I didn’t see them coming. Exploring the hinterland to the strains of a retro Rod Stewart song (don’t judge me), the meandering dirt road promising all manner of adventures, I rounded a bend to see two tortoises behaving in a very reckless manner. In short, they were crossing the road from opposite directions, oblivious to the approach of a 3 100 kg Isuzu bakkie hurtling towards them at 70 km/h.
Tortoises are a bit like old-school journalists in pursuit of a free drink; they simply put their heads down and go for it, blissfully dismissive of the potential consequences. In this instance, I was able to avoid them with a measured but vigorous twist of the steering wheel, at which point I developed a new respect for the off-road handling of Isuzu’s flagship double cab. The suspension kept the bakkie firmly planted, with minimal body roll and – more importantly – no attempted overtaking by the rear end.
Do not underestimate the Isuzu bakkie. Whereas it may be languishing in third place on the sales charts, way behind Ford’s Ranger and Toyota’s indefatigable Hilux, the KB line-up offers some compelling options if you’re looking for a workhorse with its fair share of creature comforts, driver aids and safety features.
In the case of the KB 300 D-TEQ LX 4×4, these include a touchscreen radio with RDS, a front-loading DVD player, MP3 functionality, Bluetooth audio streaming with integrated hands-free, satellite navigation, a rear-view camera, side and curtain airbags, Hill Start Assist (quite useful on occasion) and Hill Descent Control (you may not think you need this in a 4×4 with low range, but it provides an extra level of control). You can switch from rear-wheel drive, high range (2H) to four-wheel drive, high range (4H) at speeds of up to 100 km/h simply by turning a knob located between the front seats.
It seems most buyers are quite happy with the proven 3-litre, four-cylinder powerplant, which produces a respectable 130 kW and 380 N.m. of torque from 1 800 to 3 800 r/min. Coupled to a five-speed manual gearbox (the auto version adds R13 900 to the price), it delivers enough grunt for most applications and will happily climb Sir Lowry’s Pass in top gear, although it must be said that flooring the gas pedal will not exactly push you back in your seat.
Mildly facelifted, handsome without being overtly blinged (that chromed rollbar is an optional extra), the Isuzu double cab flagship remains a worthy protagonist in the ongoing bakkie wars. Buy one, save a tortoise.
Just the facts
Model: Isuzu KB 300 D-TEC LX 4×4 D/C
Engine 3-litre, four-cylinder, turbo diesel
Power 130 kW at 3 600 r/min
Torque 380 N.m from 1 800 to 3 800 r/min
Top speed 181 km/h
Fuel consumption (claimed) 7,9 litres/100 km
Transmission Five-speed manual
Ground clearance 220 mm
Approach angle 30 degrees
Departure angle 22,7 degrees
Maintenance plan 5 years/90 000 km
Price R558 100