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Isuzu N-Series 2022 review: NPR 45/55-155 Tradepack

Is the Isuzu NPR a good alternative to a dual-cab ute? (image: Mark Oastler)

Daily driver score

4/5

Tradies score

4.5/5

Isuzu offers a convenient ready-to-work option for tradies with its appropriately named ‘Tradepack’ based on the popular N-Series range, available in a choice of wheelbases and either 4500kg or 5500kg GVM ratings. The lower weight rating can be driven using a standard car licence, so we recently put one of these well-equipped trucks to the test to see how it measures up as a heavy-duty workhorse.

Price and Features – Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

The NPR 45/55-155 Tradepack comes with dual-rear wheels and a choice of 3365mm medium wheelbase (MWB) or 2765mm short wheelbase (SWB) like our test vehicle. Its 5.2-litre turbo-diesel engine is available with a six-speed manual transmission, or six-speed automated manual transmission (AMT) like our example for a list price of $79,177.

It has six 16-inch steel wheels and 195/85R16 Michelin tyres with a full-size spare and is loaded with equipment tailor-made for hard work. In addition to the well-equipped tray (see Design), there’s also a genuine Isuzu 3500kg-rated tow-bar and polished aluminium bull bar, low light-capable reversing camera, loud reversing alarm, roof-mounted clearance lamps, front fog lamps and door-mounted cornering lamps.

The NPR 45/55-155 Tradepack comes with dual-rear wheels and a choice of two wheelbases. (image: Mark Oastler) The NPR 45/55-155 Tradepack comes with dual-rear wheels and a choice of two wheelbases. (image: Mark Oastler)

The standard cab colour is Arc White, but alternative colours like our Quick Silver example are available at no extra cost. It comes with a chrome grille, keyless entry, heavy-duty anti-slip steps, driver’s bucket seat with mechanical suspension and weight adjustment up to 130kg, height and reach-adjustable steering column, big door mirrors with power adjustment, heating and lower wide-angle view, cruise control and more.

Its Android-based multimedia system, with 6.2-inch touchscreen and DAB+ radio, is pre-loaded with Isuzu sat-nav plus there’s 32GB of internal storage and multiple connectivity including internet radio via smartphone, external camera inputs, navigation, reversing sensors and tyre pressure monitoring. There’s also plenty of the latest safety tech headlined by AEB, forward collision warning and more.

Design – is there anything interesting about its design?

It measures 5695mm in length, 2040mm in width and stands 2316mm high when measured from the ladder racks. Compared to a Ford Ranger 4x4 ute, it’s 336mm longer, 190mm wider and more than 500mm taller. However, the Isuzu's remarkable 10.2-metre turning circle is 2.5 metres tighter than the Ford and many other one-tonne utes.

Underneath is a rugged steel ladder-frame chassis with leaf spring I-beam front axle and live rear axle, plus front disc/rear drum brakes, power-assisted recirculating ball steering and a 24-volt electrical system with twin batteries.

The NPR measures 5695mm in length, 2040mm in width and stands 2316mm high. (image: Mark Oastler) The NPR measures 5695mm in length, 2040mm in width and stands 2316mm high. (image: Mark Oastler)

The heavy-duty aluminium tray includes headboard and rear window protector, removable drop-sides and tailgate, internal load anchorage points, external rope rails and a trio of heavy-duty aluminium ladder racks with pivoting load retainers on top. Underneath the tray are fold-away steps for rear access, a large powder-coated storage box and a 23-litre water tank complete with liquid soap dispenser.

The cabin provides fabric-trimmed seating for up to three (driver bucket, passenger bench) and with its torsion bar assistance, the cab can be easily tilted forward and rest at a 45-degree angle (after firstly releasing and tilting the pivoting bull-bar) to provide full access to the engine. However, there’s only a lap-belt for the central seating position.

The cabin provides fabric-trimmed seating for up to three. (image: Mark Oastler) The cabin provides fabric-trimmed seating for up to three. (image: Mark Oastler)

Engine and transmission – What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

Isuzu’s 4HK1-TCN is a 5.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel with air-to-air intercooler, variable vane turbocharger, common-rail direct fuel-injection and Euro 5 emissions compliance. It produces 114kW at 2600rpm and 419Nm of peak torque across a 1000rpm-wide band between 1600-2600rpm, which showcases its flexibility. There’s also a vacuum-controlled exhaust brake which can be switched on or off.

Isuzu’s 4HK1-TCN is a 5.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel with air-to-air intercooler. (image: Mark Oastler) Isuzu’s 4HK1-TCN is a 5.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel with air-to-air intercooler. (image: Mark Oastler)

Isuzu’s MYY-6E six-speed fully-automated manual transmission is, like the engine, designed for long service life under heavy loads, with an electro/hydraulically controlled wet clutch and lock-up torque converter providing both fully automatic or clutch-less manual shifting.

There’s also first-gear start (for heavy loads), normal/economy drive modes and slow/fast gear engagement control, plus a handy power take-off (PTO) provision with drive from a counter gear on the left-hand side of the transmission case, to power numerous implements.

Fuel consumption – How much fuel does it consume?

