The KB is a South African stalwart under increasing pressure from a refreshed Ford Ranger and the forthcoming all-new Toyota Hilux. Is it still in the running?
-Feels very tough and durable
-Shines in the rough
-More powerful engine
It’s all change in the South African Double-Cab pick-up market at present. Ford has launched a significantly upgraded Ranger. A new Toyota Hilux is imminent. And then, there are also newcomers on the way from Mitsubishi, Nissan and Mazda. In a very short space of time then, the Isuzu KB will go from being one of the newest on the market, to one of the oldest. To improve its competitiveness General Motors has launched a subtly upgraded version. We tested the KB250D-Teq LE 4x4 to figure out whether it’s still in the running.
More power and torque
In the passenger car market a facelift usually coincides with a noticeable styling upgrade. But when it comes to the latest KB, the changes are more focused on specification and, importantly, the engine. The 2.5-litre turbodiesel engine previously delivered a low-ish 85 kW and 280 Nm, but these figures have been boosted by 15 kW and 40 Nm respectively to a more competitive 100 kW and 320 Nm. The torque is available from 1 800 to 2 800 rpm, and drive is through a five-speed manual transmission that feels very robust. Note, however, that even following the upgrade, the 2.2-litre engine in the Ford Ranger still produces significantly more power and torque (118 kW and 385 Nm), and does so at slightly lower revs, too (from 1 500 rpm).
The Isuzu easily has the measure of its Toyota rival, though. On the road the power increase is quite noticeable, but the engine is still less free-revving than the Ford’s. This means you have to be quite deliberate on the throttle to extract the extra shove. The upgrade has also brought the inclusion of cruise control, which is a nice addition especially if you plan on doing long road trips. For those leisure users who want to tow, this KB has a braked tow rating of 2 100 kg. The payload rating is 1 000kg, so it retains full one-tonne capability in its 1 483mm x 1 534 mm x 465 mm loadbox.
While the bakkie underpinnings obviously lead to some firmness around town which may become tiring, it does better when cruising. Subjectively, the ride appears firmer in relation to the competition than it used to be. This is possibly indicative of market movements – newer vehicles more aggressively chasing the passenger vehicle market, while the Isuzu’s worker underpinnings still shine through a bit clearer. It’s not uncomfortable, though, and with a load on the back should be an easy going family vehicle. Rear legroom is good and the cabin is well insulated against wind and road noise. Isuzu claims a combined cycle fuel consumption figure of 7.9L/100 km, translating to a range of just over 1 000km on a single 80L tank.
Good in the rough
The KB has always been an impressive vehicle in the rough and this latest version doesn’t break with tradition. It has a good 224mm ground clearance, 600mm wading depth, and there’s plenty of underbody protection in the form of guards for the front skid plate, sump, transfer case and fuel tank. It boasts a two-speed transfer case, accessible via a rotary switch on the transmission tunnel. 4H can be selected at speeds up to 100kph but you obviously have to stop to switch to 4L. A rear diff-lock is fitted as standard.
With familiarity of the torque delivery and clutch/throttle take, the KB250D-Teq is an easy off-roader. It is also worth mentioning that if feels incredibly solid in the rough and tumble of difficult terrain. It still feels like a “bakkie”, more so, perhaps, than some of its newer, more sophisticated rivals will do. Considering its off-road prowess, the KB must also be commended for a solid performance on the road.
As mentioned before, you may have to press the throttle pedal in a bit deeper than you may initially expect, but the performance will be sufficient for most. It has to be said as well that Isuzu is well-known for prioritising reliability, so what you don’t perhaps have in outright shove is made up for in peace-of-mind. Nevertheless, Isuzu says it has shaved 2.6 seconds off the 0-100kph sprint time and as much as 6.3 seconds from the 40 to 120kph time.
Balanced features offering
Inside, it’s tricky to spot the upgrades. General Motors says the cloth upholstery that is standard on this model has been upgraded. Even so, leather is a worthwhile option considering the likely punishing use these vehicles will have to endure. The facia design is still modern enough and the build quality seems very good indeed. Our test unit never once emitted a rattle and everything worked with solid precision. It seems like the manufacturing plant in Port Elizabeth is producing some excellent quality if this test unit is anything to go by.
Again, the KB’s less “frilly” cabin will appeal to more conservative buyers who may have doubts about the city slicker direction most new double cabs appear to be moving in. That said, it does have most of the features you’d want from a modern double-cab bakkie. The radio offers Aux/USB support and Bluetooth is standard. The neat steering wheel offers controls for the audio system and cruise control.
The steering wheel itself is only adjustable for height, but a comfortable driving position is still easy to find, mostly because the driver’s seat is also height adjustable. The manual air-conditioning system worked well during our hot-weather test session near Worcester in the Western Cape. With regards to safety, the KB now comes with an electronic stability system in addition to the usual ABS/EBD and Brake Assist. Interestingly, while rear Isofix child seat mounts are fitted, there are only two airbags (compared with the Ford’s six).
Conclusion and Summary
While this upgrade doesn’t appear to be a significant one, especially seeing as the Ranger looks quite dramatically different and the new Hilux is, well, all-new, the KB250D-Teq is now a more balanced offering that will appeal strongly to those buyers who are not interested or impressed with the fashionable fripperies of the newcomers. The KB feels like a very solid vehicle with an impressive spread of talents and no obvious flaws.
Isuzu KB250D-TEQ Double Cab LE 4x4 Price in South Africa
The Isuzu KB250D-TEQ Double Cab LE 4x4 costs R429 100 and comes with a five-year/120 000 km warranty and five-year/90 000 km Service plan.
Test Team Opinion
When you drive the Isuzu KB, you get the impression that it has been designed and engineered to be more of a workhorse than a lifestyle vehicle unlike its competitors. The KB is solid and comes with basic features, but given how tough its competition is, it has an uphill battle ahead of it. -David Taylor
Bakkies are bouncy to drive and generally quite hard work when ordered in manual format. The KB is exactly that but that's because it's billed as a tool for the farm or off-road track. It's built solidly and you can feel it's made to last forever. - Ashley Oldfield
We Like: Solid feel, Build quality, Off-road ability
We don’t Like: Only two airbags, limited trip computer
Also consider: Ford Ranger, Toyota Hilux, Mazda BT-50, Nissan Navara, Mitsubishi Triton
Compare the Isuzu KB250 D-TEQ Double Cab 4x4 LE with the Ford Ranger Double Cab 2,2 4x4 XLS and Toyota Hilux Double Cab 2,5 D-4D SRX 4x4
Isuzu KB250 D-TEQ 4x4 Double Cab LE - Quick Specs