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eXpressive Isuzu KB X-Rider returns


It seldom occurs that a manufacturer goes back on its original plan to offer a vehicle designated as a limited or special edition as part of its mainstream range. This approach has not stopped Isuzu from doing exactly that.

Somewhat unexpectedly, the aesthetically enhanced version of the aged KB proved to be massive hit with all of the allocated units quickly disappearing from dealership floors. The success of the X-Rider came as little surprise when General Motors announced in March that the moniker would be revived for the base 250 D-TEQ, only this time as a permanent model fixture and in double cab form.

Facelifted towards the end of last year on top of spec and engine revisions in September 2015, the second round of alterations gave the KB a fighting chance against its arch-rivals from Ford and Toyota, with a much more aggressive appearance than the soft lines of the pre-revised model.

The X-Rider, despite its base model roots, takes this one step further by adding an imposing black front bumper with an underside guard and foglights, blacked-out B-pillar, black roll bar, side steps, door mirrors and door handles, tonneau cover, X-Rider badging and smart looking diamond cut 18-inch alloy wheels with a red Isuzu centre cap wrapped in special low-profile 255/50 General Grabber AT all-terrain tyres.

Suitably more striking than the previous X-Rider and dare I say the top-spec 300 D-TEQ LX, the exterior execution is in stark contrast to the interior, where the Port Elizabeth built KB shows its age in terms of design, quality and lack of modern-day features.

Granted, while the X-Rider does get leather seats, piano key black inserts, leather covered steering with audio controls, X-Rider embroidered headrests, contrasting red stitching and X motifs on the doors, the overall look is thoroughly outdated with the presence of hilariously cheap feeling and sounding plastics not helping matters at all.

Arguably the most frustrating aspect, especially for audiophiles, is the basic two-speaker sound system which became an utter frustration when trying to pair one’s smartphone via the Bluetooth system.

While lacking a touchscreen setup is expected given the X-Rider’s market placing, the actual connecting process took more than 10-minutes to figure out, eventually resulting in the supplementary handbook being consulted. After this, it was plain sailing although the actual sound quality was below par.

As for standard equipment, the X-Rider comes rather well equipped for an entry-level model, with notable standard kit consisting of air-conditioning, auto lock/unlock doors, height adjustable steering wheel, electric windows all around, projector-like headlights with daytime running LEDs, electric mirrors, dual front airbags, ABS with EBD and BAS, traction control and Hill Start Assist.

What the dated cabin did offer up though was impressive levels of rear head and legroom, and a multitude of storage areas namely a split glovebox, box between the front seats, slot underneath the HVAC controls, tray on top of the dashboard, and cupholders below the air vents doubling up as coin trays.

In spite of its rivals feeling decidedly SUV-like in terms of their refinement, the KB sounds agricultural when you fi e-up the 2.5-litre D-TEQ turbodiesel engine.

Part of the September upgrade with outputs rising to 100kW/320Nm, the unashamedly old school oil burner, although renowned for lasting forever, felt somewhat underwhelming with large amounts of turbo lag and consistent need to exploit the upper regions of the rev-range to keep momentum going.

Like the engine, the five-speed manual gearbox stems from a bygone era and requires a firm hand to make cog-swapping smooth, with the absence of a sixth ratio being soundly missed during a quick weekend trip to Witbank. Surprisingly though, the drivetrain served up the biggest service with a best fuel consumption figure of 8.9-litres/100 km during said trip, although this fell back to 9.2-litres/100 km at the completion of the X-Rider’s tenure.

It remains a local favourite with over 1 000 units sold monthly, yet for all its faults, there is an inherent charm to the Isuzu KB that is unlikely to disappear soon.

At R388 500, the X-Rider represents strong value as it comes with a host of features not found on the regular base KB, an additional to being a double cab. As a means of standing out without the sticker price of traditional flagship aesthetically enhanced models, the X-Rider makes for an act hard to beat.

Article written by Charl Bosch
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