The new generation of bakkies is proof that, to survive, a species needs to evolve, writes GAVIN MYERS.
I’m not a big theorist, nor a huge fan of science (primarily because I just don’t have the special type of grey matter required). However, in defence of science, facts don’t lie. I do, in fact, love facts. And the fact of the matter here is that the bakkie is evolving into something of a two-trick pony.
Much like the performance emphasis placed on passenger cars has moved from how quickly they could accelerate to how little fuel they could burn, the emphasis bakkie manufacturers have placed on their vehicles is moving from what they can carry to how they can cosset their occupants. As a case in point, some adverts for the new, sixth-generation Isuzu KB purely emphasise its “car-like interior”…
Manufacturers, then, are wise to the fact that their customers are changing. They want a bakkie that can carry a load, has off-road capability to rival the best, AND provides a quiet, comfortable, classy drive – whether in the work or play context. So, how does the new KB stack up to the mould?
Fairly well, though not quite up there with its nearest rivals, it has to be said. But it is a vast improvement on its predecessor. The KB6 has grown in all directions and, with its new bold yet smart look, our extended cab test vehicle attracted a lot of attention on the mean streets of Johannesburg. The extended cab offers 440 mm of space behind the seats, accessed from rearward-opening “FlexDoors” that also form the vehicle’s B-pillar. The space directly behind the driver’s seat is taken up by a sturdy, lockable, removable storage box that was developed locally by General Motors SA.
Other interior enhancements include the aforementioned “car-like” dash. It offers a great, ergonomic design with numerous handy storage spaces. The increase in interior space over the new vehicle’s predecessor is clear, but a little short of some rivals.
We also experienced disappointing fit and finish faults in our original extended cab test vehicle including an interior light that did not sit in the roof lining properly and a loose panel on the left-hand door. (Due to unforeseen circumstances we couldn’t conduct our intended photo shoot, so a second vehicle was kindly sent for us to photograph.) Our “photo vehicle”, however, was trouble free and as solid as a rock.
The driving position is rather strange. The dash is quite low and the seats quite high giving an uncomfortable sensation when behind the wheel. The steering wheel itself also doesn’t line up squarely with the driver’s seat, so one tends to land up sitting at a slight angle all the time.
But Isuzu certainly has got the rest of the drive right. The three-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine is a gem. It delivers 130 kW at 3 600 r/min and 380 Nm between 1 800 and 2 800 r/min in a strong, smooth, unfussed manner. Turbo-lag is almost non-existent and the torque is sustained far into the rev range, creating a drama-free drive.
Isuzu has stuck with a five-speed gearbox for the KB6 and, in most instances, it is well-matched to the engine’s characteristics. A sixth gear would be welcome at highway speeds, though. Isuzu claims the three-litre 4×2 extended cab will return fuel consumption of 7,8 l/100km with 249 g/km CO2 emissions.
The vehicle rides quite well, if a little jiggly over rough surfaces. Visibility in the extended cab was hampered somewhat by the thick B-pillars and small side windows. Among others, the LX specification includes electronic climate control, cruise control, park-distance control, onboard computer, MP3 radio with USB and auxiliary input as well as Bluetooth hands-free connectivity, anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD) and brake assist (BAS), and driver and front passenger airbags.
The three-litre 4×2 extended cab models offer a 1 180 kg payload plus a 750 kg unbraked towing capability. The load box length measures 1 795 mm (same as the KB5) with a width of 1 530 mm (70 mm wider). The load box height is however 15 mm down on KB5, measuring 465 mm.
When we first drove it at its local launch in March, we weren’t quite convinced that the KB6 had evolved to the extent of its rivals from Ford and Volkswagen. Unfortunately, while it has come a long way over its predecessors and will undoubtedly attract its share of the market, that initial summation stands true.
The KB300 D-Teq 4×2 extended cab comes with a warranty and roadside assistance plan of five years/120 000 km, a five-year/
90 000 km service plan as well as an unlimited mileage anti-corrosion warranty for five years and is priced at R359 400.
And the double cab …
We were also able to test the KB 240 LE 4×4 double cab. Claimed figures for the new 2,4-litre four-cylinder are 112 kW at 5 200 r/min and 233 Nm at
4 000 r/min, returning a claimed 10,5 l/100 km and 248 g/km CO2 emissions. The engine offers good low-down torque, delivering most of its punch lower down the rev range. It does tend to get quite buzzy at higher revs. Due to the extra weight of the larger cabin, the double cab felt slightly more planted on the road than the extended cab.
The double cab suffered from the same odd driving position as the extended cab, but cabin space is also good, with a spacious rear. The interior of LE-spec vehicles is rather sombre though, with all-black plastics in the cabin. LE-spec vehicles have the same audio systems fitted as the LX, but none of the other features mentioned in the extended cab review. It has manual air-conditioning, tinted side windows, dual front airbags, ISOFIX child seat mountings, ABS with EBD and BAS, remote central locking with alarm and immobiliser.
The 2,4 4×4 double cab has a 967 kg payload and a 750 kg unbraked towing capacity. The loadbox on the double cab KB6 measures 1 550 mm long, 1 530 mm wide and 465 mm deep.
Warranty and service plan details mirror those of the extended cab, but this 2,4-litre 4×4 LE double cab retails for R380 200.
In day-to-day conditions, we feel Isuzu’s diesel engines are better suited to the KB and, as with the extended cab model, don’t think the KB6 double cab has evolved enough to take the crown from its fiercest rivals.