Words by Grant Spolander Pictures by Grant Spolander and Jess Fogarty.
Off-road test: Isuzu KB300 DC
For more than 40 years, Isuzu has enjoyed a reputation for building hard-working bakkies; but, if price is anything to go by, it would seem that the new model is geared to changing those perceptions, and ultimately, to reaping the reward of new markets.
Sure, Isuzu may dabble in the commercial truck sector, but as far as pick-ups go, they’re the only bakkiebuilding specialist in SA. They don’t do cars, convertibles or sporty sedans; Isuzu builds bakkies, and they’ve been doing so since the 70s. It’s a guaranteed success story: South Africans love their pick-ups, and “Isuzu delivers”. The slogan says it all. Much of their triumph stems from Isuzu’s long-standing reputation as a durable workhorse vehicle.
The downside to this reputation is the fact that many pick-up owners (particularly lifestyle buyers looking for a DC 4×4) are reluctant to own what is perceived to be a plaas bakkie. Can the new Isuzu change this perception?
The Isuzu’s cabin is stiffly made, with rigid plastics and hollow-sounding panels. However, the same could be said for most pick-ups these days, with the possible exception of the Hilux, which feels and sounds tougher than everything else. But looks can be deceiving. On the surface, the previous Isuzu was clad with cheap materials and low-rent plastics, yet this vehicle did incredibly well in the Synovate Awards, where it time and again won first prize for build quality – the fewest complaints per 100 vehicles. In other words, appearance is not an accurate measure of build quality. Only time will tell if the Isuzu’s cabin has inherited the durability of its predecessor.
While on the subject of looks, the Isuzu features a modern interior with an altogether pleasing design that’s clean, uncluttered and easy to navigate. You’ll also appreciate the Isuzu’s generous measure of storage space, as well as it ample offering of head-, leg- and shoulder room throughout the cabin.
My only complaint about the vehicle is the narrowness of its windowsill; it’s not wide enough to serve as a comfortable armrest. For me, that’s a no-brainer; this feature should be included in every vehicle. Surely it wouldn’t be too difficult to design a door panel that’s 20 mm wider? You need only drive the Disco 2, 3 and 4 to realise what a huge impact such a small feature can have on comfort levels in a vehicle – particularly on long-haul trips!