Marcus De Guzman / John Barney Biscocho | November 21, 2016 17:14
Tough as Nails
“If it ain't broke, don't fix it”
If there's one vehicle that embodies this mantra, it would be the Isuzu Crosswind. On sale since 2001, the Crosswind is perhaps one of the country's longest-selling nameplates to date. Rugged, simple and relatively easy to maintain, the appeal of the Crosswind is its ease of ownership and bulletproof reliability (figuratively of course).
But with the arrival of more modern and powerful MPVs and SUVs, the good ol' AUV is facing very stiff competition. So what can the Crosswind offer over the more sophisticated and better-looking cars of today? Let's take a closer look.
Notice anything different? Well for starters, the Crosswind still retains its distinct shape from 2001. Not that it's bad, but the overall design harks from that decade. Still, the Crosswind gives off a very tough aura thanks to its high ride height, chunky Michelin LTX all-terrain tires, matte-finished alloy wheels and revised front grill and bumper.
Distiguishing this new Crosswind from the older iterations are the headlights. The previous facelift made use of projectors with multi-relfectors. With the recent makeover, however, Isuzu went for the simpler multi-reflector finish.
Climb aboard the Crosswind and it serves as a throwback to the early 2000s. No leather or fabric seats here as this variant gets hard-wearing vinyl upholstery. The instrument panel has more or less remained the same, as well as the center console, air con vents and four-spoke steering wheel. Everything inside the Crosswind felt familiar, which was nice, but again, could do with a major redesign.
Sitting on the driver's seat, I felt like I was perched on top of the vehicle. This was something I had to get used to as SUVs and crossovers today adapt car-like driving positions. Nonetheless, it did give me a commanding view of the road which was a big plus in my opinion. I only wished that the seats were height-adjustable and that the steering rack be tilt-adjustable too.
Even though we're already in the 21st century, this Crosswind variant still lacks some key safety features. There are no front dual SRS airbags, no anti-lock brakes (ABS) and the second row seats only have lap belts. No fancy touchscreens here as entertainment is solely provided by a 1-DIN Kenwood audio system that supports AM/FM radio, USB and Aux. Audio is routed through six speakers which delivered average sound quality.
Pop the hood and you are greeted by the reliable 2.5-liter 4JA-1L turbo-diesel. Output rating is still the same at 85 PS with 185 Nm of torque. A 4-speed automatic gearbox with overdrive sends power to the rear wheels.
As this is still an OHV with pre-chamber direct injection and only 8-valves, the Crosswind lacked mid-range grunt. Nonetheless, the tried and tested turbo-diesel will get you anywhere you need to go, regardless of distance. It still has plenty of low-down torque, but overtaking with a Crosswind, (especially with a slushbox) has to be done with commitment and timing.
But if there's one thing I'm still impressed with about the Crosswind's performance, is its fuel economy. A quick trip to the pumps netted an average fuel consumption of 9.7 km/l in mixed highway/city driving. For a turbo-diesel that lacks common rail direct injection (CRDi) and a fancy computer-controlled engine management system, the Crosswind is still fuel efficient despite its age.
Ride quality, on the other hand was pretty average as Isuzu's Flex Ride rear suspension was able to absorb most of the road bumps. Don't expect the Crosswind to handle curves with finesse however as the AUV was quite wallowy around corners. That's no surprise as the Crosswind is a high-riding vehicle after all.
What it lacked in handling, it does make up for with a tight turning radius. Compared to modern cars that have rack and pinion steering, the Crosswind has a recirculating ball, allowing the Crosswind to take tight U-turns or maneuver around narrow side streets with ease.
What the Crosswind really needs is better Noise, Vibration and Harshness (NVH) isolation. While stopped in traffic, the entire car rattles thanks to the diesel powertrain. At highway speeds, the constant groan of the 4JA-1L was not particularly pleasing to the ears.
Throughout its life, the Isuzu Crosswind has retained its simple and rugged body-on-frame construction, along with the tried and tested 4JA-1L turbo-diesel engine. It does not need to be the most cutting-edge vehicle out there as that is not its intention. The Crosswind is for those that want basic transportation that's relatively easy to maintain and not complicated to tinker with.
Retailing for PhP 1,060,000, this particular Crosswind may be difficult to justify. With its current sticker price, the XUV is already knocking on the price of other, more modern MPVs and SUVs. This includes its own stablemate, the mu-X. For slightly more, one can already have the bigger SUV that comes with a more powerful engine, better ride comfort and comes with several safety features as standard.
It is inevitable that technology will keep on progressing, but if Isuzu plans to keep the Crosswind in the market, they have to equip it with new tech and features such as a more refined turbo-diesel, improved ride quality and a lot more safety equipment.