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NPR 45-155 TRADEPACK MEDIA REVIEW: TRUCKSALES.COM.AU

By Geoff Middleton, Trucksales.com.au

Isuzu has launched an updated N Series with full safety features and a Tradepack upgrade, tempting especially those stepping up from a ute.

Isuzu’s N Series is one of the biggest-selling trucks in Australia, and this year Isuzu Australia celebrated its 32nd year as the country’s market leader.

And with that celebration came the N Series update that many have been waiting for – the one with the safety features that brings Isuzu’s light-duty truck up to the safety standard its rivals have enjoyed for some time.

The Tradepack is a great package for the tradie stepping up from a ute.

Safety is a big deal these days and if manufacturers haven’t got it, they can find themselves out in the cold when it comes to fleet orders. So naturally, dealers and fleets were keen for Isuzu bring more safety to the N Series, and here it is…

Safety upgrade

The new safety features form what Isuzu calls its Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) which is now standard in all 4×2 N Series trucks.

Isuzu says the new ADAS has been designed to observe changing traffic conditions and assist drivers in maintaining a safe distance from other road users, pedestrians, cyclists, and other objects. It all works to help avoid collisions with a combination of warning alerts and autonomous measures that activate when a dangerous change in the driving environment is detected.

You can turn some of the safety features off but we didn’t find them intrusive.

Isuzu’s ADAS features include autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with forward collision warning, lane departure warning, traffic movement warning, a distance warning system and auto lighting system.

The eyes behind Isuzu’s new ADAS is the Hitachi Stereo 3D Camera, which is proven to be accurate in object detection as well as speed and depth perception, day or night.

It’s a similar system to that is used in the recently released Isuzu D-MAX ute and MU-X wagon.

The Hitachi 3D camera sits on top of the dash looking forward and down.

Other standard safety features include ABS with anti-skid regulator, cab tilt warning, driver and passenger air bags, and a standard reversing camera.

The Tradepack

Our test vehicle was the latest Tradepack from Isuzu’s Ready-to-Work line-up. The Tradepack is, as the name suggests, designed specifically with the tradie in mind; it’s a sensible package you can use as is or build up to a semi-customised truck.

The standard features include a heavy-duty aluminium tray with removable drop sides and rear. Into the tray is built a set of three aluminium ladder racks that have been redesigned with an additional cross-member for added convenience and strength. There are also integrated load anchor points down each side and a mesh headboard to protect your rear window.

The tray is huge and features a lockable tool box and 23-litre water tank.

Additionally, you get a genuine Isuzu bullbar, a 3500kg towbar (upgradeable to 4500kg as an option), a neat foldaway rear access step, a lockable toolbox for your expensive tools and even a water tank with tap and soap-dispenser bottle.

For access to the tray, there are additional steps on each side at the front of the tray with hand-holds on the front racks.

It’s a really well-thought-out package with appeal on many levels, with sensible inclusions like the towbar and bullbar.

Inside

The interior of the Isuzu N Series has changed little with this update but worthy of mention is that behind the dashboard there’s a new CAN converter circuit and connector, making it easy to fit a fleet management or telematics system.

Interior is comfortable and functional but you still don’t get audio and phone controls on the steering wheel.

Isuzu has also updated the seating, with a long-awaited suspension seat for the driver and updated seat material throughout. There is also some extra switchgear associated with the safety features such as a cut-out for the lane departure warning, although Isuzu hasn’t gone for any switches on the steering wheel…

On the road

The N Series is powered by the reliable and torquey 4HK1 four-cylinder 5.2-litre turbo-diesel that puts out 155hp (114kW) at 2600rpm and 415Nm of torque from 1600 to 2600rpm. It’s an honest engine that meets Euro 5 emissions.

That drives through either a six-speed manual or six-speed automated transmission. They are basically the same gearbox with the only real difference being that one shifts for you and the other one doesn’t. However, the AMT has a clutchless manual mode if you want to shift yourself.

On-road manners and performance are good. We got a fuel reading of 14.8 litres/100kms.

The ’box has a really low first gear of 5.979:1 and consequently in the AMT it will take off in second unless you tell it you want first. Fifth is a direct drive and sixth is an overdrive at 0.750:1.

Suspension is the standard taper leaf on the front with dampers and a stabiliser bar, and multi-leaf main spring with a taper-leaf ‘helper’ spring setup on the rear.

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Brakes are discs on the front and drums on the rear with an exhaust brake activated by the left-hand wand on the steering column.

Standard towbar is rated to 3500kg but you can upgrade to 4500kg with a pintle-hook hitch.

Steering is power-assisted recirculating ball, and while it’s not the most modern of systems, it gives the N Series a remarkably good turning circle – better than most dual-cab utes on the market.

We had about a tonne of bagged sand in the tray and a couple of pallets which by no means tested the carrying capacity of the Tradepack, but it did settle the suspension and, in combination with the suspension seat, gave a reasonably good ride.

I spent quite a few hours in the saddle of the N Series and found the seat to be really comfortable. Combined with the tilt-and-and-reach-adjustable steering column, it is easy to find a good position at the wheel.

A sturdy Isuzu-branded bullbar comes as part of the package.

Vision is good too. The windscreen is vast for a truck of this size and the A pillars are slim, giving a good view all around. The mirrors are big and electrically adjustable and there’s a convex spotter mirror on the bottom so blind spots are minimised.

Performance from the gutsy four-cylinder engine is more than adequate and it’ll keep up with urban traffic with no worries at all. On the freeway it’ll sit on 100km/h at a tad over 2000rpm with plenty in reserve.

It’s not as comfortable as your average ute, but then again it’s a work truck and not an urban show pony. And it’s a damn sight more versatile than a ute.

The last word

The new N Series is not a quantum leap forward, but it probably doesn’t need to be… yet. The new safety features bring it up into line with the opposition and its reputation for ruggedness and reliability will keep it at the top of the heap for some time to come.

The badge translates to 4.5tonnes GVM and 155 horsepower.

With this model, Isuzu has upped the warranty and is now offering a six-year, 250,000km standard warranty and a three-year warranty on the body and its equipment – the best in the light-truck business.

Some of the components are seeming a bit tired, the infotainment unit for example, and it’s rare these days to see any vehicle with a steering wheel devoid of any controls, but we understand that that may be getting some attention in not-too-distant future.

Until then, if you are looking to upgrade from a ute that probably isn’t up to the task at hand, this truck would certainly give you more payload, more towing capacity, and certainly more peace of mind for the same – or in some cases less – money.

Specifications:

Engine: Isuzu 4HK1-TCN, four-cylinder, 16-valve SOHC
Displacement: 5.193 litres
Power: 155hp (114kW) at 2600rpm
Torque: 413Nm at 1600 to 2600rpm
Emission control: Cooled EGR with exhaust Diesel Oxidisation Catalyst (DOC), ADR 80/03 (Euro 5)
Transmission: Automated manual six-speed with auto and clutchless modes (six-speed manual available)
GVM: 4500kg (5500kg optional)
GCM: 9000kg (10,000kg optional)
Front axle: Reverse Elliot I-beam, 3100kg
Rear axle: Full-floating banjo, 6600kg
Diff ratio: 4.100:1
Brakes: Ventilated disc/drum with dual-circuit hydraulic control, vacuum assistance and EBD
Park brake: Transmission-mounted 190mm drum
Fuel tank: 100 litres

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