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Isuzu N-Series 2022 review: NLR Servicepack

The NLR 45-150 SWB is the most compact model in Isuzu's N-Series range. (Image: Mark Oastler)

Daily driver score

4/5

Tradies score

4.5/5

For many tradies and mobile service providers, a single cab one-tonne ute in cab-chassis form is a versatile platform that can be equipped to suit virtually any task, from off-the-shelf drop-side trays to complete custom-made canopies and service bodies.

However, utes of this size typically have payload ratings of 1.0 to 1.3 tonnes and a sizeable chunk of that can be eaten up by the combined weight of a tray/service body and essential accessories like ladder racks, tow-bars etc. And that can leave you with a much smaller payload than you need for your tools of trade and materials.

Isuzu offers a convenient ‘turn key’ alternative with its compact N-Series range. This well-designed package comes with its sleeves rolled up ready for work, equipped with a versatile service body and big GVM and GCM ratings that leave one-tonne utes in the shade. And it can be driven using a normal car licence. We recently put one to the test.

Read more about the Isuzu NLR

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

Our test vehicle, to use its full model name, is the NLR 45-150 SWB AMT Servicepack X. It’s the most compact model in the N-Series range and as a result is similar (and in some cases much smaller) in key dimensions to a one-tonne ute. It only comes in one specification with 3.0-litre turbo-diesel, six-speed automated manual transmission (we’ll get to that) and dual-rear wheels, for a list price of $87,789.

16-inch steel wheels. (Images: Mark Oastler) 16-inch steel wheels. (Images: Mark Oastler)

In addition to its service body, this hard-worker comes standard with half a dozen 16-inch steel wheels, 195/75R16C Michelin tyres and a full-size spare. The single cab is well-equipped with useful features like keyless entry with central locking of cab and service body, big door mirrors with power adjustment, heating and lower wide-angle view, driver’s bucket seat with mechanical suspension and weight adjustment up to 130kg, two-way adjustable steering column, cruise control and bright LED interior lighting. Also standard is a 4000kg-rated tow-bar, reversing camera, loud reversing alarm and door-mounted cornering lamps.

Standard is a 4000kg-rated tow-bar. (Image: Mark Oastler) Standard is a 4000kg-rated tow-bar. (Image: Mark Oastler)

There’s also an infotainment system with smallish 6.2-inch control screen and DAB+ radio. Even though there’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, it has multiple connectivity including internet radio via smartphone, external camera inputs, navigation, reversing sensors and tyre pressure monitoring. The driver also gets a multi-information display and there’s plenty of the latest safety tech headlined by AEB.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

This vehicle looks compact in comparison to a one-tonne ute - and the tape measure confirms it. Compared to a Ranger 4x4 dual cab ute for example, its 5020mm overall length is a surprising 339mm shorter, its 2490mm wheelbase is 730mm less and its 1855mm width is line-ball.

The Isuzu’s 2172mm height is 357mm taller, which could present a challenge if access to underground or multi-storey carparks is required. However, its remarkably small 8.7-metre turning circle is a whole 4.0 metres tighter than the Ranger, so it's highly maneuverable.

N-Series is 5020mm overall length is a surprising 339mm shorter, its 2490mm wheelbase is 730mm less and its 1855mm width is line-ball. (Image: Mark Oastler) N-Series is 5020mm overall length is a surprising 339mm shorter, its 2490mm wheelbase is 730mm less and its 1855mm width is line-ball. (Image: Mark Oastler)

Built on a heavy-duty steel ladder-frame chassis, it has independent wishbone/coil spring front suspension, a leaf-spring live rear axle, power-assisted rack and pinion steering and four-wheel disc brakes. It also runs a 24-volt electrical system with twin batteries.

The single cab provides fabric-trimmed seating for up to three (driver bucket, passenger bench) but our test vehicle was fitted with seat covers from the Isuzu accessories range. With torsion bar assistance, the cab can be easily tilted forward to rest at a 45-degree angle and provide full access to the engine.

