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Hagerty Employee

Isuzu’s I-Mark RS Turbo had a checkered history and an international identity crisis

Perhaps it comes as no surprise that the 1985–89 Isuzu I-Mark was one iteration of a global-platform vehicle wearing multiple hats across multiple continents. But unlike the “global” Ford Escort from 1980, the I-Mark wore different names depending on where you lived and what dealership you visited. Credit General Motors and its controlling interest in the Japanese automaker for this situation. Be it a U.S.-spec Isuzu I-Mark, Chevrolet/Geo Spectrum, the Canadian Pontiac Sunburst, or the internationally appealing Holden/Isuzu/Chevrolet Gemini, this honest subcompact was an affordable alternative to the Japanese mainstays, occupying a space that the South Koreans had yet to dominate.


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Intermediate Driver

In retrospect it seems like this car should have been a bigger seller. The styling was certainly in vogue for the time, and the emphasis of performance over creature comforts is what most hot hatch buyers tend to prefer. I'm scratching my head as to why it didn't do better. I think there was too much competition against it. If I was shopping for a sporty 2-door car in the late 80's I could choose a Ford Escort GT, Probe GT, Mustang GT, Thunderbird turbo coupe, Chrysler Laser (it had a turbo and a digital dash!), Dodge Daytona, Shelby GLH, Chevrolet Sprint turbo, Cavalier Z24, Camaro, Pontiac Fiero, Sunbird (a nice looking convertible!), Grand AM/ Grand Prix, Firebird, Lincoln Mark VII, Acura Integra (rode in one and hated the seats!), Suzuki Swift, Saab Turbo, Toyota MR2, Celica, a Subaru shaped like a wedge, Honda CRX or Civic. Times were changing fast, and the early 90's brought cars with dramatic new styling like the Mazda Miata, Buick Skylark, Eagle Talon, and Geo Storm. I find the visual look of the car so much more appealing than most of the horrendous new cars I see now. Thanks for the story on this piece of automotive history!