Spawned from the TFR/TFS chassis, the Isuzu Fuego vows to stay ahead of the competition with much improved luxury/passenger features and the introduction of the more potent 4JB1-T engine in its lineup.

For those individuals who are shopping around for a vehicle that could perform typical workhorse duties but at the same time be elegant as a people mover, the pick-up market never fails to catch their attention. With the introduction of automatic transmission on pick-ups, they can vie for attention the SUVs are currently enjoying.

As mentioned, the Fuego line-up now includes the truck-based 2.8 liter 4JB1-T. Of course, it's worthwhile to note that it has the direct-injection technology that gives Isuzu the "diesel king" reputation. It is rated at 100 Hp and 225 Nm of torque.

The variant tested has a 4-speed automatic transmission, coupled with an overdrive switch and the normal/power drive setting switch.Power features such as steering, windows, locks and mirror-adjustment controls are present, to complement the roomy interior which would truly fit five adults. The interior is one of the roomiest in its class.

Acceleration is brisk and the automatic transmission is very responsive to pedal pressure. Shift shock is almost negligible. The transmission is best left with the normal setting during normal driving, but if more peppiness is needed, one can shift to the power drive mode, where engine speed drop is almost absent and shifting is a little bit prolonged to take advantage of the maximum engine power available.

As the direct injection technology promises, fuel economy is indeed outstanding. A rough estimate yielded that six liters of fuel could have mileage of more than a hundred kilometers (about 18-20 kilometers to a liter, mixed cycle driving). Truly fuel frugal indeed!

The power-assisted steering is a little biased on the heavy side, to remind the driver that it's a pick-up he/she is driving. The suspension is somewhat biased on the soft side even with the truck unladen, while at the same time providing excellent stability during highway driving. The wider-than-usual tires really helps in maintaining excellent contact with the road.

The standard disc/drum brake tandem is enough to stop the vehicle during emergency situations. A light pressure on the brake pedal is suffice to bring the vehicle to a stop in Metro traffic.

Seats are supportive and truly comfortable even for the rear passengers. The sliding rear glass is a useful feature if one needs to reach for some things placed at the bed or to talk with rearmost passengers, in case a fiberglass top is installed on the pick-up bed.

The standard Clarion Tuner/Cassette combination (CD-ready) does its job of supplying tunes in the cabin (although others would cry out for a in-dash CD-tuner), as well as drowning the occasional engine noise.