The KB has always been a solid off-road performer. It boasts excellent handling on gravel roads and, of course, has the low-range gearing, ground clearance and rear diff lock needed to tackle 4×4 trails. Moreover, it is the only double cab bakkie that occasionally gives the Hilux a run for its money on the local sales charts.
Sadly, we won’t be seeing a new KB in 2011 – apparently a new model is still some way off – but GM has recently unveiled something else: an off-road academy aimed at existing and potential KB owners.
According to Ryan Visagie, Isuzu brand manager, the academy will help owners to get the most out of their vehicles.
“There is a lot that one can learn from this academy,” says Ryan. “A good example is driving safely on gravel roads. A lot of drivers are reluctant to engage 4×4 when driving on ordinary gravel roads. Our instructors encourage the use of 4×4 high range whenever one ventures off tarred surfaces, as this gives the driver better control of the vehicle.”
To get an idea of how the academy operates, we recently travelled to Magoebaskloof in the Limpopo Province.
We were met at Polokwane International Airport by representatives from GM and a convoy of 14 heavily-branded KB bakkies. Although all 4×4 KB models were in attendance, I jumped into a three-litre D-Teq Extended Cab, and we travelled to a quaint restaurant 60km outside Polokwane. While enjoying a light breakfast, we received more information about the Isuzu Off-road Academy.
Although KB owners obviously have the choice of using their own vehicles while taking part in the academy, they also have the option of using the academy’s KBs – the very same vehicles we were driving during the launch. After all, some buyers will be understandably hesitant to tackle a 4×4 trail in a brand-new vehicle that’s just been driven off the showroom floor.
The academy will be based at Gerotek testing facility just outside Pretoria, but courses will also be held at other off-road venues throughout the country, depending on demand.
The official launch was being held at a 4×4 trail in George’s Valley Gorge, and once the presentation was over, we climbed back into our KBs and headed for the mesmerising Magoebaskloof.
The off-road trail that had been chosen was ideal. It wasn’t particularly difficult but it did offer a nice variety of obstacles that illustrated the basic principles of off-road driving. It was also astonishingly scenic. The trail meandered through a deep gorge and was lined with trees on both sides.
Rain, however, can transform even the easiest 4×4 track into a muddy and intimidating threat. The heavens opened, and suddenly our “easy” trail was giving some of the less experienced convoy members some serious trouble. One vehicle ended up in a very precarious position and had to be recovered by the academy team.
Eventually, it was decided to abandon the trail. Having looked forward to a fun day of off-road driving, we were all very disappointed, but the organisers had a solution. We couldn’t continue on the normal 4×4 track but we could take a different route that would allow us to enjoy the region’s natural beauty and put the KBs through their paces. We scaled mountains, explored forests, descended into deep valleys and even travelled through a massive storm-water drain. It felt as though I was acting in a scene from The Italian Job!
Once we had completed our new route, we received an informative demonstration on the basics of recovery, and then headed to our hotel.
The next morning we journeyed to the Modjadji Cycad Forest. After exploring this beautiful reserve for a while, we visited the Sunland Baobab at Modjadjiskloof. It has a circumference of 47m and is estimated to be 6000 years old!
From Modjadjiskloof, we travelled back to Polokwane. Our adventure was at an end.
Overall, the KB had impressed us once again with its capabilities. It is a tough bakkie that can handle corrugated gravel roads and 4×4 trails. In addition, it offers a surprisingly smooth ride on tarred surfaces. The current-generation KB has been around for a while, but it’s still a competent all-rounder. And the new Isuzu Off-road Academy will allow owners to handle their KBs with confidence.
Isuzu Off-road Academy
The Isuzu Off-road Academy is based at Gerotek testing facility near Pretoria, though courses will also be offered at other venues throughout the country. Topics to be covered include basic off-road theory, inclines and declines, water crossings, side slopes and tyre pressures.
The cost is R1999 per driver.
For more information, visit www.isuzu.co.za.