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Isuzu Truck is offering a full automatic transmission in its popular Grafter 3.5-tonne truck, says Dan Gilkes. Isuzu Grafter: Automatic choice

Isuzu Truck is offering a full automatic transmission in its popular Grafter 3.5-tonne truck, says Dan Gilkes.

Automatic transmissions have become an increasingly popular option in both the van and light truck markets. Isuzu Truck has offered an automated manual in its 3.5-tonne Grafter range before, but has now adopted a full auto transmission for the first time.

Powertrain

Though tackling a very different market sector, the engine and transmission in the latest Grafter will be familiar to anyone that has driven the Isuzu D-Max pick-up. The heavier truck uses the same 1.9-litre Isuzu diesel engine, though tuned for the Grafter application.

That means a reduction in power output, to 118hp, but a boost in torque to 320Nm, to better suit the typical use of the truck. The Aisin six-speed auto transmission has likewise been tailored to the typical duties of the Grafter truck.

The driveline combination is available in both short and long wheelbases and with single or twin rear wheels. It is expected to become a popular choice with customers.

Load carrying capacity

Payload is one of the big reasons that customers opt for a Grafter. The forward-control truck layout isn’t for everyone, but those companies that do go with an Isuzu tend to be looking for maximum load-carrying ability and ease of manoeuvrability.

This caged tipper is no exception to that rule. The tipper body is available as a Driveaway product as part of Isuzu’s pre-bodied range, though the cage sides are an option that has been added to that.

The standard tipper with the auto box offers a payload of 1,355kg, which certainly compares well with a conventional 3.5-tonne tipper such as a Transit or a Sprinter. The only slight downside of the automatic transmission is a drop in towing capability, from 3.5-tonnes to 2.5-tonnes, which may be a deal-breaker for some of Isuzu’s customers that haul around mini excavators and arboricultural equipment.

In the cab

While the engine and transmission are bang up to date, the Grafter’s interior is perhaps a little less so. Utilitarian would be the best description for the hard grey plastics that make up much of the cab trim.

That said, many Grafter users will appreciate that. If you are working in construction, tree surgery or grounds maintenance, then an easy to clean interior will be welcomed.

The cab has electric windows and visibility all around is excellent, helped by the compact dimensions and clear, large mirrors. The after-market ‘Max Power’ Kenwood DAB stereo could be easier to use though.

Though not strictly ‘in the cab’, the fact that the cab tilts like a larger truck, provides complete access to the engine and transmission for service work.

On the road

Unsurprisingly, for a compact truck with a 2.5m wheelbase and a 1,395mm track, things can get a little bouncy on rough roads. Having a bit of weight on the back helps though and the suspension seat soaks up most of the rough stuff.

The turning circle of this short wheelbase model would shame a London taxi though. Manoeuvrability really is second to none at this weight, which again will prove popular with the type of customers that the trucks attract.

Not that the Grafter is limited to country roads or the urban crawl. If you need to tackle dual carriageways and the odd motorway, the little truck is equally happy cruising at higher speeds.

Conclusion

Very few Sprinter or Transit buyers are going to suddenly move across to the Isuzu Grafter, just because it now comes with an automatic transmission. Those vans are simply too different in philosophy and in design.

However, for the dedicated group of customers that appreciate the compact dimensions, manoeuvrability and carrying capability offered by Grafter, the addition of an automatic transmission is likely to tick another box on the purchasing list.

The only thing likely to hold back some companies will be the reduction in towing capacity. If you don’t need that, the auto model is without doubt a big step forward for the compact Isuzu.

VanUser rating: 4.0

Isuzu Grafter N35.125(SA) tipper

Basic price £28,325
Engine 1,898cc
Power 118hp @ 3,200
Torque 320Nm @ 1,600rpm

Weights (kg)
GVW 3,500
Kerb weight 2,145
Payload 1,355
Towing 2,500 (3,500kg with manual gearbox)

Dimensions (mm)
Load space length 3,125
Load space width 1,740

Cost considerations
Fuel tank capacity 68 litres
AdBlue tank 10 litres 
Service interval 1 year/12,500 miles  
Warranty 3 years/unlimited miles