Spruced-up Isuzu bakkie: SA-built KB gets a facelift

<b>MADE FROM REAL...</b> Don't let its weird marketing tag fool you - few vehicles instill as much confidence when tackling off-road terrain as a rugged, now enhanced KB 4x4 bakkie. <i>Image: Sergio Davids / Wheels24</i>
<b>MADE FROM REAL...</b> Don't let its weird marketing tag fool you - few vehicles instill as much confidence when tackling off-road terrain as a rugged, now enhanced KB 4x4 bakkie. <i>Image: Sergio Davids / Wheels24</i>

Walvis Bay - Isuzu has spruced up its iconic KB with the addition of several tweaks and refinements for 2016.

Some of the key changes include new design elements (new head and tailights), improved suspension, new technology (reversing camera and revised instrument cluster).

Wheels24 experienced the facelifted KB while tackling the epic sand dunes in Namibia. 

Improved suspension

One of the biggest improvements is its suspension. Isuzu says its local engineers spent a great deal of time refining the suspension of its new bakkie. Hi-Rider 4x2 models received new front and rear dampers, while 4x4 models received revised rear dampers only. 

Gallery: Refreshed Isuzu KB

This translates to improved ride quality on all road surfaces, a boon for a bakkie that's often associated as being a utilitarian workhorse (read: harsh on the road). 

Familiar engines

A 3.0-litre (130kW/380Nm) common rail direct injection turbodiesel does duty in top of the range models. Isuzu claims a combined cycle fuel consumption of 7.9-litres/100km for 4x4 double cab and extended cab models, dropping to 7.7-litres for the 4x2 versions. The single cab 4x2 also returns a figure of 7.7-litres/100km, with the 4x4 single cab version consuming 8-litres.

READ: New KB X-Rider bakkie - A 'special kind of workhorse' in SA

The second engine is the 2.5-litre DTEQ common-rail direct injection turbodiesel, introduced in 2015 with 100kW/320Nm. 

Two workhorse models, the 250 Base Single Cab and 250 Fleetside single cab, are equipped with the 2.5-litre diesel engine which produces 58kW/170Nm. Fuel consumption is rated at 7.9-litres/100km.

Image: Wheels24 / Sergio Davids

Some of the key changes for the 2016 KB are:

1 New front fascia design including changes to bonnet, radiator grille and fog lamps;

2 New headlamps with projector and integrated LED day time running lights on LX models;

3 New tailgate styling on extended and double cab models;

4 Reversing camera integrated to tailgate handle on LX double cab models;

5 4x4 decal on load box;

6 LX models get stylish new 18" alloy wheels;

7 New 16" styled wheel for rest of the range;

8 New instrument cluster design with improved functionality and gear shift indicator for manual models;

9 Made From Real...

For its enhanced KB, Isuzu has adopted a curious (read: bizarre) tagline that appears to be missing a word (or two). 'Made From Real'... Steel? Parts? Pelicans? I'm not sure what the automaker is going for. 

Taking on the dunes

Our journey through Namibia saw a convoy of upgraded KBs through Walvis Bay and its mountainous dunes, the highest in the world. 

Regardless of your skill level, one thing remains a certainty in the dunes, you're going to bogged down in sand. While I wasn’t the first to be dragged down I was mired twice along the route. Fortunately, the KB is every bit as capable of powering its way over dunes as it is able to extricate itself from the sand (provided you know what you're doing).

READ: SA-built bakkie - How Isuzu’s KB is homegrown in PE

If you’re heading out into the Namib, or any off-road journey for that matter, few vehicles instill as much confidence as an Isuzu KB 4x4. I’d advise anyone setting off for the desert dunes, or any desert terrain, to read a brief guide to dune-driving at the end of the article.

Overall, Isuzu has performed a great job enhancing its KB. The design tweaks are great and improvements in comfort welcome. Whether the improvements will help the venerable bakkie take on LCV rivals, Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger, remains to be seen. In September 2016, Isuzu sold 988 units of its locally-built KB, not a bad figure but well behind the Hilux at 3063.

But with the roll-out of the enhanced version, the automaker could chase its rival's targets.

Image: Wheels24 / Sergio Davids

Here’s a list of sand-driving tips: (some I wished I'd followed)

1 Reduce tyre-pressure to improve traction
2 Drive smoothly with gear changes at high revs
3 Make sure your wheels are straight before pulling away
4 Avoid soft sand at the base of dunes and gullies
5 Take turns as wide as possible
6 Travel straight up or down dunes
7 Follow in others' tyre tracks to drive on compressed ground
8 Avoid braking - rather coast to a stop
9 Don’t slam the accelerator if you are bogging down
10 If you’re stuck, try to reverse through your own tracks

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