Call it a relic but there is one vehicle that stays true to the mantra 'simple is better': the Isuzu Crosswind. One of the last of the traditional AUVs, it's still a strong seller and for the past sixteen years, has gained a reputation for reliability, durability and resiliency. In an age where cars have become filled to the brim with features and amenities like touchscreen infotainment, airbags, cruise control and navigation, the Crosswind harks back to simpler, less tech-dependent times.
Now on its final year, we take one last look at one of the AUVs still in the market today before it is eventually discontinued.
Throughout its sixteen-year run, the Crosswind has, more or less, remained the same. Its design dates back to the early 2000s but there is rugged charm nonetheless. With today's design trend leaning towards aggressive lines and sleek curves, the boxy and upright Crosswind serves as a refreshing throwback. For its final update, the AUV gets a redesigned front fascia that is dominated by clear halogen headlights, new six-hole front grill, revised front bumper and all-weather foglights.
Like the mid-range XUV we tested months ago, the Sportivo X also rolls on 15-inch alloy wheels wrapped in chunky 235/70 all-terrain tires. Beyond that however, this top-of-the-range model has several extras that the XUV does not have. These include the tailgate-mounted rear spoiler, chrome tailpipe finisher, reverse camera with rear sensors and the silver-painted side mirrors with power folding function.
If one were to sum up the interior of the Crosswind in one word, it would be 'dated'. Open the doors and the Crosswind greets you with a black and beige themed cabin. It's not the prettiest of designs but the Crosswind was built for family and utilitarian purposes in mind. However, I do wish Isuzu changed portions of the interior from time to time. If they had the time to redesign the exterior, I'm pretty sure they can also change up the Crosswind's cabin. But then again, it's too late for that now.
On the flipside, the familiar cabin does mean everything is where you expect them to be which is always a plus in my opinion. All of the seats are upholstered in a combination of leather and hard-wearing vinyl. Meanwhile, hard plastic was extensively used on the center console and instrument panel. The materials used are pretty dated but at least they still work and are guaranteed to last long.
No fancy touchscreens here as the Crosswind comes with a 1-DIN audio head unit courtesy of Philips. It supports AM/FM radio, DVD/CD, WMA, MP3 and USB connectivity. I wished it had Aux input though as the Kenwood audio system found on the XUV and lesser models had that feature. For those wondering where the monitor for the reverse camera is, the head unit's screen acts as the camera's display when reversing.
Also different on the Sportivo is its second and third row seats. Compared to the XUV and lesser variants which had a second row bench, the Sportivo X has 70:30 split row seats which makes stowing tall or long cargo easier. Meanwhile, the third row has front facing seats (instead of side-facing benches) that can be folded down for improved luggage space at the back. All in all, I admire the maximum use of space Isuzu did for the Crosswind.
Driving the sixteen-year old Crosswind is, you guessed it, the 2.5-liter 4JA-1L turbo-diesel. Like the vehicle itself, not much has changed with the engine as it still produces 85 PS at 3900 rpm along with 185 Nm of torque at 2000 rpm. In this particular Sportivo, a four-speed automatic slushbox sends power to the rear wheels.
So what it's like on the road? Despite its age, it still rode admirably. With its thick tires and soft suspension, the AUV went over rough roads and rutted streets with ease. The drawback however is that the AUV feels floaty when tackling tight bends. It's not a canyon carver so be careful when making emergency maneuvers with the high-riding Crosswind.
Perched up high on the Crosswind, I had a commanding view of the road ahead of me which was great. The fixed steering rack however meant I had to adjust the driver's seat just right. In spite of that, the seat was pretty comfortable and has good side supports. Legroom at the second row was very generous though space at the third row was quite limited.
The engine, on the other hand, is beginning to show its age against today's modern CRDi turbo-diesels. The OHV 8-valve, non-intercooled 4JA-1L may be dependable and simple to work on, but it lacks the mid-range grunt that many modern diesel engines today have. Sure it has pulling power at low revs, but when faced with steep inclines, the engine will struggle. Overtaking with the Crosswind also has to be timed correctly.
With a four-speed automatic, the Crosswind has limited gearing and was quite vocal at highway speeds. At an average speed of 90 km/h, the motor was turning over at about 2500 - 2600 rpm. However, the Crosswind was still able to return 9.5 km/l in mixed driving conditions. For an old turbo-diesel, I was quite impressed with the 4JA-1L's fuel efficiency.
So why has this AUV withstood the test of time despite the arrival of more modern SUVs and people carriers? Simple, its ease of ownership. For sixteen years, little has changed in the Crosswind which appeals to its existing customer base and for those that need a simple and rugged workhorse. With a non-CRDi powertrain, a spacious interior and only the basic necessities inside, it proved to be a favorite for Filipino families and business owners.
But its simplicity also meant it lacked certain safety features that should be standard equipment on vehicles today. For starters, it lacks airbags of any kind and does not come with anti-lock brakes (ABS). It also does not have traction or stability control. The only safety kit the Crosswind has are seatbelts and the reverse camera with rear sensors.
But what ultimately spelled the demise of the Crosswind is its Euro 2 powertrain. Come next year, all new non-Euro 4 vehicles can no longer be registered with the LTO (existing non Euro 4 vehicles can still have their registration renewed however). Fitting it with new technology will make it more appealing feature-wise, but then its price point would go up significantly.
With a sticker price of PhP 1,235,000, the Sportivo is already knocking on the price of newer, more refined SUVs. For several thousand Pesos more, one can already buy the bigger mu-X already which comes with more kit and a more powerful CRDi engine.
I’ll admit, I will miss the Crosswind once 2017 comes to an end but for the sake of cleaner emissions and better equipped automobiles, the Crosswind has to eventually give in to stricter vehicle regulations. However, I do hope Isuzu comes up with a worthy successor to the reliable and dependable AUV. Here’s to sixteen years of the Isuzu Crosswind.