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1997 Holden Rodeo Review
  • Price, Reliability, Easy to work on and modify, Tough and durable
  • Not as much aftermarket support as some rivals, Noisy engine, Ride when unladen, No standard child seat anchor points

by Nathan R

The 1997 Holden Rodeo is an excellent candidate for anyone looking for a reliable, affordable and rugged work ute. My Rodeo is a 1997 TF R7 LX 2.8L Turbo Diesel Dual Cab 4×4 with a 5 speed manual gearbox. It was given to me as my first car from my dad when he purchased a newer car.

Released in January 1997 the TF R7 series Rodeo had various improvements over the previous model including styling changes, interior refinement and a larger (63L) fuel tank. Other standard features included power steering, limited slip diff, 2 speaker stereo with cassette and AM/FM radio, chrome bumpers and a tilt-adjustable steering column.

Inside the Rodeo you won’t find leather, wood or any soft touch plastics. You will however find comfortable front seats, easy to reach controls, hard wearing plastic dash, and a vinyl floor. This makes the Rodeo durable and easy to clean after a muddy day out on the tracks. While the front seats are comfortable and easy to get in and out of, the rear seats leave a bit to be desired. The small doorway makes entry and exit harder for some passengers, and upright backrest can make long distances uncomfortable. Also if the driver and front passenger are tall, leg room becomes rather scarce. However for short distances or children the seat is more than adequate.

On the road the Rodeo is relatively easy to drive with a light clutch pedal and easy to use gearbox, although it can be a bit notchy at times but you quickly get used to this – I hardly notice it now. The power steering is good, it isn’t too heavy and isn’t too light making low speed manoeuvres easier. The Rodeo falls down in other areas though, with a jittery ride over rough surfaces, a noisy engine and 4 turns of the steering wheel from lock to lock. Long distance driving can be tiring in the Rodeo, as there is no armrest for the driver, however this does mean you need to stop and take a break as is recommended by road safety advocates.

Off Road the Rodeo is surprisingly good. Although it is no Land Cruiser, it tackles some obstacles that leave other rivals stranded. The suspension travel is not the best in its class however there are many after market modifications that can be done to improve this. Approach angle is good, but the departure angle is not the best due to the long overhang of the tub and tow bar.

While you won’t be winning any drag races with a Turbo Diesel Rodeo, the engine with 77kW and 225Nm is more than adequate to keep up with traffic and cruise along at 110kph on the freeway. Fuel economy is good for a ute of its age, usually achieving around 11L/100km with a mixture of both highway and city driving.

The Rodeo has a rated towing capacity of 1000 kilograms (braked) and a 1090 kilogram payload, better than some brand new 4×4 dual cab utes on the market. When fully loaded the Rodeo does struggle a bit, almost always requiring a few down changes to maintain forward movement up hills. Storage space is good in the rear, and can easily be improved by fitting an aftermarket canopy. There are no tie down points inside the tub, however there are plenty around the outside edges of the tub.

With over 340,000km on the clock I can report no major faults with the Rodeo. It has been reliable, rugged and has done everything I have ever asked it to. Rodeo’s are very easy to work on, parts are affordable and a good example can be found for under $8,000. It is even covered by Holden’s Lifetime Capped Price Servicing program, although being so easy to work on it is not hard to perform services by yourself with a small amount of mechanical knowledge. With regular maintenance there is nothing that would stop the Rodeo reaching 1,000,000 kilometres.

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1997 Holden Rodeo Review Review
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