Vehicross – Part 2

Isuzu Vehicross is definitely a head turner. While I was in Cincinnati for ten years from 2003 to 2013, lots of people asked me if it was a new model and I had to say it is not. Since Vehicross was discontinued in 2001 and mine is 1999 model, it has been many years. But with no design gimmicks, no lipsticks, no glittering high luminance LEDs, Vehicross keeps looking new and fresh. There must be lots of things what designers should learn from.

If you ask me, all good designs have one thing in common – timelessness. A value or beauty that doesn’t retire. Among automobiles, they are Volkswagen Beetle, Austin Mini, and my favorite, Fiat Nuovo Cinquecento. Each of these models resurrected as New Beetle, Mini Cooper and Fiat 500, which is a good evidence that these are timeless designs. It is too early to say whether Vehicross is a timeless design. But I would say she certainly has timeless freshness.

UC Design parked here

Vehicross parked next to my colleagues New Beetle and Mini Cooper in Cincinnati

These models share three core values. Firstly, simplicity, showing the characteristics at once. Secondly, originality, possessing their uniqueness characteristics. Tertiary, consistency, that has to do with the complete harmony among various elements as a whole.

Three vehicles in the picture are so easily identifiable and do not need close inspection of emblems unlike many automobiles these days. They also are so different from others yet elements in each vehicle works well with other parts.

Three virtues of good designs: Simplicity, Originality, Consistency

These important values are not easy to find among many automobiles these days unfortunately. There are many random designs, where headlamp wouldn’t match with main body, for example.

09_0810 Vehicross in the garage 1

Vehicross parked in the lower level of parking garage at the University of Cincinnati

Vehicross stands out no matter where it is at. Besides, there is also scarcity thanks to not being sold much. If one of the requirements of a successful design is to uniquely express a unique value in a unique way, then the design of Vehicross is a very successful example.

vx at daap

Parked with Peter Eisenman’s deconstructivism building – DAAP at U of Cincinnati

The building at the University of Cincinnati (College of Design, Art, Architecture and Planning, usually called DAAP for short), where I taught, was designed by Peter Eisenman, a well-known deconstructivist architect. There is no horizontal (except floor) and vertical lines and surfaces. Every time I parked the Vehicross there, I felt its boldly curved form mystically matches with a crooked building that has no curves.


Vehicross in downtown Cincinnati

Interestingly, even though Vehicross is a rare auto, there was one person who had Vehicross among those close friends in both Cincinnati and Manchester. In Manchester, Randy, an engineer at DEKA R & D, had a black one and friend at the same church in Cincinnati had a white one. Often there were two rare Vehicrosses were parked at my driveway. Perhaps it’s because people with similar perspectives gather together.


Rare scene of two rare Vehicrosses at my driveway

Unlike the success of design, more precisely, styling design, Vehicross has several design and usability issues. It is a two-door vehicle, so you have to tilt on the front seat to get into the back seat. But the door is too short, the ingress to the back seat is very challenging. The actual space in the back seat is very spacious, though.

The car is equipped with a Recaro leather seat from Germany, and carbon fiber is used on the door trim, but the dashboard is obsolete because it is a carryover from Trooper. I guess Isuzu didn’t think that Vehicross will be a popular in the market so they didn’t want to invest too much to make a whole new dash board.

vx proportions

Also, the tailgate with built-in spare tire is one of the features of Vehicross. But due to the spare tire, the rear view is very limited and it made the rear view mirror useless. As the rear overhang (the distance from the rear end of the vehicle to the rear axle) isa little too long, and as a result, the wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear axles) is short. As shown in the body proportional analysis and improvement suggestions above, small changes in proportion would have made the visual and driving stability much better and the getting on and off the car would be much easier.

The cargo space is not so big, so it is difficult to put large things such as golf bag. But a Segway can fit properly, so it’s useful to go on a trip with a Segway and go around again on a Segway.

IMG_8982IMG_8969I have to say that Vehicross is not a very well engineered vehicle. It is presumably because it is a company with a high focus on commercial vehicles. I wish if this design was born at a company with higher engineering quality.

Also, as the vehicle gets older, it needs more attention. I have always used to replace engine oil and filters, or replace brake pads and rotors myself. I also have replaces Oxygen sensor of the exhaust system, clean the EGR valve, and frequently go under the vehicle.

2012-08-05 17.50.29

Replacing brake pads

2016-12-28 18.42.27

Replacing passenger side front axle

As it gets older, and audio system is also became a trouble. The 7CD changer, which was once a luxury item, has been out of use for long, and the cassette (!) player has also been damaged. Also, since it does not have Bluetooth or AUX, I can not listen to my favorite podcasts. Finally, I replaced it with a Sony audio with Bluetooth capability. Perfect.

2016-06-25 09.45.562016-06-25 10.08.072016-06-25 13.27.53radioNot only that. After 15 years of use, speakers lost the edges around the cone, and of course, there is almost no sound. JVC’s high output speaker system has changed everything from woofer to tweeter. Of course, these troubles are not unique to Vehicross or Isuzu. When cars get old, things broke. After replacing the audio player and speakers with new ones, Vehicross is reborn, at least in terms of audio quality, after 15 years.2016-07-16 10.20.092016-07-15 19.48.57

The biggest merit of Vehicross is that it doesn’t get old despite the troubles. That’s the biggest attraction. So I can not throw it away. Too young to be retire!


The right-most kid in the mural smiles at Vehicross

The biggest merit of Vehicross is that it doesn’t get old despite the troubles. That’s the biggest attraction. So I can not throw it away. Too young to be retire!

[To be continue in part 3]

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