Isuzu KB 300 TDi LX 4x4

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Keywords: Isuzu KB 300 TDi LX 4x4

Description: Isuzu fans had been waiting for a very, very long nine years to get their hands on the sixth-generation KB. We recently had a KB300 D-TEQ Double Cab 4×2 on test to ascertain whether it’s

Isuzu fans had been waiting for a very, very long nine years to get their hands on the sixth-generation KB. We recently had a KB300 D-TEQ Double Cab 4×2 on test to ascertain whether it’s a successful follow-up to the much-loved fifth generation.

Built in Port Elizabeth, the new KB is a far more imposing bakkie in terms of design and size than its predecessor. Gone are the understated lines and in their place are cues derived from the Chevrolet Trailblazer SUV (with which it was co-developed) and sizing that sees it eschew the relatively compact size of the previous KB in favour of dimensions that place it smack-bang in the middle of the market for “oversized” bakkies. It’s longer than the Volkswagen Amarok and Ford Ranger and only slightly lower. Top-grade LX specification includes 17-inch alloys wheels, projector headlamps (which do wonders for the frontal appearance; models without this feature appear somewhat bland and derivative) and rear LED lamps. Overall, the KB is cohesively designed and finished, but it just lacks the upmarket appeal of the Amarok and Ranger.

By growing the wheelbase by 45 mm and widening the front and rear tracks by 50 mm, Isuzu has enlarged the cabin where it counts. Previous KBs were widely criticised for their compromised rear seats and difficulty of ingress. On the new model, the backseat is now on par with others in this segment. Moving forward, the KB’s appeal wanes somewhat. The design at first appears modern and user-friendly, with the hangdown section especially garnering praise for its straightforward design and ease of use. However, the instruments are small and look somewhat old-fashioned, the steering wheel does not adjust for reach and the seats lack lower-back support. Our tallest tester (1,96 metres) also complained that his left shin hit the lower facia when depressing the clutch. If you desire an SUV-like feel from your double cab, you’d be best served by other double cabs.

In terms of features, however, the KB doesn’t stand back. Such items as a leather-wrapped steering wheel with controls, a rear-seat centre armrest, trip computer, cruise control, electrically adjustable windows and mirrors (the latter also heated), rear-placed PDC, micro-USB and Bluetooth functionality, and climate control are standard on LX models. Safety levels are superb, with six airbags, ABS with EBD and BAS, and Isofix anchorage points are standard. However, it is regrettable that Isuzu did not see it necessary to add a traction-control system to the mix.

Shorn of the heavy, drag-inducing all-wheel drivetrain of the 4×4 model, the turbodiesel engine performs admirably in all conditions. The 3,0-litre, four-cylinder has been carried over from the previous model but not without significant enhancements centred round the uprated variable-geometry turbocharger, optimised fuel-injection system and larger front-mounted intercooler. Maximum power is up by 10 kW to 130 kW and torque by 20 N.m to 380 N.m. It feels strong in every gear and not too laggy at low revs, picking up smoothly from about 1 500 r/min.

GMSA’s local development programme (see the November 2012 issue) focused heavily on hardware reliability, a more old-school approach (seemingly) compared with rivals that have, in terms of marketing focus at least, emphasised creature comforts and design. And on the road, the difference is immediately obvious. Where the Ranger and especially Amarok marry buyers’ oft-incongruent expectations that their double-cab bakkies should perform well both on- and off-road, the Isuzu definitely feels more old-school. The steering is heavy and dead (which is great at eliminating kick-back on rough surfaces but does make placing the vehicle in the confines of a city quite tricky) and the transmission gives your left arm a good workout. It affords the KB a subjective feeling of robustness, but the bakkie is rather tiring to drive at times.

One aspect of the KB’s appeal that hasn’t waned is its ride quality. It remains one of the best riding bakkies in this class and is leagues ahead of the Toyota Hilux in this regard. We were also impressed with the general sense of refinement. The engine is noisy on start-up and when it is asked to work hard, but at other times it fades into the background. Wind and tyre noise rarely intrude.

Ultimately, the new KB is an impressive product from a company that is a respected player in the leisure-bakkie market. Whether General Motors has done enough to dissuade buyers from purchasing a Hilux, Amarok or Ranger is another matter. The KB certainly bests the Toyota in terms of on-road comfort, but can’t quite beat the Ranger, let alone the Amarok. However, it is good enough on-road to provide worthy competition to these vehicles. We would have liked a more cohesive, car-like cabin considering that double cabs ply suburban roads more regularly than country gravel lanes, and the drivetrain can be recalcitrant at times, but the new KB should please Isuzu fans and make bakkie buyers think twice before signing on the dotted line at the dealership of a competitor.

*Don’t miss the May issue of CAR in which we pit the KB against six of its toughest competitors. It’s on sale from 22 April. For pricing on the rest of the range, click here .



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