The dash display was claiming average combined consumption of 15.0L/100km at the end of our 337km test, of which about one third was hauling a heavy payload. Our own figure calculated from fuel bowser and trip-meter readings came in at a slightly higher 16.6 but we don’t have an official figure to compare it to as they are not required for vehicles in this weight class. Even so, based on our numbers, you could expect a real-world driving range of around 600km from its 100-litre tank.

Practicality – How practical is the space inside?

Our test vehicle’s 2925kg tare weight and 4500kg GVM results in a big 1575kg payload rating. And with its 9000kg GCM, it can tow up to 4500kg of braked trailer (if fitted with a 70mm tow-ball) while carrying its maximum payload, which is impressive. The expansive tray has internal measurements of 3450mm in length and 2057mm in width.

There's plenty of storage throughout the cabin. (image: Mark Oastler) There's plenty of storage throughout the cabin. (image: Mark Oastler)

Cabin storage includes narrow bins in each door, an open tray next to the handbrake for small items and overhead shelves with restraint netting to keep loose items in place. There’s also a pop-out dual bottle/cup holder in the centre dash, plus a wide and deep bin mounted on the cabin bulkhead behind the seats which can hold heaps of stuff. The centre seat’s backrest can also fold forward to a horizontal position to serve as a handy work desk.

What’s it like as a daily driver?

The harsh ride quality when unladen is to be expected from a vehicle capable of carrying and towing a combined mass of up to nine tonnes. It’s designed to be permanently carrying heavy loads, so without a sizeable amount of sprung weight to engage its robust leaf springs you do get thrown around, particularly over large bumps and dips.

Even so, the suspension seat can be easily adjusted to suit a driver’s weight and works well in providing a more comfortable ride. There’s also a big left footrest and ample space to rest your foot given that there’s no clutch pedal. The driving position offers commanding views ahead and to the sides, with clear eyelines to the big door mirrors (and central mirror) providing good coverage of what’s behind. The cruise control works well, but will not engage when the exhaust brake is active.

The harsh ride quality when unladen is to be expected from a vehicle. (image: Mark Oastler) The harsh ride quality when unladen is to be expected from a vehicle. (image: Mark Oastler)

Although torque is served at full strength between 1600-2600rpm, the engine maintains good pulling power either side of those peak values. The automated manual transmission with its leisurely shift action is well suited to this engine’s low rpm characteristics, although the long pauses between gears can be frustrating when climbing hills as you lose momentum. Isuzu claims that the duration of these shifts can be shortened using a dashboard adjustment, but we didn’t notice much if any difference after doing so.

At highway speeds the engine stays comfortably within its peak torque band, with 2200rpm at 100km/h and 2400rpm at 110km/h. Engine and tyre noise are low but some wind buffeting is noticeable given the large mirrors, ladder racks etc hanging in the breeze. Braking (particularly when using the exhaust brake) and steering response are excellent and with its impressively tight turning circle, it’s highly maneuverable.

What’s it like for tradie use?

We secured 1.3 tonnes on the tray, which combined with driver and a full tank of diesel equalled a payload just shy of 1.5 tonnes, or about 80kg under the weight limit.

Even so, the ride quality was still on the firm side, which suggested the stout leaf springs still had ample load-carrying capacity in reserve. This was not surprising given its 5500kg GVM certification (or payloads of more than 2.5 tonnes) for those with a truck licence.

The Isuzu hauled this load with ease and performed at its best when tapping maximum torque below 2600rpm. Revving the engine any harder results in more noise for less result, so letting the automated shifting do its thing ensures optimum performance under load.

We secured 1.3 tonnes on the tray for this ride. (image: Mark Oastler) We secured 1.3 tonnes on the tray for this ride. (image: Mark Oastler)

For example, when hauling this payload up our 13 per cent gradient, 2.0km long set climb, it self-shifted down to fourth and held steady at 2000rpm all the way to the top. Although the accelerator pedal was flat to the floor doing this, the engine was clearly happier optimising its torque rather than shifting to a lower gear and higher rpm. Put simply, it had ample pulling power in reserve.

Engine-braking on the way down, with the exhaust brake in operation and without touching the brake pedal, was outstanding. The retardation was so strong it felt like we could have hopped out and walked faster, so powerful restraint of big payloads in hilly terrain is a given.

The Isuzu hauled this load with ease and performed at its best when tapping maximum torque below 2600rpm. (image: Mark Oastler) The Isuzu hauled this load with ease and performed at its best when tapping maximum torque below 2600rpm. (image: Mark Oastler)

Safety – What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

Passive and active safety features include 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, loud reversing alarm, door-mounted cornering lamps and more. ANCAP ratings are not required for this vehicle segment.

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

It's covered by a standard warranty of six years or 250,000km (unlimited operating hours) whichever occurs first. Includes three years/unlimited km 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.

There are numerous trades - and therefore tradies - that perhaps could be better served by workhorses with larger payload and equipment-carrying options than one-tonne utes. This well-designed and versatile package from a reputable truck maker comes ready for work and could be ideal for many heavy-duty job requirements.

$77,388

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

4/5

Tradies score

4.5/5
Price Guide

$77,388

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.