Isuzu Gemini: When diesel sedans ruled the roads

Updated Oct 21, 2020 | Same topic: Nostalgia: Cars We Miss
Yes, Isuzu used to make sedans. 

Since it began making cars in 1919, Isuzu is known throughout the world as a diesel truck specialist. In fact, Isuzu’s first vehicles like the Fifteen A9 was a truck, and the Isuzu Sumida was a bus that used a truck chassis.

Today, Isuzu’s model lineup still consists of diesel-powered commercial vehicles, pickup trucks, and SUVs. So if we talk about consistency, then Isuzu is certainly very congruous.

If you’ve lived through the late 1970s to the early 1990s however, you’ll know that there was a period in Isuzu’s history where they made small passenger cars. A pattern breaker for the Japanese carmaker if you will.

Here in the Philippines, you might have ridden on one or owned an Isuzu car back in the day. And chances are, it was probably the Isuzu Gemini, which for several glorious years, was one of the most popular cars on Philippine roads.

A picture of a yellow Isuzu Gemini.

The Isuzu Gemini. The former king of Philippine roads

The Isuzu Gemini was advanced for its time

The Isuzu Gemini that we had in abundance locally was the first-generation 1974 version. It was based on the legendary General Motors “T-Car” platform, which proved to be rugged, simple, and easy to fix.

As such, many used the four-door diesel variant as taxi cabs in many Philippine cities until the early 1990s. Back when it was first introduced though, the Gemini had leading-edge tech. It was among the first cars to have coilovers for its rear suspension. This provided it a smoother ride than its competitors which mostly used a very bouncy leaf-spring rear suspension.

Isuzu Gemini promotional poster


Daily driver? Taxi? House to office and back again? The Gemini can do it all

The most common engine of the Philippine-spec Gemini was the 1.6-liter G161Z inline-4 diesel. It made around 59 horsepower and 119 Nm of torque. Those figures aren’t much, but it was fuel-efficient and reliable enough to be driven around in the city as a taxi or daily driven family car.

Apart from the four-door fastback sedan variant that was mostly used for taxi duty, the Gemini also had a two-door coupe variant. There were also other engine options like the G180Z gasoline engine. However, G180Z wasn’t favored by the local market since the diesel engine comes with a lower fuel price.  

A picture of the 1978 Isuzu Gemini.

The 1978 Isuzu Gemini 2-door coupe was small but muscular looking

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A car of many names

As you might’ve guessed, the Gemini was a big moneymaker for Isuzu. As such, it was sold in many markets the world over. In Australia, it’s known as the Holden Gemini. Over in South Korea, it was called the Saehan Gemini. Isuzu even managed to sell the Gemini in the very finicky American market, where it was called the Buick Opel, which was closely related to the famous Opel Kadett C.

The end of the Gemini

While the Philippines didn’t get the later versions of the Gemini, Isuzu developed and sold it until it reached its third-gen version in 1990. Three years later however, Isuzu halted the production of the Gemini, and instead replaced it with a rebadged Honda Domani. Moreover, the Gemini, like so many other car models, was a victim of the Japanese “1990s bubble economy.” As a result, Isuzu ceased developing passenger cars to focus instead on SUVs and commercial trucks.

A picture of the last isuzu Gemini.

The 1990-1993 Isuzu Gemini was the last true Gemini model

Do you miss the Isuzu Gemini? What do you think a modernized Gemini will look like? For more nostalgic articles like this, keep reading here on


Cesar G.B. Miguel

Cesar learned how to drive a car years before he got his license. Today, he's still looking for that perfect '90s Japanese coupe to drive into the sunset while listening to Crazy Little Love by Nuage. Also has a thing for badass off-road vehicles and weird engine swaps.