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An Appearance In ‘Spy Kids’ Wasn’t Even Enough To Make The Isuzu Axiom Relevant

A photo of a red Isuzu Axiom concept car

Image: Isuzu

Isuzu was really leaning into quirky SUVs in the late ’90s and early 2000s, first with its totally alien looking VehiCROSS two door rugged off-roader, and later with the 2002 Isuzu Axiom, but neither of these boldly styled cxdx were market successes despite an Axiom prototype sharing screen time with Antonio Banderas in the “Spy Kids” franchise. The Axiom was a daringly styled somewhat plush family SUV that didn’t deliver much innovation or really any other pull factors to buyers beyond its looks, and it was still rolling on a body-on-frame chassis that was more popular in the ’90s than in the new millennium with competitors like the ubiquitous Toyota Highlander.

This latest Motorweek Retro Review YouTube video showcases the Axiom’s rather unremarkable interior, driving experience, and off-road experience. Compared to the unibody car-based crossovers like the Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot, the Axiom was significantly heavier, significantly less fuel efficient, and significantly less refined. The Axiom was based on the Isuzu Rodeo’s ladder frame chassis that should have helped it conquer unpaved off-road trails, but the Axiom was a classic case of straddling the off-road focused SUV market and the on-road family SUV market that resulted in compromise on both fronts.

2002 Isuzu Axiom | Retro Review

To be fair, it sounds like the Motorweek team appreciated the Axiom’s on-road dynamics more than many other body-on-frame, truck-based SUVs. For street driving, the Axiom featured electronically adjustable suspension with a sport mode, which must have been pretty successful since John Davis said it rode more like a sports sedan than a sport utility vehicle. It also produced respectable power numbers from its 3.5-liter V6, ranking at 230 hp and 230 lb-ft of torque.

If you haven’t noticed, Isuzu no longer sells consumer vehicles in the U.S. Its last hopes were hastily rebadged GM SUVs, but the brand stopped selling even those in 2009. Unfortunately it’s very rare to see Axioms on the road today, but whenever I do see one it makes me smile. The Axiom was a cool looking SUV with a cool name, but when you’re duking it out with competitors like Highlanders and Pilots, your product has to be pretty darn compelling and the Axiom just didn’t offer buyers enough to be a success.


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