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Andy Harris
Motoring and Property Editor
@ytimesmotoring
11:02 AM 3rd May 2021
cars

All-New Isuzu D-Max On Sale – First Drive Review

There has been a mass exodus from the pickup truck market, a little strange when not so long ago manufacturers were rushing out new offerings, keen to get a slice of the action. So, what has happened?

It seems that contrary to predictions, buyers didn’t flock to trade in their SUVs. Gone is the Mercedes-Benz X-Class, Fiat Fullback, Mitsubishi L200, Nissan Navara and the Volkswagen Amarok. The latter will return as a joint venture with Ford.

Still on sale are the ever-popular Ford Ranger, tough as old boots Toyota Hilux, SsangYong Musso and the all-new Isuzu D-Max.

I recently journeyed to a Derbyshire quarry to get behind the wheel of the D-Max, the promise of a good day ahead.

The new truck has much more presence. The new grille is more imposing and together with the newly designed lights, the vehicle takes on a more aggressive appearance. Side steps protect the body and aid access, whilst the new rear bumper also now includes a step for easy load bed access.

There are now three distinct ranges and four trim levels. The ‘Business’ range is clearly aimed at the working owner and can be had in single, extended and double cab variants.

Next up are the ‘All-Purpose’ models which improves the spec considerably and offer an automatic transmission option.

Top of the pile is the ‘Adventure’ range, with styling enhancements clearly aimed at the lifestyle buyer. All bases would therefore seem to be covered – a D-Max to suit all buyers, but will they all be satisfied?

Prices start at £21,009 + VAT and there is a delightful honesty about the D-Max in this basic guise. Single cab, two-wheel drive and a decent level of kit including power windows, central locking, air conditioning and even cruise control.

I was able to sample a four-wheel drive model both on and off road. The manual gearchange is reasonably precise, the clutch light and the overall driving experience rather pleasant. An air of robustness and fit for purpose rather sum it up and I could happily live with a double cab ‘Utility’ model, £24,509 + VAT.

It is interesting that Isuzu expect its best seller to be the top model in the ‘Adventure’ range – the V-Cross Auto, which costs a smidgen under £40,000 if you include the VAT! I am not convinced.

Part of my reasoning for this is what sits under the bonnet of all D-Max models. It is the familiar 1.9-litre turbo-diesel engine. Boasting 164PS and 360Nm of torque, it is an effective engine but sadly becomes far too agricultural when extended. It also now needs AdBlue to reduce emissions.

Much work has clearly gone into making the D-Max a more refined offering and this is clear from improvements to the suspension and steering. Shame Isuzu didn’t at least fit more sound deadening to silence the high revs grumblings!

Isuzu had laid on a series of off-road challenges and in this regard the D-Max positively shone. Steep ascents and descents were tackled with ease and the four-wheel drive system now engages with alacrity, ideal if you suddenly find yourself in a tricky situation. A rear differential lock is fitted to top models. Hill Descent and Start Assist are however standard on all.

Key components benefit from full underbody protection, essential for the more hardcore user.

As a workhorse, the D-Max will excel. Able to tow a trailer of up to 3.5 tonnes and with a 1 tonne payload, there is not much the pickup will not be able to do.

Safety improvements are worthy of comment, especially as the new D-Max has been awarded a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating. It is the first pickup to achieve this accolade and that should be applauded.

It is also worth mentioning that the D-Max weighs less than 2,040kg. Why is this significant? Well, many double cab trucks exceed this weight and therefore must comply with goods vehicle speed limits, which are 10mph lower on single and dual carriageways.

The D-Max interior is much improved. The quality of the trim materials feels more premium, whilst still retaining their air of robustness. Seats are comfortable, with adjustable lumbar support on all models.

Rear occupants have more space and larger doors for easier access. Up to 10 cupholders a located round the cabin and there’s plenty of additional storage compartments.

The steering wheel now boasts reach and rake adjustment, so finding the ideal driving position is a doddle. The steering is speed sensitive, so light at lower speeds and weighting up nicely when at a steady cruise.

Top models boast either a 7 or 9-inch touchscreen and whilst these work ok, let’s just say others do it better.

‘Utility’ buyers do get a DAB radio, but the lack of Apple Car Play, Android Auto or indeed Bluetooth connectivity may deter some working owners.

Isuzu has high ambitions for the new D-Max. The 5,000 sales for this year should be easy enough to achieve, the aim being to double that by 2025. That may be a little tougher with waning demand.

So, to sum up…. New D-Max, unstoppable off-road, capable on it. Well equipped, safe and with a model to suit all, there is much to commend.

I do fear some will baulk at paying almost £40,000 for the top model, the value to my mind being with the middling ‘All-Purpose’ models.

I hope to be able to try one on home turf in the near future. Watch this space.

Fast Facts

New Isuzu D-Max
Prices start at £21,009 + VAT
Choice of single, extended and double cab
Automatic gears add £1,500 (mid/top models)
164PS 1.9-litre diesel engine
360Nm torque
0-62mph in 12.7 seconds
Top speed 112 mph
Combined economy 30.7 to 33.6mpg
Emissions 220 to 241g/km CO2
Towing capacity 3.5 tonnes
5 year/125,000 miles warranty