R.A-S.H: The Isuzu Piazza


Welcome to the sixth part of what David Bowie says is “the only Automotive Brochure related series worth bothering with”.

Staying true to the format established thus far, we’re leaping geographically and chronologically to England in 1985, for the UK issue of a Japanese car that ended up being far more commonly seen overseas.

It’s the Isuzu Piazza.

Whether you know it as Impulse or Piazza (which, apart from for its being Italian, I can think of no reason whatsoever to use the name Piazza; might as well have called it Lasagne), one thing must be established straight away. This was a sharp looking car, especially from the front three quarter profile. Perhaps wisely Isuzu opted to open this 1985 brochure by going into some detail about how this car was developed.


“…Only rarely does a designer earn the chance to see his dream realised in its entirety. But this is what the Piazza did for Giugiaro- the style he called the ‘Ace of Clubs’ now engineered by Isuzu to his specifications.”

Well, it must have been a bit of luck for Isuzu that old Giorgi absolutely insisted that the Piazza be built on the T-body platform that GM built the Chevette on in South America. He could have had wild dreams about tubular backbone chassis and unobtanium alloys; but no. Or maybe, just maybe it was the other way around? Perhaps Isuzu had been granted use of a GM mechanical package, and just needed somebody to create a body that looked half decent?

It didn’t matter, though, either way. The Piazza had an ultra-conventional live-rear-axle chassis, but the body draped over that accommodated plenty of interesting features, including semi-concealed headlamps that would have kept me in a permanent state of arousal had I been on the design team.


“….Isuzu’s enlightened approach to car manufacture- giving a designer complete freedom- has produced a remarkable offspring. The Piazza is not only a coveted car today, but will be a collectors item in twenty years time”.

We’re still waiting, to be honest. They have their following in the UK and overseas (the Australian book “The Search For The Holden Piazza” comes heartily recommended) and good ones are worth, well, more than crappy ones. but they’re a long from of blue chip territory.

“…Giugiaro once said that two classes of car were blending together; that sports cars were coming closer to saloons in comfort. The Piazza can be seen as the “Golden Mean”. At 14ft 3in long, 4ft 4in high and 5ft 5in wide, it combines all the style of a sleek sports coupe with added advantages in space and comfort”.


And what of handling? Can you qualify the sports coupe element of the Piazza? Seems so;

“…The Piazza’s front suspension system uses coil springs and unequal length wishbones – a feature culled from classic rally car design”

….and then later used on that absolute handling hero, the Rover 800. See you on the Pikes Peak!

“…Its rear suspension uses the five link system and coil springs, for optimum axle location – a mechanism which gives you superb handling”.

This handling prowess was somehow lost in translation by the time the reviewers got their hands on the Piazza. It has acquired a reputation that might lead you to believe that it was routinely slated in road tests for the vagueness of its cornering ability and the antiquated nature of its chassis hardware. In reality the press seemed to be surprised how well the Piazza coped when driven with verve. But it was still far more geared towards safety and predictability than excitement; until it rained, whereupon the car would suddenly remember how to oversteer. Later models spent some time at the Lotus Bootcamp for misleadingly styled cars, and came away with “Handling By Lotus” stickers placed in prominent locations. It came out a better car, but the competition was moving on, too, and the Piazza was getting old, fast.

But this is all churlish. Who cares whether the Piazza was actually as good as it makers earnestly believed it to be? It was one of the more interesting cars of the 1980s; a dead end but a fascinating one. And possessed of one of the most bewildering interior layouts short of the Citroen CX or Subaru XT.

“…On each side of the display, just behind the steering wheel, is one of the most remarkable features of the ‘Ace of Clubs’ design; two adjustable ‘satellite’ pods that house the most vital controls”

In principal this was a noble idea, but by the time the original proposal was readied for production, the increased size of the switches meant that one required telescopic fingers and palms like hang-gliders to use the satellites as intended. Good fun, though.


This is a superb publication: glossy; thorough and imaginative. I’ll even forgive the “design sketches” that feature heavily; I’ll bet a zillion squillion Euros that these crude pencil drawings have never been anywhere near an automotive design studio, leave alone come from one. I guess they mean no harm and their heart is in the right place.

Whatever. You can add this car to the looooong list of machines that I’m never likely to own; but at least I have the brochure.

<Disclaimer:- All photos were taken by the author and are of genuine original manufacturer publicity material, resting on the bonnet of a 1998 Audi A4. All copyright rights remain in the possession of the manufacturer, who really needs to come back to the industry and start selling interesting stuff again>

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47 responses to “R.A-S.H: The Isuzu Piazza”

  1. fede6882 Avatar

    great post and great series, but i have to ask, what does R.A-S.H mean?

    1. Irishzombieman Avatar

      Mind reader. Almost word-for-word what I was going to post.

    2. danleym Avatar

      Realizing Automotive-Salesmen use Hyperbole?

      1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

        Agonisingly close. Rusty's Archive- Showroom Hyperbole.
        You win a £4 gift voucher for Bettys Tea Room in Harrogate, Yorks.

        1. danleym Avatar

          I'd be all over that if I didn't live a $1000 flight away.

        2. Maxichamp Avatar

          Are you willing to sell your brochure? The Impulse was my first car. I miss it…a lot. Especially the dash.

        3. mallthus Avatar

          I thought Bettys was in York…oh well.
          Perhaps Graveleys instead? Mmmm…fish.

          1. k1llallh1pp1es Avatar

            Incredibly i'm typing these words on a Hooniverse comments page, there's six (count them, six) Betty's Tea Rooms in Northern England; so you're both right.

    3. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      It sometimes means lax personal hygeine standards.

