A TALE OF TWO DOUBLE CABS
The Eastern Cape has long been known as ‘big KB country’, as it is already 40 years since Isuzu introduced the first of its pick-ups from its base in Port Elizabeth.
Under the direction of a flip-flop General Motors in those days, Isuzu’s KBs then introduced the first, pukka factory-made double cab in South Africa. This was a massive turning point in the lives of SA’s motoring public as these four-door utilities have never waned in popularity since, and now almost compete with sedans in terms of sales numbers.
For road testing I have had under scrutiny, the top-of-the range leisure market KB 300 4×4 Double Cab LX Auto and the lesser KB 250 4×4 X-Rider Manual, Crew Cab, which are both mighty important diesel players in Isuzu’s 19-model KB line-up.
Neither have aspirations of wanting to take to the bundu for boulder conquering or pitting their paintwork against cameeldoring trees – no Sir, these are handsome leisure and outdoor lifestyle numbers with step-out aluminium wheels, leather upholstery and a splash of brio.
Don’t get me wrong as, being equipped with easy-to-engage 4×4 transmissions, you are not going to be left stuck on a muddy cattle track or at the bottom of a slippery grass slope either, and they will easily and comfortably handle the atrocious road on a trip to the Baviaanskloof.
Isuzu’s chassis are now a tougher and bigger spec., unlike the old models with ladders not much more rigid than the one your gardener used to use to get at your hedge for trimming. But that was then, this is now…
Rear suspensions have also been sorted with improved rebound control on the dampers that are more pliant and give a better ride than before. I immediately felt this on corrugated gravel with the tail much more resistant to skipping out of line.
The top-of-the-range KB 300 is powered by a 3-litre DTEQ turbo-diesel engine which provides 130 kW and 380Nm of torque to scrum down with. Driving through a five-speed automatic gearbox, according to Isuzu, diesel consumption is just 7,9 litres/100 km under normal driving conditions.
The X-Rider Crew Cab gets its motivation from a 2,5 litre, four-cylinder motor that delivers 100kW and 320 Nm of torque. A bit limp-wristed compared with, for instance, Ford’s 118kW and 385Nm for its smaller, 2,2-litre Raider, and Toyota’s 110kw and 400Nm for its 2,4-litre Hilux, and I could feel it telling when the test pick-up was put under pressure.
Consider that the motor is, however, fairly frugal, Isuzu claiming an average fuel consumption of just 7,7 L/100km under everyday running conditions.
The KB 300 came standard with a tow bar, sports bar, roof rails and power-adjustable front leather seats.
Inside, you have a touchscreen infotainment system with satellite navigation, Internet, WiFi and smartphone integration. Its screen, a 1080p big definition TFT unit with a generous 6,5-inch dimension, also acts as the display when browsing, or for the DVD player.
The Rear Park Assist camera also shows up on this screen, while it is now integrated into the rear tailgate.
Taking care of dynamics, the range-topping KB has Traction Control, Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Assist and Stability Control.
On the other hand, the X-Rider – which is a totally SA concept – also has the 18-inch wheels with 255/60 ‘Grabber AT’ all-terrain tyres, a sports bar, running-boards and styled front bumper guard.
Leather seats, stand-out red stitching and radio controls on the leather-clad steering wheel are other features that allow the X-Rider to wear the leisure pick-up lable.
As with the KB 300 LX, the X-Rider has the impressive-looking headlights with projector and integrated LED daytime running lights.
Standing together, the test KBs made a pleasing impression; the 300 in Vector Blue (costing R594 500) and the 250 X-Rider (R463 200) in Summit White or “Saturday White Fever”, as one of the workers at the factory jokingly called it.
Isuzu claims to cover all after-sales worries under one programme – all routine maintenance, regular servicing and roadside emergencies – New Vehicle Warranty and roadside assistance is for five years or 120 000km, and the service plan spans over five years or 90 000km.
And, oh yes, Eastern Cape also owes Isuzu Motors SA a salute for seamlessly taking over the PE manufacturing facility which GM so ungraciously dumped – for the second time – with, I believe, no loss of jobs and minimal fuss.