The Isuzu Crosswind is a very curious model. On the one hand, if I hadn't bothered tracing its physical evolution these past few years via photos on the Internet, I'd have been hard pressed to note the differences between this current-model, top-of-the-line Sportivo automatic variant and, say, its 2004 FX-converted counterparts I'd chased after on Philcoa as a college junior who couldn't afford a week's worth of fuel for her gas-guzzling, hand-me-down ride.
On the other hand, you can't say Isuzu has been lacking in updates to this AUV, as its upgrade history may be likened to the sheer number of times Facebook fanatics feel compelled to change their status messages each day. I don't think there's any cosmetic or entertainment feature the Japanese carmaker isn't beyond putting on succeeding year models. Like I said, curious.
The formula upon which the Isuzu Crosswind is based still holds. The 2.5-liter SOHC in-line-four diesel lump powering it is around after all this time because of its durability--it will probably outlast any other component of the vehicle. The 85 horses and 189 Newton-meters of torque delivered to the rear wheels by a four-speed automatic gearbox counts for a lot of frustrating moments especially when overtaking, but you're bound to get to your destination, anyway, and with patience to spare if you keep in mind that despite the "Sportivo" moniker, the Crosswind's strong suit is utilitarian work.
This seven-seater rides precariously on a double-wishbone-front, rigid-axle-rear setup, and rolls on 235/70 tires wrapped around 15-inch alloys. The lack of feel through the steering wheel makes it seem like you're rowing a boat than driving a car at times. Breaking traction at the rear is discomfortingly easy, as I unwittingly discovered while driving on a wet stretch of road with a fine dusting of sand. Pulling out of the spin and slowing down, however, demonstrated that the brakes work perfectly fine.
Moving on to the Sportivo's cosmetic changes, I can't help wondering if it's a hip-hop video they'd used as a design reference given all the chrome adorning the vehicle, from the grille, the headlamp treatment, the power-folding side-view mirrors with turn-signal repeaters, the taillights, and the alloys. Inside, it's a schizophrenic mix of old and new: the dated gauge cluster gets a nice blue backlight, for instance, and the steering wheel is incorporated with control buttons for the head unit. As usual, the JVC head unit has mind-boggling controls, but the touch-screen, proximity--sensing panel can elicit some ooohs and aaahs from your passengers.
Meanwhile, the bruises I sustained on my right elbow is a testament to how the plastic surfaces covering the black-beige interior look much softer to the touch than they actually are, as I kept on resting my arm on the center console's cover thinking it was really padded. Another thing lacking in padding is the driver's seat, which could use more bolsters for lumbar and lateral support. They're still the best perches in the cabin, though--the second-row occupants might have seven-inch LCD monitors and those on the third row finally get headrests, but good luck to them when the car goes over potholes and speed bumps.
Whether its P1.21-million tag befits the Isuzu Crosswind Sportivo depends on the prospective buyer's tastes and intended use for the vehicle. Other main competitors in this segment are priced comparatively lower, while at the same time delivering more--and I'm not talking about piling on the chrome and the LCD monitors.
This car ain't broke, not at all. What it's suffering from is a datedness that mere upgrades to the sheet metal and interior won't reverse. This coming turn of the decade, it would better benefit from a complete overhaul.