On the road: Isuzu KB 300 LX Extended Cab
No other country idolises the humble one-ton pick-up with such fervour as South Africa.
Despite is unmistakably utilitarian roots, the bakkie is much more than a load-carrying beast in the local context: it’s also a small business transporter, family commuter, agricultural workhorse, and leisure machine for holiday travel. In short, it’s a true jack-of-all-trades.
But some of you might be wondering if the sixth-generation Isuzu KB range make the grade? In June, Toyota sold 4200 examples of its Hilux one-ton pick-up in South Africa Between them, Ford’s Ranger and the Mazda BT-50 accounted for another 1900 local sales. Nissan’s local Hardbody sales tally came to 700 units.
ROAD: Thegandra Naidoo in coversation with BizRadio’s Grant Jansen
Podcast | Click HERE to listen
It’s a competitive segment – led by Toyota, Ford, Nissan, Volkswagen and even the Chinese brands such as GWM and Foton. If anything, these statistics show the massive sales potential for one-ton bakkies on local and African soil, and just how important the one-ton segment is to the South African motor industry.
The all-new, sixth-generation Isuzu KB has been eagerly awaited by Isuzu fans – and the brand’s dealers. While the 1,000 or so KB sales reflected in June confirm strong brand loyalty (and a successful run-out incentive programme), it’s also true that Isuzu has been losing support.
And after spending some time behind the wheel of a 4×2 Extended Cab example while traversing a variety of routes and tracks in and around Gauteng, it would appear that the wait has been worth it.
The extended cab models offer the bonus of a more spacious cab, but still only two seats. Those of you, who expected the new Isuzu to be bigger, taller, and more aggressive than its rivals, might be disappointed. While the sixth-generation KB has grown in every dimension, it’s not an imposing bakkie – and I mean that in the best possible way.
So, the new Isuzu KB is beefy, but not in the pumped-up-on-steroids kind of way. The proportions are nicely balanced, and there is sleekness to the design that speaks of aerodynamic circumspection – quite unusual in the bakkie context.
The basic shape is pretty much what you’d expect of a bakkie: a cab in front, a load bay at the rear. The front-end is dominated by a bold, broad-framed grille, finished in contrasting black, in more subtle colour-coded form, or blingy chrome, in the case of my test model.
Exceptional ride refinement has been an established attribute, and therefore selling point, of the Isuzu KB models for decades now. With customers expecting the Gen 6 model to up the ride comfort ante yet again, it’s understandable that the development engineers spent a significant amount of time and effort fine-tuning the suspension in the interests of smooth ride characteristics.
The trick is to find just the right compromise between these extremes, while also recognising the specific application scope of the particular model – and in this instance, the KB is offered in no less than 21 different variants.
Isuzu clearly believes that KB buyers prefer diesel to petrol engines, as only seven of the 21 models on offer are petrol-powered – all by the same 2.4L four-cylinder petrol unit. By comparison, there are three turbodiesel units.
Our test unit was powered by a 3.0L turbodiesel engine linked to a five speed manual gearbox. With 130kW of maximum power and 380Nm of torque, the extended cab has plenty of poke, and most of it low down in the rev range, which is just where you need it.
In bakkie terms, it gets off the mark with a fair amount of enthusiasm, easily spinning the rear wheels if you treat the throttle and clutch with contempt. On the open road, the Isuzu proved that comfort and composure are still key selling points of the KB range, easily coping with indifferent road surfaces, while comfortably cruising at the legal speed limit – and beyond.
Inside, the cabin finds a good balance between smart and practical. The dashboard layout is modern and accessible, with just enough tech to remind you that this is a 21st-century bakkie. The surfaces and textures are both attractive and durable, and there’s an overall sense of reassuring longevity.
But much more pertinent in the modern motoring context are the likes of Bluetooth for audio and cellular communication, all-important climate control, and USB-based iPod connectivity. Reassuringly, the extended cab model is fitted with four airbags, as well as ABS brakes.
Our test unit was priced at R359 400 and includes a five-year or 90 000km maintenance plan. Bakkies are no longer cheap. They cost as much as some passenger vehicles. Justifiably, they have practical value and people lap them up because they serve a number of roles. Most of them are marketed as lifestyle workhorses.
Technology: GPS Navigation
Most drivers have heard about GPS navigation – and many might see a GPS device as a technology gadget that is a map for the rich guy. GPS is fortunately so much more – and when we compare the maps available to the user to all the printed maps that a road users might have to buy, this will appear to be not only a better option, but also a less expensive option! A GPS device is so much more than a collection of directions from point A to B!
GPS : Thegandra Naidoo in coversation with BizRadio’s Grant Jansen
Podcast | Click HERE to listen
What are the benefits of a GPS device I need to know when buying/ purchasing a GPS device?
- The use of a satellite navigation system improves driver behavior in unknown areas, heightens alertness and reduces stress levels.
- An international study revealed that the use of a GPS device reduces the amount of miles driven by 16 percent and reduces travel time in an unknown area by 18 percent. GPS systems assist motorists to in identifying the location of features on, near, or adjacent to the road networks.
- These include service stations, maintenance and emergency services and supplies, entry and exit ramps, damage to the road system, etc.
- Motorists are alerted through a constantly updated database of accident blackspots, primary school zones, safety camera locations and other hazardous stretches of road.
- New developments include research to provide warnings to drivers of potential critical situations, such as traffic violations or crashes.
- GPS speed camera detectors help motorists drive within the local speed limits, ensuring safer and worry- free motoring.
- The use of a navigation system increases driver awareness and reduces stress
- Before setting out, the motorists adds his destination address on the system’s in-dash touch pad, and within seconds, arrows on the moving map and a kindly woman’s voice guide you on your way. Most systems even enable you to specify the easiest, quickest or most scenic route.
- Motorists also receive information on the current speed, average speed; maximum speed reached and estimated time to reach the destination.
- Real time traffic information is available and not dependent on road or weather conditions
Thegandra Naidoo? A motoring journalist. He has a decade’s experience in the automotive industry and is best known for his technical knowledge of cars. He has worked on various local television productions and co-presented a motoring feature on Kaya FM a few years back. He currently holds the position as Features & Online Editor for Automotive Business Review. He is currently completing a mid-career Honours in Journalism and Media Studies degree at the University of the Witwatersrand. Thegandra is a FULL member of the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists.