Launched in 2002 and retired just a couple of years later, the Isuzu Axiom came by its name in a thoughtful and democratic way. Its moniker wasn't the result of myriad brainstorming sessions by a cadre of marketing types locked away in some remote steel tower. Rather, Isuzu held a contest to see who could come up with the best name. "Axiom" was picked by a citizen of Redmond, Washington, who got a brand-new Isuzu Axiom for his efforts.
Unfortunately, this degree of thoughtfulness was not reflected in the Axiom's design and overall quality. The Axiom wasn't as new as it should have been: The SUV shared an aged platform with its sibling, the Rodeo. Ergonomics within its cabin were poor; many controls were non-intuitive and illogically placed. Legroom was cramped for those riding in back. And the Axiom's sluggish steering and non-existent road feel didn't exactly enhance its fun-to-drive quotient.
Still, this Isuzu had its assets. A chiseled chin and crossover-like styling gave the vehicle some visual distinctiveness, and its V6 was up for most of the tasks thrown its way. The Axiom's available four-wheel-drive system was also fairly sophisticated. But on the whole, the Axiom was lacking in too many areas. In our editors' ratings, the Axiom earned a "not recommended" score in all the key areas: dynamics, comfort, design/build quality and function. If you're shopping for a used SUV, you would be better served by pretty much any of the Axiom's competitors.
Most Recent Isuzu Axiom
The Axiom was a midsize SUV that was available in just one generation lasting from 2002-'04. There were two trims: base and XS. Base models offered standard features like full power accessories, air-conditioning, keyless entry, a CD changer and a trip computer. XS models stirred in the sugar by way of amenities like foglights, heated front seats and a power moonroof. The options list on base models included leather seats, a power moonroof and a trailer hitch; on XS models, a trailer hitch was initially the sole available option.
It was on the market for just a brief spell, but the Isuzu Axiom still witnessed a few changes. In 2003, the base trim was renamed the S. A CD changer was dropped from the standard features list on S models, instead becoming available as an option; also, chrome wheels and a roof rack were added to the options list for XS models. In 2004, the S model saw further erosion to its standard features list with the deletion of its cassette player. The SUV's speaker count also dropped from eight to six. All Axioms got a new chrome finish on the grille; the optional alloy wheels on the XS also got spruced up with a new chrome finish.
Onboard all Axioms was Isuzu's Intelligent Suspension Control, which utilized sensors to track vehicle variables like speed, engine rpm and braking. These sensors continually adjusted the Axiom's shock valving to match ride and handling to real-time driving conditions. Also, the system allowed drivers to choose between Sport and Comfort suspension modes. In practice, this setup wasn't nearly as impressive as it sounds. In Comfort mode, the Isuzu Axiom exhibited an unacceptable degree of roll and wallow. Selecting Sport mode brought some relief, but we were still disappointed with this area of the SUV's performance.
Isuzu's hauler was powered by a 3.5-liter V6 good for 230 horsepower and 230 pound-feet of torque; the engine was a retuned version of the V6 that motivated the Isuzu Trooper. In 2004, the Axiom's engine benefited from new gasoline "direct injection" technology that served to boost hp to 250 and torque to 246 lb-ft. Two- or four-wheel drive models were offered.
Four-wheel-drive Axioms came with Isuzu's "Torque on Demand" feature. Operated via a dash-mounted twist knob, this system utilized sensors to gauge throttle position and axle speeds, with the aim of predicting wheelspin so power could be transferred to the front wheels in an idealized fashion.