The forgotten great battle

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Andrew Muzamhindo
Analyst

THE Korean War was overshadowed by the two major wars before and after it, and it occupies a bit of an awkward place between two seminal wars of two drastically different generations.

Thus, it is often unspoken of and “forgotten”, so generally referred to as the “Forgotten War.”

The fighting in the Korean war was undeniably intense. But it did not last for nearly as long as the fighting in the two wars that preceded and succeeded it: the Second World War (WWII) and the Vietnam War.

Both of those wars were major military actions for the United States, with major fighting and battles going on for years. The majority of the fighting in the Korean War, on the other hand, died down after just over a year.

Now, the “war” between Isuzu and Navara bears an uncanny similarity with the Forgotten War. It is a “war” people know about, but it does not generate much public interest like the Toyota Hilux vs Ford Ranger debate.

There are some brands which have served Zimbabwe loyally. Isuzu is one of them. Navara is a fairly recent brand. Remember the Datsun truck? It is a legend in its own right, really vintage stuff.

The Datsun Truck is a compact pick-up truck made by Nissan in Japan from 1955 through 1997. It was originally sold under the Datsun brand, but this was switched to Nissan in 1983. It was replaced in 1997 by the Frontier and Navara.

However, decades earlier, in 1933, a truck called the “Isuzu” was launched. Isuzu literally translates to “fifty bells” and is the name of a river that flows past one of Japan’s most revered holy sites. It was a truck destined for the Japanese government’s fleet, thus enjoyed mass production. So much was the influence of this successful model, that when the company was re-organised in the ashes of WWII, it was named Isuzu.

The D-Max name originated in Thailand, with the “D” originally referring to the 2000 model year Isuzu bakkie which boasted the flush “Dragon Eyes” headlight design. It also represents Isuzu’s proud legacy in the production of diesel engines, the use of industry-defining direct injection, as well as ground-breaking design and durability.

“Max” signifies Isuzu’s maximum approach to design: size, comfort, technology, performance, safety, durability and line-up.

Over the years the two have been overtaken by Ford Ranger, hence it has become a forgotten war between the two. They fight for the number three and four slots. The Hilux rules the roost

Fancy the look of the current Navara? If you do, here is some good news for you — nothing has changed this time around!

The exterior design still looks tough and muscular, and is probably at its best double-cab market, what with its silver roof rails and side steps. A chrome rear step bumper is standard.

Inside, it is probably not the most modern-feeling interior, but the dimensions are good and it is clean and functional, and the ambience is raised considerably with the optional leather seats.

The D-Max remains chunky, solid and purpose-built for adventure. Inside, the cabin remains functional but it now has a more premium feel. Inside the D-Max, they appear to have retained the previous generation’s easy-to-live-with attributes. It has a good eight-inch touchscreen which is easy to use. Build quality, fit and finish remains solid and touring-ready.

The Isuzus handles everything with ease, including runs up and down steep greasy-muddy hills peppered with rocks and tree-root hazards, tight turns in between trees, ploughing through mud puddles and more.

It has 235mm ground clearance, 30 degrees approach angle, 22,7 degrees departure angle, and 22,3 degrees ramp-over angle. The LS-T’s wading depth is 600mm.

The Isuzu retains the previous generation’s hill start assist and hill descent control. The D-Max’s underbody protection includes under-front steel plate skid or splash shield and steel plate guards on the sump, transfer case and fuel tank leading edge as well as sheet steel under the fuel tank.

It has double wishbones and coil springs up front and leaf springs at the rear, reduced from a five-span spring set-up to three, which has resulted in a softer and more comfortable D-Max ride than before.

Nissan is being refreshingly upfront about the owner complaints surrounding the old car. These are a soft suspension that just could not handle a heavy load, and steering that felt slow and cumbersome.

The rear suspension has been completely re-worked, with stiffer dual-rate springs at the back, which made light work of the 650 kilogrammes we towed at launch. That is honestly not something you could say about the outgoing car, in which a heavy load would make the Navara feel overly bouncy, and not exactly confidence-inspiring.

And the steering is now significantly faster, too, which makes you feel far more connected with the front tyres, removing the nebulousness the old car served up.

They are the big changes, and they have genuinely changed the character of the double cab trucks for the better.

The only real downside is that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, and so it will come as no surprise that stiffening the suspension has made the Navara feel a little harder without a load on board, and it can feel like it is skipping over bumps in the road, which you can feel lightly tugging on the steering wheel. But across the board, the changes have been a real bonus for anyone who is going to be putting their Navara to work.

The Isuzu carries a three-litre four-cylinder common rail diesel engine, producing 130kW at 3600rpm and 430Nm from 2000-2200rpm, stays, and is matched to a six-speed Aisin-sourced automatic transmission.

There are two diesel engines on offer here: a twin-turbocharged diesel good for 140kW at 3750rpm and 450Nm at 1500pm, and a 2,3-litre diesel engine equipped with a single turbocharger that will generate 120kW at 3750rpm and 403Nm of torque at 1500rpm. Those engine specs do not seem that dissimilar, sure, but the extra horsepower makes a difference on the road.

The biggest news here is the overhaul of the rear suspension in most of the double-cab trucks. New and stiffer dual-rate springs on SL, ST and ST-X dual-cab cars have massively improved this Navara’s driveability when carrying a load, and the steering has been made significantly faster, too. Credit to Nissan for listening to the customers, and even more kudos for actually dealing with the issues raised. The changes to the ride, handling and the tweaking of the technology offering have made the Navara a much better vehicle to put to work.

The Isuzu is almost indestructible. The engine has been proven over many years in their light truck series. It is robust, practical with some comfort features.

The Navara has a softer ride and handling and is oriented more towards car-like features. They used to be indestructible, lost their way and are now back in business.

The argument about which one is better depends on where in the product cycle the truck is. What is important to you and how much money you have to spend but most of all, your brand loyalty.

andrew@muzamhindo.com

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