The Isuzu Frontier was introduced to South Africa in early 1998 competing in the budget priced station wagon market. The Frontier is a good cruiser, quiet and comfortable and the interior is fairly simple, without many frills. Off-road its standard rear diff lock is a needed feature
as the axle travel is fairly small. The Frontier doesn’t carry a heavy load well; the rear suspension seems particularly light but aftermarket springs are available and most are a really worthwhile modification. Engine choices are the noisy but frugal 2,8 turbo-diesel and the 3-litre V6 petrol. The diesel is better if you intend taking your Frontier exploring, the V6, if the noisy diesel is too much to bear. Fronteir production stopped in 2003.
Isuzu’s initial foray into the South African 4×4 world was in March 1972 with a 2-litre petrol pick-up badged ‘Chev LUV’. The 4×4 derivative came seven years later together with the name change to Isuzu KB series. By now a 1,9-litre diesel engine had been included in the range that was available in the 4×4 chassis by July 1979. In March 1984 engine evolution placed a 2,3-litre engine in the 4×4. The range was still going strong until March 1987 when the entire range was given a face-lift and the 4×4 KB was available in 2,3-litre petrol and 2,5-litre diesel engine, both models being single cab layouts. In March 1993 the noisy but trend-setting 2,8-litre direct injection turbo-diesel and the 2,6-litre petrol engines were introduced together with a double-cab body. For a while the top-spec model was called Reef and Frontier, (Before the Frontier station-wagon was introduced in 1998) a double-cab offered with both engine options. A third 4×4 variant was the 250D, a 2,5-litre normally aspirated diesel engine in the single cab.
In the nineties the Isuzu KB evolved into a respectable off-roader against stiff competition from Nissan, Colt and Toyota. Later it still managed to hold its own against the 1999 revamped Toyota Hilux, despite the Isuzu’s design being by far the oldest in the range. A rear differential lock, now becoming standard on many pick-ups, upgraded the Isuzu to an effective off-roader. Lack of ground clearance is the Isuzu’s biggest drawback and the standard towing attachment snags on obstacles, but can be replaced at modest cost. Changes in the new models were largely cosmetic while the diesel-turbo-engine remained frugal and reliable, and ideal for a working 4×4. It was this engines that kept a very old design popular for so long after more modern vehicles were introduced by its competitors.
Mid 2004 came a much bigger KB. Its small size is gone, its lack of clearance is gone as is its tractor-like diesel engine. Isuzu did their homework well and the latest KB is brilliant. The diesel is just as frugal as it ever was, but more powerful, the V6 is a gem and the off-road performance is as good as the Hilux and Triton. However, on-road it is not quite as refined as these two, and the interior is less flashy, but comfort and quality of ride on a rough farm track or off-road is better than any double cab out there. I think that the KB may be the best all-rounder double-cab in its class.
The Isuzu Trooper was one of few vehicles to directly compete with the Range Rover when it was released in the early ‘80s, and there are still a fair number of these older machines around, mostly covered with rust, but still running. Suspension is by independent front wishbones and leaf springs and a solid axle at the rear.
The second generation Trooper is an altogether different vehicle with independent torsion bars at the front and a solid axle and coil springs at the rear and all the fittings making it top-spec 4×4 competing with the Pajero, Discovery and Prado. The Trooper’s most serious handicap emerges when it is taken off-road. When moving over rough ground in low ratio and trying to keep the speed down it is very difficult to control as delicate power applications are awkward due to an over-sensitive accelerator. For the same reason, driving in slippery stuff at low speeds becomes difficult and the Trooper tends to display a lot of unnecessary wheel-spin. Troopers are fitted with automatic free-wheel hubs and part-time four wheel drive. Called the Holden Jackaroo in Australia, the Trooper’s looks were dated from the time it was launched to the time it was discontinued.