Patsy Cline was wailing sad wails when it occurred to me that there was something incongruous about country music coming from the compact-disk player of my Isuzu.

But then I thought again and realized I was wrong.This was, after all, a vehicle called the Isuzu Rodeo. It was built in Lafayette, Ind., and it was as apple-pie as Jean Shepherd or Herb Shriner or any of their homespun tales that I absorbed while struggling to grow into what would become my scraggly beard.

Isuzu has joined with Subaru to create the megabuck plant that turns out three of the Japanese companies' latest products.

And American workers are now building Subaru Legacys, Isuzu pickup trucks and the new-for-'91 Rodeo, a sports-utility vehicle that has mud tires, four-wheel drive and a particularly domestic twang.

The Rodeo is Isuzu's third entry in the utility segment, whose growth potential suggests annual industry sales of 815,000 by 1992.

It follows the company's sporty little Amigo and the more stately Trooper, and it has much to recommend it, not least of which are the four doors that make it a natural family and camping mobile.

The $20,788 tester was black with chrome trim, an LS that is the flagship in a series that starts with a base S model and has an intermediate level of luxury called XS. And could it be that nobody thought that "excess" might better have graced the top of the line?

In any case, the black Rodeo was neatly conceived by the folks in Japan and just as neatly put together by the Hoosiers.

Its body has a massive look, complemented by the huge tires, but the macho exterior is belied by extremely civil behavior on the highway and a somewhat elegant interior no matter where you go.

There are working vent windows, which I love, and the LS offers power this and power that, cruise control, anti-lock rear brakes, a sunroof and an 80-watt sound system that includes both cassette and CD players.

The dash is flat, with deeply molded shelves, and instrumentation is fairly complete.

There is a good big glovebox, and stowage extends to map pockets in the front doors and a combination armrest and bin between the front buckets.

The rear seat, which folds to accommodate more cargo, is also molded into buckets, but it is really a bench and can easily carry three adults.

Over all, the interior is comfortable and thoughtfully engineered, and if there are quibbles they are with the audio system's tiny buttons and the fact that the large side-view mirrors lack power adjustments, a strange oversight in a vehicle that is otherwise opulent.

The fat leather-wrapped wheel has a tilt adjustment, but its middle position creates a perfect driving angle, and the vehicle works well with the road, after a small amount of driver education.

The Rodeo can be had with a four-cylinder engine or a V6, and each, strangely enough, puts out the same 120 horsepower.

The six, which was in the tester, offers more torque, but my initial notion was that the Rodeo couldn't get out of its own way.

Happily, and after some benighted time at the wheel, I discovered the automatic transmission's "Power" button.

The magic button creates acceleration of a more alacritous sort.

And then there is a second button, this one labeled "Winter." Equally useful, it actually cuts the power to the road, locking the transmission in third gear to prevent wheel spin when the going gets slick.

With or without the buttons, though, the Rodeo cruises nicely when you get it up to speed. And even with the knobby off-road tires, the ride is good. Firm but good.

You probably wouldn't want to take Isuzu's Rodeo on a long trip.

But it's fun, it's roomy, and it's useful, and those are all acceptable rationalizations if you are a suburban cowboy who has a thing for Patsy Cline.