Midsize SUV; Built in USA
  • 4-door wagon
  • 4-door wagon
  • longitudinal front-engine/rear- or 4-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $3,500 – $12,000*

2004 Isuzu Ascender

2003 Isuzu Ascender

2004 Isuzu Ascender

2004 Isuzu Ascender

2004 Isuzu Ascender

  • Cargo room
  • Passenger room
  • Trailer-towing capability
  • Fuel economy
  • Steering/handling

Though Ascenders match most rivals for pace and space, Isuzu’s longer warranty doesn’t fully compensate for a spotty dealer network. Additionally, Isuzu’s financial woes put the company’s future in doubt, especially since Ascender is the only model that remained after 2005. Shoppers considering Ascender would do well to ponder the similar GMC Envoy instead.


Isuzu replaced the aging Trooper for 2003 with a new flagship, based upon the extended-length version of General Motors’ midsize sport-utility vehicles. Like its Chevrolet TrailBlazer EXT/GMC Envoy XL cousins, the new Ascender seated up to seven passengers on three rows of seats. Offered with six-cylinder or V8 power, it came with a four-speed automatic transmission. Trooper had been limited to five passengers and V6 power.

Ascenders were available with rear-wheel drive or GM’s 4WD system, which could be left engaged on dry pavement and included low-range gearing. Antilock four-wheel disc brakes and front side airbags were standard, but no curtain side airbags were offered. Also available were traction control for rear-drive models, and GM’s OnStar assistance system.

S, LS, and Limited versions roughly mimicked TrailBlazer’s LS, LT, and LTZ models in equipment. Ascenders came with Isuzu’s 3-year/50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and 10-year/120,000-mile powertrain warranty, versus GM’s 3-year/36,000-mile coverage. Maximum towing capacity was 7200 pounds. Rivals included the Dodge Durango, Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, and Toyota Highlander/4Runner.

Yearly Updates

2004 Ascender
Front side airbags and remote keyless entry became options rather than standard equipment in the Ascender’s second season. Later in the year, a five-passenger model debuted, based on regular-length GM midsize SUVs.
2005 Ascender
Now Isuzu’s sole model as the Axiom and Rodeo SUVs departed, the Ascender gained a gas-saving feature. The V8 now had GM’s Displacement on Demand system, which automatically deactivated four of the cylinders to save fuel under certain lighter-load conditions. Newly optional head-protecting curtain side airbags, which covered the first and second rows of seats, replaced seat-mounted airbags.
2006 Ascender
Little change for the 2006 Ascender. Curtain side airbags were optional.
2007 Ascender
Isuzu’s SUV loses its seven-passenger versions and available V8 engine for 2007. Ascender is a retrimmed Chevrolet TrailBlazer/GMC Envoy; the GM versions also offer only five-passenger models for ’07. Available OnStar assistance is dropped for 2007, but power-adjustable pedals remain among the options.
2008 Ascender
The 2008 Isuzu Ascender SUV was largely unchanged. Note that Isuzu announced plans to discontinue sales of light-duty vehicles in North America during calendar 2009.


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

Two powertrains have been available in early Ascenders: either a 275-horsepower 4.2-liter inline six-cylinder engine or a 285-horsepower 5.3-liter V8, each mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. For 2005, the V8 gained Displacement on Demand technology and a 300-hp rating. Six-cylinder engines rose to 291 horsepower in 2006. Isuzu’s SUV loses its available V8 engine for 2007.

dohc I6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 4.2/256
Engine HP 275
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 275
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic



ohv V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 5.3/327
Engine HP 285
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 325
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic



dohc I6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 4.2/256
Engine HP 291
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 277
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic


ohv V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 5.3/327
Engine HP 300
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 330
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic


Road Test

Unstressed in everyday driving, the Ascender delivers acceptable acceleration. Test regular-length six-cylinder Ascenders did 0-60 mph in 8.8 seconds. Seven-seat versions weigh about 350 pounds more. In them, the six-cylinder is still adequate, but a V8 adds useful muscle for hauling or towing heavy loads.

As for gas mileage, test regular-length Envoys and Ascenders have averaged 12.1 to 17.4 mpg. An extended-length 2WD six-cylinder Ascender averaged 12.1 mpg in all-city driving. A V8 model logged 15.2 to 15.7 mpg. GM claimed Displacement on Demand improved mpg by up to 8 percent in certain light-load driving conditions.

The Ascender’s suspension absorbs bumps quite well for an SUV, extendeds better than regular-length. Without the air suspension available on GMC’s Envoy, though, these Ascenders also porpoise through dips and swells.

Handling is disappointing overall, with considerable body lean in sharp turns. Steering has vague feel and demands a lot of correction at highway speed. A relatively tight turning radius makes close-quarters maneuvering fairly easy. Standard antilock four-wheel disc brakes deliver adequate stopping power, but quick stops trigger marked nosedive and some wander. Optional traction control on 2WD models has worked well in snow.

