For farm­ers ONLY

AL­WYN VILJOEN en­joys hav­ing no turbo lag when tak­ing a Fleet­line up­hill

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING -

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.

PHOTO: AL­WYN VILJOEN

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.

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