Sixteen years, that's how long the Isuzu Crosswind has been in the market. I still remember when it was first launched back when I was still in grade school. Fast forward to 2017 and three years in the motoring beat, the evergreen AUV is still around.
Despite the arrival of more modern, more powerful and softer riding people carriers, the Crosswind has withstood the test of time and has proven to be a hit amongst Filipino families and business owners. It's a rugged and reliable workhorse that is fairly easy to maintain and is quite frugal too. But all good things must come to an end.
Starting in January 1, 2018, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will fully implement Euro-IV emission compliance on all motor vehicles. This means that all newly-purchased cars that do not meet Euro-IV emission standards (Crosswind is still Euro-II) can no longer be registered with the Land Transportation Office (LTO).
With the Crosswind set to be discontinued in the coming months, Isuzu Philippines recently invited us on a trip to Sta. Ana Cagayan for one final drive of one of the last AUVs still on sale.
The starting point of our drive towards the northern tip of Luzon began in Tuguegarao City. After nearly an hour's flight from Metro Manila, greeting us at the Tuguegarao Airport was the sweltering heat. Widely known as one of the hottest places in the country, it's a good thing that all of the Crosswinds waiting for us at the parking lot have powerful air-conditioners.
Of course, this isn't my first rodeo with the Crosswind, but, it reminded me of simpler times when all you needed in a car was an audio player, steering wheel, pedals, clear gauges and comfortable seats. With a commanding view of the road, it was always easy to see out of the AUV. With a no-frills design that remains unchanged to this day, there was plenty of space for us to stretch out as well as to put our luggage in. Indeed, the Crosswind is beginning to show its age but in spite of that, its rudimentary design and overall simplicity are just some of the key factors as to why it has stayed this long.
Propelling all this is the tried-and-tested 2.5-liter 4JAI turbo-diesel. While not exactly built for speed, the engine does produce a respectable 85 PS and 185 Nm of torque. With a straightforward design and simple mechanics, the four-cylinder turbo-diesel is robust and easy to tinker with. Plus, it's still one of the most fuel-efficient turbo-diesels out there. In fact, from Tuguegarao to Cagayan and back, we did not stop to refuel the Crosswinds.
For the drive up north, I volunteered to take the wheel first in going to Sta. Ana, Cagayan. In truth, this is only the second time I have driven a Crosswind so I was quite eager to take the AUV for a proper long drive. Like what I said earlier, it won't exactly be winning any races but with most of its power at the low rev range, there is always sufficient torque to keep the AUV going. With the four-speed slushbox, the Crosswind went through the gears smoothly but it does rob a lot of power from the engine.
It's over to ride quality where the Crosswind really shined. With its soft damping, the Crosswind went over potholes and road bumps admirably. In fact, there was one point during the trip that everyone else but myself fell asleep on the Crosswind, a testament as to how comfortable this AUV is. The soft ride does have a drawback however, loads of body roll. Turn a corner too quickly and the entire vehicle leans towards the side. I had to remind myself several times when approaching tight bends that I have to slow down and turn the wheel gently.
After about two and a half hours of non-stop driving, we finally arrived at Sta. Ana, Cagayan. I was looking forward to have some much neeeded rest but before we went to our respite, we had to stop along the Cagayan coast for some photo-op.
No matter how you look at it, the Crosswind is one of those vehicles that has bags of character. Granted, it hasn't aged like fine wine, but the 16-year old design looks rather refreshing even in the slew of sleek crossovers and MPVs. For its last update, the Crosswind gets a cleaner looking front fascia that comes with redesigned multi-reflectors and a large six-hole front grill. Also giving the AUV its rugged charm are its 15-inch alloy wheels, black-painted roof rails and spare wheel cover, side stepboards and chunky all-terrain tires.
Say what you will about the Crosswind being an 'archaic' family car, but Isuzu knew exactly how to build a utility vehicle that can carry on through thousands of kilometers without a hitch. Its simple construction and durable build-quality became its main selling points for those that needed a vehicle to ferry the family or carry their business.
Most will come off and say that the Crosswind is an aging lion that refuses to die in the wake of technological progress. It's not the fastest or the most advanced vehicle in the market today. But after sixteen years in the market and still being one of the most sought-after vehicles in the country, I say that's an achievement in its self.
As Isuzu prepares for the curtain call of the Crosswind, I can only hope that there will be a worthy successor that can fill the gap of the AUV.