. The Crosswind is quite a dated unit, and was unable to meet the newer Euro4 emissions regulations that came into effect a few years ago. The re-engineering of the Crosswind, its engine, and its exhaust system was seen as too expensive to be viable.
But the Traviz comes with a 4JA1 that is now Euro4 compliant. Isuzu was able to achieve this by upgrading a lot of things with the engine, mainly the fuel system: no longer does it use the older mechanical injection, as it now has a common-rail direct injection (CRDI) system using higher pressures and finer injector that will "mist" the fuel for better combustion. They also fitted their diesel particulate filter to help achieve improved emissions.
So here's the question: will we see a resurrected Philippine-made Crosswind, much in the same way that Mitsubishi did a Lazarus with the L300?
Sadly for the many Isuzu fans that still want a Crosswind, the answer to that is: extremely unlikely.
The reason, according to a senior Isuzu executive, is that re-engineering the 4JA1 for a cab and chassis model such as the Traviz is far simpler and very cost effective thanks to the largely exposed frame. Installing the same engine in the Isuzu Crosswind's frame isn't as simple as just bolting it on, as Isuzu engineers would have to literally re-engineer the new power unit to not only work, but to be viable for series production. And that includes all the complexities of the wiring.
"Right now there are no plans for the revival of Crosswind," said the Isuzu executive who knows the importance of a Crosswind model in a developing market such as the Philippines. "I actually asked Isuzu [Japan HQ] if there are plans, but they said no."
We do know that Isuzu had once mulled the idea of putting the 2.5-liter D-Max engine (the 4JK1) in the Crosswind, but that concept didn't work given that they didn't think the frame could handle the torque of the new generation engine.
Isuzu, it seems, has already moved past having an MPV or AUV like the Crosswind. There is no word in the interwebs -rumors or otherwise- about a new generation MPV/AUV like the Innova being developed, though we think it's unlikely too.
Still, many of us -myself included- think it would be interesting if Isuzu revived the Crosswind for the Philippine market with Euro4 emissions and possibly even export it to other countries. But if they somehow do, we just hope they put in some much needed upgrades like airbags, and definitely anti-lock brakes.