For farmers ONLY
ALWYN VILJOEN enjoys having no turbo lag when taking a Fleetline uphill
ISUZU says each of the 18 bakkies it sells in South Africa is purpose-built for a clearly defined role, and after idling up inclines and crawling through mud, I am inclined to typecast the Fleetline 250 DTEQ 4x4 as the perfect cattle farmer’s bakkie.
It gives you no-frills design, but lots of power low down and all the mod cons you need to work in comfort.
We worked it during the heat wave that Pietermaritzburg suffered though last week and found out that the high load bin is not user-friendly for plumbers and sparkies — but then, none of the big bakkies you can buy today are.
For as I always answer when asked this question, the best bakkie you can buy for artisan’s tools and equipment is always a panel van.
Panel vans come ready-made with a high canopy, a low floor, the ability to carry over a ton’s payload and gear ratios that save fuel in city traffic.
The problem with high load bins
With their high load bins, today’s big bakkies are really only good at livestock auctions, where a loading ramp can get the new bargains to walk onto the high load bed.
Once loaded, the low gear ratios and 4x4 drivetrains will then also enable the bakkies to leave the yard’s muck where other vehicles will get stuck.
While built to make light of farm muck, the big Isuzu offers all the comforts you can want up front.
There are big and very comfy seats, six cupholders with two in the cold-air stream from the effective air-con, two 12-volt sockets (one in a hidden cubbyhole that puts your phone out of sight) and a user-friendly Bluetooth setup that allows you to play the music on your smartphone using the toggles on the radio.
All the buttons are also big enough for a farmer’s thick calloused finger to stab without hitting all the neighbouring buttons too.
Underneath, the suspension is old-school blades at the back and coils up front.
This means that this sixth iteration of Isuzu’s single cab will judder noticeably over cemented highway while driving empty to the auction, but settle down nicely when loaded on the way back.
At a steady 120 km, (even with that load) the wind and tyre noise will, however, drown out even the hardest rock riffs.
But tar roads are not what this bakkie is made for. It is on dirt where the Fleetline quietly hunkers down like a Japanese front row, ready to take anything South Africa can throw at it.
The joys of variable vanes
There is simply none of the turbo lag that bedevils the ride in other bakkies, just a smooth take-off, all thanks to a variable geometry turbocharger that makes most of the engine’s 320 Newtons available in any gear at almost any revs.
During the week I drove it up steep inclines, the new, uprated 2,5-litre DTEQ turbo diesel impressed me no end with its ability to keep the 16inch wheels turning.
Underneath and around the bakkie, the rugged black plastic bumpers and side protection were designed in Isuzu’s school of hard knocks.
Even the little wind deflectors under the B-pillar survived the worst we subjected it to, including a few mountainous middlemannetjies and one spectacular axle bender that had me worrying about riding the bakkie on its nose down an incline.
Along the way, I was lucky enough to experience a spat of rain and took the Isuzu over a patch of slick, black, peaty mud.
Now peaty mud, you have to understand, is not like your normal let’s-make-you-slide-around-abit brown mud.
As all sugar can farmers know, this stuff was made extra sticky by Satan himself in order to clog up the treads of spinning tyres until they are smooth as glass.
But with four high and diff lock engaged, Satan’s effort came to naught.
Afterwards, the black streaks also cleaned easily off the new cloth trim used in the base models.
The price? Well … it’s more of a guideline
Service intervals are 15 000 km, which gives the owner six services under Isuzu’s five-year or 90 000 km service plan.
A fully comprehensive five-year or 120 000 km warranty and roadside-assistance programme take care of unplanned breakages, while a five-year or unlimited mileage anti-corrosion warranty puts paid to the old rumours of rusting Isuzus.
All Isuzu bakkie prices look high, but treat that only as the starting point of the negotiations.
With the car trade caught in a slump, it is a buyer’s market out there with all GM dealers currently offering specials that will last until next week.
And as new Isuzu owners will confirm, the tradeins you stand to get are legendary.
RECOMMENDED RETAIL PRICE
Isuzu D-TEQ 250 LE 4x4 single cab R357 400.
Testing the more powerful 250D’s ability to go up The Slope above Pietermaritzburg in low revs, we find a lot to like in the new Isuzu KB250 4x4.