  2. Devin Avatar

    People who want to do resto-mods! The Piazza is perfect. The mechanical package is crap, the body is sex, so you could make something truly special if you throw out all the rubbish under the body and shove cool stuff in there. I'll even let you do the odd shiny electric one. More people should be making the Piazza into the car it looks like it is.

    1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
      Peter Tanshanomi

      Harken all ye! Listen to Brother Devin! He speaks truth!

  3. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
    Peter Tanshanomi

    You say "ultra-conventional live-rear-axle chassis" as if that's a bad thing.

    1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      Aye, Ford Capris are cool, too.

  4. JayP2112 Avatar

    Why is it I have a sudden impulse to search CL for a Piazza?

    1. danleym Avatar

      Just make sure you're searching in the right section…
      <img src="http://my.execpc.com/~pjsports/PIAZZA/CWS26.jpg"&gt;

    2. Irishzombieman Avatar

      And why am I craving Dominos?

      1. dead_elvis Avatar

        Because you hate quality pizza?

  5. Alff Avatar

    "Whether you know it as Impulse or Piazza"
    I know it as the "Wimpulse", a friend's nickname for his.

  6. LTDScott Avatar

    I have always been a nerd for trying to identify the source of automotive lights used on motorhomes.
    Back in the mid '90s, my family briefly lived in Nacogdoches, Texas, home of Foretravel motorhomes, and at the time, some of their coaches used Isuzu Impulse (Piazza) tail lights. Gotta be one of the weirder choices I can think of.
    <img src="http://www.emeraldrv.com/images/93foretravel_002.JPG&quot; width="700">

    1. JayP2112 Avatar

      My kid and I play that game on road trips.^^^ That is a weird one…

    2. seguin Avatar

      Seems like it worked well.

  7. seguin Avatar

    Alfa Spiders seems to handle well enough with live rear axles.

  8. vroomsocko Avatar

    I always liked these, I now love them… that dash is awesome! The newfangled touch screens can suck it.

  9. Xehpuk Avatar

    Is this the car inspector Gadget drove in the cartoons?

    1. mr. mzs zsm msz esq Avatar
      mr. mzs zsm msz esq

      I'm pretty sure it's a Matra after somebody here once convinced me of it.

  10. vroomsocko Avatar

    Also, it's really fast… just ask Joe.
    [youtube Ic0UejzZDZ8 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ic0UejzZDZ8 youtube]

  11. Slow_Joe_Crow Avatar

    The brochure is nice but the car looks like a slightly more angular Mk II Scirocco with a Citroen dashboard.

    1. BЯдΖǐL-ЯЄРΘЯΤЄЯ Avatar

      exactly, only VW did it in 82.

      1. CJinSD Avatar

        The Piazza came out in Japan in 1980, ahead of the disappointing MK2 Scirocco.

    2. Van_Sarockin Avatar

      My first thought was that it looked like a slightly gassy Scirocco: the Mightier Wind Bloweth!

  12. James Avatar

    I'm pretty sure a rover 800 Vitesse held the *car* lap record at the Isle of Man for quite a while. Just saying.

    1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      Shows you how few attempts at the record must have been made up to that point! FYI I own a Rover 800. I estimate a sub half-hour Nurburgring lap time.

  13. BlackIce_GTS Avatar

    Oh Lotus Bootcamp for misleadingly styled cars, please make this car as interesting as it looks;
    <img src="http://imagenesdecarros.net/sites/imagenesdecarros.net/files/u1077/kia-optima-hybrid-2012_04.jpg&quot; width=500>
    and maybe some wheels that don't look like they should be emitting cucumber slices?

  14. Van_Sarockin Avatar

    Beautiful design. Horrendous brochure. Fair warning to auto purchasers.

  15. BЯдΖǐL-ЯЄРΘЯΤЄЯ Avatar

    Where did we see this car before?
    <img src="http://www.scirocco.org/53b/history/82sprd72.jpg&quot; width="600">

    1. TheOtherMacLeod Avatar

      Now I just need to get mine to look like that…

  16. TheOtherMacLeod Avatar

    Reading this on the mobile site, the picture all appear to be upside down (except for the ones that are sideways). Haven't compared it to the typical site though, maybe I'm missing something?

    1. dead_elvis Avatar

      Same here. Weird.

    2. danleym Avatar

      That's to keep you on your toes. See, with the mobile site, the assumption is that you're viewing it on something that is easily turnable.

  17. wisc47 Avatar

    Rear wheel drive? Check. Styling by Giorgetto Giugiaro? Check. Handling by Lotus? Check. Japanese designed? Check. Sounds like the perfect car to me.

  18. Number_Six Avatar

    Seat design really peaked in the eighties. The Pizza's seats are quite similar visually to the ass-cuppers in my '86 Dodge Colt Turbo, and those ones were just fantastic in that car.

  19. Maxichamp Avatar

    The first gen Impulse was my first car. The dash and controls were insanely cool. I had the Special Edition. Power everything. Gold rims. The ad for it said: Rarer than a Ferrari. I miss it.

    1. wisc47 Avatar

      Jealous. I've been looking for one recently but haven't even seen any listed for sale. I'd love to have one for my next car.

  20. Burns Avatar

    I think this design was meant to be the Sirocco 2. When VW passed it became an Isuzu.

  21. 5keptic Avatar

    why all the lamenting about only looking the part. what about the impulse RS? not that i have ever seen one in person.
    any one know where to get one?

  22. mallthus Avatar

    Actually, the later ones with Lotus tuned suspension were a nice drive. My biggest recollection from my friend's example was that the plastic would creak and groan miserably in the winter. Tight as a drum in summer though.