Don’t worry, you haven’t accidentally clicked on TruckExpert. While we normally review passenger cars, we wanted to give the Isuzu N Series truck a shot, given you can drive it on a car licence.

Most people default to a dual-cab ute for work purposes, but what if you need more, but don’t want or need a full-blown truck that requires a truck licence? Well that’s where this narrow band of truck offerings come into play.

Isuzu Trucks – while owned by the same parent, it operates separately to Isuzu Ute – sells a series of trucks called the N Series. They are designed to be driven by drivers on a car licence and come in a number of ‘ready to work’ configurations.

So today we’re behind the wheel of the 2024 Isuzu NPR 45/55-155 Trade Pack. It’s the medium wheelbase widebody version of the N Series truck and comes fitted with the Trade Pack, which adds a heavy duty tray with ladder racks and bull bar.

How much does the Isuzu NPR 45/55-155 cost?

Pricing for the Isuzu NPR 45/55-155 Tradepack range kicks off with the SWB Tradepack with manual transmission.

It’s priced from $65,175.70 before on-road costs, while the top-specification model being tested here, the MWB Trade Pack with automated manual transmission is priced from $67,981.06 before on-road costs.

Isuzu Trucks mentions that while the pricing is recommended and exclusive of on-road costs, better pricing can be had through negotiation with the dealer.

It’s also worth calling out that all the accessories are fitted at the brand’s factory in Australia and features like the bullbar are engineered to work with the vehicle’s safety and cooling systems, which some aftermarket components may interfere with.

What is the Isuzu NPR 45/55-155 like on the inside?

My main aim with this review was to see what kind of comparison could be drawn between a work-oriented dual-cab ute and a truck offering.

The first thing you’ll notice is that the cabin feels very truck-like in comparison to a dual-cab ute. The NPR’s interior feels more like where dual-cab utes were about 10 years ago.

Isuzu Trucks is working on a brand new vehicle that sits on a modular platform and features a more car-like interior, so that change is on the cards, but it’s not all grim news.

While the materials feel hard and scratchy, they do feel durable. There are also creature comforts like a larger interior light, storage behind the seats, a middle seating position and a suspended driver’s seat.

I was a big fan of the infotainment system. It’s ironically a far better implementation than what Isuzu features in its D-Max and MU-X.

The large 10.1-inch screen features inbuilt satellite navigation (along with suggested truck routing), AM/FM and DAB digital radio, along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The reverse camera quality with microphone is astoundingly good. It bests anything I’ve seen on a passenger car, plus the screen allows you to connect a number of other camera angles through the screen.

You’ll also find single-zone automatic climate control, central locking and electric windows and mirrors.

What’s under the cab?

Isuzu is one of the world’s biggest diesel engine manufacturers, so by this point they have this type of technology pretty well sorted.

Under the cab of the Isuzu NPR 45/55-155 is a 5.2-litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine that produces 114kW of power and 419Nm of torque.

In this instance it’s mated to a six-speed automated manual transmission, although a traditional six-speed manual is also available. The automated manual has variable shift speeds and the ability to manual select gears on the move.

In the truck world they don’t really quote fuel economy, but on test we averaged around 15.1 litres per 100km.

How does the Isuzu NPR 45/55-155 drive?

Despite sitting over the engine, the cabin isn’t as loud as I thought it would be. The diesel engine ultimately doesn’t sit at a high rpm for longer periods of time, so you won’t find it being overly thrashy or noisy inside the cabin.

Acceleration is smooth, and much like all automated manual transmissions there is a lag between gear shifts as it automates the shift process. I found that it was typically smoother to lift off the throttle during gear shifts to improve shift quality and speed.

Throttle response is typically good and acceleration in-gear is responsive when the engine is on boost. Steering feel is truck-like, but fairly accurate. There is some play about centre, but when it’s loaded up there is plenty of steering feel to give you a good idea of what’s going on under the cab.

The Isuzu NPR 45/55-155 uses live axles front and rear, along with stabiliser bars at front and rear. Both axles also use leaf springs and passive hydraulic dampers. The GVM on a car licence is 4500kg (which is the limit on a car licence) and the GCM is 9000kg.

That means on a car licence you can carry 1485kg of payload (before fitting accessories) with the top specification model tested here. There’s also a 4500kg braked towing capacity (with a 70mm ball), which means you can, in theory, carry a full 1484kg of payload and tow 4500kg with a braked trailer and still be within the vehicle’s limits.

You can’t do that in any of the other utes on the market – including the bigger American pickup trucks like the RAM 1500, Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Silverado – you need to step up to a dual-cab that requires a truck licence before you can match this load rating.

The tray is useful too, measuring in at 4500mm long and just over 2000mm wide.

One of the biggest differences you’ll notice between a truck like this and a dual-cab ute is the ride quality. It lacks the sophisticated suspension you’ll find on a dual-cab ute, and as a result it does crash over bumps and every road imperfection is exaggerated. It’s one of the things that’s hard to get around when you’re aiming for payload over comfort.

The suspended seat definitely helps take the brunt of the impacts, but your passenger will likely notice most of the impacts. It’s something you’d easily get used to, but just something worth pointing out.

CarExpert’s Take on the NPR 45/55-155

We only had a brief run in the N Series truck, but I was genuinely surprised at how much value you’re getting out of your spend.

Spending under $70,000 in the dual-cab world lands you about $15,000 short of a LandCruiser 70 Series and just shy of a HiLux Rogue.

While these vehicles have a lifestyle aspect to them that can’t be matched by a truck, the truck certainly takes the cake for work duties – especially if you’re serious about hauling tools and equipment.

If you’re buying a dual-cab, or even a single-cab ute for your business and are serious about being able to move equipment, a proper truck could actually be the smarter option.

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