CC Capsule: 1988 Isuzu Impulse – Wait, What?


I take great pride in the ability to name just about every car on the road based off a quick glance. This is a skill I’ve possessed since around age 3, and in recent years I’ve even been able to correctly identify the trim level and model year. So, it’s an extremely rare case when I don’t know a car without looking at its badging. But this car was one of those rare, rare cases that left me painfully stumped. I saw this vehicle while out in San Francisco and approaching it’s badgeless front-end, I had no idea. Even as I got up close to it, I hadn’t the slightest impulse of its identity. Whatever it was, this was the first one I’d ever seen. It was driving me crazy. What the hell was this foreign-looking, ’80s sport coupe?


Finally, as I moved to the rear the mystery was solved. An Isuzu Impulse? Never heard of it. At least my nerves were calmed a bit, knowing it wasn’t an elusive Honda or Toyota. Additionally, Isuzu history has never really been something I’ve cared to learn about. Upon research I found that the Isuzu Impulse (or JDM Isuzu Piazza) was a Giugiaro-designed  sport-hatchback sold in the U.S. from 1983-1992. Only around 13,000 were imported during that period, making the sight of one 20-30 years later slim, to say the least. The 2nd generation and more familiar 1990-1992 models were also sold as the Geo Storm.

isuzu 1988

What immediately caught my eye was the “Suspension by Lotus” badge on the rear. And yes, that’s legit. Beginning in 1988, all Impulses came with the upgraded Lotus suspension, previously an optional upgrade. I’m honestly not sure the year of the one I saw, but it’s a 1988 or later because the lack of pop-up headlights.

isuzu interior 1988

Needless to say, the amount of Isuzu Impulses left are probably minuscule, explaining why this was the first one I’ve ever seen. If I have one complement for this car, it is that it’s the first car in a long time that’s stumped me. Here’s to that.