With “continuous improvement” a deeply ingrained philosophy that has underpinned its operations for more than four decades, Isuzu Motors South Africa (IMSA) has made productive use of the COVID-19 lockdown period.
The Nelson Mandela Bay, Port Elizabeth-based bakkie and truck company said on Tuesday 22 September that it had been a busy year at its Struandale facilities where Isuzu had occupied itself with introducing many changes to its most popular models.
Speaking at a virtual media briefing earlier this week, senior vice-president technical operations Dominic Rimmer said key updates, engineering and durability testing were among the main focus areas.
Isuzu SA: Mastering local conditions
“Despite challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the national lockdown, the engineering and product development team at Isuzu has been hard at work making changes to the current line-up of vehicles with some key updates for 2020, as well as doing engineering and durability testing on the upcoming next generation D-Max bakkie.”
“Isuzu has a very long and rich heritage in our market. We have been engineering and manufacturing reliable and durable vehicles for the last 48 years. In that time, we have learnt valuable lessons about what it takes to engineer a vehicle which can cope with the tough driving conditions in South Africa.
“Our customers are also very particular about what they want. Our aim is to engineer vehicles which are capable of meeting and exceeding those customer expectations,” said Rimmer.
According to Isuzu, a key part of this is the intensive engineering and testing which is undertaken in South Africa on all D-Max bakkies before they are introduced. This work continues well into the products lifecycle as part of the company’s continuous improvement philosophy.
Overview of Isuzu products introduced in 2020:
The 3.0 litre double cab X-Rider Automatic
Isuzu this year, for the first time, made the X-Rider nameplate available with the 3.0 litre engine and automatic transmission. The 3.0 X-Rider is only available with a 6-speed automatic transmission.
“This is a decision which has been made in response to the popularity of automatic transmissions in the light commercial vehicle segment,” explained Isuzu.
The 3.0 double cab X-Rider Automatic has the same bold exterior design which gained significant popularity from all X-Rider models. Front styling is dominated by a black grill with a red Isuzu badge and a black bumper guard.
The 3.0 X-Rider is available with two 18-inch wheel options in black or diamond cut. An X-Rider 3.0 TD logo adorns the front doors along with clear side indicators. All 3.0 X-Riders come with standard black side steps, matt black roof rails, black X-Rider Sport bar, a lockable tailgate with rear view camera, black Isuzu logo, and a standard 3.5-ton towbar.
Exclusive X-Rider interior features include black leather seats with red stitching, a leather wrapped steering with red Isuzu logo, while door panels have piano black finish with X-Rider logo. The piano black finish can also be found on the centre console. Infotainment is a standard eight-inch AX2 TFT touch screen system with steering wheel controls and is used in conjunction with the rear-view camera
The 3.0 litre Double Cab X-Rider Automatic is available at Isuzu dealerships for R 551 100.
The repositioned LX and LE models
The rest of the D-Max model range has received cosmetic changes to enhance the luxury feel of the leisure models which now have an all-black interior including a black roof liner and black cladding on the pillars. In addition, 4×4 models get a black 4×4 sticker which has been changed from red.
Isuzu said its 4×2 models now come standard with tow bar and sports bar. The LE models have been repositioned to make them more attractive to fleet buyers and better positioned against their main rivals. 3.0 litre LX and LE Plus models feature a Brake Override System – activated when both brake and accelerator pedals are pressed together.
The Isuzu 3.0 mu-X 4×4 and 4×2
Isuzu’s seven-seater SUV has received cosmetic upgrades to enhance its styling, giving the vehicle a robust appearance and luxurious style. Exterior styling upgrades include the addition of piano black inserts on the front grill and lower bumper valence including piano black front fog light bezels.
The mu-X now has a stylish new 18-inch wheel, black running boards with piano black inserts on the edges. The piano black treatment continues at the rear of the vehicle with a blacked out rear bumper seal.
Isuzu said changes inside the vehicle include soft leather trim and piano black finish on the door panels with LED ambient lighting strips on all four door, while there is piano black trim around the window switches, on the air vents, and around the centre console.
“The mu-X has an eight-speaker audio system with iPod and Bluetooth phone connectivity, including two roof mounted speakers for superior sound performance. The Ax2 infotainment system with an eight-inch TFT touch screen display is, while a larger nine-inch Multi-Function Alpine infotainment system with satellite navigation is offered as an optional extra. Both units have steering wheel mounted audio controls,” said the company.
“The Isuzu mu-X is a practical and capable family SUV with three rows of seating for up to seven occupants. Passenger convenience features include roof mounted aircon vents with dedicated controls for passengers in the second and third rows, seven charging points for devices, and twelve cup and bottle holders,” added Isuzu.
Space is a key feature of the mu-X which is wider than its direct competitors offering more space and headroom in all three rows.
“Isuzu mu-X buyers can rest easy knowing their passengers are safe in this five-star ANCAP-rated (Australian New Car Assessment Programme) SUV thanks to passive and active safety features such as side-intrusion bars and a comprehensive suite of electronic crash avoidance systems. A less known feature of the mu-X is the Brake Override System which is activated when both brake and accelerator pedals are pressed together,” commented Isuzu.
The Isuzu mu-X is available in two models, the mu-X 3.0 4×2 6-speed Automatic which retails at R 643 100, and the mu-X 3.0 4×4 6-speed Automatic which retails at R 712 200,00.
The next generation D-Max bakkie
Isuzu has also announced that work is underway on the engineering and testing of the next generation D-Max bakkie which will be manufactured at Isuzu’s assembly plant in Port Elizabeth.
“This will be the seventh generation of the company’s popular bakkie, and as we’ve come to expect, the local version will have some uniquely South African features and characteristics,” said Rimmer.
“This next generation D-MAX is a significant step forward for Isuzu in all respects. It offers state-of-the-art technology to enhance the driving experience, efficiency and safety. As you know we have very high expectations for the D-Max here in South Africa so a significant amount of work has to be done to ensure that we deliver a vehicle which is capable of coping with our challenging environment and customer demands,” said Rimmer.
Looking at the load box and beyond
He said some of the key projects being undertaken include testing on the load box which in the current bakkie has significantly thicker steel in strategic areas such as the load box inner panels, load box front panel, and tailgate.
Other areas receiving attention from local engineers include, dust sealing, suspension tuning and development of local dampers, development of all terrain tyres, rear differential lock and axles, wiring harnesses, and accessories such as canopies, roll bars and nudge bars.
Building better bakkies
“Isuzu is proud of the D-Max’s rich heritage of reliability and durability, the company believes the local teams experience will ensure that the next generation Isuzu D-Max remains competitive, durable and reliable in our tough conditions,” concluded Rimmer.