Wind rush can be considerable at highway speeds; there’s roar even around a closed sunroof. The six-cylinder engine cruises quietly enough, but sounds gruff when cold and a touch ragged at full throttle. The V8 is quieter overall.

Controls are clear and handy. Switchgear works smoothly, but adjusting the low-mounted climate controls forces a long look away from the road.

Front-seat head and leg room are good, even for taller folks. Seats are too soft for optimal support, but not uncomfortable. Visibility is restricted aft and over-the-shoulder by headrests and thick roof pillars. Available power-adjustable pedals could be helpful, especially to shorter drivers.

Six-footers have plenty of second-row head room. Rear knee room is adequate in regular-length versions, ample in extended, and both have adequate under-seat foot space despite an uneven floorboard. The split bench seat is comfortable, fairly supportive, and wide enough for three adults with a little squeezing. With seven-passenger seating, second-row seats slide forward and tilt up for accessing the third-row seat, which is roomy enough for two adults and more comfortable than those in most midsize SUVs.

Cargo space is generous in regular-length Ascenders, spacious in extendeds. The 60/40 split seat folds easily, helped by automatic-folding headrests. However, instead of a flat load floor with all seats folded, Ascender has a tiered floor that frustrates easy loading and packing. The liftgate’s separate-opening glass is relatively high, making it difficult to load some items. Cabins have a good array of pockets and compartments for small items.


Model Tested: 2005 Isuzu Ascender S 4WD 6-cyl

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 - 6
Fuel Economy - 4
Ride Quality - 5
Steering/Handling - 3
Quietness - 4


Controls/Materials - 7
Room/Comfort Front - 7
Room/Comfort Rear - 6
Cargo Room - 8


Value - 5

Total: 55


4-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
113.0 191.6 76.1 71.9
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
80.1 21.7 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
40.2 39.6 41.4 37.0
4-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
129.0 207.6 76.1 75.5
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
107.4 25.0 7
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
40.2 39.6 41.4 37.0
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 2003 Ascender 4-door wagon


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 3
Front Passenger Injury - 3

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

Description: The airbag warning light may no go off due to a faulty seat belt tension sensor in the right front seat belt retractor assembly. (2006-07)
Air conditioner
Description: The A/C system may quit working intermittently due to failure of the low pressure switch on the compressor. (2003)
Description: The ABS warning light illuminates, and the ABS may become inactive, due to chafing of an ABS wire on the A/C compressor pulley. (2005-06)
Description: A rumbling noise at just below 55 mph is caused by the normal full lockup of the torque converter clutch; and the vibration is transmitted to the passenger compartment by the rear springs which must be replaced. (2003-05)
Cold-starting problems
Description: Hard starting or poor drivability, especially when cold, caused by clogged fuel injectors. (2003-08)
Description: May not be able to open doors using key because lock rod linkage comes disconnected. (2005-07)
Engine misfire
Description: Engine misfires and illuminated check engine light in wet weather unless a deflector is installed to keep water off of spark plugs. (2003-07)
Fuel gauge
Description: A crack in the fuel filler neck allows fuel vapors to escape and triggers a check engine light and the company will warranty repairs up to 10 years or 150,000 miles. (2003-04)
Description: Power seats quit working due to failed horizontal motor. (2007)
Vehicle noise
Description: Various noises from the front end due to prematurely worn stabilizer links. (2003-04)
Water leak
Description: Water on the front floor may be due to one or more leaks at the A-pillar near the windshield. (2003-05)
Description: The battery may go dead because the ignition switch may not be in the fully off position, even with the key removed requiring replacement of the ignition switch. (2003-05)
Electrical problem
Description: The instrument panel may quit working and the transmission may default to second or third gear due to no voltage to the transmission solenoid. (2003-06)
Electrical problem
Description: Transmission may upshift too quickly and even engage the lockup converter below 20 mph due to an electrical short that tricks the powertrain control module into believing the transfer case is shifted into four-wheel low range. (2003-04)
Electrical problem
Description: The DVD monitors in the front seat headrests may quit working because the video feed cable comes loose requiring installation of cable clamps. (2003-08)
Electrical problem
Description: When using a portable music player (e.g. iPod) there may be noise in the car’s speakers whenever the vehicle’s power adapter is used and a ground loop isolator (from Radio Shack) is required between the device and the power outlet to prevent the noise. (2002-07)

Recall History

2003 Ascender
Description: Rear side closure latch on some vehicles sold in certain states may not latch or
unlatch due to corrosion caused by road splash.
2003-04 Ascender
Description: In certain vehicles, moving turn-signal lever up or down may cause front
marker/turn lights and rear turn lights to flash in a manner similar to hazard warning.
2005 Ascender
Description: In a crash, windshield might not be retained, due to improper urethane bead adherence.
2006 Ascender
Description: During extreme steering maneuvers, the power steering hose on some vehicles may fracture and leak fluid, causing loss of power assistance and increased steering effort.
2006 Ascender
Description: Tire and loading information label may show inaccurate vehicle capacity weight.

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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