Isuzu has given the veritable KB bakkie range a significant drivetrain upgrades and introduced its first extended cab derivatives as part of a major facelift.
Having seen competitors significantly outgun the KB range recently in both power and torque comparisons, Isuzu acolytes have finally had their prayers answered with the introduction of three new engines to the model line-up: two turbodiesels and a large-capacity petrol V6.
Aesthetically, the new KB is hardly indistinguishable from the previous range. The restyling has been mild, with new headlamps, grille and bonnet being the most pronounced new styling characteristics.
Essentially the handsome, rakish KB shape has retained much of its charm. The new extended cab model, especially, has a very appealingly proportioned profile.
Interior changes hinge primarily on new silver-plastic finishing that constitute much of the centre-stack. Generally the interior is decidedly average, with a cheap, yet sturdy feel, but with a distinct lack of utility stowage space, especially within and on top of the centre-stack.
Common-rail diesel power
Isuzu might have heralded the switch to turbodiesel power for bakkie use - especially in leisure and double-cab applications - with their 2.8-litre turbodiesel engines in the early 1990s, but recently the KB line-up had been usurped in power and torque comparisons by all its traditional competitors.
The new KB range is ready to redress this with new D-TEQ 3- and 2.5-litre, four-cylinder, 16-valve, intercooled turbodiesel engines. The new range topping 3-litre engine features an air-to-air intercooling system and produces 120kW at 3600r/min and 360Nm between 1800-2200r/min when mated with the standard five-speed manual gearbox.
The same 3-litre engine is available with a four-speed automatic gearbox too, and produces a slightly lower maximum torque output of 333Nm between 1600r/min-3200r/min in auto form.
Although smaller in size, the radiator intercooled 2.5-litre turbodiesel does not embarrass itself in the power and torque game. It produces 85kW at 3600r/min and a maximum torque spread of 280Nm between 1800-2200r/min driving through a five-speed manual transmission only.
The 2.5-litre diesel continues unchanged as the entry-level diesel model for fleets.
Petrol power continues unchanged with the workhorse 2- and 2.4-litre four-cylinders. A new 3.6-litre, 24-valve fuel-injected V6 has become the range topping petrol engine producing 157kW at 5300r/min and 313Nm at a low 2800r/min.
The flagship V6 engine, in similar vein to the diesel range-topping 3-litre D-TEQ engine, drives through either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission.
Our launch route covered significant portions of Namibian highway, dirt roads and dunes as we sampled 4x4 variants exclusively of the three new engines.
On the road perhaps the most noticeable thing about the new KB range in 4x4 trim is the absence of a secondary transfer case lever next to the main transmission gearlever.
Loyal Isuzu 4x4 fans have no reason to fret about the 4x4 range having gone soft though, as the selector case has simply been moved to the top of the centre-stack in the form of a push-button selection system that provides shift-on-the-fly convenience for 4H and 4L engagement.
It really is a great feature, enabling you to engage 4H for handling security at speed when the surface of a section of dirt road becomes particularly perilous. The push-button system is foolproof for 4x4 novices too, who often find navigating a floor mounted, low-range transfer case daunting at first.
The new drivetrains allow one to make the most of the KB range ride characteristics that are quite pliant for a bakkie, whilst the handling, both on tar and sand, remains as surefooted as always. The only dynamic foible were the brakes, which although featuring both ABS and EBD returned a rather unresponsive feel throughout.
Dynamically the new diesel engines were impressive. The 3-litre D-TEQ pulled strongly and smoothly although with a slightly more audible engine note than was expected.
The unexpected star of the show though was the 2.5-litre D-TEQ engine, which never lagged behind in a convoy of 3-litre D-TEQ diesel bakkies and 3.6 V6 petrol's during the high-speed highway runs. Even on the challenging dune-driving section of the launch route, the 2.5-litre D-TEQ simply cruised up even the most daunting dunes in 4H.
Besides the impressive diesel models, the 3.6-litre V6 petrol coped well in the challenging dune environment, but was less comfortable on tar where it lacked responsiveness during high-speed overtaking.
Although the 24-valve, quad-cam configuration and electronic throttle control endow it with a wonderfully smooth revving characteristic, it simply lacks the all-out large capacity V6 punch one would expect from a 3.6-litre V6.
Regarding gearboxes, the option of an automatic really puzzles. The auto box fitted to the 3-litre D-TEQ and 3.6-litre V6 is hardly a sophisticated unit and offers precious little compression braking on extreme gradient descents. It really appears to be a very niche option, probably appealing mostly to boat-owners who need the slip-way pull-off safety of an auto box.
Comprehensive spec, keen pricing
The KB 4X4 range is impressively equipped throughout both the LE and range-topping LX specification level, especially considering average price increases of only 1.1% over the outgoing models.
Even the mid-range LE models come equipped with driver and front passenger airbags and ABS, whilst the LX designation adds cruise control. Practically the only option on the fully specced LX models is leather trim.
Loyal Isuzu customers might still feel it has been a bit too long of a wait, but the new turbodiesel engines have finally given the KB range a revitalised dynamic appeal. The quality ride characteristics, handsome styling, wide range of engine and body-style combinations reinforce the quintessential bakkie characteristic of the Isuzu brand.
The extended cab versions, with their lockable-loadbins for safe-stowage, and the 2.5-litre turbodiesels, with their keen price to performance coefficient, look like the pick of the range.
Isuzu KB Petrol
KB 200i LWB R130 695.30
KB 200i LWB Fleetside R136 901.46
KB 240i 4x4 Fleetside R204 798.72
KB 240i LWB LE A/C R170 268.12
KB 360iV6 Extended Cab LX R228 363.66
KB 240i Double Cab LE R226 711.80
KB 240i Double Cab 4x4 LE R273 701.46
KB 360iV6 Double Cab LX R267 355.08
KB 360iV6 Double Cab 4x4 LX R308 655.00
KB 360iV6 Double Cab 4x4 LX auto R316 812.84
Isuzu KB Diesel
KB 250c LWB R150 635.04
KB 250c LWB Fleetside R157 094.28
KB 250c LWB Fleetside A/C R163 820.28
KB 250 SO 4x4 Fleetside R210 311.76
KB 300TDI LWB LE R220 100.94
KB 250 SO Extended Cab LE R203 909.52
KB 300TDi Extended Cab LX R236 005.08
KB 300TDi Extended Cab 4x4 LX R275 747.76
KB 250 SO Double Cab LE R241 976.40
KB 250 SO Double Cab 4x4 LE R278 333.28
KB 300TDi Double Cab LX R277 953.66
KB 300TDi Double Cab LX auto R284 725.26
KB 300TDi Double Cab 4x4 LX R313 910.40
KB 300TDi Double Cab 4x4 LX auto R320 613.60
All models include a 5 year/90 000km service plan.