The popularity of double-cab pick-ups in South Africa is not terribly difficult to understand. They suit our outdoorsy/active lifestyles, can handle a bad road (of which we increasingly have many), and you don’t mind putting a wet and stinky Fido on the back… with a lawnmower or a wheelbarrow. But increasingly they’re being pushed upmarket by customer demands for more “car-like” refinement and safety, and these demands are totally at odds with their, shall we say, agricultural underpinnings. The result is the “luxury” double-cab, a vehicle that attempts to be all things to all people. Can the formula be successful? Perhaps more importantly, at what price?
Isuzu, of course, has been playing the double-cab game longer than most and knows the South African market inside-out. Lately, however, it has been feeling the pressure, and has upgraded its KB range to remain competitive. Visually, the facelift is a bit more intensive than you’d normally expect in the bakkie market. The lines are far more angular (especially up front), and the result is a vehicle that looks both fresh and “macho”, particularly in LE trim, which brings a black bumper that flows into the grille, as well as black wheelarch extensions. Meet the Isuzu KB250...
Ageing interior for Isuzu KB250The upgrade hasn’t quite been as successful inside, where the KB’s “true” purpose is harder to camouflage. The facia plastics are hard and the design lacking any form of creativity. That said, there’s nothing much wrong with the way everything works. The instrumentation is large and clear. The controls are big and logical. The only nod to “new-age” spec is a large-faced audio system.
Space up-front is very good, with lots of head-, shoulder- and legroom. The driver’s seat is adjustable for height (not very common in the pick-up market), and the steering wheel also boasts rake adjustability. In typical bakkie fashion you sit with your feet fairly high, but it’s not uncomfortable. In the rear, however, things are not so rosy. Ingress is a bit tricky for older folk, because the door is quite narrow and the ground clearance (220 mm) demands a bit of a “jump”. Once seated legroom is acceptable, but the backrest is rather upright, which can become uncomfortable on longer trips.
Isuzu is pitching this vehicle at the leisure market, and as such the Isuzu KB250 boasts LE trim, which brings in addition to the items listed above, air-conditioning, power steering, electric windows and remote central locking. On the safety side it boasts ABS, dual airbags and three-point seatbelts for all three rear passengers. Upholstery is a neat dark cloth.
Under the bonnetNew for this model is the company’s 2,5-litre D-Teq turbodiesel engine which features common-rail direct injection and inter-cooling. Yet, the power output is a low 85 kW (at 3 600 rpm) and maximum torque of 280 Nm is delivered from 1 800 to 2 200 rpm. Although 1 800 rpm sounds impressive for maximum torque to come on tap, there’s not much available before reaching that point, as a result of fairly pronounced turbo lag. Swift progress therefore requires regular use of the five-speed manual ‘box, which itself feels a bit “utilitarian”. The driving experience is therefore not quite as upmarket as some potential customers will like. In fact, coupled with the lack of oomph, it may be quite a frustrating vehicle for long family trips as overtaking manoeuvres require careful thought. At least the engine is economical – you should get around 8 litres/100 km – and knowing Isuzu, should also prove just about bullet-proof.
Isuzu KB250 - VerdictThe Isuzu KB250 D-Teq LE is an admirable attempt at being a one-car-for-all-purposes offering. It’s relatively spacious and well-equipped to transport five people in safety. It retains good load carrying ability (970 kg) and laughs at poor or gravel roads. It even looks good. But, considering its intended (part) purpose as a leisure vehicle (and its resultant fairly high price), there are some issues. The engine may be economical and reliable, but it lacks power and sounds unrefined. The ride is typical bakkie-fare – in other words, stiff. In the end you know best whether you really need a luxury bakkie, or can actually make do with a slightly smaller SUV. As it stands the KB250’s workhorse roots shine through a bit too strongly for it be considered a true leisure alternative.
- Build quality
- Safety features
- Load-carrying ability
- Bouncy ride
- Lazy engine
- Plasticky interior appearance
Engine: 2,5-litre, turbodiesel, four-cylinder
Power: 85 kW @ 3 600 rpm
Torque: 280 N.m @ 1 800 – 2 200 rpm
Transmission: Five-speed manual
Wheels: 15-inch alloy
Top speed: 160 km/h est
0-100 km/h: n/a seconds
Fuel economy: 7,7 litres/100 km
- Nissan Hardbody Double-Cab 3,0 TD: Although the Hardbody’s design is older than the KB’s, it has aged well and is a respected player. Its 3,0-litre engine is also significantly more powerful than the Isuzu KB250. Interior not quite as “posh” as more modern rivals.
- Mazda BT-50 Double-Cab 2500 TDI SLE: An underrated player in South Africa, but a good one. Features a high specification level (including four airbags), but the engine is similarly underpowered to the Isuzu KB250.
- Ford Ranger Double-Cab 2,5TD Hi-Trail: The Mazda’s twin, so it shares the somewhat disappointing 80 kW 2,5-litre engine. Although it looks smart with its macho ground clearance, it also lacks the Mazda’s safety spec – there are no airbags, nor ABS.