Likeable companion

Having captured the high ground in the turbodiesel double-cab market during the 1990s, Isuzu has rationalised its range for 2001 with the popular KB 280 DT retained as the flagship. But how does it shape up in the face of newer competition?


Nowhere does the saying "if you snooze, you lose" apply more vividly than in the booming 4x4 market, but the Delta Motor Corporation has continuously refined and updated its KB range to maintain its competitiveness against ever-more serious rivals. For a time the 280 DT reigned supreme and virtually unchallenged, although more recently a formidable threat has been mounted by the Colt Rodeo, Ford Ranger, Mazda B-Series, Nissan Hardbody and, finally, the latest Toyota Hilux, now with the 3,0-litre Prado turbodiesel engine that it deserved from the beginning. It was the Isuzu that introduced an aerodynamic rounded nose to this style-conscious market sector. The flagship looks entirely contemporary with bold styling addenda that includes a roof-mounted aerial, nudge bar and spotlights and six-spoked alloy wheels. Meanwhile, the KB range has been rationalised in recent months, with the company strategists taking a fresh look at equipment levels.



Features and equipment * * *

While the face of the top Isuzu is entirely familiar, the latest versions recognise the demands of 21st century motoring in South Africa, providing a hands-free cellphone wiring harness as standard, along with a "drive away door lock". All four doors automatically lock when a road speed of 10 km/h is reached, unlocking again when the driver either removes the ignition key, manually releases the driver's door lock, or -- in the event of an accident -- when a crash sensor triggers the unlocking mechanism. The central locking system is also linked to the interior dome light for added safety and convenience. With standardisation on a transponder immobiliser system, which is linked to an audible alarm, the insurance industry no longer requires any additional protection, and the gear-lock has been deleted from the equipment list. As you'd expect at this end of the light commercial market, there are many of the comfort features found on expensive 4x4 estates, although it is still necessary to climb out and manually lock the front hubs. It is then possible to shift between two and four-wheel drive on the move, with a push-button electro-pneumatic rear differential lock offered as standard. In keeping with modern audio and security preferences, the 10-CD shuttle has been replaced by an in-dash four-disc CD changer and radio combination. The electric windows can also be raised or lowered for around 90 seconds after the ignition key is switched off. The KB doesn't sport the handy pop-out cup holders you'll find on a Hilux, offering a recess in the console between the seats instead, although some would argue that the electric rearview mirrors that are missing on the Toyota are a more practical feature. And a handbrake between the seats seems more natural than one you tug out from under the dash, even if it does sacrifice some possible stowage space.  



Accommodation * * * 

The cabin of the KB has always been a comfy place, and even in the face of newer competition it still looks good. What you get is a tastefully appointed interior, finished in quality materials that appear to be hard wearing, although rainy weather and mud during the test made us wish for protective rubber mats. Drivers of various sizes and shapes seem to be happy behind the tilt-adjustable steering wheel, with enough room to stretch out without crushing the legs of rear-seat passengers. The driving position is natural and relaxed, ensuring an enduringly comfortable position that doesn't lead to backache on long hauls, with good forward visibility and decent mirrors to tell you what's going on behind. Rear seat passengers are reasonably well catered for, with oddment space rating about average. The Isuzu's occupants have the choice of smallish door pockets, a couple of recesses in the console between the front seats, and magazine or map pockets in the front seatbacks. As is normal in a double cab, there's always a dilemma where to stow valuables or that briefcase or camera bag. With the rand price of these range-topping bakkies having reached the quarter million mark, maybe it is time that some ingenuity was devoted to creating a secure or hidden compartment. Boot space is what you expect, although the arrangement to release the tonneau cover is awkward and fiddly, falling short of the sheer simplicity of the Hilux's elasticised loops. When it comes to safety equipment, Toyota remains unique in offering both ABS brakes and twin airbags, the opposition maintaining that there is either little demand for these features or it is too early to assess.



Performance * * * *
A couple of years ago it was hard to imagine wanting any more power than the 2,8-litre diesel provides, with the turbo boosting power to 74 kW at 3 600 r/min and torque to 230 Nm at 2 200 r/min. Of course, if you're in a hurry and prepared to pay the fuel penalties, Isuzu does offer the option of the 3,2-litre V6. It offers power and torque peaks of 132 kW at 5 400 r/min and 265 Nm at 4 200 r/min, that are impressive by any standards. Check out the diesel opposition now and you'll find that the others have been busy too. Mazda's B2500D Drifter, and its Ford Ranger sibling, can muster 80 kW at 3 500 r/min and 257 Nm at 2 000 r/min. The top Colt boasts a muscular 92 kW at 4 000 r/min and 294 Nm at 2 000 r/min. And, after trailing behind in the two years since launch, Toyota has remapped the Prado engine to deliver 85 kW at 3 600 r/min and a truly formidable 315 Nm at 2 000 r/min, to become the new yardstick. Nissan, meanwhile, has not gone the turbo route, its naturally aspirated 3,2-litre Hardbody rated at 76 kW at 3 600 r/min and 216 Nm at 2 000 r/min. Of course, you can argue that sheer potency isn't everything, and you'd be right. One has to appreciate refinement, willingness, throttle response and fuel consumption, especially now that each tankful costs so much more. Look at the total package and the Isuzu does well, proving a reasonably polished and undemanding companion that delivers better-than-average mileage out of every litre. In the real world, where absolute power or zero to 100 km/h acceleration figures matter little, it is generally quiet and willing, cruising swiftly without undue noise or fuss. And when you are coaxing it over dongas or boulders, there's grunt enough to idle you over in low range without too much throttle, and enough to battle the energy-sapping traits of deep sand or dune ascents.


