DRIVING IMPRESSION: Isuzu KB250 D-TEQ Double Cab LE 4x4

BY CHARL BOSCH - MARCH 17, 2016

In the world of car terminology, the terms “base model” or “entry-level” is more often than not associated with a vehicle that covers the basics without any major thrills or surprises.

For most buyers however, both these expressions refer to a vehicle which either omits certain styling or comfort features to keep the purchase price down, or offers them from an expansive options list at an extra cost. And while this previously only applied to passenger vehicles, the shift in market demand has slowly but surely filtered down to now include the ever popular double cab bakkie segment.

 The recipient of a mid-life facelift in September last year, the Isuzu KB, like its arch rivals from Ford and Toyota, has been tasked with meeting these increasing demands to the point where items such as satellite navigation, Wi-Fi and push button start with keyless entry are fitted as standard on the flagship LX.

Although these additions have gone some way to bolster the now four-year old KB’s appeal at the business end of the leisure / lifestyle bakkie market, the need for a double cab that resonates more with work than leisure, has also resulted in a large number of models leaving dealership floors every month, with the badge on the tailgate reading LE instead of LX.

Unlike its more upmarket sibling, identifying the external changes on the LE from its “predecessor” can be a tricky exercise on first glance, but look closer and you will notice the slightly revised front bumper, new grille and foglight bezels which, together with the angled headlights and signature oversized chrome ISUZU badge, affords the KB a very masculine look despite its age.

Since our tester turned out to be the 250 D-TEQ LE 4x4, its appeal was also boosted with the additions of chunky looking running board, aftermarket tonneau cover and 17-inch alloy wheels shod with 255/65 section Goodyear Wrangler all-terrain rubber.

Open the door, the LE’s interior, like that of the Extended Cab LX tested in November, has been left largely untouched with the only difference being new cloth seats with red inserts and stitching on the side bolsters.

As before, the dashboard is mostly constructed of hard yet rugged feeling plastics with the pride of place on facia still going to the same dot matrix audio system, which features Bluetooth audio streaming as well as USB and Aux inputs.

Where the KB continues to impress is the amount of interior space on offer. Although a lot on this platform has been said about this very aspect, there is no denying that it remains one of the KB’s party pieces, with head and leg in the rear unlikely to be a major problem at any stage.

In typical Isuzu fashion, the LE’s cab lacks for very little when it comes to the business of storing valuables, with a large box between the front seats that also doubles up as an armrest, split glovebox, slots underneath the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) switches, a shelf on top of the facia, and the obligatory coin trays underneath the outers air vents, which also acts as cupholders.

Given its ranking as the entry-level double cab in the KB range, standard spec on the LE is commendable and includes the aforementioned six-speaker sound system, electric windows all around with one touch up / down function for the driver, auto lock / unlock doors, satellite audio controls, electric mirrors, dual front airbags and ABS with EBD. As part of the facelift, the LE now comes fitted as standard with traction control and cruise control.

While its external enhancement might have been subtle, the biggest change to the KB has been reserved for the oil-burner up front.

Equipped with the same variable geometry turbocharger used on models in Thailand, power from the 4JK1-TCX 2.5-litre D-TEQ turbodiesel engine has gone up from 85 to 100 kW, with torque rising from 280 to 320 N.m. As slight as this might sound, the upgrades have had a significant effect when you burry the accelerator.

Not only does the powerunit feel more alive than before, it somehow also pulls better from low down despite the rev band remaining as is. Carried over from the pre-facelifted KB, the five-speed manual gearbox still requires a firm hand to avoid grating with each change, although the clutch action is still bang-on for a bakkie.

Days into its weeklong stay, the KB also had the opportunity to prove itself off-road when tasked with an admittedly not very technical gravel road leading to the Groendal Dam outside Uitenhage. Despite the route being horribly rutted in certain parts, the KB, with high-range four-wheel drive engaged, sailed through without so much as coming out a bit muddy due to the rain that lashed the area during the previous days.

In addition, the fitment of 17-inch go-anywhere tekkies instead of the size 18’s fitted to the Extended Cab, brought its famed car-like ride setup back to the fore, regardless of it negotiating the black or brown stuff.

It might not have the cache or luxury amenities of its LX sibling, the Isuzu KB double cab in LE spec makes for a compelling option if work combined with decent spec takes top priority on your “must-have” list. 

 

SPECIFICATIONS:

ENGINE LAYOUT DOHC 16v Inline 4
DISPLACEMENT 2,499 cc
MAX POWER 100 kW @3600 rpm
MAX TORQUE 320 N.m @1800-2800 rpm
DRIVE LAYOUT Front engine; Rear-wheel drive / Four-wheel drive
TRANSMISSION Five-speed manual
ACCELERATION [0-100 KM/H] n/a
TOP SPEED n/a
FUEL CONSUMPTION 7.9 L/100 km
EMISSIONS 208 g/km
PRICE R457 400