What pulls like a train and han­dles like its on rails?

AL­WYN VILJOEN pulls like a train in the Isuzu KB 300 D-TEQ

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE - • al­wyn.viljoen@wit­ness.co.za

A WISE old un­cle once told me real wealth is not mea­sured in money, but in vis­its from dot­ing grand­chil­dren.

He was also of the view that dou­ble cab bakkies make the best fam­ily ve­hi­cles, with lots of load space, seat-belts for up to five peo­ple and — in­creas­ingly — soft, car-like han­dling.

I pon­dered these wis­doms while us­ing an Isuzu dou­ble cab to tow back what I con­sid­ered to be the world’s best-de­signed fam­ily car ever — the dou­ble-chinned Fiat Mul­ti­pla.

The irony of load­ing four peo­ple into a dou­ble cab to tow what I rated as the best car for fam­i­lies was not lost in me. Clearly, the wise un­cle had a point and a dou­ble cab is the style of ve­hi­cle that best suit the busy dad’s lifestyle.

But which dou­ble cab to get for your fam­ily?

The choices range from the hardy Mahin­dra Bolero at the more af­ford­able side of the price list, to the soon to be launched Mercedes-Benz X-Class bakkie, which is ex­pected to start at well over half a mil­lion rands.

In the mid­dle of the price list, you will find SA’s dads mostly buy the Hilux (3 825 sold last month); then the Ranger (2 753 sold), and then the ever-green Isuzu (1 273).

Un­like any of the other bakkie brands on sale in SA, Isuzu can boast it only makes com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles. The brand has to date sold some 25 mil­lion diesel en­gines in over 100 coun­tries. Which may ex­plain why in KwaZulu-Natal, an old KB still does duty as a rail­way in­spec­tion car. (Its op­er­a­tor con­firmed this is one bakkie that han­dles like its on rails.)

Isuzu’s strong­est bakkie en­gine, the 3-litre D-TEQ, makes 130 kW/380 Nm. This is quite a bit less torque than the 130 kW/420 Nm from the 2,8D Toyota Hilux and a lot less than the 3,2-litre Ford Ranger’s 147 kW/470 Nm.

But it proved more than enough to pull close to the KB’s max­i­mum tow­ing ca­pac­ity of 3 500 kg over hill and dale while us­ing cruise con­trol in fifth gear, giv­ing 8,9 km/l.

You read that right. The D-TEQ’s 380 Nm is enough torque to cruise over most of KZN’s hills in fifth gear, while tow­ing over three tonnes. Then there are the lux­u­ries. For­get car-like han­dling — which no work­ing bakkie should have with­out a bit of weight on the back — this cabin had more lux­ury than any of the sedans I tested in re­cent times. Key­less en­try had the doors au­to­mat­i­cally un­lock as you touch the han­dle. In­side, there were three USB ports to power phones or take mem­ory sticks, a prac­ti­cal multi-func­tion steer­ing wheel and large but­tons for easy use ev­ery­where, in­clud­ing those on the touch screen. This screen con­trols the satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion, re­verse cam­era, smart phone, Blue­tooth au­dio stream­ing and Wi-Fi con­nec­tiv­ity.

In­fo­tain­ment wise, the Isuzu sets the stan­dard, not with the lat­est and great­est, but the tried and tested lit­tle lux­u­ries bakkie drivers who drive hard de­liv­ery routes said they want.

This in­cludes id­iot-friendly Blue­tooth pair­ing, which even I could do in sec­onds, and a four-speaker sys­tem that did full jus­tice to the classic rock I had loaded on the mem­ory stick.

The seats in the LX are clad in leather and the driver’s seat ad­justs six ways, while the seat belt is also height adjustable so that even the most pe­tite frame can find a com­fort­able fit be­hind the wheel.

All the win­dows are elec­tri­cally op­er­ated, and the driver’s win­dow has one-touch but­tons to go up or down, with jam pro­tec­tion.

Dy­namic safety fea­tures in­clude elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol and elec­tronic brake-force dis­tri­bu­tion, which I can tes­tify works re­ally well on loose gravel while tow­ing.

The hill­side as­sist also came in handy, but I’m happy to re­port I did not get to test the emer­gency brake as­sist, trac­tion con­trol, and anti-lock brak­ing sys­tems.

But it was a com­fort to know the LX is fit­ted with six airbags, should emer­gency brake as­sist ever be needed.

As for the car-like han­dling which no work­ing bakkie should have with­out a load on the back, the Isuzu’s firm sus­pen­sion be­came pli­ant with a trailer locked and loaded, mak­ing for as smooth a ride as I ever had. The ride is backed by a five-year or 120 000 km fac­tory war­ranty.

Ser­vice in­ter­vals are 15 000 km, on par with the Ranger but 5 000 longer than the Hilux.

With Isuzu 22 deal­ers across SA, there is a dealer close by to ser­vice these bakkies. All of them look af­ter the clients very well, with spe­cial of­fers that go well un­der the rec­om­mended pric­ing be­low.

KB price range

KB 250 D-TEQ X-RIDER 4X2

R407 800

KB 250 D-TEQ X-RIDER 4X4

R454 100 KB 300 D-TEQ LX 4X4

R571 500

PHO­TOS: AL­WYN VILJOEN

The Isuzu KB 300 D-TEQ LX 4X4 is ready to tow what the au­thor con­sid­ered the best-de­signed fam­ily car ever, un­til he ex­pe­ri­enced all the prac­ti­cal lit­tle lux­u­ries in the Isuzu.

In Pi­eter­mar­itzburg, an old KB still does duty as a rail­way line in­spec­tion car. It re­port­edly han­dles like it is on rails.

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