X marks the sweet spot with Isuzu’s KB

It’s not a range­top­per, but the X-Rider dou­ble cab looks like one

The Star Early Edition - - MOTORING - DE­NIS DROPPA

USU­ALLY it’s the top-ofthe-range mod­els that hog the lime­light, but a year ago Isuzu took a more value-for-money ap­proach by launch­ing a tricked­out X-Rider ver­sion of its 2.5-litre KB dou­ble cab bakkie in South Africa.

Ini­tially built as a lim­ited run of just over 700 units, the ve­hi­cle proved so pop­u­lar that it’s now joined the range as a per­ma­nent model sell­ing for R388 400 - nearly 100 grand less than the cheap­est 3-litre KB dou­ble cab.

The KB250 X-Rider 4x2 Dou­ble Cab (to use the full long-winded name) uses the stan­dard 100kW/320Nm 2.5 tur­bod­iesel en­gine, but is dolled-up with a bit of style and swag­ger.

This in­cludes re­plac­ing the stan­dard chrome Isuzu badge with a bold red one set against a black grille, while the dark theme con­tin­ues with the front bumper guard, B pil­lars, tubu­lar side steps and roll bar all painted black. The pack­age is com­pleted by spe­cial di­a­mond-cut 18” al­loys - wear­ing low-profile 255/50 Grab­ber AT all-ter­rain tyres - and it all makes quite a strik­ing vis­ual state­ment.

There’s also a stan­dard-fit tow-bar, giv­ing this bakkie a 2.1-ton braked trailer towing ca­pac­ity. It’s more of a life­style bakkie than for cart­ing build­ing ma­te­ri­als, al­though with its 1020kg pay­load it can hap­pily do both.

In­side, the X-Rider dif­fers from run-of-the-mill KBs with its full leather up­hol­stery, steer­ing wheel trim and gear-lever boot all with red con­trast stitch­ing, X-Rider lo­gos on the front head re­straints, and a red X in the same font on the door trims, com­ple­mented by pi­ano black trim.

Me­chan­i­cally the ve­hi­cle’s un­changed from the reg­u­lar KB250 4x2. With its rear wheel drive it won’t tackle turf as ef­fec­tively as a 4x4, but with its gen­er­ous 220mm ground clear­ance and diff lock it’s ca­pa­ble of some rea­son­ably rough stuff.

The 2.5’s power out­put may not be as beefy as the 3-litre ver­sion, but there’s more than enough to oc­cupy the fast lane of the free­way, and to swiftly over­take long trucks. It’s an ac­ces­si­ble power de­liv­ery with­out ma­jor turbo lag, and when down­shifts are needed for some steeper hills, the fivespeed man­ual has a nice and slick shift­ing ac­tion.

On pa­per the 320Nm seems un­der en­dowed com­pared to ri­val Toy­ota’s Hilux 2.4 tur­bod­iesel which makes a meaty 400Nm, but when un­laden the Isuzu 2.5 doesn’t seem to have any torque de­fi­cien­cies. There’s enough power to make you ques­tion whether you re­ally need to spend all the ex­tra money on the KB 300 un­less you plan to do a lot of towing.

The en­gine’s fairly re­fined too, and apart from some agri­cul­tural sound at idle it smooths out nicely once you’re cruis­ing. The 9.5 litres per 100km our test-ve­hi­cle achieved was pretty good in terms of econ­omy.

For a ve­hi­cle with load-bear­ing rear leaf spring sus­pen­sion the KB de­liv­ers a notably com­fort­able ride. The wafta­bil­ity im­proves the more you load in the back, but even with an empty load box this bakkie doesn’t bounce around nearly as much as the no­to­ri­ous one-ton­ners of old.

The roomy cabin and leather seats cre­ate a nice fam­ily vibe in­side, and you can Blue­tooth your mu­sic through the au­dio sys­tem. The steer­ing wheel has au­dio con­trols and the stan­dard fea­tures list in­cludes re­mote cen­tral lock­ing and elec­tric win­dows, but to keep the price rea­son­able this KB is not over-en­dowed with spec. There’s no cruise con­trol for in­stance, which would have come in handy on the speed­trap-in­fested free­way we drove be­tween Joburg and KZN.

Also, the in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem has a small dis­play in­stead of one of those gi­ant touch­screens that have be­come de rigeur in life­style bakkies, and there’s just a ba­sic on­board com­puter which you can scroll through to se­lect ei­ther range, fuel con­sump­tion or the time.

A quirk with the KB bakkie is that the steer­ing col­umn is only height ad­justable, which forced me to sit with my knees al­most touch­ing the dash. Reach-ad­just­ment would have made things more com­fort­able.

The X-Rider comes in a choice of white, red or sil­ver, and in­cludes a five-year or 120 000km war­ranty and road­side as­sis­tance pro­gram and a five-year or 90 000km ser­vice plan. VER­DICT For those who don’t have nearly half a mil­lion bucks to spend on the 3-litre Isuzu KB dou­ble cab, this 2.5 X-Rider makes a com­pelling al­ter­na­tive at R388 400. It hits a sweet spot as a rea­son­ably pow­ered and specced life­style bakkie, and its styling swag­ger will make it fit in with all the other ‘cool’ dou­ble cabs haul­ing toys to play­grounds.

Pre­vi­ously in­tro­duced as a lim­ited edi­tion, the blinged-up X-Rider now joins the KB bakkie range as a per­ma­nent fix­ture.

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