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It’s amazing how quickly five years go by. That’s precisely how long the sixth-generation Isuzu KB has been with us. In motoring terms that might seem an eternity, and in a bid to keep it fresh, Isuzu South Africa have made significant improvements to the workhorse in recent times.

With more and more South Africans shunning cars in favour of bakkies, crossovers and SUVs, it was only logical that Isuzu stepped up their game, if they planned to continue their previous dominance in this evolving automotive climate in South Africa, with the KB and new Mu-X SUV spearheading the Japanese automakers’ two pronged local assault.

It wasn’t that long ago that Isuzu refreshed its legendary KB, giving it a new face, along with some tech, refinement and styling upgrades, making the big double cab more attractive for families, and significantly more ‘sporty’ whilst building on Isuzu’s core values of durability, dependability, reliability, and value for money.

The first thing you’re likely to notice about the muscular KB300 is its tweaked front-end made bolder by the re-designed bonnet and a new chromed radiator grille. This is flanked by new projector-type headlights with LED daytime running lights and front fog lights. Beefing up the flagship KB’s stance are 18-inch alloy wheels that not only improves the looks, but also gives better traction and driving dynamics. The rear has also come under the knife, gaining a re-sculpted tailgate that now incorporates a spoiler shape design that is said to improve the aerodynamics of  the boxy bakkie, while its LED tail lights offer improved visibility at night. There’s even a standard fitment reverse camera.

Isuzu has also gone to great lengths to update the cabin too. The instrument cluster now features sportier graphics, while the touchscreen infotainment system – a 1080p HD screen measuring 6.5-inches – now features navigation, a DVD player, internet connectivity and smartphone integration. It should be noted that this system takes a little getting used to, as it feels a little like an afterthought rather that something that works in cohesion with the vehicle.

Finally, some nifty niceties have been added to further enhance the KB300s’ premium positioning, including a power-adjustable driver’s seat, automatic climate control, and a passive entry system with a push-button engine start/stop. And as before, the KB300 features a quality leather upholstered interior.

In the development of the KB, local engineers apparently covered over a hundred thousand kilometres around South Africa refining the suspension with the aim of a smoother ride across a greater variety of terrain. The KB has always excelled off-road, particularly with its class-leading ride quality, and with its large tyred wheels, ride quality is impressive on road too, albeit a little bouncy over choppy road surfaces. However, those large tyres ensure incredible amounts of grip on everything from gravel to soft sand to traversing large rocks.

Boasting a ground clearance of 220mm and an impressive wading depth of 600mm, the Isuzu is designed to deal with the toughest terrain African has to offer. While we didn’t exactly take it up Sani Pass, we did managed to test the 4x4 system on a very light off-road course. The system is easy to use, and can be switched between 2H, 4H and 4L, depending on the driving situation.

Powering the KB300 is a powerful yet familiar 3.0-litre 4-cylinder DTEQ turbocharged diesel with 130kw and 380nm from the common rail direct injection turbodiesel. The motor is paired with a 5-speed manual transmission, although a 5-speed automatic is also available. With peak torque available from just 1,800 – 2,800rpm, the KB300 performs effortlessly in any circumstance – particularly when off-roading, and low range is required. On the open road, there is always plenty of grunt available, with there almost never being a need to shift down a gear – even to overtake.

And thanks to a mountain of torque that’s always available, fuel economy is also impressive, with us averaging a smidgen over 8.2L/100kms for the duration of our test. We didn’t get a chance to haul anything heavy but Isuzu tells us the KB300 is capable of towing 3500kgs, and with the power on tap, we’d totally believe that!

The KB 300 Double Cab LX 4x4 is priced at R580 100, with the automatic LX 4X4 version priced at R594 500, which despite being a little down on power compared to the Ford Ranger and Toyota Hilux, offers a significant price advantage too. The KB 300 – like all KB models - comes with a 5 year/90000km service plan as well a 5 year/120000km warranty as standard.

The Isuzu KB might not be to everyone’s tastes, but it is a proven product that has built up a huge reputation as a practical and agile performer. With off-road ability second to none, and combined with a 3500kg towing capacity, the sixth-generation KB is still – despite fierce competition – one of the best proper bakkies on the market. After all, if you are in the market for a bakkie, wouldn’t you prefer a bakkie built by a company that only builds bakkies?

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