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Monday, November 8, 2021

Isuzu D-Max - star of a rugged bunch

Isuzu D-Max drive by Steve Rogers

What a time it has been for the pick-up market with booming sales and upheaval all at the same time.

The market has gone berserk right across Europe and the UK swept along by Yups going nuts for double cab pick-ups to transport their trendy lifestyle kit. And they are being pampered with the sort of luxury you get in a premium SUV - leather trim, heated powered seats, smart phone connections, you name it the trucks have got it.

At the same time the UK has seen an exodus with Nissan Navara, Mitsubishi L200, Volkswagen Amarok gone although the VW will return, may be next year, as a rebadged Ford Ranger.

These are marketing decisions driven by tough new emissions regulations with high fines for failing to meet the target so new pick-up choice is down to Ford Ranger, Toyota Hilux, Isuzu D-Max and SSangYong Musso but there are still plenty of second hand old favourites out there.

The Ranger might be the top seller but the star of the pick-up show last year was an all new D-Max.

Isuzu is a niche outfit concentrating just on pick-ups and replaced the Rodeo with D-Max in 2012. Then it was still a workhorse for farmers and the trade but the company spotted the change in trends and old and new is like chalk and cheese.

Meet new D-Max with an updated chassis, new body style, integrated infotainment, luxury spec and a suite of safety features that's difficult to beat.

Can a pick-up be stylish? Probably not, but come on D-Max is a looker and will turn heads.

The Japanese company might only build pick-ups but there is plenty of choice with three models, Business, All Purpose and Adventure and four trim levels. Prices range from £25k to £39K so something for everyone.

The utility Business model, which can haul 3.5 tonne and carry just over a tonne, is the main seller but let's jump to the posh Adventure V-Cross where sales are really taking off. It has everything life stylers crave, leather, powered this and that, connections for smart phones, heated front seats, keyless entry, reversing camera and sensors etc etc and an automatic six speed gearbox.

Heating controls are separate which is good but most other functions are controlled via a nine inch touchscreen. There is no sat-nav option but that sort of thing can be patched through from a smartphone.

Even though the rear leaf spring suspension has been retuned the unladen ride is unruly and bounces around on rougher roads but let's be fair D-Max is a workhorse so don't complain about a bit of discomfort. It is easy to expect too much but the new model is better than before on that score.

The double cab comfortably seats five and is a pleasing place to be with two dashboard storage boxes, a handy covered box atop the dashboard and a couple of small hidey holes under the back seat which lifts leaving a good space for a couple of golf club bags and such like. Everything is securely screwed together with no trim creaks or rattles apart from the passenger seat belt buckle that bangs against the trim when not in use. Irritating but easily sorted.

At the business end farmers and the trades are well catered for with full 4x4 capability a given so rear diff lock, hill start and hill descent control and trailer sway control as standard. The load area is lined with hydraulic arms on the tailgate to stop it crashing down.

If D-Max has a weak spot it's the diesel engine. Performance is not too much of an issue even though rivals are quicker and there should be enough power with a full load but it is way too noisy and there is no option for a more powerful engine.

Economy is surprisingly good returning 34mpg over a week's driving, the delivery driver did even better hitting 37mpg all from the six speed auto box, my only gripe is that it is a bit slow to respond.

This will be no easy ride for D-Max but Isuzu has done a fine job of improving and expanding the range and will rattle the cages of Ford and Toyota.

Fast Facts

Adventure V-Cross


1.9litre turbo diesel; 161bhp

0-62mph 13secs; 112mph

30.7mpg combined

241g/km. VED £275

Towing 3.5 tonnes


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