Isuzu Double Cab (1997-2004)
Author: Colin Mileman
The arrival of the fourth-generation KB range in June 1997 represented a massive leap forward in quality, comfort and refinement, allowing Isuzu's double cab to really get into its stride. Such was the success of this vehicle that it was widely adopted as a practical alternative to the archetypal family sedan or station wagon.
At launch, six double cab derivatives were offered in the 18-strong KB line-up, starting off in the petrol derivatives with the entry-level KB 200 4x2 at R93 623, the high-spec KB 260 LX 4x2 at R113 228 and the 4x4 version at R150 352.
While the rugged 250D's outputs of 52 kW and 152 Nm were nothing to write home about, the 280DT was a highly rated performer in the previous model, and gained much respect in its updated form with outputs of 74 kW at 3 600 r/min and 230 Nm at 2 200 r/min respectively, matched to solid performance and comparatively low fuel consumption.
A year later, the mighty fuel-injected 320 V6 superseded the underpowered KB 260 in the double cab models, producing a formidable 140 kW at 5 400 r/min and 265 Nm at 4 200 r/min -impressive figures that made it the most powerful double cab on the market by a significant margin.
At the time, several detailed changes were made to the range, including new flush-fitting headlights on the top models, a boost in performance for the KB 200 to 80 kW and 170 Nm, as well as a repositioning of the KB 280DT in the higher LX specification to match its popular upmarket appeal.
With unparalleled levels of comfort and strong performance credentials, it was no surprise when the KB range became the top-selling bakkie in 1997 and 1998 - even outselling the venerable Toyota Hilux!
Facing increasing opposition, the Isuzu range benefited from continuous refinement, and amongst numerous minor changes on all models, this saw the KB 220 double cab replacing the 200 version in the second half of 2000, with more respectable outputs of 85 kW and 190 Nm, while the revised 250D was uprated to 58 kW and 176 Nm.
Once again, towards the end of 2001, the KB was given a fillip with a cosmetic facelift, new colour schemes, fresh wheel designs and bumpers, while the 320 V6 4x4 was dropped from the line-up, leaving the 280DT LX as the only 4x4 double cab in the range.
By mid-2002 Isuzu produced a significantly uprated version of its popular turbodiesel contender, as the 280DT was no longer competitive against the rivals from Toyota, Nissan and Colt.
Its answer was the KB 300 TDi, employing an intercooled 3,0-litre turbodiesel with more competitive outputs of 96 kW at 3 800 r/min and 265 Nm at 2 000 r/min - although Nissan had already set a new standard with the 3000 TD Hardbody with impressive figures of 105 kW and 314 Nm.
Interestingly, a four-speed automatic was offered for the first time with this engine (matched to a higher 275 Nm torque output) in 4x2 spec, although it sold in limited numbers.
Also, compared to its increasingly refined and quiet opposition, the notable clatter of the Isuzu direct-injection diesel remained a feature of the 300 TDi, which didn't make it universally popular amongst the double cab's increasingly sophisticated customers - a trait that still defines the current model that was launched in mid-2004.