What pulls like a train and handles like its on rails?
ALWYN VILJOEN pulls like a train in the Isuzu KB 300 D-TEQ
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
KB 250 D-TEQ X-RIDER 4X4
R454 100 KB 300 D-TEQ LX 4X4
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.