Ride and handling * * * *

There have sometimes been suggestions that the KB was too softly sprung, but at the top end of the lifestyle double-cab market it is a joy to discover a vehicle that rides so well, continuing to set standards with the wonderfully cushioned feel of the suspension. A supple ride is sometimes at the expense of handling balance, especially over imperfect surfaces, but the KB can be hustled along briskly with the steering responding faithfully and eagerly both on tar and dirt. Inevitably it is the ride comfort that endears the Isuzu to recreational buyers, although a stint on the 4x4 trail also tells you that it is as simple to manoeuvre over obstacles as it is to park in a city lot. It will sometimes scrape its underpinnings where a rival might not, which is a legacy of a wheelbase that is the longest in the class. Now that the price of double cabs is rivalling that of lower rung station wagons, it is necessary for them to deliver high standards of refinement, with the KB committing itself commendably. Braking also seems well up to standard, although ABS is not an option.



Verdict * * * * *

You can't help liking the KB 280 DT. It provides stylish, comfy and quiet riding with road manners that are in keeping with its status as flagship of the range. But Isuzu no longer enjoys dominance of the turbo-diesel market, the new opposition emerging as formidable rivals to be feared, especially if power and torque are major considerations.




Isuzu KB 280DT Double Cab 4X4 LX


Type In-line, 4-cylinder
Valvetrain  OHV 8 valves
Displacement 2 771 cc
Bore x Stroke 93 x 102 mm
Compression ratio 17.5 : 1
Power 74 kW @ 3 600 r/min
Torque 230 Nm @ 2 200 r/min
Fuel supply Turbocharged, direct injection
Fuel required diesel


Layout Front engine, 4WD
Frame Body on galvanised frame





   Rear Drums
   ABS No
Wheels 7J x 16 alloy
Tyres 245/70 R16
Steering Power assisted, recirculating ball & nut
Turns lock to lock  3.8
Turning circle 12.2 m




Independent, double wishbones, adjustable torsion bars, gas filled shock absorbers

   Rear Semi-elliptic leaf springs, gas filled shock absorbers


Transmission type 5-speed manual
Ratios (: 1) :




   2nd 2.502
   3rd 1.501
   4th 1.000
   5th 0.809
   Final drive 4.555
   Reverse 3.970
Traction control No
Limited-slip differential No
Part-time 4WD Yes


Mass as tested 1 890 kg
Length 4 975 mm
Width 1 690mm
Height 1 695 mm
Wheelbase 3 025 mm
Front track  1 425 mm
Rear track 1 400 mm
Maximum towing capacity  3 700 kg
Fuel tank 83 litres
Approach angle  36 degrees
Departure angle 27 degrees
Rampover angle 162 degrees
Max gradient 36 degrees
Ground clearance 210 mm
Wading depth 600 mm


Speeds in gears:



30 km/h

   2nd 52 km/h
   3rd 86 km/h
   4th 128 km/h
   5th 150 km/h

   0-60 km/h


7.7 secs

   0-80 km/h 12.4 secs
   0-100 km/h 19.6 secs
   0-120 km/h 30.5 secs



   60-100 km/h:   4th


12.6 secs

   80-120 km/h:   4th 17.2 secs
   60-100 km/h:   5th 17.1 secs
   80-120 km/h:   5th 20.4 secs



   80-0 km/h best


3.0 secs   37.5 m

   80-0 km/h average 3.0 secs   37.8 m


Steady 120 km/h 11.1 litres/100 km
City cycle 11.7 litres/100 km
Range at 120 km/h 748 km

Speedometer, rev counter, digital clock

Meters: fuel, temperature


Adjustable steering  Yes
Air-conditioning  Yes
Airbag driver  No
Airbag passenger  No
Alloy wheels  Yes
Bullbar  Yes
Central locking  Yes
Electric rear-view mirrors Yes
Electric windows  Yes
Spotlights  Yes
Headrests front  Yes
Headrests rear  Yes
Immobiliser  Yes
Alarm  Yes
Leather upholstery  No
Power steering  Yes
Radio tape  No
Front-loading CD  Yes
CD shuttle  No
Rollbar  Yes
Roof rails  No
Sunroof  No
Tinted windows  Yes
Tonneau cover  Yes
Towbar No


Ford Ranger

Mazda Drifter

Nissan Hardbody

Toyota Hilux


Current Price Quick Price Lookup
For Ride comfort, diesel economy 
Against Ground clearance
Verdict Remains strongly appealing in 2001
Service intervals  15 000 km

7 500 km oil change

Warranty  100 000km
Nice touches Front-load four-disc CD player

Road test by