It comprises a large main storage compartment with big gull-wing doors on each side. (Image: Mark Oaster) It comprises a large main storage compartment with big gull-wing doors on each side. (Image: Mark Oaster)

The service body, which is a blend of lightweight aluminium and steel, has a tough powder-coated finish. It comprises a large main storage compartment with big gull-wing doors on each side, plus a compact rear tray with checker-plate floor, drop-sides and load anchorage points. There are also rear underbody storage boxes on each side, plus sturdy body-mounted roof racks, safety yellow non-slip steps and sturdy grab handles front and rear.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

Isuzu’s 4JJ1-TCS 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel is closely related to the 4JJ3-TCX in the current D-Max ute and MU-X wagon. Tuned for hard work and long life, it produces 110kW at 2800rpm and 375Nm across a 1200rpm-wide torque band between 1600-2800rpm. It’s also equipped with a vacuum-controlled exhaust brake which can be switched on or off.

It produces 110kW at 2800rpm and 375Nm across a 1200rpm-wide torque band between 1600-2800rpm. (Image: Mark Oastler) It produces 110kW at 2800rpm and 375Nm across a 1200rpm-wide torque band between 1600-2800rpm. (Image: Mark Oastler)

Isuzu’s MYY-6E is a six-speed fully-automated manual transmission, which may sound like a contradiction in terms, However, like the engine, it's designed for a long service life under continuous heavy loads. It uses an electro/hydraulically controlled wet clutch and lock-up torque converter to provide either fully automatic or clutch-less manual shifting. There’s also slow/fast gear engagement control, first gear start (for heavy loads) and normal or economy drive modes.

A handy power take-off (PTO) facility can drive numerous on-site implements, with drive coming from a counter gear on the left-hand side of the transmission case.

How much fuel does it consume?

Average combined fuel consumption figures are not required for commercial vehicles in this weight division. Even so, the dash display was claiming 13.2L/100km at the end of our 295km test which included about one third of that distance hauling a heavy payload. So, based on those figures you could expect a real-world driving range of around 570km from its 75-litre tank.

How practical is the space inside?

With a hefty 2825kg tare weight and 4500kg GVM, the Isuzu has a big 1675kg payload rating. It’s also rated to tow up to 4000kg of braked trailer and with its sizeable 8000kg GCM, it can legally tow that weight with a 500kg reduction in payload. Or you can cap the towing weight at 3500kg and keep the full payload. Either way, these are substantial GVM and GCM ratings for any number of working roles.

More places to store things would be welcome in this space. (Image: Mark Oastler) More places to store things would be welcome in this space. (Image: Mark Oastler)

In terms of cabin storage, there’s no glove box but both doors have narrow storage bins and there are overhead shelves with restraint netting to keep loose items in check. There’s also a pop-out dual bottle/cup holder in the centre dash along with two small storage nooks, but more places to store things would be welcome in this space.

  • 2022 Isuzu N-Series NLR I Cabin 2022 Isuzu N-Series NLR I Cabin
  • 2022 Isuzu N-Series NLR I Cabin 2022 Isuzu N-Series NLR I Cabin

What’s it like as a daily driver?

The doors open 90 degrees for easy access and there are decent boot-sized steps plus big handles on the windscreen pillars to help you climb aboard.

It’s a different driving position to a ute, as you sit high above the engine with your feet ahead of the front wheels and hands on a bus-style flat steering wheel. There’s also a big left footrest with lots of open floor around it, so there’s ample space to rest your foot given there’s no clutch pedal.

The suspension seat can be easily adjusted to suit a driver’s weight and works well in providing a more comfortable ride. The seat’s base cushion has no rake adjustment but there is some movement available in the backrest. Large glass areas deliver a commanding view ahead and to the sides while the big door mirrors provide excellent coverage of what’s behind. 

