Industry Insights


Chris Mullett

April / May 2016

Isuzu has trumped the ute market by offering a fully-bodied service pack fit out for the compact NLR light truck.

If you’ve been following the sales performance of the Japanese truck manufacturers you’d be aware that Isuzu can rightfully claim to have held the number-one sales spot nationally, for the entire truck category, for 27 consecutive years. That solid performance results from the establishment of a management team that has shown time and again that it not only provides what the market requires, it adapts to maintain its edge as market leader.

Medium-weight trucks have featured ready-to-work tray bodies for some time, and we are all familiar with the factory-bodied, all-steel tippers that form the backbone of landscape gardening fleets across the country.

And now for something completely different.

As the price of Japanese and European utes have climbed skywards, it’s not impossible to find that a 4×4 ute with all the trimmings can top out on pricing at over $60,000. But as the standard equipment and safety features incorporated in the latest crop of utes has increased, there’s been a trend that people-carrying and load-carrying ability has actually decreased.

It’s now not uncommon to find that a newly-purchased ute features suspension settings that favour comfort rather than hard work – meaning that for those serious about carrying full-weight loads, the vehicle will probably require a suspension upgrade before it even turns a wheel.

Of equal significance is the correlation of maximum towing weights. With many of the utes coming onto the market claiming a maximum braked trailer towing limit of 3500 kg, it should be realised that as the weight of the trailer nears maximum, the overall weight of the ute and trailer combined has to take into account the need to balance the cargo weight in the towing vehicle against the weight of the load carried in the trailer.

Wherever you see tradie’s vehicles parked alongside a building site these days, they all seem to be coupled up to toolbox trailers with lift-up side panels covering the storage area. Because of the combined overall length of the ute and the trailer, space at the roadside is impacted as the work crews jostle for parking space.

The Isuzu NLR 45-150 SERVICEPACK starts its life as a cabover light truck, using a derivative of the bullet-proof 3.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine that powers the Isuzu D-Max ute.

At 3.0 litres, the version used in the NLR pumps out 110 kW at 2800 rpm and a peak torque rating of 375 Nm from 1600 to 2,800 rpm. Behind the engine sits the Isuzu MYY-6S six-speed automated manual transmission or a standard five-speed manual gearbox.

The front suspension features a fully independent coil spring and wishbone design, much the same as the standard range of one-tonne utes, while at the rear is a standard “live” axle supported on taper-leaf springs. Unlike a lot of one-tonne utes, the NLR features disc brakes all round with the safety features of EBD (electronic brake force distribution), ABS, traction control and stability control.

With its Euro 5 exhaust emissions the NLR is cleaner than many passenger cars for tailpipe legislation, and inside the cab you get driver and passenger airbags, with seat belt pre-tensioners. Optional extras include an inbuilt satellite navigation system with three years of free updates, reversing sensors, tyre pressure monitoring system, an airbag compatible bullbar and full connectivity should you wish to add direct feed to the dashboard screen from up to four camera inputs.

All too often we hear of children being run over and killed by reversing vehicles. This inbuilt safety system with camera monitoring provides a real workplace safety benefit that is not easily available on standard vehicles.

With its 6.2-inch touchscreen display, the sat/nav system links with integrated Bluetooth and voice recognition for a full digital audiovisual entertainment system that offers a storage capacity of up to 4.0 Gb for music files, plus USB/ SD card and other auxiliary input connection options.

But what makes the NLR SERVICEPACK of significant interest is that it comes pre-bodied with a full Australianbuilt service body featuring eight lockers, LED lighting inside each locker, an ADR compliant towbar with integrated steps, optional ladder racks and a secure load space area running up the centre of the tray between each of the banks of side lockers that is fitted with load restraint hooks.

Everything carried by way of tools of the trade can be stored in the side lockers, out of sight from interested parties and with theft prevented by a single remote locking function from the vehicle key fob that locks all side lockers as well as the cabin doors. Each locker features adjustable shelving with chrome plated cast hinges.

In addition to the almost 3.0 cu.m of lockable storage, the centre strip on the tray offers a flat storage area of 1800 x 1000 mm with barn door type latched gates at the rearmost end.

With a gross vehicle mass (GVM) of 4500 kg it can be driven on a car licence, while providing a gross combination mass (GCM) of 7000 kg with a genuine towing capacity of 2500 kg. Complete with a driver and passenger, the legal payload at GVM is 1580 kg. The electrical system is a full 24-volt installation with two 630CCA batteries, and there’s a 90-amp alternator to keep everything charged.

For all those drivers that have cursed the almost shiplike turning circle of the current crop of utes at around 12 metres, the ease of manoeuvring of the NLR will come as a welcome surprise. With a kerb-to-kerb turning circle of 8.9 metres it spins around in most urban roads without having to do the proverbial triple fore and aft shuffle.

Whereas any ute used as a load carrier and for private transport is always going to inflict a compromise on the owner, the Isuzu NLR in ready-to-work mode is going to make the daily grind a lot easier thanks to the improved functionality of the vehicle.

Out on the road the NLR drives smoothly and easily.

With its six-speed automated manual transmission the ratio shifts are smooth and precise. Steering is light and cornering ability is predictable.

The seating position is higher than conventional utes, and by being able to see over the roof of the vehicle ahead you can formulate your driving plans earlier and, consequently, safer.

There’s room in the cabin for two passengers, and with well-placed steps and grab handles the access and egress is simpler than that of the average ute. Headroom is also better.

Being able to lock or unlock the cab doors as well as the side lockers at the touch of the same remote key fob button is a great inclusion, and so too is the interior lighting system in all locker shelving.

As the Japanese-style ute market has gone for softer suspension settings and bigger, beefier dimensions, they’ve lost the everyday worker appeal for functionality.

Delivery Magazine is tipping Isuzu’s NLR SERVICEPACK as capable of making a sudden breakthrough into the tradies’ market, as well as forming a valuable link through to the light and medium truck segment where bodywork can be tailored to suit the work task.