We won! Joburg to Cape Town on a single tank in an Isuzu D-Max 1.9 Ddi

Published Apr 6, 2023


By: Mpho Mahlangu

Cape Town - The brief was simple enough: drive the latest Isuzu D-Max 1.9 Ddi from their head office in Waterfall, Midrand, all the way to Signal Hill in Cape Town, using just one tank of diesel.

The task seemed relatively easy at first, considering that the Isuzu team had successfully completed the trek recently. However, little did we know what was in store for us.

On the first day of the challenge we were greeted by a selection of single cab and double cab derivatives of the Isuzu D-Max. My driving partner and I had been allocated a single cab unit. It was back to basics for us and as a reminder, the D-Max 1.9 litre 4-cylinder boasts a humble 110kW and 350Nm.

We received a briefing from the Driving Dynamics team, the experts who had completed the trek before, including helpful tips which we would need over the days to come. Departing from Waterfall would see us navigating out of a busy Johannesburg at midday. Certainly not a great start to an economy run but we eventually made our way onto the N1, heading south as we would be driving to Bloemfontein for our first overnight stop.

Our strategy was simple: use very little throttle inputs and gradually build up speed, short shifting through the gears and sometimes jumping gears in order to reach the highest gear possible, coasting in gear with every chance we got, and ultimately taking our time to reach our destinations because the challenge was a marathon and not a race.

The N1 was fairly drama free, with only a few sections with roadworks, which would see us driving behind a long convoy of other vehicles. The toll plazas also posed a challenge as we’d have to come to a stop but anticipating them early and coasting to an almost complete stop would save us fuel.

After about 140 kilometres, we arrived at the Engen Kroonvaal 1 Stop South for our first comfort break where we took the opportunity to chat to our fellow contenders and compare consumption figures.

My driving partner and I were averaging an impressive 5.1l/100km. The overall target in order to arrive in Cape Town was 5.5 l/100km so things were looking good. The second stint was also fairly uneventful, arriving at our overnight stop in Bloemfontein 287 kilometres later. We had driven 427 kilometres at an overall average of 5.2 l/100km. The lowest consumption we had seen was an impressive 4.6 l/100km..

The second day was said to be the hardest and most challenging as we’d be covering over 600km. We set off determined to keep our momentum but about an hour later we approached a stop and go which proved a lengthy wait, so we switched the car off.

When we resumed our vehicle simply wouldn’t move. It had suddenly gone into limp mode with a lot of black smoke coming from the exhaust.

The technical team resolved it though, allowing us to continue our journey.

Long uphill stretches proved to be challenging so we used all of the tips we had received from the technical team but were still averaging a disheartening 6.5 l/100km.

Leaving Engen 1 Stop Colesberg, we set off for our overnight stop in Beaufort West, continuing the good fight, and by the time we arrived the average consumption figure was down to 5.8 l/100km. Our range showed 460km, with our final destination at Signal Hill 478km away.

On the last day of the challenge, we didn’t touch the AC, even though the technical team had advised that it wouldn’t do much for fuel saving. However, we wanted to save as much fuel as possible.

By the time we reached our lunch stop at Engen Laingsburg 1 Stop, we had been averaging 5.8 l/100km, but we weren’t matching the competition’s impressive figures of 5.1 l/100km. Our closest competitors also had a much higher range reading compared to our 295km.

Our closest competitors were driving a double cab D-Max with us in the Single Cab, which left us slightly baffled, but it was also clear that some of them wouldn’t be making it to our final destination.

We set off for our final comfort stop at Engen Winelands 1 Stop before the last stretch to Signal Hill. We still had steep uphills to conquer. However, there were a good number of downhills where we could coast and save fuel. Things quickly got hairy as one team announced that they had run out of fuel. Shortly after, another team did the same but our calculations showed that our steed would get us to Signal Hill with fuel to spare.

We maintained a sharp focus and continued to our destination. Leaving the comfort break we still had enough range to get us to our final destination but traffic on entering Cape Town was going to prove another challenge, including gridlock in the CBD.

With only three kilometres to go, our anxiety levels peaked, made worse by aggressive buses and a steep incline still waiting for us. We soldiered on and were soon out of the traffic and on the final road leading to Signal Hill, completing 1 453 kilometres on just one tank of diesel.

Left to right: Blessing Mtshakazi, Kumbi-M on Cars; Ziphindiwe Ncgobo, Isuzu South Africa; Mpho Mahlangu, IOL and Kevin Fouche, Isuzu South Africa.

The challenge would be won by the team that used the least fuel on the refuel by the bowser that had accompanied us and I am happy to report that my driving partner and I walked away with the accolade.


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