  • 2022 Isuzu N-Series NLR I Payload 2022 Isuzu N-Series NLR I Payload
  • 2022 Isuzu N-Series NLR I Payload 2022 Isuzu N-Series NLR I Payload

Its harsh ride quality when unladen is to be expected as it’s designed to carry permanent payloads between 1.0 and 1.5 tonnes. You do get thrown around, particularly on poor road surfaces with large bumps and dips. However, it’s no worse than the rodeo ride we’ve experienced in some unladen single-cab chassis utes which don’t have the luxury of a suspension seat.

The cab’s insulation ensures low engine and tyre noise, particularly during highway use where the turbo-diesel requires 2200rpm to maintain 100km/h and 2500rpm at 110km/h. The most noticeable noise at these speeds comes from wind buffeting around the mirrors, roof racks etc but it’s far from intolerable, as conversations can still take place at normal volumes.

During highway use where the turbo-diesel requires 2200rpm to maintain 100km/h and 2500rpm at 110km/h. (Image: Mark Oastler) During highway use where the turbo-diesel requires 2200rpm to maintain 100km/h and 2500rpm at 110km/h. (Image: Mark Oastler)

Braking (particularly when using the exhaust brake) and steering response are good but the automated manual transmission takes some getting used to, as it shifts gears at about the same leisurely speed you would do manually.

These long pauses between cogs can be frustrating when climbing hills, as you naturally want to downshift quicker to avoid losing momentum, but you can’t do it in either automated or manual modes. Isuzu claims that the duration of these automated shifts can be shortened, but after consulting the owner’s manual to make this adjustment, we didn’t notice much if any difference (or perhaps we just didn’t do it correctly).

The engine has good flexibility and does not respond well to aggressive treatment. A more relaxed approach is best, using low rpm to optimise torque.

The doors open 90 degrees for easy access. (Image: Mark Oastler) The doors open 90 degrees for easy access. (Image: Mark Oastler)

What’s it like for tradie use?

We forklifted 1.3 tonnes into the main storage compartment which with driver and fuel equalled a payload approaching 1.5 tonnes, which was still comfortably beneath the 1675kg limit. It was no surprise that this greatly improved ride quality and driver comfort, as the suspension is tailor-made for such weight.

When hauling this payload up our 13 per cent gradient, 2.0km long set climb, it self-shifted down to fourth and settled on 2000rpm at 50km/h as it chugged its way to the summit. Interestingly, the accelerator pedal was flat to the floor the whole way, but the fact it resolutely refused to change down to third showed it was more comfortable making full use of its torque reserve rather than down-shifting to a higher rpm range, which was consistent with this drivetrain’s characteristics.

Engine-braking on the way down was outstanding, particularly with the exhaust brake in operation, which reduced the road speed to what felt like walking pace with no use of the brake pedal required. You won’t get close to better engine-braking from a single cab-chassis ute, particularly with a big payload strapped to its back.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

There’s no ANCAP rating required for vehicles in this weight class. Even so, it does have numerous passive and active safety features including driver and passenger airbags plus advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) including AEB, forward collision warning, distance warning, lane departure warning, traffic movement warning, cab-tilt warning and more. There’s also a reversing camera, reversing alarm (the loud beep-beep type) and door-mounted cornering lamps.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

There's a reassuring standard warranty of six years or 250,000km (unlimited operating hours) whichever occurs first. Includes three years/unlimited km coverage for body equipment, plus six years of 24/7 roadside assistance with unlimited km. Scheduled servicing every 15,000km/12 months whichever occurs first. Choice of servicing packages available.

Work out the weight of all the tools, equipment, materials, crew and (if applicable) trailer that you need to haul around each day and measure it against this truck’s formidable GVM and GCM ratings. When combined with its compact dimensions, robust design and build quality, solid warranty and ready-to-work pricing, you may find it’s hard to beat if you’re prepared to think outside the square on what a single cab-chassis ute can look like.

$59,776

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

4/5

Tradies score

4.5/5
Price Guide

$59,776

Based on new car retail price

Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.