Lights, Camera, Action

In late 2021 Isuzu released its smartest and safest N Series to date, packed with safety innovation and supported by a longer warranty period.

Isuzu has been selling trucks in Australia for 50 years, the last 33 as the number one in terms of unit volume.

The 2021 sales result of 10,175 new Isuzu trucks was a 23 per cent increase for the brand from the previous year and significantly, this was achieved in a market which itself grew 20 per cent overall, underscoring Isuzu’s increased market share.

The milestone 250,000th Isuzu sold in Australia was delivered in February 2022.

It’s been a challenging couple of years in which to be launching new truck products and it’s refreshing to be able to actually get behind the wheel and speak with the Isuzu people in person instead of dealing with the shortcomings of two-dimensional online events.

The Australian market is obviously important and respected by the head office in Japan, with proof strongly evident in the new Light Duty N Series which currently offers 61 cab-chassis and 35 Ready-to-Work models.

The Isuzu N Series is available in various wide and narrow cab configurations, as well as crew cab and 4×4 models intended for specific applications.

In addition to the usual safety features, such as driver and passenger airbags, seatbelt pre-tensioners, and anti-lock brakes now expected in trucks, this latest N Series incorporates the Isuzu Intelligent Safety Suite and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS).

At the centre of the ADAS is the Hitachi stereo camera hardware which is similar to human eyesight as the dual optical camera sensor provides the ability to sense in 3D and with depth perception.

The camera is fitted in a binnacle located at the upper centre of the dash to enable superior coverage and is similar to those fitted to Subaru and Isuzu D-Max and MuX vehicles.

The dual camera system has received preference over the single camera and radar combination more commonly seen on medium and heavy trucks. The cameras’ location on top of the dash instead of at the upper level of the windscreen provides a better field of vision particularly for low objects such as children and bollards.

The ADAS also incorporates systems such as Forward Collision Warning, Advanced Emergency Braking, the Distance Warning System which has four settings determined by the driver, and Lane Departure Warning which has two settings and is effective above 60 km/h.

Forward Collison Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking are arguably the most important of the systems. Conventional cruise control is standard although the Isuzu Intelligent Safety Suite does not yet include Adaptive Cruise Control, and neither do its Japanese light duty competition.

Perhaps that’s a feature being kept up their sleeves for a future release as the hardware is already there. An innovation which will be new to many drivers is Isuzu’s Traffic Movement Warning system.

It monitors stationary vehicles in front of the truck, and if the vehicle immediately ahead moves away more than a set distance without the truck itself moving, a warning will be activated in case the driver has been distracted.

Another feature similar to those found in modern passenger vehicles are the automatic headlights which operate in two stages: dusk switching on front and rear parking lamps, and darkness activating the head- and taillights.

To prevent draining the battery all lights are extinguished automatically by removing the key. Many of the ADAS settings are customisable to suit a particular driving style and once on the road the various active and passive safety systems are hardly noticeable and under normal circumstances any interventions are subtle.

The object of the ADAS is to support drivers unobtrusively during regular operation by providing an extra set of “eyes” on the road, a foot on the brake, or in the worst-case scenarios, be the barrier between serious injury or even death in the event of an incident by potentially mitigating the severity of an impact by quickly reducing the speed of the truck.

Moving forward, Isuzu is committed to have a full carbon neutral line up by 2040 and will be accelerating the sales of electric vehicles during the preceding decade. Isuzu, at present, has a number of relationships with other original equipment suppliers including Honda and the fuel cell powertrain Honda is developing.

There is also a key technical partnership with the Volvo Group (Isuzu is well into the process of purchasing UD Trucks from Volvo) and there is the Cummins-Isuzu collaboration which was established in 2019.

Isuzu’s almost perennial market dominance in the country can be attributed to various factors including the brand’s reputation for reliability and strong aftermarket support which keep existing clients coming back for more.

Total cost of ownership is influenced by economy, performance, efficiency and safety which collectively lead to a properly specified Isuzu model being the right truck for a particular application.

In the markets where the N Series dominates, Isuzu has always been about providing the best transport solution, often where the truck is a tool of a business yet transport not always at the core of the business.

This ethos is now further enhanced with the factory warranty which has been expanded to six years or 250,000 kilometres, plus six years of 24-hour roadside assistance on the new N Series 4×2 models. The factory warranty also extends to three years on the bodies fitted to the popular Ready to Work range.

Isuzu offers a range of comprehensive service agreements and extended care options to assist operators to keep on top of maintenance and compliance with advance knowledge of operating costs. Due to increased industry demand and supply chain limitations, many Australian truck body builders are pushing forward scheduled body design work, often well before a customer’s truck has arrived or even been shipped.

Isuzu’s Product Engineering Development Centre has been utilising a three-dimensional CAD (Computer Aided Design) system to enable even better preparation for body builders.

Having millimeter perfect 3D CAD modelling in hand before the truck has arrived means a body, and the all-important mounting system can be designed and manufactured well in advance.

The process can include 3D printing allowing for the rapid prototyping and proof of concept for components as simple as a body mount outrigger which can be easily tested at full scale.

Inside the cab’s additional updates in the new range there is an interior revamp in seat cover material.

There are numerous storage facilities and drink holders and even a specifically designed holder for the fuel card. NPR and NQR models are equipped with automatic climate control and other models in the N Series can be optioned up from their manual HVAC systems at extra cost.

Behind the dashboard is a new CAN converter circuit and connector, making it a simple exercise to fit a fleet management or telematics system.

Isuzu does a great job with its heated mirrors which are mounted in a forward position on the doors and, from driver’s perspective, align with A pillar so that at intersections and roundabouts there is less interruption of view to the front and sides without compromising rear vision.

The doors themselves have received additional reinforcement in the form of anti-intrusion bars. Superior occupant protection is achieved due to the cab meeting the UN ECE-R29 rating. An audible and visual cab tilt warning is a new addition which alerts the driver if the cab is not correctly locked down. There is also a motorhome spec where the cab does not tilt, with access to the mechanicals via a floor hatch.

Power options start with a 3.0-litre 110kW engine with 375Nm of torque, through to a 5.2 litre rated either at 114kW/419Nm or 140kW/513Nm.

In addition to five- and six speed manual gearboxes, Isuzu provides options for automated manual transmissions (AMT) including the unique AMT with a torque convertor which moves even closer to car based operation due to its ‘park’ position for the transmission selector.

The AMTs have been tweaked to deliver an improved smoothness, most noticeable when the engine is “blipped” automatically when the transmission is down shifting to better match engine and road speeds.

All new N Series trucks receive at least 500 kg increases in towing capacity, which adds weight (pun intended) to the argument of using an Isuzu N Series light truck in place of an overloaded conventional ute. Some models are capable of towing 4,500kg using a factory tow bar.

The upgrades in the Isuzu Light Duty range will be complimented later in 2022 with new models in the Medium and Heavy Duty line ups.