An appealing choice for those with leisure interests
Isuzu has bounced back with a KB range that now includes a stretched two-seater cabin, which also makes sense for the leisure market as it boasts a large load box, and the ability to keep valuables safe inside the cabin. Does it rule the roost?
Time waits for no bakkie and while the KB was very definitely king of the double-cab hill when introduced in 2004, it eventually found itself upstaged by the likes of the Navara and Hilux, and now there’s also a new rival in the shape of the Mitsubishi Triton.
So Isuzu has bounced back, giving its 3,0-litre turbodiesel an extreme makeover and adding a new body shape with a stretched two-seater cabin, for which the company says there is growing demand from business users – but also some uptake in the leisure market. The layout makes sense: you retain a decent-sized bak but can also keep valuables safely stowed inside the cabin.
Extensive styling changes have been made. The face is familiar yet bolder, with a dashing slant to the headlights. The front bumper is new, as is the “lattice” type radiator grille. The bonnet (with an enlarged air feed for the intercooler) and fenders have also changed.
Revisions to the loadbox sides and tailgate have been made and the running boards, rear step bumper and wheels are all new. Chromed mirror housings now incorporate turn repeaters. The consensus was that the KB keeps its tidy yet distinctive look, with pleasing proportions in this Extended Cab guise.
Features and equipment
★ ★ ★ ★
The revised engine range carries the D-Teq nomenclature, and has been significantly revised with updated turbocharger, intercooler and high-pressure injecti on system. The result is 120 kW (making it the most powerful in class) and 360 Nm – a figure 20 Nm short of its primary rival, the Ford Supercab.
Also significant is the change to a 4×4 system controlled via a bank of dashboard buttons, allowing for shift s on the fly (up to three-figure speeds) between two-high and four-high and vice versa.
In LX trim the cabin is plushly equipped and the feature list extends to cruise control, half-leather upholstery (full leather is optional) and MP3- compatible sound system. So at R275 746 it looks like pretty good value compared to the Supercab, which has less equipment for R1200 more.
★ ★ ★ ★
The cabin updates result in an ambience that is sportier and more modern than before. Instruments are big and bold and the needles are set against a blue backdrop. When the ignition is turned on, they sweep around the dials before settling back at the zero markers. A driving computer provides average fuel consumption and ambient temperature readouts.
The seats are generously proportioned and should suit even the largest occupants, and backrest angle can be fine-tuned with a knurled wheel. Finding a good driving position is easily attained thanks to height adjustment for both the driver’s pew and the leather-covered wheel.
A clear view of the leading edge of the bonnet and the low-cut rear quarter glass improves visibility and along with a fairly low seating position contributes to the KB retaining its characteristic car-like feel.
We liked the big rotary controls and finger-friendly buttons for the sound system and air-conditioning. There is also an array of storage solutions, extending to a small drawer in the dashboard that is sized for a credit card, and a retaining clip in the headlining for a parking slip, or suchlike.
The central locking has a selective unlock function, and doors lock automatically above 30 km/h. The driver’s window has a one-touch down function.
The one significant criticism of the vehicle is the modest size of the removable luggage boxes, which seems to have been dictated by the height of the transmission tunnel.
While those of the Supercab butt up against each other (and can be accessed easily from the side of the vehicle thanks to a four-door layout) those in the Isuzu are smaller and are separated by a pair of largely pointless cupholders fixed to the rear firewall.
The containers must also be accessed via the front doors, though the passenger seat does at least tilt and slide a long way forward to improve access.
The Isuzu scores points with a “bak” that is easily the biggest in class though, being both significantly longer and slightly deeper than the Ford’s.
★ ★ ★ ★
The new powerplant is a real pleasure and pulls manfully from little more than idle speed, complementing that with an ability to rev willingly to the 4300 r/min limiter. Power peaks at just 3600 but it doesn’t tail off markedly until quite a long way thereafter – a factor that makes it far more driveable in the low gears.
Overtaking acceleration is very good, the engine responding immediately in fourth and fifth gears to return figures that are not too far off those of the Supercab (for example, 60 to 100 km/h is covered in about 13,5 seconds compared to about 12,5 for the Ford). The Ford will also narrowly win a standing start contest, and gets to 120 km/h just a couple of tenths of a second before the Isuzu – an irrelevant difference.
The main irritation when hustling the Isuzu through the gears is a quirky one: the gearknob itself doesn’t conform to the shape of a normal palm (not ours, at any rate) and the raised stitching of the leather is hard and uncomfortable. The shift itself is reasonably light and deft for a high-torque engine though, with a precise action.
With its powerful and efficient motor coupled to what appears to be – subjectively at any rate – a compact frontal area and smooth sheetmetal, the Isuzu excelled in two areas. Top speed is an impressive 176 km/h and fuel consumption at a true 120 km/h dips below the 10 litres/100km mark — in fact we recorded 9,93 per 100.
Finally, the ABS/EBD-assisted brakes are well up to the job, even if the pedal has a slightly mushy feel in hard usage, which isn’t confidence-inspiring at first.
Ride and handling
★ ★ ★
Drivers of leisure-type pick-ups are becoming increasingly insistent that their steed must behave in a manner similar to an SUV, and in this regard we believe the KB comes closest to achieving the ideal balance. It was the first LDV range to go the rack-and- pinion steering route and this still stands it in good stead in terms of the overall handling feel.
It can be positioned accurately and driven on poor roads with great confidence thanks to an absence of play in the steering gear. A decent turning circle has been achieved too, and it feels more nimble than you’d at first expect – both on- and off -road.
Overall length is relatively modest at just over 5015mm and the short front overhang makes for a great approach angle. The departure angle is less so and we managed to get the tow ball scraping a couple of ti mes. More significantly, we damaged an end-piece of the rear bumper on exiting a steep gully on Gerotek’s concreted off -road track.
Ground clearance is a middling 210mm, the lowest point being the rear diff housing – as is the case with the vast majority of vehicles with a solid back axle. A rear differential lock is fitted, and is necessary quite early in proceedings, due to the fairly limited suspension travel of the leaf-sprung rear end.
The front retains torsion bars, which in this latest guise seem to provide improved body control over long, undulati ng bumps. The front is also well-synchronised with the rear to provide overall ride quality that is not overly harsh when unladen, or wallowy with a load.
★ ★ ★ ★
The KB has traditionally had wide appeal, thanks to a mix of attributes that make it a sensible choice for those who want a rugged and durable bakkie but not one that looks overtly tough and aggressive, or feels like a workhorse.
The new engine is a significant step forward in rounding off a package that has always been strong on comfort and space, even if the storage boxes – which are the Extended Cab’s raison d’être – are comparatively modest in size and won’t accommodate bulkier “hard” items.
The long load box, however, will make it an appealing choice for those with leisure pursuits such as mountain biking or scuba diving, but also for those business users who want something that does qualify for the dual-purpose tag while maintaining a high level of functionality.