Tested: Isuzu's X-Rider lays on style and value
Johannesburg - The KB250 X-Rider double cab was first introduced in 2016 as a limited edition, but due to its popularity Isuzu decided to bring it back as a standard model, in both 4x2 and 4x4 guises.
On test here is the KB250 X-Rider Double Cab 4x4, priced at R454 100, which includes a five-year/120 000km warranty with roadside assistance, and a five-year/90 000km service plan.
With the price of the top-of-the-range Isuzu KB300 edging close to 600 grand, the KB250 makes a more affordable ‘middle management’ alternative while still retaining a decent level of power, comfort and styling appeal.
That X-Rider package gives it the look of a more upmarket double cab with its black bumper guard with built-in foglights, tubular side steps and black sports bar with X-Rider logos, and blacked-out B pillars. Diamond-cut 18” alloys shod with low-profile 255/50 Grabber AT all-terrain tyres complete a makeover that gives this KB good street cred in a status-conscious market segment.
The seats are leather and have X-Rider logos on the front head restraint. A red X on the door trims, and red contrast stitching in the cabin, is complemented by piano black trim in various places. It all gives the cabin a smarter and sportier feel, and helps take attention away from the Isuzu’s rather plasticky dashboard.
This family 4x4 has a roomy cabin with stretch-out room for four adults - five at a bit of a squeeze - and there’s a reasonable amount of oddments space too.
As per its ‘middle management’ status the KB250 X-Rider gets an old-school radio/CD audio system without a touchscreen, and while it has Bluetooth phone pairing there are no USB ports.
But what it lacks in high-tech style it makes up for in user-friendliness: selecting and storing radio stations with the old-style buttons is simpler than with many of the fancy new touchscreen systems.
The onboard computer is a basic one too, accessed by pressing the odometer stalk.
One bugbear that Isuzu will hopefully fix with the next-generation KB is the lack of reach-adjustment for the steering column, which can be set for height only. The fixed reach means that longer-legged drivers tend to drive with their knees pressed up to the dash.
Other than that, standard kit is reasonable in this middle-spec KB and includes remote keyless entry, audio controls on the steering wheel, air conditioning, electric windows and mirrors, and projector headlights with daytime running lights.
ABS Brakes, stability control and dual front airbags compose the safety package, though there are no side and curtain airbags as in the more expensive KB300.
Under the bonnet is a 100kW/320Nm 2.5-litre turbodiesel which, if you scroll down to the comparison list at the end of this article, has distinctly modest power and torque compared to rivals like the Ranger and Hilux.
The real-world driving experience confirms that this five-speed manual Isuzu doesn’t exactly deliver a blaze of high-performance glory. The 2.5 diesel delivers respectable open-road pace where it has good cruiseability and smoothness, but in stop-start town driving it sometimes gets stuck in the dreaded turbo-lag zone. This can be avoided by building some revs before dropping the clutch, but it does take some concentration to keep this Isuzu in the power band.
Most caravanners will likely rather opt for the 3--litre version, but the KB250 does come standard with a tow hitch and a 2100kg (braked trailer) towing capacity.
The 2.5 engine’s also relatively agricultural-sounding at lower rpm and without a bit of wind whoosh to smooth out the clatter. Once cruising, it quietens down considerably.
There’s enough grunt here to make this KB a respectable adventure vehicle, and there’s a low range gear to help you safely crawl through the slow-and-steady sections.
Our test vehicle averaged a decent if not excellent fuel consumption of 10.3 litres per 100km.
As an adventure vehicle this Isuzu makes the grade with its tough ladder-frame chassis, elevated ride height, and all-wheel drive capability. Shifting from 2wd to 4wd is done on the fly at the twist of a knob, and there’s also a rear diff lock to help you hustle through the roughest parts of the bushveld.
Isuzu’s KB is popular for its ruggedness and practicality, and the stylish X-Rider package gives it some posing power on top of that. If the cost of a KB300 is a hurdle too high, this KB250 is an alluring alternative at nearly 120 grand less.
It has great offroading ability, acceptable power if you don’t plan to do a lot of towing, and a reasonable hitlist of comfort features.