Midsize SUV; Built in USA
  • 4-door wagon
  • longitudinal front-engine/rear- or 4-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $2,700 – $5,500*

2002 Isuzu Axiom

2002 Isuzu Axiom

2002 Isuzu Axiom interior

2004 Isuzu Axiom

2004 Isuzu Axiom

  • Cargo room
  • Control layout
  • Seat comfort
  • Ride

Underwhelming is the word for Isuzu’s Axiom. Beneath its edgy styling, the Axiom is troublingly trucky and trails any number of car-based “crossovers” for value, refinement, performance–and even utility. Lack of third-row seating is another drawback these days, for a midsize SUV. Because Axiom sales have been snail-paced, prices may be low.


Isuzu placed a sleeker body on its midsize Rodeo SUV chassis and installed a larger V6, to create the Axiom for 2002. Axioms were offered in base and uplevel XS trim levels. They shared a 3.5-liter V6 from Isuzu’s recently-retired Trooper SUV. A four-speed automatic was the only transmission.

Axioms were available with rear-wheel drive or with Isuzu’s Torque On Demand four-wheel drive, which can be left engaged on dry pavement and included low-range gearing. Although Axioms shared the Rodeo’s wheelbase, they were six inches longer and about 1.6 inches taller. The Axiom’s body was considerably curvier.

Side airbags were unavailable, but antilock braking was standard. Also included were 17-inch alloy wheels and Isuzu’s Intelligent Suspension Control, which was basically electronically managed shock-absorber damping. Axioms with four-wheel drive had rear disc brakes instead of drums.

The XS upgraded the base model with fog lamps, a sunroof, heated front seats, and leather upholstery. Axiom rivals included the Dodge Durango, Ford Explorer, GMC Envoy, and Toyota Highlander.

Yearly Updates

2003 Axiom
An antitheft ignition system and revised interior trim were its only changes for 2003. A rear spoiler was available for the XS model.
2004 Axiom
Revisions to its V6 engine gave the Axiom an additional 20 horsepower for 2004. Operating with direct injection and variable valve timing, the new 3.5-liter V6 promised improved fuel economy and performance.
Intelligent Suspension Control was standard on all except the two-wheel-drive S model. During the 2004 model year, a tire-pressure monitor was expected to become standard.


longitudinal front-engine/rear- or 4-wheel drive

In 2002-03, Isuzu’s 3.5-liter, dual-overhead-cam V-6 engine made 230 horsepower and teamed with a four-speed automatic transmission. For 2004, Isuzu introduced a direct-injection gasoline engine rated at 250 horsepower. Axioms may have rear-drive or four-wheel drive.

dohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.5/213
Engine HP 230
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 236
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic


dohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.5/213
Engine HP 250
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 246
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic


Road Test

Performance ranks around class-average. When new, a test 4WD XS Axiom accelerated to 60 mph in 8.3 seconds. On the down side, the V6 feels somewhat labored, aggravated by syrupy throttle response and a need for a hefty shove on the accelerator for best pickup. Isuzu claimed a 0-60 mph acceleration time of 7.5 seconds for the 250-hp engine introduced in 2004.

Isuzu’s Torque On Demand 4WD system is unobtrusive. Fuel economy averaged 17.4 mpg in tests that included plenty of highway miles. Another example averaged only 13.4 mpg in testing that included gas-eating performance runs. Axioms use regular-grade fuel.

Despite the adjustable suspension, ride quality is poor overall. Normal mode doesn’t absorb bumps well, and also allows queasy wallow and residual bouncing. The firmer Sport setting controls body motions better, but makes things jittery-harsh except on glassy surfaces.

As for steering/handling, the Axiom’s gimmicky suspension cannot disguise the aged Rodeo chassis. Handling is generally imprecise–far sloppier than in car-based unibody rivals such as the Toyota Highlander.

Expect mediocre grip and marked body lean in corners, especially in Normal mode, which also allows unruly nosedive and rebounding in hard stops. Slow, numb steering is another drawback, and an Axiom is easily blown about by gusty crosswinds.

Quietness falls below class-average. The V6 is coarse and throbby, except in gentle cruising. Wind rush is evident from 40 mph, tire roar marked on all but unblemished asphalt.

Instruments and stalk controls are acceptable, but look-alike audio and climate buttons are distinguished only by color. Their settings appear on a central screen that’s crowded with outside-temperature, date, and time readouts. The display is busy and washes out in bright light.

Nicely padded interior surfaces clash with budget-grade molded plastics and cut-rate painted-metal-look trim pieces. One text Axiom suffered several rattles after only 3500 miles.

Rather shapeless, low-set front seats allow decent six-footer headroom, but force awkward legs-out posture and don’t have height or cushion-tilt adjustments. Outward visibility is generally good, enhanced by large side mirrors.

The rear bench seat is also low and shapeless, lacking in thigh support. It’s too narrow for uncrowded three-abreast travel. Knee clearance is good, but there’s little toe room and marginal six-footer head room. Rear entry/exit is impeded by a high step-up and rear doors that don’t swing out very far.

At the rear, the liftgate lacks separate-opening glass and doesn’t rise very high, so anyone above 5-foot-8 must stoop beneath it. The split rear seat double-folds to create a flat floor, but headrests must be removed first. Total load volume and small-items storage are nothing special.


Model Tested: 2002 Isuzu Axiom

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 5
Fuel Economy - 3
Ride Quality - 3
Steering/Handling - 3
Quietness - 4


Controls/Materials - 4
Room/Comfort Front - 5
Room/Comfort Rear - 4
Cargo Room - 7


Value - 3

Total: 41


4-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
106.4 182.6 70.7 67.2
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
85.4 19.5 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
39.9 39.1 42.1 35.0
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: N/A


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Front Passenger Injury - N/A

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Automatic transmission
Description: The automatic transmission may leak fluid from the accumulator cover requiring a revised cover. (2002)
Automatic transmission
Description: The transmission may flare (seemingly slip) when upshifting between 2nd. and 3rd. requiring recalibration of the computer. (2002)

Recall History

Description: Isuzu is offering owners an improved roof section of the vehicle designed to better withstand the impact of a crash and protect occupants’ heads.
Description: Due to the lack of a specific component of the passenger-side air bag during manufacturing, the airbag will not inflate properly if needed. Dealers will replace the airbag.
Description: In five specified states, if fuel has been contaminated with silicon, small pinholes may develop in fuel pump feed port; leakage could lead to fire.
Description: The brake warning lamp will not illuminate if there is a decreased amount of brake fluid. Dealers will inspect and replace affected parts.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.

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