DRIVING IMPRESSION: Isuzu KB300 D-TEQ Double Cab LX 4x4 AT

BY CHARL BOSCH - MAY 28, 2016

It might sound like a bold statement to make right, but a trait of South Africans has always been our ability to face the toughest of challenges and emerge with a fair degree of success at the other end.

Similarly, the country’s new vehicle market is one of the most competitive in the world despite its relatively small foothold compared to those in Europe and Asia, but one which can be a tough nut to crack given the often importance of the badge on the nose or inscriptions on the back.

Now deep into its fifth generation, the Isuzu KB, or D-Max as its own elsewhere, has arguably proven on a number of occasions throughout its 40-year lifespan that it can break that nut easily despite always finding itself coming to blows with the Ford Ranger and Toyota Hilux at the sharp end of the one-ton bakkie segment.

And while it may longer be the newest choice when stacked up against its rivals, the KB has remained a worthwhile alternative and one which feels more bakkie-like than the SUV inspired nature of the Ford and Toyota.

As in the United States however, where mainly double cab bakkies are used as so-called lifestyle vehicles instead of out-out and workhorses with an extra pair of seats, the KB has had no choice but to take after its competition to meet the shift in market demand, albeit in the slightest of forms.

Facelifted in September last year, distinguishing the KB from its “predecessor” on first glance can turn into somewhat of a head scratcher as the exterior revisions simply amounted to the replacing of the bumper-integrated foglights with daytime-running LED’s.

Minimal this might be, is does not mean that the KB had to undergo extensive surgery in order to hide its five-year old visage… far from in in fact.

Sporting a set of blacked-out headlights, flared wheel arches and that now trademark chromed oversized ISUZU badge on the grille, the KB has aged relatively well notwithstanding the facelift, with the Pearl White finish arguably giving it a more striking appearance.

Stepping this up another notch, and rather impressively, our flagship 300 D-TEQ LX 4x4 auto tester came fitted with an optional nudge bar, stainless rollbar, satin silver roof rails, chunky plastic running board, tonneau cover and 18-inch alloy wheels shod with General Grabber All-Terrain tyres.

Unlike the lower spec double cab LE tested a few months the ago, the biggest change to the KB comes when you get inside. Replacing the dot matrix audio setup, the LX gains a new 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment display incorporating a DVD player, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and satellite navigation.

Also doubling up as the display for the reverse camera, the new system proved easy to use with the undoubted highlight being the aforementioned navigation function.

Compared to the smartphone-powered systems now being employed by a number manufactures, the Isuzu’s SD-card setup developed by TomTom might appear somewhat outdated, but arguably makes more sense when you factor in the still-expensive data costs.

Likewise, scrolling through the system’s various functions and settings came without any last headaches, while the Bluetooth integration was quick and again without troubles. A small but notable change, and one which many technophiles will appreciate, has been the redesigned USB and Aux inputs now located underneath the rotary climate control dial.

As with previous Isuzu’s, the KB’s dashboard continues to make use of hard yet rugged feeling plastics, with the actual fit-and-finish being of little faulting in spite of our tester having clocked up over 24 000 km.

Mentioned on a number of occasions, interior space remains a stand-out trait of the KB, and none more so than when you get in the back. Often the limiting factor of the modern day double cab, the amount of head and leg room in the rear was impressive with no complains being heard by passengers.

Oddment storage is also high with hiding places coming in the form of a box between the front seats, split glovebox, cubby on top of the dash and the now familiar coin trays underneath the outer air vents, which acts as cupholders. Adding to this, flipping the rear seats up also reveals two hidden compartment similar to that of the Extended Cab.

The list of comfort items are also extensive and include cruise control, electric windows all around with one touch up/down function for the driver, electric mirrors, six-speaker sound system, rear parking sensors, keyless entry / go, traction control, six airbags and ABS with EBD.

Still providing forward momentum, the Isuzu’s 3.0-litre D-TEQ turbodiesel engine by no means represent the most powerful or torquiest out of the top selling double cabs, but does not hold back either when on the move. Providing 130 kW and 380 N.m of torque, the engine feels strong and pulls well right of the off, accompanied by a pleasing whine from the turbo.

Tasked with transmitting to the power down to the ground, the LX’s five-speed automatic gearbox provided slick shifts with limited torque converter slip, although a sudden burst of power would result in it reacting a tad slow. That said, click the gear lever into manual mode, which happened a couple of times, was another matter as the shifts were quicker with little to no to delay when going up or down.

Countering the power and torque outputs however, the oil burner’s fuel consumption over the weeklong stay came as somewhat of a surprise when you factor in the actual vehicle weight, full off-road hardware and automatic gearbox it has to lug around.

Aside from the daily commute, the KB also had to the opportunity to show its credentials off-road when faced with a quarry turned into a dirt bike playground just outside Jeffrey’s Bay. With low range engaged and the diff-lock switched on for good measure, it effortlessly negotiated the quarry’s obstacles without bogging down once, even when the locker was switched off.

A day before its return, the Isuzu was also tasked with ferrying its minder to Steytlerville to attend an event; a journey which it not only took in its stride, but again highlighted its trademark car-like ride comfort in spite of the chunky go-anywhere wheels.

When reluctantly returned the next day, the trip computer read an average consumption of 8.7 L/100 km, eclipsing Isuzu’s claimed figure of 9.5 L/100 km.

It is really hard to overlook the Isuzu KB’s appeal when it comes to one of the most important segments within a segment. Granted, it is very much the elder statesman of the bakkie fraternity now, but very few can dispute a vehicle more than 1 000 South Africans purchase month after month.

 

SPECIFICATIONS:

ENGINE LAYOUT DOHC 16v Inline 4
DISPLACEMENT 2,999 cc
MAX POWER 130 kW @3600 rpm
MAX TORQUE 380 N.m @1800 rpm
DRIVE LAYOUT Front engine; Rear-wheel drive / Four-wheel drive
TRANSMISSION Five-speed automatic
ACCELERATION [0-100 KM/H] n/a
TOP SPEED n/a
FUEL CONSUMPTION 8.7 L/100 km*
EMISSIONS 208 g/km
PRICE R563 500**

*As claimed during tenure
** Excludes optional accessories