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LEAD: Motoring: CLASH OF THE DOUBLE CABS

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The all new Ford Ranger XLT 2.2 diesel vs the Isuzu KB 250 Diesel

The double cab market seems to have exploded in South Africa with all manufacturers now offering more brute-looking vehicles with creature comforts. This makes the double cab double up as a weekend vehicle. As manufacturers keep upgrading the SUV and making it bigger, the double cabs of today seem to be close to the American  ‘trucks’,  which are  more than just delivery vehicles. As this trend seems to continue, we have decided to put two SUVs up against each other: the all-new Ford Ranger vs the Isuzu KB.

STYLING

On the styling front, the Ford Ranger has an all-new front end and the now signature oversized grill that takes up 80% of the front end. The grill has a thick chrome surround and incorporates the Ranger nameplate on the top. The blue oval badge takes centre stage on what looks like three solid horizontal chrome bars. This new styling makes the vehicle look even better than it did before and the rest of the front end is completed with angular lines around the fog lights and radiator air intake. The added ride height of the 4×4 XLT model finishes the brute image; it exudes a ‘don’t mess with me’ attitude. The rear end is rather simple and the larger rear lights complete the look well.

Isuzu has taken a different line to Ford in that it has not made any radical changes to the look of its KB to the point that only on closer inspection do you actually make out the changes. The revised grill has much more chrome on it and sweeps upwards in line with the headlights. The headlights have also been redesigned and now look more like angular than square. The top section of headlight cluster now incorporates the indicator lights. The bumper seems better fitted and has clean lines, giving the vehicle a bit of a sophisticated look. The rear end is like most double cabs, just plain and simple with huge branding on the tailgate.

On the styling front, if you are looking for simple looks with a somewhat sophisticated front end, then the Isuzu will do it for you, but if you’re anything like me and  prefer the brute, rather audacious look, then the Ford Ranger is for you.

INTERIOR

The seats in the Isuzu look comfy and the red stitching adds a bit of sportiness to the cabin. This is completed with the leather-bound steering wheel, which feels good. That’s as far as the sportiness goes. The dashboard is plain but functional and the infotainment system works well, but does take some getting used to. The rear seat leg and head room are surprisingly good and comfy. The rear seats can be folded down in case you want to load on top of the seats but don’t want to mess them. Lift the bottom of the rear seats to reveal the jack and basic tools.

The Ford’s interior is only slightly bigger than the Isuzu’s. This means that there is ample front and rear space for five. Like in the Isuzu, the dashboard is rather bland. The touchscreen infotainment system works well and is easy to navigate. The steering wheel is not as sporty as that of the Isuzu, but serves its purpose. The seats are comfy and fairly soft. The armrest has a soft cushion too, adding a bit of luxury to a vehicle that is normally known for its rugged, tough feel.

It’s tough to compare the interiors of the two vehicles. Both are not the most inspiring, but both are purposeful and practical.

On the road

Both the Ford and the Isuzu were not built to be driven purely on the road, but most of these vehicles see the tarmac for more than 80% – if not 90% – of their lives. As such, the car manufacturers have tried to improve that rock-hard ride that jolts every bone in your body as you negotiate uneven roads. In the case of the Isuzu, I think they could have done more. On the highway and smoother roads the vehicle responds well, but keep in mind the high centre of gravity that reduces its road holding considerably. At slow speeds on uneven roads the car loses it composure and lets you and all your passengers know that very quickly. That being said, the 2,5-litre diesel motor has ample power and is willing to be pushed to its rev limits of 4 500 rpm. The four-wheel-drive system works well and is easy to engage. A simple turn of a knob behind the gearshift allows you to select between 2h, 4h and 4l drive-train options. If that’s still not enough, you can activate the diff lock by depressing the button below the steering wheel. In this mode the vehicle will literally go anywhere.

The Ford too has the option of 2h, 4h, 4l selection by a smaller knob, but the diff lock button is placed close to the knob. The added feature on the Ford is hill descent, which uses the engine to keep your speed slower on down hills. On the road is where the Ford beats the Isuzu hands down. It has a much smoother ride on almost any surface. The only drawback I found is the high centre of gravity as, unlike in the Isuzu, you don’t feel the speed as much in the Ford. This can lead to some quick thinking when you get to a bend. Fortunately, like the Isuzu, the Ford does have antiskid and ABS brakes that help you control the vehicle. The 2,2-litre diesel has ample power but may not have as much torque as the Isuzu’s, if you are looking for an all-out towing vehicle.

In this area there is a clear winner and it’s the Ford. Unfortunately Isuzu has not concentrated enough on ride quality, which disappoints.

Overall

The double cab bakkie – as it is popularly known in South Africa – has won the hearts of many as a rough, tough work horse that can be used to take the family to church on Sunday. The two that I have tested are similar in size and have similar load bays. Both are excellent options off-road, but unfortunately most drivers will never take these vehicles to the edge of their ability. The diesel motors in both sound like those of typical diesel bakkies, which I guess is part of the package. In the comparison both fared well, but one was a clear winner to me. The Ford’s impressive ride and even more impressive looks have taken the chequered flag as the overall winner on the day.

SPECIFICATIONS

Ford Ranger

Engine: 2,2 ℓ  4-cylinder Turbo Diesel

Power: 118 kW

Torque: 285 Nm

0–100 km/h: N/A

Fuel: Average 7,4 l /100 km

CO2: 195 g/km

Price: From R284 900

Isuzu KB 250

Engine: 2,5 ℓ 4-cylinder Turbo Diesel

Power: 100 kW

Torque: 320 Nm

0–100 km/h: N/A

Fuel: Average 7,9 l /100 km

CO2: 208 g/km

Price: From R325 700

AUTHOR | Torque Talk is a member of SAGMJ

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