It’s easy to love bakkies when the sun is shining and the mercury is comfortably pegged at a balmy 30 degrees, but dial back the seasons to the starker setting offered by winter’s chill and things get a little more complicated.
I’d been excited by the prospect of a refreshed Isuzu KB since it was first announced – finally, an affordable pick-up with real-world range – but I was somewhat nervous as to how it would handle the ice palace climate of Lesotho, where you can use your back porch as a deep freeze during May, June, July and most of August.
Myself and fellow writers, Lelo and George decided that, much like skinny dipping or bare-knuckle boxing, it would be best for us to go ‘all the way’ with the KB and plan the kind of long-distance road trip that simply wouldn’t be possible in any other pick-up on the market not named after an 80s hair metal band. Here are the 5 things we learned while exploring with #SAfricansTravelToo after taking it on a 1200km highway jaunt in the ice and snow.
1. Wait A Minute – Isn’t 1200km Over The Isuzu KBs Full Tank Range?
Yes, you’re right – but also wrong, as I quickly discovered. Officially, Suzuki rates the KB at being able to squeeze a little over 600 km out of its tank before you need to fill it up, and in the real world there are some fair weather drivers who have beaten that figure. On arrival to our destination, our indicator was only two bars below the half mark. Obviously, we had to fill-up on our return.
2. Highway Stability Isn’t As Impressive
The Isuzu KB is designed around a wheelbase that sits tall on its tires, giving the bakkie plenty of real estate to expose to brisk winter winds and not much natural stability to counter their efforts to tip the car over like a sleeping cow in a snowy farmer’s field. By no means is the KB dangerous at highway speeds, but you’ll have your work cut out for you paying attention to the steering inputs needed to maintain a straight track – particularly if you find yourself traveling over rutted pavement.
3. The KB Is Quick
It’s no sports car, but how many affordable bakkies can reliably spin the tires if you get over-exuberant with the go-pedal? I’ll admit that cold rubber and asphalt don’t make for the best traction, but damn, the Isuzu felt strong off the line – and on the highway, too, comfortably surging past 110km/h to pass without hesitation.
The only other pick-up I’ve driven in the KB’s size that displayed a similar willingness to play is the pricier Hilux, which says a lot for the engineering benchmarks met during the KB’s design process.
4. It’s an all-rounder
This is no ‘tire and sticker’ package designed to boost your confidence and get you stuck farther away from home than you otherwise might have attempted in a regular 4×4 pick-up. Instead, the KB is a fully-engineered solution to the conundrum of how to build a truck that can balance day-to-day commuting, hauling, and towing with the desire to kick maximum ass once the asphalt disappears – and it took an unlikely partner to make it a reality.
There’s really nothing else like it, and that’s something Isuzu is heavily counting on as it courts off-road customers. We’re truly living in a golden age for four-wheeling, what with the Ranger, the Triton, the Navara, and the Amarok each offering dramatically different takes on how to have fun 600km from civilization.