As a child I was always fascinated when I came across a bakkie (a ‘pick-up’ for our non-South African friends) with my initials, KB, on the side or back panels. I would beam proudly as I pointed it out to the nearest cousin or whomever was within arm’s reach. I didn’t know that it was only the Isuzus that were branded as such, I just naturally thought KB was synonymous with power and I liked that. Then, as a teenager, my dad drove a dragon of a blue double cab Isuzu that I will never forget. Of course, it was around that time that I learnt to drive and fell in love with anything on four wheels. So, truth be told, my writing of this article comes with a fair bit of nostalgic bias and I therefore jumped at the chance to cover Isuzu’s launch of the all new range of KB Light Commercial Vehicles (LCV’s).
The guys at Reeds Tygervalley were kind enough to send over as much useful information on their new range as possible and gave an insightful overview of the 2013 KB product range. (The floor models should be out by now, give Jonathan Cerqueira a call on 0219107660 to book a test drive!)
In the wake of increasing rivalry and a quest for dominant market share every LCV producing company needs to be on top of their game. With South Africa consistently proving a warranted market for vehicles of this kind, outperforming many other global markets in terms of percentage sales of LCV’s to passenger cars, this hunt for the top spot becomes increasingly important. 2012 was an especially interesting year in the LCV market, with the introduction of the new Ford Ranger, a stylistic and domineering vehicle in its class and the continuing dominance of the popular Toyota Hilux (who maintained the lion’s share of last year’s sales, with Nissan and Chevrolet close on their heels) highlighting the exact nature of the South African LCV landscape. Isuzu’s 5th Gen KB range still cornered a sizeable portion of the market but it really was time for them to step up a notch and the 6th Gen vehicles could not have come at a better time.
The flagship of their range, the Isuzu KB D-TEQ 300, managed to snap up a host of top awards including such sought after prestiges as best in class fuel efficiency, best in class payload and towing capacity as well as best in class CO-2 emmissions, catapulting the KB ahead of most top competitors.
Stylistically, the design of the new KBs follows more sleek lines than its traditionally chunky predecessors, though it hasn’t lost any of its rugged appeal, keeping up with design trends without sacrificing durability and functionality. In keeping with their philosophy of the ‘Perfect Proportion’ design, Isuzu has managed to avoid many of the pitfalls other manufacturers have made in trying to be too experimental by either ‘prettying up’ their rides or making their vehicles overly large and bulky. Isuzu, in my opinion, has landed on a healthy medium.
The KB comes in three major varieties, with each having a number of options in terms of engine size and petrol or diesel variants (for more on these I’d suggest contacting Reeds directly as they can give you a better idea of the options at hand). The three different branches of the KB arm, however, are the Single Cab, the new Extended Cab and the Double Cab.
The Single Cab is the traditional workhorse of the KB range. Although it features less of the creature comforts present in its sister models it still provides a more than comfortable interior finish and has a number of features you normally wouldn’t associate with any old bakkie, from power steering right down to an anti-dazzle rearview mirror that all form part of the ‘complete package’ as one might call it. Of course, in South Africa, these vehicles are often ideal in the workplace as they are likely to receive governmental tax incentives too!
Extended Cab ranges are often met with a certain amount of disdain for their inability to adequately breach the gap between the single and double cab ranges of most fleets and historically end up being impractical vehicles that only slightly manage to incorporate the best features of either range. One primary difficulty is with access to space. It is not so much a case of ‘Is there extra space and enough of it?’ but a case of ‘How is one meant to use such space when access to it is made impractical and difficult?’. Isuzu have managed to break this by incorporating swing doors that open in opposite directions to one another allowing ease of access to that bit of space behind the driver’s seat and, it must be said, it looks pretty darn nifty to boot!
Of course, the Double Cab needs no introduction. Vehicles of this nature have become the hallmark of South African holidays, rugged adventuring and family safety and carry the mass appeal of a number of generations of bakkie lovers across the country. The new 6th Gen delivers all the comforts of a road car with the rugged durability of an off-road monster. My bet is that within a few short months these beauties will be all too familiar wherever these ideals of adventuring are upheld and our roads are all the better for it!
By Baywatch Bergemann