Last fall we moved from our apartment to our new home. With a garage space full of stuff from our last house and only a MAZDASPEED3 and a Passat wagon available to us, we decided to rent a truck locally. Instead of the usual Ford Econoline or GMC Savana-based cube truck, we were issued a 2012 Isuzu NPR EcoMax cube truck with less than 7,000 miles on the odometer. This is the Opposite Lock Test.
What can you say? It is a big white box with a big, white cab. Some graphics from the rental company might have helped, but then again I was one of the first to rent this particular unit. And there is something to be said about a plain white truck being menacing in that unmarked truck kind of way. Whose truck is that? What are they carrying in there? How much will they want for those stereo speakers?
What the truck lacked in interior appointments – and let’s face it, this thing is a work vehicle – it made up for with a commanding view of the road through its large windshield and side windows. Large outside mirrors made changing lanes on the highway and backing into parking spaces easy.
Another perk of a new rental truck is that the “new truck smell” had yet to be replaced by “day laborer stank”. After a hard day of loading and unloading it was nice not to feel like riding in the truck required a hazmat suit.
Diesel trucks are monsters off the line… for the first 20 feet or so, and the 3 liter intercooled turbodiesel in the NPR was no exception. I had hoped to test the acceleration with the Pocket Dyno + app on my iPhone, but my need to set a good example for my newly licensed nephew meant that the opportunity never came up. Not that it mattered, he’s already wrecked his car so many times since he got his license that I wonder why I bothered skipping this part of the test.
With a large urea tank to reduce Diesel emissions, the NPR is 50 state certified, so suck on that California.
For it size, the NPR stopped pretty well, even with a full load. Credit goes to the power-assisted disc/drum brakes with 4-wheel ABS and an exhaust brake that I didn’t realize existed until I started playing with the buttons on the dash. There was virtually no feel to the brake pedal, but I never felt like I wasn’t going to be able to stop in time.
Unloaded the ride was a 3/10 that improved to a 5/10 loaded up with furniture, which averages out to a 4/10. I don't get to drive cab-over-engine vehicles all that often (the last time was the 70's era VW Westfalia camper van I rented for the 12 Hours of Sebring last year. Before that it was some time in the late 80's) so the sensation takes some getting used to. Aside from the commanding view of the road, the COE design means that speed bumps leave your peripheral vision before the front wheels reach them and that you are ahead of the steering.
The NPR isn’t going to do anything but fall over on a skid pad, and while the view is great it isn’t going to win at the local autocross. It is designed for delivery work, and within that context the handling was acceptable, if not awe inspiring.
It went up through the gears. It went down through the gears. The NPR EcoMax is not an enthusiast vehicle so the 6-speed automatic transmission with lock up overdrive in the top two gears seemed appropriate for the job.
The NPR comes with the most basic of AM-FM radios, and lacked even a jack to plug in an external audio device. We ended up listening to Van Halen’s “A Different Kind of Truth” in between plays of “Gangnam Style” via my iPhone 4s’ speaker. I know, this review is so 2012.
Three little words gave this truck a 7 on the Toys scale: power lift gate. Most rental trucks have a retractable ramp that is effective, yet boring. The power lift gate made loading and unloading much easier while taking up only a single spot in the apartment parking lot. Apart from that it is a giant box to put stuff in, not a bouncy house or a bordello.
The NPR wasn’t the cheapest truck I’ve ever rented. All said and done the truck cost me just over $300 for two days. Your typical U-Haul rental truck is significantly cheaper… but also usually at the end of its service life. This was by far the newest and lowest mileage rental truck I’ve ever had. That alone made the small premium worth it.
Total Score: 50/100
• Engine: 3 Liter Turbodiesel
• Power: 150 HP @ 2,800 RPM, 282 lb-ft torque at 1,600-2,800 RPM
• Transmission: Six-Speed Automatic
• 0-60 Time: N/A
• Top Speed: N/A
• Drivetrain: Rear-Wheel Drive
• GVWR/GCWR: 12,000/18,000 lbs.
• Seating: 3
• MSRP: $39.99/Day plus 99 cent/mile.