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2003 Midsize SUV Buyer's Guide
by Steve Siler

Isuzu Axiom
Isuzu Axiom

Although Isuzu offers the Acender, which is essentially a re-badged GM mid-size SUV (read about the Chevrolet Trailblazer for our take on those trucks), worth mentioning here is the oddball (but charming nonetheless) Axiom. The radical and unique Axiom features hyper-techno styling wrapping around a car-like interior. In spite of its body-on-frame construction, it's actually somewhat of a crossover SUV, offering a low step-in height and a low roof, which results in a rather car-like driving environment. It also represents an outstanding SUV value, with prices starting under $25K for a base S model, rising to about $31K for an XS with all the options, including Isuzu's across-the-model-range 10-year/120,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Now we won't sugarcoat things: the Axiom's styling is polarizing. However, for every person who doesn't like it, there is one that admires it for its boldness. It also doesn't err on the side of the soft…it's something that the male members of the family wouldn't be embarrassed to drive, and certainly, you won't see yourself coming and going. Kids love it, too.

Another boon for the Axiom is its powerful, smooth standard V-6. Mated to a four-speed automatic, the 230-hp powerplant provides good accelerations without raking you over the coal in terms of fuel economy. Handling ranges from decent in the base model to quite good for the XS, which comes with Isuzu's Intelligent Suspension Control, which firms up the suspension for flatter composure on curvy roads, which helps prevent your kids from hurling their Lunchables across that comfortable, car-like interior.

Speaking of interiors, the Axiom's comes with standard cloth seats and a sharp dashboard with a high-mounted digital display for the radio and standard trip computer. The XS comes with heated leather seats, an in-dash CD changer and a sunroof, among other things.